edc-ink detail tip and laser engraving options

Behind a Kickstarter campaign: An interview with Kevin Hayes of Blank Forces

edc-ink detail tip and laser engraving options

Kevin Hayes, also known as Blank Forces, has a very interesting Kickstarter campaign going at the moment. The EDC Ink is a keychain pen made from stainless steel and brass that uses D1 refills. It’s available in two sizes and a range of fascinating finishes.

I need to stress that I haven’t tried one of these pens out but I have backed one. I’ve been looking for a good keychain pen for a while and I’m hoping this may be the one.

I’m always interested in the people-behind-the-pens and so I was very happy when Kevin kindly agreed to take some time out of his very busy schedule to answer some questions. I hope you’ll find his answers as fascinating as I did.

Kevin Hayes portrait

Why did you decide to design and make a pen?

I always love making things and working with metal. About a year ago, I began learning about handmade knives and I began making a few kitchen knives for fun. With all the research I did, I started learning about the world of EDC (every day carry) and became interested in the things that we carry around every day – from pocket knives to flashlights and pens. As a designer, I would sometimes carry around a full size pen to be ready to sketch an idea when it popped into my head. So with all of these things coming together I began to look for a nice quality compact pen that I could always have with me. There are some compact pens out there but I didn’t really like how they worked or how they looked so I decided to make my own cool keychain pen. When I started carrying and using the pen, I had several people ask me how they could get one. And that is how EDC Ink was born.

What makes your pen different to what’s already out there?

Let me start my saying what i didn’t like about the other compact pens that were available. One had a magnetic cap that would stick to anything metal in your pocket and that was a pain. Others always stayed connected to your keyring, so writing with the keys dangling over your hand was uncomfortable and clumsy. The famous Bullet Fisher Space pen is beautiful and simple, but the walls of the tube are very thin and the add-on clip just looks like an afterthought. And it still wouldn’t connect to my key ring easily. So I designed EDC Ink to address all of these issues. They are super rugged and made from thick-walled 304 stainless steel and solid brass. The design is very refined, simple and robust – there isn’t much that can break on these pens. With the two sizes of the EDC Ink pens they can accommodate people with larger hands as well as someone looking for a super compact sized pen that can go with them everywhere. I also wanted to increase the functionality of the pen. As a product designer I often have to measure small things, so I decided to laser engrave a measurement scale right on the surface. I really loved how this looked and the pure simple geometry of the surface of the pen creates the perfect canvas to engrave beautiful decorative patterns. This really opened up the pens to be more than functional and become an accessory that was practical as well as beautiful.

using x1 pen at beach

What’s your experience in design and manufacturing?

I’ve been a professional designer for almost 20 years here in Los Angeles and have been lucky to work with some very talented designers and engineers on some amazing projects. I started my career at one of the top design firms in LA and was fortunate to work on many award winning projects for some of the largest companies in the world including HP, Brita, Apple, Harman/Kardon, and Kawasaki. Often traveling to Asia during the product development process. I’ve designed all kinds of products from medical equipment, speakers, home theater equipment, to toys and sporting goods. As a hobby I also love designing and making wood furniture. I have to say that I love designing and making just about anything.

Why Kickstarter?

It is the crowdfunding site that I was most familiar with. A company I was working with had just run a successful campaign using Kickstarter so it just evolved from that. My experience so far has been amazing. To be honest I was a bit worried how it would go, but we reached our funding goal in less than two days. All the backers have been really great, positive and supportive. It really is an amazing community and crowdfunding appears to be perfect for someone like me that loves to create and make things. You can very quickly see if you have a good idea or not.

Sketching motorcycle closeup

What are some of your favorite pens and how do you use them?

I’m pretty practical when it comes to the pens I use. For a long time I carried and used the Pilot Razor Point II to sketch with, and over the past two years started to enjoy using the Pilot Hi-Tec-C 05. It comes in some other colors than black; I like the sepia and blue colors just to mix it up a bit. When using black ink, I’ll also use a thicker felt tip (like a lightweight Sharpie) to give more depth to the drawing. I also love sketching with the old style lead holders. I will sometimes use a pencil to add some shading and depth to a drawing. It is subtle but can make a big difference in a quick sketch.

What are your plans for once you’ve fulfilled your Kickstarter pledges?

That is a very good question! To be honest I’m not sure. From the looks of it, there is demand for these pens but I’m not sure if the true retail price will make them a viable product. What I mean is that they really are a quality product and may end up being too expensive for retail (after the retail markup), so I have to do some homework and talk to some retailers about pricing and margins. I have many more ideas for the EDC Ink line of pens and would love to do an ultra-lightweight titanium version as well. I’ve also created a couple of other pen designs that I would like to offer, so hopefully I’ll be able to have another great Kickstarter campaign.

x1 and x2 pens in palm

Thank you so much to Kevin for taking the time to answer these questions. If you haven’t already backed the EDC Ink then take a few minutes to look over this great looking project.

Photos by Blank Forces.

Ella and Julia against the wind (sketch) (also a little giveaway)

Ella and Julia against the wind

Here are Ella and Julia, my two favourite ladies, on the beach on the most incredibly windy day.

If you like my sketches then you can see a lot more on Instagram. I thought it would be interesting to draw something different so I’m doing a little giveaway, of sorts. If you follow me on Instagram and you’ve posted a photo there that you’d like me to draw for you, just mention me on the photo (on Instagram) before Saturday 29th November. I’ll pick one (maybe more than one) at random, draw it and send you the original. I’ll take photos of the drawing and reserve the right to post those photos here and elsewhere but the original is yours. More details here.

Pink Pig sketchbook, Tombow Mono 100 pencils, Mitsubishi Hi-Uni pencil.

D1 refill comparison part 2 review

Comparison of D1 Refills (part two!)

D1 refill comparison part 2 review

Many moons ago I did a comparison of six different D1 refills and called it ‘part one‘. I was fully intending to do a ‘part two’ soon after but it didn’t happen. Here it is now, though. Better late than never!

Just to recap, D1 refills are small refills used in many Kickstarter projects and multipens. They’re mostly ballpoints but Pilot and Zebra do gel refills too.

In part one Monteverde Soft Roll Mini D13 and the Faber-Castell Ballpen came out on top. Will they stay there?

D1 refill comparison part 2 writing

Lamy M21 ballpoint

This is a lovely smooth writer that puts down a consistent line, starts well and isn’t gloopy.

Zebra 4C ballpoint

This is a pretty standard ballpoint. It works okay although does feel like it’s trying to get away from you a little. There’s nothing special about it.

Schneider Express 56 ballpoint

In common with full-sized Schneider ballpoints, this is a very smooth writer but it always feels as if it wants to escape and write more quickly than I want to.

Schmidt S 635 ballpoint

This isn’t quite as smooth as the Lamy M21 but it has a blacker ink. It’s perfectly fine but not special.

Tombow BR-VS ballpoint

Pale ink, inconsistent line, not nice at all.

Platignum Dual ballpoint

This is okay. Nothing special and I could only find it with blue ink.

Tombow Outdoor Pen BR-VMP

This is another refill I could only find in blue. It skips a lot and isn’t pleasant at all. It is pressurised so you could write horribly upside down or under water if you wanted to.

Zebra JSB 0.5mm gel ink

This is a mighty fine gel ink refill. Lovely dark crisp line. After trying out all these ballpoints it was a real treat to finally get to a gel one, I can tell you!


I’ve now tried out twelve D1 ballpoint refills and two gel ink refills.

Of the ballpoints, the two Tombows and the Platinum SBSP-120S were terrible. The Lamy M21, Faber-Castell Ballpen and Monteverde Soft Roll Mini D13 (the latter two from part one) were all pretty good. The rest are all okay but, really, why settle for okay when you have so much choice?

The best of the lot is the Lamy M21. It’s the smoothest writer but doesn’t ever try to run away from you.

Both the Pilot Hi-Tec-C and Zebra JSB are great gel ink refills. Both are expensive because they run out of ink quickly, making the cost-per-word a lot more than any of the ballpoints. I haven’t been able to test this objectively but it feels as if the Zebra runs out of ink quicker than the Pilot. I prefer how the Zebra writes but there’s not much in it.

Extra special thanks to Cult Pens who supplied most of the refills I’ve tried out in this part. They have a huge selection of D1 refills including all the ones I’ve tried here and quite a few more too.

D1 refill comparison part 2

Kaweco Allrounder fountain pen clip

Kaweco Allrounder fountain pen review

Kaweco Allrounder fountain pen review

The Kaweco Allrounder is an all metal cartridge/converter fountain pen. It’s available in black, blue, red or silver and with nibs from extra-fine to double-broad. The pen in this review has the broad nib. It costs around £75 (around $115) and in the UK comes with a converter. (I don’t think this is always the case elsewhere.)

The design of the Allrounder is almost identical to the Student, the differentiating factor being that the Allrounder is made from anodised aluminium rather than the Student’s plastic. This also has an effect on the price: the Allround costs almost twice as much.

Kaweco Allrounder fountain pen cap jewel

The design is from the 1950s and has a classic quality to it. The barrel is a simple smooth cylinder with no ornamentation or styling except for a small indentation at the very end.

Kaweco Allrounder fountain pen end

The section is the same material and finish as the barrel, which is something I like. It’s comfortable to hold and a reasonable size. The build quality of the Allrounder is fantastic. Nothing is loose or rattly or wobbly. It all feels exceptionally well made.

Kaweco Allrounder fountain pen uncapped

The nibs are interchangeable with other Allrounders, Students and Sports. I’ve heard varying reports about broader Kaweco nibs. I think you’re generally going to be fairly safe with extra-fine, fine and medium (but of course with nibs there are never any 100% guarantees) but broad and double broad can be problematic. I’ve got a double broad nib in my Dia 2 which is great but I’ve found this broad can run a little dry sometimes. It’s smooth but it’s as if the feed can’t keep the nib supplied with ink fast enough. I’d suggest that if you are buying a Kaweco and want a broad or double broad nib that you buy it from somewhere that will help you out with tuning or returns, just in case you’re unlucky. However you’re probably safer sticking with something medium or finer. Kaweco’s nibs at that end are generally wonderful.

Kaweco Allrounder fountain pen nib

The cap closes with just a small turn and matches the rest of the pen perfectly. The cap is where all the ornamentation happens. The strong very clippable chrome-plated brass clip has some decoration as does the chrome-plated band around the base. It all looks good (except for the branding on printed at the top of the cap) and lends the pen a little retro class.

Kaweco Allrounder fountain pen clip

The cap does post but not very deeply, making the pen very long.

Kaweco Allrounder fountain pen posted

The supplied (in the UK at least) converter works well. It is in fact exactly the same as the one used in Monteverde pens (except with Kaweco stamped on the side) so it must be a standard and rebranded Chinese (I expect) model. Whatever, it works as it should. If you’d rather use cartridges then you can use any standard international ones.

Kaweco Allrounder fountain pen deconstructed

With the broad nib, this pen wasn’t great. Once I swapped in a medium nib it became one of my favourites. There is a big price jump from the Student to the Allrounder but whereas the Student is a perfectly good pen (in fact, a very good pen), the Allrounder is a special pen. It’s extremely well made and the anodised aluminium finish is really very wonderful. Tread carefully if you want a broad nib but jump in with a loud hurrah if you like something finer.

Kaweco Allrounder fountain pen handwritten review

You can find some more reviews of the Kaweco Allrounder on Pennaquod.

Thank you to Kaweco who sent me this pen for free to review and to keep. I didn’t let their generosity influence my views.