Something a little different…a little special…a little “oh yeah!”
Newton Pens Eastman Fountain Pen
Nib: Extra Fine (Bock)
Filling System: Cartridge/Converter (Standard International)
A Different Approach:
This will be a slightly different type of review for me. Up to now, the pens I’ve reviewed have been mass produced in factories, rolling off well-oiled production lines. But this pen is different. It’s as much a piece of art as it is a tool for writing. So you may notice that I’m using different terminology for some sections and not assigning scores.
About Shawn Newton:
Tucked away in the rolling hills of Pendom lies a cozy little hamlet where wildly talented (and sometimes eccentric) artisans sit in their basements, garages, or workshops, transforming various slabs of raw materials into fine writing instruments with their bare hands…and typically with machinery that consists of sharp things that rotate at high speeds. One of these wizards is Shawn Newton, and the pen I’m reviewing is his Eastman model. If you’re unfamiliar with Shawn’s work, you need to drop by his website or his Instagram feed and check some of his amazing work.
Shawn is a former art teacher turned full-time pen maker (see what I did there?) who’s made quite the name for himself in the pen world. He has developed a number of different designs and you can work with him to build a customized pen out of any material you want. His work is highly regarded for its beauty, uniqueness, and functionality. And as if creating beautiful writing instruments wasn’t enough, Shawn has also devoted himself to giving back by creating his own scholarship fund (now an endowment) to help high school seniors pay for college.
And on top of all that, he’s also a super nice guy.
My Path to Owning the Eastman:
I had the good fortune to meet Shawn at the Arkansas Pen Show this past March (2017). I knew he was going to be there, so I basically spent the weeks leading up to the show stalking his Instagram feed for glimpses of what I might find at his table. To be honest, I had my sights set on a completely different pen: a gorgeous ebonite Townsend. I wasn’t sure what kind of crowd he’d draw, so when the show opened, I made a beeline for his table.
After greeting & introducing myself to Shawn and his wife Liz, I immediately snatched up the Townsend and started playing with it. It was much smaller than I thought it would be. So small that I was concerned that the section would be uncomfortable. So I checked out some of his other pens, and found his Eastman model to be the perfect size and shape. I was torn. I thought the ebonite Townsend was the sexiest pen on the table, but I liked the form factor of the Eastman better.
I couldn’t decide, so I left it up to fate. I walked away thinking maybe someone will buy one of them and make my decision for me. I came back a couple hours later, and sure enough, the Townsend was gone. I immediately bought the Eastman. I wasn’t crushed about losing out on the Townsend, though. The acrylic used in the Eastman was also beautiful, and I knew I’d enjoy writing with it.
I could just say “whoa!” and be done with this section. But you know me…I like to get into detail.
The aesthetic beauty of this pen doesn’t lie in its shape. I mean, it’s more or less an acrylic cylinder. The beauty lies in both its material and in its craftsmanship: the softly beveled edges, super smooth finish, and perfectly shaped section that provides me with a really comfortable writing experience.
The Eastman has a simple design: A cylinder-shaped body and cap with no hardware whatsoever. No cap band. No clip. No finial or endcap. (Although, if you wanted a clip, rollstop, or finial, I’m sure he’d be happy to add one).
The section is the only piece that has any contour to it. It has a subtle hourglass shape that’s attractive and comfortable to use.
Shawn uses a huge array of materials for his pens, including all sorts of acrylics and ebonites (and maybe a few pieces of wood here and there). This Eastman is made with an orange flake acrylic marked by pearlescent chunks of orange and yellow suspended in black. He also offers a great selection of nibs. He uses both Bock and Jowo in a number of grades and finishes. I chose a black Bock nib in Fine, and the black finish just looks so amazing alongside the acrylic. It’s a perfect compliment.
Shawn is an artist, so it shouldn’t surprise you that the fit and finish of this pen are flawless. All the threads are tight and marry together perfectly. The tolerances between the barrel, section, and cap are also perfect. All the edges around the top and mouth of the cap and the end of the barrel are evenly and gently beveled so they’re smooth to the touch.
Shawn’s attention to detail is apparent. Although the overall shape of the pen is simple, he’s implemented some really great design choices. For example, the threads joining the section to the barrel are really long (it takes over seven full turns to remove the section). I’m sure this is intentional to make the pen more suitable as an eyedropper.
There is only one blemish on this pen, and that’s with the NN logo engraved on the cap. One N is cut fairly shallow and the other N looks like it was engraved twice with a slight offset between the two cuts. Looks like maybe the pen slipped during the engraving process or something. This is pretty minor, though, as the logo is small and nondescript. Without a loupe, it’s not very noticeable.
I’ve had the pen inked up since I bought it, and it never fails to write. Well, I did have to prime the feed once after I let it sit unused for about a month. But other than that, I haven’t had any issues with hard starts or skipping. It’s not uncommon for me to stop writing every once in a while to get lost in the pearlescence of the acrylic, and even after a good 30 to 45 seconds of my gawking at it, it doesn’t hard start. Just writes right away.
Between the overall lightness of the pen and the long, thick section, I find the Eastman to be one of the more comfortable pens I own. I never find the section to feel slippery, and I have no problem maintaining a light grip. I can write with it for a long time with no cramping.
In order for the cap to sit flush with the barrel, there’s a pretty pronounced step down from the barrel to the section. But here’s where some of Shawn’s design choices show up to mitigate any issue. First, the section is pretty long. Second, he places the cap threads between the section and the step, providing even more distance between your fingers and the step. The threads are tightly spaced and not at all sharp. So when I write with the Eastman, my fingers barely touch the threads and don’t go anywhere near the step, meaning that all I feel is smooth acrylic.
This is my first steel Bock nib (my others are titanium). All of them are exceptional. This one writes more like a Fine than an Extra Fine, but it does allow me to write my tiny letters without too many of them filling in. I don’t know if it’s the black finish on the nib, or just a signature of Bock nibs in general, but I find that this nib is pretty feedbacky. It’s smooth, but you can feel the nib running along the paper, and you can definitely hear the feedback.
This is the point in my reviews where I usually talk about “value” and if a pen is worth the asking price. I can’t do that here. This pen is just as much a piece of art as it is a pen. I’m not going to lie, $225 is a lot of money for a pen, especially for one with no hardware and a nib you can get on less expensive pens. Although the pen works flawlessly, you can get a similar writing experience from a pen that’s one-quarter the price.
But there’s more to this pen than just a nib and three pieces of plastic. This pen didn’t come off an assembly line. A dude took acrylic rods, slapped them on a lathe, and bored, cut, drilled, and polished them to create a one-of-a-kind object. A dude who also spent time creating, testing, and perfecting the design.
Trying to decide if a pen like this is worth its cost is like trying to decide if a painting or sculpture is worth its cost. I think the true value can only be assessed by the person who ultimately buys it.
|Best Qualities||Worst Qualities|
|It's gorgeous!||It's not inexpensive|
|Very well made||Logo engraving is a little off|
I can’t tell you to run out and drop $225 on one of these. I can, however, tell you that this will not be my last Newton pen. I love the way it looks. I love the way it writes. I love the way it feels when I’m writing. And I love the fact that someone poured his time, talent, and heart into making it.