Everyday Carry, or EDC, generally refers to small items or gadgets worn, carried, or made available in pockets, holsters, or bags on a daily basis to manage common tasks or for use in unexpected situations or emergencies. In a broader sense, it is a lifestyle, discipline, or philosophy of preparedness.
I was recently contacted by Bart Creasman of Baltz Fine Writing Instruments about their line of hand-turned, luxury pens. He and his business partner, Cass Baltz, have been fans of the site here and even drew inspiration from the ‘pocket dump’ layout to style their product pages. Bart graciously offered to send me one of their pens to try out and review for you guys. I’ll be giving my thoughts and impressions on one of their base models, the Exemplar ‘Holden.’
I know a hand-turned, wooden luxury pen might be a bit of a departure from all the rugged aluminum or titanium pens you might expect to see on this site. However, representation in the community outside of tactical/survivalist circles, especially amongst urban EDCers and the style-conscious, continues to grow. I would imagine that regardless of what end of the EDC spectrum they identify with, an EDCer would appreciate a quality, hand-crafted, fundamentally practical piece of gear. I intend to review the pen not only in its design and performance in writing, but also on its ability to be carried.
Baltz’s vision when making these pens was to design something that stood apart from the homogenous offerings from his wooden pen competitors. This inspiration reflects in their slogan: “Make a statement without writing a word.” My initial impression of this pen is that it definitely succeeds in that regard. The ‘Holden’ model boasts an African Blackwood and Redheart body, with all stainless-steel hardware. The fit and finish is superb and the attention to detail is impressive. Both the inlay and the interface between each species of wood is flawless, and the barrel is uniformly shaped and comfortably smooth in finish. The tailcap has slight grooves to aid in grip when turning, all while preserving that sleek aesthetic. A distinct curve in its robust, casted clip and an engraved “B” at the pen’s tip finish off the pen without overdoing it.
The overall writing experience with the pen does feel luxurious and enjoyable, and I would attribute that largely to the feeling of heft and substance to the pen. A combination of the SCHMIDT EasyFlow 9000 rollerball insert and a weight of 1.48 oz (42 g) makes writing fairly effortless. It writes smoothly without the extra pressure sometimes needed with ballpoint pens, reducing the strain on the wrist and fingers. It doesn’t flow as freely as say, a fountain pen, but overall, writing is consistently smooth, easy and comfortable. I think the super smooth finish of the pen also adds to this comfort. While those accustomed to a grippier barrel might find something left to be desired with the Holden, I think the weight also comes in to help prevent slippage.
So far, I’ve been very impressed with the Holden’s aesthetic appeal and writing performance. However, I’ve noticed that some of these attractive design features ultimately hamper the pen’s usability, and the pen is less impressive when it’s not being used to write with. For example, the signature Baltz curved pocket clip is robust and clamps tightly — but so much so that I have trouble clipping it to my pants pocket or shirt lapel without using two hands. Similarly, I find retracting or advancing the tip using the twisty tailcap is much easier using both hands (although it is possible to invert the pen and activate it with one hand and more effort). While the amount of rotation needed to advance or retract the tip makes activation more difficult, it does dispel concerns of accidental pocket activation. This is because the tailcap has no true ‘lockout’ position, as the tip is retracted when the cap is twisted in between two ‘on’ positions. I am not sure if it’s because of the lack of a true lockout, but with the tip retracted, I can hear a minor rattle/shake in the pen as I walk, presumably caused by the spring. The tailcap also does protrude a bit when clipped, so the pen does not ride deep and concealed. However, this is an attractive luxury pen and not a potential self-defense item, so concealment isn’t too relevant. Lastly, the heft and weight makes the pen noticeable in the pocket, but its smooth finish lets it play nicely with whatever else might be sharing pocket space.
Despite these faults, I think the pen is still worth considering for the serious writer or pen enthusiast. The pen’s writing experience far outshines its use as a quick, easily retrievable EDC pen to sign or jot notes really quickly — so keep its purpose in mind. Overall, I still reach for this pen first when I’m at my desk, but as it grows on me it sneaks into the EDC rotation once in a while. The guys at Baltz have come a long way from their original Kickstarter campaign, and once said they needed to build their credibility first. After using their base model pen I’m convinced they’re the real deal.
See for yourself:
A few years ago, when this blog barely had a registered domain name, I experimented with expanding the site’s content and changing its direction in an attempt to be more helpful to my readers, straying away from a sort of personal mood board of EDC items I liked by commenting on submitted EDCs. One of the first contributors I had to the site, Kent Willert, aka wiseform, helped me get started by submitting a few pocket dumps of his own for me to publish. Recently, Kent has been putting out some fantastic, hand-crafted carbon fiber rings from his Arizona-based company, refractory. He graciously sent me one of his products asking for an honest review, so I’ll run you guys through my thoughts on the ring in hopes to help Kent out like he helped me when I started.
The inspiration for the refractory carbon fiber rings came out of necessity — Kent, like many EDCers, works with his hands and often found that traditional rings and wedding bands couldn’t withstand the abuse. After months of research, development, testing and refinement, his efforts culminated in a durable, lightweight, and exotic alternative.
The rings come in different widths and finishes, offering a variety of options to get a ring that works for you and your style. I opted for the thinner 6mm band (I have small hands) in the “wood-like” grain, shown above. It’s a beautifully organic-looking intermediate between Kent’s other offerings, linear (similar to brushed metal) and damascus (sporting wispy, wavy patterns). The carbon fiber material gives an overall matte black appearance, with the slightest sheen in the right lighting. It’s reminiscent of PVD coating or black titanium, making the ring assimilate easily into carries opting for that subdued, understated, all-black-everything aesthetic.
The ring uses a “comfort fit” design, allowing the wearer to slide it on effortlessly and wear it hard with confidence that it’ll stay on. Despite weighing in at only 2.05g for my particular unit, it hasn’t come loose, nor has it become uncomfortable during everyday activity. While Kent stands by his carbon fiber rings to withstand abuse from impact, heat, and even chemical sources, he included with the ring some maintenance tips and Scotchbrite pads to clean up the ring (of course, though, he can repair or replace rings per “reasonable request”). I have been wearing the ring for a week and have no doubt that this ring is as tough as advertised.
Depending on the style you get and which finger you wear the ring on, it doesn’t seem to hinder my grip or use of any EDC gear. This can probably be attributed to a combination of comfort, light weight, a slim profile and simple design. I appreciate how I don’t have to baby the ring as much as I would say, my watch bracelet or something, to maintain a pristine finish.
To be honest, though, I was skeptical at first — I had never worn a ring before, and while I thought these rings looked pretty tight, I figured I wouldn’t be able to pull it off. After only a few days of wear, though, I feel a ring like this could be easily incorporated into my EDC for a long time. It feels as natural and effortless to wear as my watch, and I feel “naked” without it now.
I was pleasantly surprised and impressed by this ring, and I would recommend it to anyone from married EDCers looking for a more durable, lightweight and lower profile wedding band to the more sartorially inclined (I didn’t forget about you guys either) looking to add some sophisticated accessories to their carry (be sure to check out my buddy NiCo’s review for his thoughts). With pre-fabbed hand-crafted configurations starting at $165 to fully customized rings at $345, these rings are also a fairly affordable option compared to other precious metals. If that seems a bit steep, be sure to Like them on Facebook for additional savings, and remember that the quality is there and worth every penny.
Buy Online: REFRACTORY carbon fiber rings
For whatever reason, I ended up looking for some sort of folding comb a long time ago and stumbled across this Taiwanese one by VOODIST. Alas, a Taiwanese made (no shots) balisong with no other reviews on it wouldn’t justify the retail price plus proxy fees. With my hair getting longer and those autumn winds starting to pick up I found myself needing a comb too often. A stroke of luck on the bay led me to Jay’s shop, (now operating as Pinoy Steel here on tumblr, waddup Jay) where I found the last of two Filipino Hand Made (FHM) balicombs with these materials straight from Taal, Batangas. Because this particular model is relatively rare, I wanted to share it with my readers in a bit more depth than just pictures!
The fit and finish on this is excellent, a reflection of authentic Batanguenyo craftsmanship. Everything is solid and substantial. While this weight may be uncomfortable for pocket carry in something like slacks or chinos, at just over 4” it should be tolerable living your jeans’ coin pocket. The heft is welcome, though, as it gives a feeling of quality. The insides of the handles are a little dirty, and after some cotton swabs and isopropanol I couldn’t get the grime completely out. Luckily that doesn’t dirty the comb itself.
The materials on the balicomb are especially nice… Traditional brass bolsters (although I think I would have liked stainless bolsters a little better), pin construction and Kamagong wood inserts. This exceptionally strong wood appears almost black in the photos, but in reality it’s just a beautifully rich, dark shade of ebony… It’s hard to describe, but it looks very classy.
The comb itself is made of 303 stainless steel. Because it might need some washing, I wouldn’t say it’s ideal for initial styling (especially with product like pomade) but it is more than adequate for touching up on the go. The teeth are not super fine but they get the job done, and I’d rather have indestructible teeth than fine, flimsy ones. Upon arrival, there were some sort of carbon deposits (read: black stuff) between the teeth that I had to clean out with a toothpick. As this is a solid steel comb, exercise caution when running this across your scalp…!
The comb boasts an impressive 3/16” thickness. It’s so sturdy I’m sure that in the right hands this thing could do some damage. However, because it’s a comb, this bali is perfectly legal for EDC anywhere! Without a live blade, it should make for a decent trainer. The teeth still bite, so you do learn to be more cautious when manipulating the bite handle, but it’s not sharp enough to cut. Out of the box it doesn’t flip well. In fact, it’s quite stiff, but I suppose that’s how balisongs are made in the Philippines to ensure the product is new. IIRC, balis are commonly opened with both hands and not always flipped (#metaracistpun). With some manipulation and food grade mineral oil, the pivots are smoothening up nicely and it’s now capable of flipping open. The latch side is still stiff, so no videos of my lack of skills just yet!
Two other things I noticed when trying to flip is that the tang pin wiggles in and out a little bit, but I don’t think it’s a problem. Lastly, the latch can’t close and lock from a fully open configuration, as it makes insurmountable contact with the end of the comb. Other than that, everything is great.
I plan on EDCing this and learning to flip it a little bit, but I haven’t had to use it in public yet to actually comb my hair. We’ll see how comfortable I feel deploying what looks like a balisong in public…
Until then, thanks for reading and carry on.
In an earlier post, I expressed my initial disappointment about the lack of scratch resistance on these titanium clips. Dan of Superior Titanium kindly sent me a replacement clip, claiming the initial one had a defective finish. I noticed the difference in the finishes immediately: