Galen Leather has been on the fountain pen scene for many years now, but until very recently I didn’t own a single thing that they made. I always thought that their products looked quite nice. I’d even been able to handle some at local pen meetups. Still, I never placed an order. What was my hesitation? The main reason was that I didn’t really need more pen storage.
About a month ago I was contacted by Yusuf with Galen Leather. He asked if I would be interested in reviewing one of their products. Of course, I jumped at the opportunity to try out one of their products myself. He told me to take a look at the Galen Leather site and pick something I’d like to test. I had never really browsed the site before and was surprised at the variety of items that they offer. I decided to try out a combination pen case with notebook holder, as this was something I had never used before and could actually use on a regular basis. Yusuf said that he’d get it shipped out right away.
Galen Leather is based in Turkey, so I figured shipping times would be significant. To my surprise, it only took about 10 days for the package to arrive on my doorstep in the States. When I opened the package, I was further surprised to find that, in addition to the pen/notebook case I requested, Yusuf also included a hard pen case and notebook! So, today I’m going to take a look at three different Galen Leather products and let you know my thoughts. Due to how long the post would be with both reviews, I’m going to split it into two parts. This is Part 1.
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.
Galen Leather Packaging and Leather
Before I start discussing each item in detail, I want to quickly mention the product packaging. Each item that I received came in its own branded box. Not only does this look great, but it also adds an extra layer of protection during shipping. The boxes could also be used to store your pen cases when they’re not in use.
I also want to mention the leather that the cases are made out of. They use top-quality full-grain leather for their products, meaning that they will wear over time and develop a patina. It is also vegetable-tanned leather, which means it is made with natural tannins that will last for the lifetime of the product. While this is very exciting and it means these are high-quality products, I do want to mention that they have a strong smell when you first take them out of the box. From a distance, they smell like leather, but up close they have a slight smell of what strikes me as sulfur. I don’t know if there is any type of sulfur in them, but if you are sensitive to smells this is something to be aware of. Over time the smell definitely diminishes.
Notebook Holder and Pen Case
The item that I requested for review is the Leather Zippered 10 Slot Pen Case With A5 Notebook Holder in Crazy Horse Brown. While I have plenty of pen storage, I don’t have many notebook covers. This particular case really appealed to me since it has pen storage built into it. These days I don’t get out with my pens and notebooks very often, but knowing that I can take everything with me without needing to bring multiple cases is something I like. Even using it on my desk helps keep everything less cluttered.
The case itself is very nice. The outer leather is very soft and the leather on the inside of the case feels like it will be very friendly to fountain pen finishes. This particular color, Crazy Horse Brown, has light and dark patches along with some brown-orange “highlights”. The trim on the case is a matching brown color, as are the elastic pen loops on the inside of the case. The zipper is chunky and silver. The back of the case has a Galen Leather logo imprinted into the leather near the bottom.
The Pen Case Side
When you first open the case, you’ll see a set of 10 pen loops. For the A5-sized notebook holders, 10 loops is the only option. Each loop is a little over 1 inch (3 cm) in length, which is long enough to help keep the pens from moving very much and rubbing against each other.
The pen holders work great with any size of pen. I was easily able to insert my largest pen, a Hinze Americana, without any trouble. At the same time, my slimmest pens were also held tightly and I have no concern that they’ll slip out of the elastic loop. Speaking of pen size, this case was able to hold all of my largest pens and still close without issue. For reference, my longest pen is a little over 6 inches (15.5 cm) long.
There is a soft, flexible flap of leather in the middle of the case that keeps the pens separated from the notebook. This is definitely something that you want in most pen cases, as it prevents anything that sits opposite your pens from rubbing on them. One thing that I did notice, though, is that the zipper can catch the bottom of the leather when you completely unzip the case. While I don’t think it will damage the zipper, it will eventually damage the leather if it happens often enough and will cause it to look a little shabby.
The Notebook Holder Side
Moving to the other side of the notebook, this is the side that holds an A5-sized notebook. There is a leather pocket that you can slip a notebook cover into, effectively turning the back of the case into the back of your notebook. The pocket is split near the top, which is a very convenient feature, as it makes it a lot easier to insert and remove the notebook cover. If you choose to simply use it for loose paper items instead, this will make them easier to remove.
I tried a variety of notebooks to see how big of an A5 notebook you could use. My go-to is a Midori MD and it fit perfectly. The case zipped with no trouble. Next I tried a Rhodia Goalbook, which is thicker than a Midori MD but still has a soft cover. This also fit and I was able to zip the case. Finally, I tried a Leuchtturm1917 hardcover notebook. Again, it fit and I was able to zip the case, but the hardcover was definitely thicker and more difficult to insert into the rear pocket. Conclusion? I think just about any A5 notebook with less than 250 pages will fit. I would suggest a notebook without an elastic closure band, as it makes the back of the case bulge where the band is tucked into the pocket. Also, be aware that any page-marker ribbons may get caught in the zipper if they aren’t tucked into the case before you zip it up.
The Overall Experience
Using this case is a very great overall experience. Unzipping it is smooth and easy. When it is filled with pens and a notebook, each side has a satisfying weight to it. Opening to the pen side first, you’re presented with your selection of pens. Choose one, flip the protective leather flap and your notebook is ready for you. Writing in the notebook is not quite as nice as writing on a flat table, since either the bottom of the case tends to flex a little bit or you’re writing on top of your pens, but unless you’re really picky about your writing experience, you probably won’t mind it. It certainly doesn’t bother me enough to not use the case. Similarly, the case zipper will be under your hand at times during your writing, but it didn’t bother me.
Overall, this is a wonderful product that I think will be useful to people with a variety of needs. As a pen holder, it does a great job at keeping pens of all sizes safe and secure. As a notebook holder, it offers the added convenience of holding a variety of pens as well. While some items that try to fill multiple roles fail at one or both, this product does an admirable job as both a notebook holder and pen case.
Head on over and read Galen Leather Product Review Part 2 – Hard Pen Case and Notebook!