Pen Anatomy

At RiKwill we obviously take our pen passion way toooo seriously. So in an effort to provide some insight into the inner workings, let’s look at pen metrics.


There is a huge difference in ‘feel’ of a pen as you go from .8cm to 2cm. My view is that throwaway pens and pencils are at the low end and collector pens start at about 1.1cm and go up to 2cm in diameter. I’ve asked lots of folks about a comfortable diameter and of course it relates to the size of your hand but a lot of preference is just what you are used to. To compare the three below, Babbage is 1.1cm, MetalWrite RR1 1.4cm and the CS Evolution 1.6cm. And for me, I like the entire range.


Again, there is a huge range of likes across our customer set. For comparison, BabbageKids is 60gm, MetalWrite RR2 is 86gm, and CS Evolution is 131gm. My preference is the 60-90gm range so I tend to write with CS Evolution without posting the cap (88gm). Pens below 50gms for me just seem to be ‘not substantial’ enough.



It’s not length as much as balance. With caps posted, BabbageKids is 17.2cm, RR2 is 18.1cm and Evolution is 18.7cm. I always think as long as the pen extends past the ‘V’ (between your thumb and and pointy finger) of your hand so you have a solid resting point, all the rest is extra. So then I recommend a minimum of 12cm and make sure the pen isn’t cap heavy. The balance point is somethere around the middle of the total length plus/minus 2cm.


At RiKwill we have a metal fetish so we tend to focus on sterling but based on your suggestions we will in the future branch out into platings, coatings and other metals.


Speaking of subjective, this is it. Most sterling pens of the past have had very geometric patterns and MetalWrite RR1 is no exception. Many of these patterns are very tight. We’ve tried to open that up on RR1 by leaving bands of sterling exposed on the cap. On MetalWrite RR2, the pattern is more open and asymmetric and on A&D we’ve moved into more organic looks with swirls. And then there is the question, what do you engrave besides the barrel and the cap? There are the stoppers and section after all. In the future, you will see MORE engraving on our pens.


Speaking of subjective, this is even more so. On MetalWrite RR1 and RR2, we do a lot of polishing to make it smooth. On Babbage kids we came up with the idea of leaving a little texture so not only do you see the pattern but you feel it. In the future, most of our pens will have a little texture.


The clip needs to make a statement when it’s in your pocket. Collector pens are art afterall and therefore the clip should be a dominant part of the pen. MetalWrite RR1 & RR2 certainly do that and so does the ‘oversized’ clip on A&D.


Now speaking of statements, when you uncap your fountain pen, the nib should say I’M A FOUNTAIN PEN. Of course we use the large nib from Conway Stewart on all our pens. And they must WRITE. I have been so impressed with Conway Stewart nibs for their ability to perform. A few critics have stated that the italics are not italic enough i.e., the edges rounded (in stub fashion) vs sharply cut. My rule is the sharper the edge the MORE you have to learn how to write with the pen. My daily writer is a CS italic fine and I love it. I don’t want to learn to write with it. I want it to write for me.


This one of my pet peeves about pens, I want the option to post the cap. It’s a practical thought for say I’m sitting in the car writing a note. What the heck do I do with the cap if I can’t post it. Now if a pen just lives in/on a stand at your desk, posting is no big deal as long as the pen itself is long enuf. And I prefer positive posting, not caps that for each downstroke fall off.

pen_stand_rr22 pen_stand_rr23


I really like pen stands and boxes so we’ve done some of each for our pens. The metal stands take an awful lot work so we do those custom order but I also love the wooden box.

Hand Engraving

Now this is a well used term and applies to a whole range of processes and machines involving a highly skilled operator/engraver so let’s cover a few so you can see the differences. The top three goals of any of these approaches though is the same: quality, quality, quality. And what we do is give you the highest quality each time and pass on any cost savings to you. AND as you can see, they are all hand-engraved but in different ways.

  • eng1_balmoralLet’s start with the hand engraving done on the Conway Stewart Windsor & Balmoral. The major tools are simply a chisel set, vice and a hammer. Each pen takes hours todo. There are drawings to follow but eye-brain-hand coordination is amazing.
  • eng2Moving on to a MetalWrite RR1, the guilloche (gee-oh-SHAY) is applied to the pen barrels by hand cranking a Neuweiler and Engelsberger straight line engine turning machine. The entire tube moves up and down and left and right as a guide follows the pattern. So one cut is made from the top to the bottom of the barrel (mechanical stops mark the beginning and the end of the cut). The barrel is then rotated 1/96 of a revolution and another cut is made. Notice too that the consecutive cuts shift a bit up or down where 8 shifts are actually required to do a pattern. So eight cuts then form the pattern that is then repeated 12 times around the pen. Your left hand rotates a wheel that moves the barrel up down following the pattern. Your right hand applies pressure to the cutting bit. Once a pass is complete, the small lever on the upper right rotates the barrel. 96 cuts later the barrel is done.
  • eng3Now how about A&D. We add a little more automation to the project but every pen is done individually and instead of the metal pattern of RR1 we have a computer controlled cutter following a craftperson’s designed pattern. Like RR2, each pen is done individually and each cut is done one at a time, the barrel rotates and another cut is made. And like RR1, each is individually polished and assembled with TLC (tender loving care).