Friday, September 26, 2014

Masterstroke Airfoil Clicky Review

The original Masterstroke Airfoil pen looked crazy cool, but there were some rough edges, literally.  The fins that gave it is distinctive appearance could, in certain instances, be uncomfortable.  I noted that in the review and Grant (Grant Takara) must have kept it in mind.  The Clicky is an entirely different beast.  It still has the sweet exposed/cutaway look, but all of the edges are pleasingly round.  There is no question this will be a conversation piece pen, something that provokes comments and glances among coworkers.  It did in the two weeks I carried and used it.  Everyone, every single person, that saw or used the pen commented on it's appearance.  It was polarizing--people loved or hated it, but there were many more in the first camp than the second.  It is truly a looker.

But is it a good pen?  Pens are different from lights and knives in that their appearance is part of their function, not necessarily something that follows from it, but being a beauty queen is not enough for folks like you and I.  If you were cavalier with your money or superficial with your purchases you wouldn't be reading this blog (that's what shill sites are for, ZING).  

Here is the Kickstarter (its funded already, so pigpile).  The aluminum version is $57 and the titanium version is $125 on Kickstarter.  There are a wide range of colors and color combinations (including an extra blingy gold plated version).  Here is Brad Dowdy's review.  Here is the pen, and aluminum gray matte version, sent from Grant to me for the review:  

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Twitter Review Summary:  Sweet looks, weak clip.

Design: 2

A clicky and curvy update of the original Masterstroke Airfoil seems like an obvious iteration, but is one that changes the original enough to warrant a purchase.

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In many ways, this is a more user-friendly pen.  The original was a tough, wicked, design-first pen.  This is a bit more staid and pen-ish, for lack of a better word, but all of this refinement works to the benefit of the user.  The Clicky is a better writer, if a less bold design and for all of the value I place on design, a tool's performance comes first.
 
Fit and Finish: 2

As before, Grant's care and attention is evident from the moment you pick up the pen.  It just feels right.  All of the curves and cuts are smooth, even inviting to the touch a change from the original Airfoil.  I found the threads smooth and even, the clicky good (this is the same clicky about a dozen different pens use and it is a good one).  I liked Grant's choices of matte and polished metal surfaces in this version of the pen.  No complaints at all, but the gold plated version is probably too much for me.

Carry: 1

The clip on the review sample was pretty weak.  If am I not mistaken it is aluminum or some lesser tensile strength metal.  The end result is that bent almost instantly and did not lay flat against the pen's body, as you can see in this picture:

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Aside from the puny clip though, the Clicky was much nicer to find in my pocket than its sharp finned brother. 

Appearance: 2

This is, in my opinion, where Grant hit a home run.  I simply cannot state how gorgeous this pen is in person.  It was so gorgeous that the minute I opened it, I ran to my wife and showed her.  She did not share my opinion and gave it a blah.  "Too weird looking," she said.  So I tested this reaction out at work and I got 1 "blah" for every 10 or so "that's sweet."  There was no one in the middle.  For me, this is a no brainer--its damn gorgeous.

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It in a way the long cutaway reminds me of an iconic picture from the cover of Sport's Illustrated's mid-90s swimsuit issue.   I am not going to go overboard and say that this pen is THAT sexy, but it is pretty damn good looking.   

Durability: 2

Other than the weaksauce clip, I found the rest of the pen to be plenty robust to hold up to my daily and weekly pen torturing sessions that I can court.  Frankly, a two week test is pretty brutal and the Clicky made it through with flying colors.  This is an EDC pen you can count on working for years to come.  

Writing Performance/Refill: 0

Ah, the weakness.  The refill is a Schmidt style refill and while it wrote nicely it wasn't supernal, say, like the Mont Blanc Fineliner.  Additionally it wasn't as "all surface" as the Space Pen refill.  And worst of all, it is not widely available.  The most commonly available swap out is for the G2 rollerball refill, but my local Staples (two actually) didn't sell those refills, though I could buy the pens and switch them out.  In my opinion, its a mistake not to be out of the box compatible with a Parker style refill, but plenty of folks like G2 refills.  I just can't get them.  This, in the end, is my problem.  I could probably drop some kind of round piece into the pen and get it to work with Parker refills (this is what the Tuff Writer does), but that's a lot of hacking for a nice pen.  

Balance/In Hand Feel: 2

I found this pen, like its brother, to be superbly balanced in the hand.  There was no awkward fins to contend with though and the pen is all the better for it.  

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This is a sterling example of a pen that looks could and works in the hand too.  

Grip: 2

The grip section is simple with no knurling, cross hatching or other "grip enhancers".  You have three lines near the tip, but they are aesthetic.  In all, I liked the pen's grip primarily because of the matte finish my review sample had.  I would worry too much about slipping around with this finish, but a polished finish might be a bit slick.  

Barrel: 2

Aside from being awesome looking, with a polished cutaway, the barrel does what good barrels do--go unnoticed in the hand.  I don't want gaudy furniture (the metal accents) or bulging lines.  I want something simple and clean and that's what we get here.  Excellent.

Deployment Method/Cap: 2

The Schmidt clicky, as I mentioned before, is almost universal for these mid priced, small batch clicky pens and there is a reason--its damn good.  I still have no complaints.  

Overall Score: 17 out of 20

The Masterstroke Airfoil Clicky is a pen that will garner attention.  Its durable, except for the clip, and it writes well with the stock refill.  If you have access to G2 refills, then this could easily be the star of your writing tools EDC rotation.  If not, you have other options.  I'd really like to see Parker-refill compatibility, but the frame here is so sexy it might make you go hunting for refills.   This is not as tough as the Tuff Writer is, but it is plenty tough to see daily rough use.  And it looks much, much cooler. 

12 comments:

  1. Aesthetic controversy may boil down to whether or not your snap reaction is "why does that pen have a big orifice on its side."

    That was mine, so I'd fall in the minority camp.

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  2. Just an FYI, the pen WILL take a Montblanc refills - it will ship with spacers to accommodate different preferences for refill vendor and type. Also, my understanding is that a stainless clip is in the works to address the flaw you observed.

    ReplyDelete