I've always been fascinated by hand tools. Their rugged functionality and iconic style are synonymous with old-school US manufacturing.
When using a screwdriver a while back it occurred to me the hexagonal handle wasn't unlike a writing utensil. That spurred the idea to make a custom handle and pair it with a bulletproof pen cartridge for use at the workbench. And so the Workshop Pen was born.
Have you ever thought screwdriver handle material just felt different, like in an awesome way? There's a smooth-yet-grippy feel I can best describe as an unplasticky plastic. But it wasn't until beginning this project that I discovered why:
The Plastics Historical Society states, "Cellulose acetate plastics are tough with deep gloss and high transparency. They possess a ‘feel’ which is different to other plastics and which is often described as more ‘natural’. This may explain why cellulose acetate has retained its popularity for making items which are handled frequently such as spectacle frames and tool handles".
I delved deeper to discover that unlike it's new-age petroleum based counterparts, cellulose acetate is derived from the cellulose in wood fiber and traces its roots back to the 1800’s. The impetus for developing this early form of plastic was a dwindling supply of natural resources such as ivory, horn and tortoiseshell (sea-turtle shell). So it's no mistake this plastic feels natural - it was made to mimic and substitute those naturally occurring materials. And as a plant derivative it's a renewable green plastic in stark contrast to the cheaper, non-renewable oil-derivatives prevalent today.
Screwdriver handles have a telltale shape I wanted to retain while focusing on pen performance as the top priority. The thinned neck area is for use with a standard pen-style grip when writing or high control is needed. When gripped behind the neck at the handle's full diameter, the six lengthwise "flutes" provide excellent grip for quick jotting or when wearing work gloves.
The Workshop Pen draws much of its inspiration from the carpenter's pencil, a staple in any workshop. The chunky five-eighths inch width is matched so the Workshop Pen will stand out on your workbench while fitting right in.
Developing the Workshop Pen required numerous lathe-turned prototypes. The fluted cellulose acetate material can be a bit temperamental to lathe by hand but eventually the ideal shape was reached.
The rounded end serves as a striking surface for light tapping like any good screwdriver. An old handle will inevitably bear signs of contact in this area from years of use on countless projects. The resilient acetate material will show battle scars but keep performing.
Searching for a manufacturer to bring the Workshop Pen into production I learned that like many industries, most hand-tool manufacturing has moved overseas. There's one remaining American company specializing in cellulose acetate tool handles: A&L Handles in Pennsylvania. A&L is still here because they make a great product, as they have done for years. They're entrusted by the largest American tool brands to make their handle components. If you've used a Craftsman or Stanley screwdriver, you've held an A&L handle.
To complement the rugged body and cement the Workshop Pen as a tool, a versatile, time-tested refill was required. After searching and testing it became evident there was only one option; the Nevada-made Fisher Space Pen, an American legend in its own right. It marks on varied materials, in wet or dry conditions, through oil, upside down and from -30*F to 250*F. And it lasts. If you write more than 12,000 linear feet with your Workshop Pen, the refill can be easily replaced. Each Workshop Pen will come installed with a medium-point black Space Pen cartridge sporting a tungsten ball tip.
To secure the Space Pen refill inside the pen body, a custom aluminum retaining collar was designed. The tip is straight-knurled with an ultra-fine 80 tpi (teeth-per-inch). The thread is 1/4-20 NC (national coarse) so you're not twisting all day to get it seated. To stow the cartridge, simply unscrew and flip. Then re-install the collar and you're ready to roll. However, feel free to leave the tip uncovered and open to air as the Space Pen's pressurized cartridge won't dry out. The collar will be manufactured by Sperry Automatics in Connecticut. They have been making screw parts since 1964 and are more than up to the task.
Paying homage to traditional screwdrivers the Workshop Pen will be the prototypical translucent yellow with black flutes. The text "WORKSHOP PEN U.S.A." will be imprinted on one flute using the standard hot-stamp application technique and white text. The five and one-half inch overall length gives plenty of room for grip while still being pocketable.
The rewards are straightforward: choose 1, 2 or 3 Workshop Pens with free worldwide shipping. If you would like more than three Workshop Pens select the "3x Workshop Pen" reward and manually enter into the "Pledge Amount" box an additional $16 for each pen desired.
Risks and challenges
Of the three pen components, two require custom manufacturing: the body and the retaining collar. My focus lies on making sure the production of those is properly executed and you get your pens in a timely manner.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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