Confessing my prejudices
On paper, this review was stacked against the Applied Pens Streamline from the start. Looking at the specs and other reviews from the United Inkdom horde, three things leaped out at me.
One, it’s a pen pushing £150 that features a generic #6 Bock steel nib unit and a generic cartridge/converter filling mechanism. I’ve already explained why that turns me off.
Two — as other reviews have highlighted — it’s absurdly, comically large. I expected it to be simply unusable, or at very least uncomfortable to hold.
And three, I simply didn’t like the way it looked. Big stepdown from barrel to section. Small nib relative to the barrel size. Most noticeably, a lurid lime-turquoise-grey section as counterpoint to the black ebonite cap and barrel, which in my opinion is pretty hideous. No point beating about the bush there.
So, as I mentally prepared for this review while waiting for the pen to arrive, I had some ethical issues to resolve. How do you fairly review a pen when you are primed to dislike it? How fair is it to punish a maker of one-off custom pens because you don’t like the materials they picked for the review sample? And can you — should you — review a pen when you know that its very design principles (such as size) are incompatible with your preferences?
“Everyone has a plan until they’re punched in the mouth”
As it happens, most of these questions and concerns simple evaporated when I unpacked the Streamline. Let’s step through.
How’s the value for money?
Sure, it’s got a generic nib unit and converter, but it doesn’t feel like a generic pen. The Streamline is made from hand-turned ebonite, and every edge and corner feels well finished.
It looks like nothing else on the market. And it’s made by an individual craftsman in the UK. It’s the very opposite of economy of scale, and yet it is prices fairly comparably to other large steel-nibbed C/C pens like the Diplomat Aero and Edison Collier. Streamline designs range from about £145 to £160 right now.
Is it too big?
The size is indeed immediately apparent. Inescapable. It’s the biggest pen I’ve ever seen, short of a jumbo whiteboard marker. It utterly, hilariously dwarfs my M805, capped or uncapped.
Even the ebonite walls of the cap and barrel are thicker than on any other pen I’ve handled. Yet it’s not heavy — the pictures won’t tell you that.
The pen won’t post, at all, and good thing too — it’s a long pen and a little back-weighted. The section is of a decent diameter, and notably spacious. There’s plenty of room to grip without touching the threads or barrel-to-section stepdown. In short, despite the size it’s actually quite comfortable and I wrote several pages in a session without a problem. So I ended up thinking of the size less as “ridiculous” and more as “mighty”.
How does it look?
The overall design is striking, with its pointed torpedo ends and utterly featureless surface. There’s no clip or rollstop, no bands or finials. Just smooth polished ebonite (which is not at all slippery, incidentally). It’s not my natural style. I like a flat-ended pen, generally. But this floats amid my pen collection like an alien spacecraft, and I quite enjoy it.
Unfortunately, with the cap off I’m not so wowed. In person a #6 nib does indeed look too small for the pen, and the section looks too narrow compared to the barrel. It’s offending my sense of proportion just a little.
And by God, that section material is awful. I really, really dislike the colour.
Which is a shame, because Jake’s Etsy page has a beautiful terracotta-coloured Streamline right now that looks simply lovely.
There’s another with a teal section that is calling to me even more. To the point where I might one drunken evening hit the buy button before my bank balance has a chance to object.
But how does it write, damnit?
Hang on just a minute. In use, there are a few things to note first. The cap takes two full turns to remove, and the threads on both the cap and section felt a little tight to me. If the size wasn’t enough to put you off buying the Streamline as a quick note-taker, this will.
The actual feel on the page will depend on the nib. Since this is a generic screw-in Bock nib, I took advantage of the flexibility to put in the Bock Titanium EF that I love so much. It’s a good pairing. But for the size of the pen, I’m wondering whether a flamboyant stub or double broad would be even better. Let’s face it: you’re not buying this pen for the £15 nib unit, so there’s not a great deal of point me going into detail on its performance here.
A question of compatibility
I managed to answer my questions in the end.
How do you fairly review a pen that you think you’d dislike? Simple: hold it in your hand. Nothing else matters.
How fair is it to punish a custom maker for their choice of materials in the review sample? Well, not very. I don’t like the section here, but there are plenty of other Streamlines to drool over. So I can get over my colour biases.
And can you review a pen when it’s incompatible with your preferences? Well, here’s the thing… it turns out that I am the target audience for the Streamline after all. Even though I don’t have enormous hands, I didn’t find the size a problem (although it definitely made its presence felt). I really ended up liking the oversized, clipless design.
I may not end up buying a Streamline for my own collection. Heaven knows, there are so many pens out there that have been patiently in my wishlist queue for months or years. But I’m humbled that I had the chance to review it — it was an opportunity to challenge my prejudices, and the Streamline surprised me. It may surprise you, too.
Note: the Streamline is on temporary loan to me for review.