Quick review: Manhattan Portage pen case (Massdrop)

I just received this yesterday. It cost me $15 on Massdrop, plus shipping.

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Seen here leaning against my Nock Sinclair. Similar grey.

It’s a simple clamshell case with five pen slots, much in the vein of Nock’s various cases, but with a slight twist. As you’ll see from the photos, it doesn’t zip fully closed: instead, a tucked-in flap seals the case and stops pens on either side of the fold from touching.

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It’s a simple and ingenious mechanism.

The construction is solid. It’s made out of cordura; the zip is YKK and on my example at least, the stitching is straight and neat. It looks like it’ll hold up well to daily wear and tear.

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Chunky YKK zip with plastic teeth so it won’t scratch pens. Neat two-colour stitching.

The case comes in a few different colour schemes. I opted for a steel grey outer and red lining. The stitching is in grey and red too, and matches perfectly. The grey is pretty close to Nock’s grey, and the red is a true bright red, although it looks a little pink in the photos. The red Manhattan Portage label is on the outside and there are three inexplicably large material brand and care labels sewn on the inside of the flap.

I’ve got three problems with this case, although they’re not quite dealbreakers, and I’ll certainly cut the case some slack for its price.

The first problem is the pen slots. I appreciate that (like in the Nock cases) each pen has its own completely separate slot, but the slots here are different sizes. The one on the far right is wide; the one on the far left is very narrow. None of my fountain pens fit in the leftmost slot. In the other four in the photos, left to right, I have a Pilot Elabo, two Platinum 3776s, and a Pilot 912. Notice that the Elabo almost gets lost in the slot: the slots in my opinion are too long and too narrow.

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Lost Elabo, massive care labels, too-tight leftmost slot.

The second problem is the flap. It simply doesn’t fold over neatly; as soon as you start to bend the two slides of the clamshell together, the flap starts to push out. It’s not quite enough to expose the pens to rubbing on each other — unless you had clipped them over the lip of their slots.

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The flap doesn’t want to stay tucked in.

The third problem is the material. It’s noticeably stiffer and rougher than the nylon that Nock uses. It takes a bit of effort to get the pens in and out, to fold the flap, to fold and zip the case. It would be easier if the case used a smoother denier material and had a bit more slack in it. With four medium-sized fountain pens in the slots the case feels crammed, particularly at the top end where the thicker caps and clips are and where the flap folds in too. If I somehow managed to fit a fifth pen in the empty slot, I can imagine the case would be a real struggle to close.

Compare that to the Nock Sinclair, which feels about the same bulk but holds five pens and a notebook with ease, and where everything just slips in and out a bit more easily. As the actress said to the bishop, etc.

For $15, I can recommend the Manhattan Portage pen case. Especially if you prefer slimmer pens. But if you wanted to fit in five Sailor King of Pens (and you should know that I’m hugely envious of you if you’re in that position), you would really struggle here. If you can spring the extra money, I’d recommend you go for a Nock Sinclair instead.

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Nice case, with a few frustrating flaws.

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