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October 8, 2011 9:49 PM   Subscribe

Making pens in china.

The Pen Type-A minimal pen kickstarter project explores global manufacturing.
posted by Ad hominem (36 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
I backed this project too but this is a really thin post. It doesn't explore 'global manufacturing'.
posted by babbyʼ); Drop table users; -- at 10:00 PM on October 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


I didn't back it, just thought it was interesting for a slow saturday night.
posted by Ad hominem at 10:03 PM on October 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


It's definitely a sweet looking pen, but I guess I'm going to have to get my hands on a Hi-Tec-C before even thinking about a Type-A.
posted by benign at 10:08 PM on October 8, 2011


I'm just bummed that I didn't find out about this project 'til today... the Hi-Tec-C is one supersmooth pen and this project would fix my one gripe with it. Thanks for sharing; both the product and the accompanying post are fascinating!
posted by raihan_ at 10:10 PM on October 8, 2011


It is amazing to me there are dozens of live in storefronts dedicated to milling and etching these types of things, each step is done by hand with the help of simple jigs.
posted by Ad hominem at 10:11 PM on October 8, 2011


An interesting post (and I'd love one), but also a shame. Surely there a plenty of machine shops in the States who could make these things. I can't believe that at 99$ per it wouldn't be viable; obviously the demand is there and for it to be 'Made in [some authentic rust belt town]' or wherever would only add to its cachet and justify an even higher price.
posted by Flashman at 10:12 PM on October 8, 2011 [4 favorites]


I agree with that, I don't think it was worth it for them to outsouce production to china for 5000 pieces, especially if they have guys doing chemical etching with blue tape and tiny paintbrushes anyway.

I had a family friend who did this type of light manufacturing work at home as a second job, he spent a couple hours a night soldering leads onto switches by hand. When we talk about bringing manufacturing back to the US, this is the type of stuff we should be talking about.
posted by Ad hominem at 10:20 PM on October 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


The original pen, which presumably writes exactly the same, because they use the same mechanism, is available for $3.30. That's 3.3% if the cost of the one that these guys have thus far failed to be able to produce. I know which one I'd buy.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 10:23 PM on October 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Holy cow welcome to 19th century manufacturing. That is just sad. That's the sort of thing a multi-function milling center could chunk out in about 30 seconds each.

Nice (made in US) Do-All grinder though.
posted by Mei's lost sandal at 10:25 PM on October 8, 2011


How is the Hi-Tec-C different from other gel pens? I use a Zebra G-301 and a Pilot (medium point) and they are pretty great. The Zebra is stainless and refillable.
posted by stbalbach at 10:46 PM on October 8, 2011


The pen and ruler casing are beautifully designed and I am one of those people crazy about the HighTec C pens because of the colors and the fineness of the lines available. The finish on my High Tec C Cavalier metal body pen is not pleasing. It's a lovely red but ii is too shiny and the color has worn away in a patch where the cap is made to fit very tightly in order to keep it on securely. Basically everything I like about the HighTec C is encapsulated in the refill so this elegant Type A is very desirable. I'd pay $50 for it as it is described. Not sure about $99.

I also wish I had known about this. It's not clear to me whether one can still invest $50 and get a pen in return--eventually, of course.

It is very sad that we don't seem to be able manufacture things here anymore.
posted by Anitanola at 10:47 PM on October 8, 2011


I couldn't help but sing, "We're only making pens in China," to the tune of "We're only making plans for Nigel." Now this song is stuck in my head. Thanks, MetaFilter.

We're only making pens, in China (wee-ooo)
We want to house them inna stainless steel... (wee-ooo)

posted by not_on_display at 10:49 PM on October 8, 2011 [9 favorites]


I'd feel more confidence in their kickstart if they didn't seem to have bought into some fantasy about outsourcing to China. It's not that you can't build quality products in China, it's that you can't outsource your products to the other side of the world without doing a little more due diligence than sending some emails and having some Skype calls.

That they only discovered the factory was basically a head shop for a lot of local piece workers at the point they were expecting the finished samples to authorize the initial run... Dudes, business 2.0 was a load of horseshit. You still need to actually meet people and inspect setups before you start depending on someone.
posted by fatbird at 12:10 AM on October 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


Oh my. This IS sad. I think I may have to make (domestic) knock-offs of this product and sell them for $25.
posted by Mark Doner at 12:10 AM on October 9, 2011 [5 favorites]


I couldn't help but sing, "We're only making pens in China," to the tune of "We're only making plans for Nigel." Now this song is stuck in my head.

Mine too. It's gone viral. Now I need you to write the rest of the lyrics. Quickly.
posted by Chairboy at 12:34 AM on October 9, 2011


I read this as "Making penis in China" and was, ultimately, disappointed.
posted by sharpener at 12:42 AM on October 9, 2011 [3 favorites]


And if your ball point pen seems crappy
It must be crappy
It must be crappy
I would be happy if it's knurled
posted by e.e. coli at 3:35 AM on October 9, 2011 [6 favorites]


I'm with fatbird on this one - they complain about incompetance, but haven't done the necessary background work themselves.

I've worked on projects that have outsourced manufacturing to China - labour is very cheap out there, and the manufacturing excellence you need can be found, but it isn't just a matter of picking the cheapest quote and hoping for the best. You do need to do a lot of work your end to make it happen.

Am I the only one who thought that that pen looks really uncomfortable to write with?
posted by YAMWAK at 3:46 AM on October 9, 2011


Not just you, YAMWAK. A 12mm sharp-edged square prism is going to be tiring. Plus, where's the cap?
posted by scruss at 4:44 AM on October 9, 2011


That's just the case, the pen part is round.
posted by splatta at 4:53 AM on October 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


that couple in their video was enough to make me switch to pencils. their constant smirking at each other seemed more like foreplay than salesmanship.
posted by Postroad at 5:27 AM on October 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


There is a saying among fountain pen collectors: all a ball pen is is a fancy holder for a refill. The kickstarter project seems to use that as a design specification. IMHO, it's not that attractive a pen, especially at that price point.

If they are going to do this, figure out a way to make it a "universal ball pen," capable of taking a variety of refills.
posted by MrGuilt at 6:15 AM on October 9, 2011


Yeah, what happens when Hi-Tec stop producing the C? What good is your $100 stainless steel cartridge holder then?
posted by PeterMcDermott at 7:25 AM on October 9, 2011


So they're turning the OD, drilling it out to fit the cheap refill, and threading one end for a slotted plug, then selling it for $99? For that kind of money, they should at least knurl the gripping part and put a pocket clip on the case. It's Free-machining stainless, for Pete's sake; do something interesting to it.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 9:46 AM on October 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


Well, they're doing a little more than that - they're taking a block, drilling out the centre to hold the pen and marking up the block to be a very bad rule too (it's far too distant from the surface face up, and trying to draw a straight line with a pen against an uneven marked edge isn't easy).

I agree that knurling would be nice; sculpting the gripping part to better fit fingers would be nicer, but would involve some serious CNC work and actually require professional design attention on the balance of the thing.

I am worried about the pen being made from stainless steel: the pen will be heavy, with lots of inertia, which would make writing tiring. There's not much that stainless is doing there that boring aluminium couldn't do better and cheaper. Aluminium is also easier to laser etch, from what I recall.

Not a fan of the pen surface finish either [wanders off, muttering]
posted by YAMWAK at 10:43 AM on October 9, 2011


I read "pens" as "penis" and thought ..... wtf kind of outsourcing is going on NOW!?
posted by tomswift at 11:08 AM on October 9, 2011


I am worried about the pen being made from stainless steel: the pen will be heavy, with lots of inertia, which would make writing tiring. There's not much that stainless is doing there that boring aluminium couldn't do better and cheaper.

All true.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 11:31 AM on October 9, 2011


Saw this a few days ago, and it's become my personal Exhibit Type-A of doomed, well-meaning Kickstarter projects. From the ITP/Brooklyn axis background, to the twee funding video and the “it’s been so-so-crazy blowing through our funding trying to figure this shit out”, the Pen Type-A has it all. All it needs is a catchy pun like “Regretsy”.
posted by migurski at 11:39 AM on October 9, 2011


I was thinking they should have used tungsten, give it some more heft, make it seem like it is worth $100.
posted by Ad hominem at 12:02 PM on October 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


I didn't back it, just thought it was interesting for a slow saturday night.

I was thinking they should have used tungsten, give it some more heft, make it seem like it is worth $100.

"I posted this because it was interesting" to "look at these losers" in no time. Christ, what an asshole.
posted by babbyʼ); Drop table users; -- at 2:53 PM on October 9, 2011


That's kind of harsh. As you noted, though, stainless is kind of heavy for a pen, and tungsten would be much worse. I think titanium is the best metal for justifying a high pricetag.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 3:23 PM on October 9, 2011


Yeah I guess I am an asshole. In my opinion weightiness wouldn't be a problem for an fancy pen. I was thinking tungsten because it is heavier than stainless, giving it a "heavier than it looks" aspect that expensive items seem to have. I use tungsten darts because they are heavier than stainless.

Titanium would be be great though, or a space age ceramic.
posted by Ad hominem at 4:26 PM on October 9, 2011


Yes, but with darts, the heavier weight contributes to their function. In a pen, especially an easy-rolling gel pen, extra weight makes it harder to use, as bDtu says.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:35 PM on October 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


Pen was priced at $50 for the kickstarter backers.

A heavier pen is not necessarily more functional or more bang for buck.
posted by babbyʼ); Drop table users; -- at 4:37 PM on October 9, 2011


bDtu

Huh? He didn't say anything about stainless, he just dropped in to call me an asshole.

I would personally like a heavier pen, we are all entitled to our opinion as to wether we would like a super light aluminum pen, or some sort of super heavy lead pen. I am not a backer, I missed out on the $50 pen therefore it is $99 for me.
posted by Ad hominem at 4:46 PM on October 9, 2011


You're right it was YAMWAK who thought stainless is too heavy.

Could all you imaginary Internet people stop using so many names?
posted by Kirth Gerson at 6:11 AM on October 10, 2011


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