Regular readers may remember my reviews of a few different Galen Leather items from last year. A few months ago they reached out to me again to ask if I’d be interested in trying out some of their new products. I’ve been regularly using and enjoying the pen case and notebook holder that they sent me last year, so was excited to get my hands on some of their new products.
The items that they sent over were the new 6-slot Zippered Pen Case and the Rocking Ink Blotter. I’ve had them for a while and have had a chance to use and get to know each one, so let me introduce you to some of Galen Leather’s newest products and give you my thoughts on each one.
Disclaimer: The items in the post were provided to me for free for the purposes of this review. All opinions in this review are my own and were not influenced by the generosity of Galen Leather.
6-Slot Magnum Opus Zippered Pen Case
The first item we’re going to take a look at today is this 6-slot Zippered Pen Case. Their previous version of this pen case (which is still available) has a magnetic closure. This newer version has a zippered closure.
One question that you’ll need to ask yourself is whether a zipper or magnetic closure is right for you. The magnetic closure is nice if you want easy or one-handed access to your pens. Opening a zipper can be done with one hand if needed, but it’s not nearly as easy as a magnetic clasp. The magnetic closure is more streamlined than the zipper, but the zipper is ultimately more secure since it can’t accidentally be pulled open when being placed into or removed from a bag. Their size is pretty much the exact same when closed, but when open the magnetic case takes up a lot more desk space. The only difference when closed is that the magnetic version has a flap that goes on top of the case, so it is a bit thicker.
Similar to the version with the magnetic closure, the zippered case has a removable pen tray. This is a nice option if you want to have easy access to your pens outside of the case but still have them contained within a tray. A new feature for the zippered case is an elastic band built into the back of the case. This pulls the back flap open and causes it to act as a kickstand, which allows the case to sit at an angle and make your pens easier to access. This sounds like a great idea, but in practice I found that when the case was full of pens it couldn’t support the weight and would not stay propped up. If I folded both flaps down flat against the case I could get it to work, but it would usually collapse when I touched it to remove a pen.
The construction and quality of this pen case is top-notch. The exterior leather is supple and soft, while the interior is a very soft fabric that will surely protect your pens. The zipper is chunky and fits in with the aesthetic of the case. It works very smoothly and I never experienced a catch or had any trouble zipping/unzipping it. The crease across the front and back of the case may not appeal to everyone, but it doesn’t bother me.
While using the case I discovered a use for the elastic “kickstand” band that may not be intended, but works really well for me. I turned the tray around so that the slots faced the back of the case (the side with the elastic band and logo). Now when I open the case the elastic pulls the side up and allows me to easily access my pens while the case sits on my desk.
Rocking Ink Blotter
The other item I was sent for review was the new Galen Leather Rocking Ink Blotter. Blotters allow you to remove excess ink from paper and can be quite useful if you like to write on paper that has longer dry times (Tomoe River, Life, Mnemosyne, etc…). Rocker blotters are especially nice in that, thanks to how they work, they reduce the risk of smearing because they move smoothly. By rocking the blotting surface across the wet ink instead of laying it on top of it, ink is removed in one smooth and continuous motion.
This blotter has great aesthetics and ergonomics. The color and shape of the wood will look right at home on most desks. The wood is carved in such a way that it fits your hand quite naturally and feels great to use. Speaking of use, the blotter base is quite large so it can cover a lot of paper. While not typically an issue, I have a smaller rocker blotter that sometimes takes two passes to cover all of the wet ink.
I was curious to see how the leather would work as a blotter. I’ve used blotting paper for years, but never leather. Since leather is so much more permanent that paper, using it for the first time is a little intimidating. Once it has a few marks on it, though, it’s much easier to use without hesitation.
In use the size and shape work really well. It rolls easily across the paper with little effort. The size is big enough to cover an entire A5-sized piece of paper. I found that, when using a notebook, you can start at the side away from the binding, hook the edge on the corner of the page and roll towards the binding. This allows you to cover the entire width of the page in one go. Normally you won’t need to do this, but it’s good to know you can if needed.
So how does it work? For the most part it works pretty well. The leather is quite absorbent and picks up all of the extra ink in one pass. After a quick blotting I could run my finger across the just-wet ink and it was dry. One thing that I did notice is that with really wet ink, either from a very wet pen or very fresh writing, the blotter tended to smudge the ink as it passed across it. I didn’t experience this when I let the ink dry a bit more, so I’d say it’s only a worry with very wet inks that you intend to blot immediately.
When using a paper blotter, I didn’t notice this smudging nearly as often. After trying multiple times just to make sure I had a decent sample size, I experienced significantly less smudging using paper than leather. I would assume that the paper is just more absorbent than the leather. In regular use this shouldn’t be a big deal unless you use very wet pen/ink combinations or need to immediately blot your writing.
One thing that is the same regardless of whether you’re using leather or paper is ink transfer from the blotter to wet ink. If you use a part of the blotter that already has dry ink on it, it can transfer a bit of the color to the wet ink on the paper. With paper blotters you can just change out the paper once it gets too covered in ink, but with the leather I don’t think replacement is an option. I’m sure if you really wanted to you could get the rocker off of the handle and swap the leather for a sheet of blotting paper, but I don’t think it’s made to do that.
Galen Leather was also kind enough to include a Yu-Sari notebook for me to try out, but I figured I’d post a separate review for that. Made by Nakabayashi, it claims to show off the properties of fountain pen inks (such as sheen and shading) but still have good dry times. Look for the review soon!
Similar to my previous items from Galen Leather, both of these are made to last a lifetime and look good doing it. The 6-slot Zippered Pen Case is made with a strong yet soft leather that should wear quite nicely over time and the Rocking Ink Blotter is comfortable and easy to use. While neither item is perfect, I believe that they are both top-quality items that deserve strong consideration if you are in the market. I have been using the previous items I received from Galen Leather for over a year now and enjoy them more the more that I use them. I have no doubt it will be the same with these.