Since all the Baron Fig writing tools I had seemed to coordinate so well, I decided to just review them altogether.
The Archer Elements Pencil
First, I’ll cover the newest item, the new Archer pencil release called Elements ($15 per dozen) which is a collaboration with Caroline Weaver from CW Pencil Enterprise. Like previous Baron Fig Archer pencils, the set of a dozen pencils come in the matte finish tube with graphics that coordinate with the pencils contained inside. As a package, the overall effect is striking. The graphics on the tube depict the assembly of the pencils although it does suggest a cap on the end of the pencil that is a little misleading. The actual finished pencil is probably just dipped in paint to finish the end rather than having an actual hex wood cap place on the end but I didn’t sand down the paint to prove or disprove the diagram so maybe they did?
Inside, the pencil is a sight to behold. The greige (that warm grey color that is not grey entirely but not brown/beige) and millennial pink is the perfect “of the moment” color choice and the paint is gloss smooth. The clear coat is smooth and rounds out the hex shape to give the pencil a softness without feeling completely round. The graphics printing is clean. I can’t tell if it foil or screenprint but either way it is well done. On one side are the icons of the ingredients used to create a pencil like on the packaging and on the reverse side of the hex is the brainding “Baron Fig x Caroline Weaver”.
What they created is aesthetically one of the nicest looking and most modern pencils I’ve seen. The pencil feels great in the hand.
My only caveat is the actual graphite. Its scratchy. It’s audibly noisy on any paper I tried from silky smooth Rhodia to Tomoe River, to copy paper and various scratch pads in the studio. I pulled out an array of other pencils ranging from mid-grade to premium to compare and found several in my stash that were comparable in finish that were much smoother.
What I established was that pretty much any Japanese pencil will write smoother than the Archer Elements. I tested the Tombow 8900 HB ($0.80 each or $9.60 per dozen) but a Tombow Mono 100 HB ($18.50 for 12) or Tombow 2558 HB ($1.20 each or $14.40 per dozen) would also be excellent alternatives. The Blackwing and the Uni I used in my review were not listed as an HB, they wrote fairly similarly and I feel confident that switching lead grades to an HB would probably result in a equally smooth writing experience. The Blackwing 344 was a limited edition release but features the “firm graphite” core listed in the Blackwing 602 ($21.95 per dozen) as well as several other special editions. The Uni Palette 2B has a rounded triangular shape but has the same smooth finish and finished end cap. I couldn’t find an exact match for this pencil online as it came in one of the C.W. Pencil Enterprise Pencil Box subscriptions ($30 per quarter) but a Uni Mitsubishi 9000 ($1.05 each), 9800 ($0.85 each), 9850 with eraser ($1.00 each) or Hi-Uni HB ($19 for a dozen)would be a comparable pencil, and probably a step up in term of graphite quality.
So, while I love the look of the Elements pencil, I couldn’t get past the scratchy core. I will end up sharpening these and leaving them on my desk for people to use for leaving notes at work rather than for any long form writing. They look nice in a pencil cup but like people, its what’s inside that really matters.
The Squire & Squire Click
There’s two signature pens in the Baron Fig line-up: The Squire (Rose Quartz, $55) and the newer Squire Click (Fig Wine, $45). Baron Fig has offered special editions of the Squire in custom colors (with different icons on the barrel besides the sword) but currently offers the Squire in five standard colors plus the stainless steel model ($85). The Squire Click is currently only available in two colors: charcoal and fig wine.
The Squire and the Squire Click are almost the same size, however, the Click is a bit slimmer with a less noticeable taper towards the pen tip.
Both pens are aluminum (with the exception of the special edition Squire models in other metals). The Squire uses a twist mechanism that, for me, requires two hands to activate. One hand to hold the pen and one to twist the end to release the point. The Click can be operated with just my writing hand so my other hand can hold my notebook. For a ballpoint/rollerball pen, this is it’s sole purpose really. I want a quick access pen for taking notes on the go. Both of these pens live in my purse, bag, car, or backpack. If I can’t grab it, activate the writing end and scribble a note on a receipt, scrap of paper, back of a napkin or in my pocket notebook quickly, then it’s failed its purpose.
I understand why people who carry pens in their skinny jeans pockets might prefer a pen that requires more effort to get the point to be exposed. If your pens live in a bag or a car door, this is probably not going to be an issue for you. This is a situation where many ladies might understand me. Many of our clothes don’t have pockets designed to hold much more than a coin, if that. A pen like this is all about ease of use for me.
Don’t get me wrong, I think the Squire in Rose Quartz in gorgeous. I don’t begrudge it’s more two-handed operation. It’s just not the rollerball/ballpoint for me. However, it isn’t going to get stuck in drawer. OH NO! In fact, I have a fountain pen that matches it almost exactly (see below). The Squire gets to live on my desk at work for meetings and such but does not get to be the go-to travel pen. It did not pass the reverse Picard test. It must DISENGAGE!
The Click… oh, it is a thing of beauty! I like its quiet clickiness. I like its slightly slimmer design. I find it infinitely more comfortable to hold with its ever-so-slightly slimmer silhouette. And it was so accommodating when I swapped out its refill for a new Premec Parker-Style Black 0.4 mm Gel Refill ($6.90 for 2-pack) which made it write with a fine-fine gel line. The Squire also happily accepted a Premec refill too, even though Baron Fig recommends the Schmidt 8126/8127 style rollerball refill. Hack away. Parker-style refills fit.
One last thing about the Squire in Rose Quartz – it is an almost perfect match for the PenBBS 350 in pink aluminum alloy. Or should I say that the other way around? Either way, the two make a delightful pair. The Squire is all roundy goodness and the PenBBS 350 ($16.99) has an angular cap creating a perfect fraternal twin to the Squire.
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