Pen Class: Premium ($200 to $499)
Street Price:: $200.00 and $275.00
Body Material: Douglas-Fir (wood)
Nib Material: Steel
Nib Size: Fine, Medium, Broad
Cap Type: Screw-on
Post-able: Yes, screw-on to barrel end
Filling Mechanism: Cartridge / Converter
Ink Capacity: Cartridge: 1.45 ml / 0.05 oz // Converter: 0.75 ml / 0.03 oz
Overall Weight: 44 g / 1.55 oz
Cap Weight: 16 g / 0.56 oz
Body Weight: 28 g / 0.99 oz
Overall Length Capped: 137 mm / 5.39 in
Overall Length Posted: 165 mm / 6.50
Body Length (not including nib): 115 mm / 4.53 in
Nib Length: 17 mm / 0.67 in
Body Length (including nib): 132 mm / 5.20
Cap Diameter w/o Clip: 13 mm / 0.51 in
Cap Diameter w/Clip: 17.5 mm / 0.69 in
Body Diameter: 14.5 mm / 0.57
If this pen were a movie, it would be…
The Lord of the Rings (2001, 2002, 2003)
Dan: 8.0 – The Tree Ring pen comes packaged very securely with an initially underwhelming appearance. But as you begin to peel away the protective layers of thin cardboard and tissue paper padding, and push the included ink cartridge out of the way, you get to another box of thin cardboard that’s holding what we’re really after.
Inside is a wooden case that not only protects the pen but is designed to show it off and act as a stand to display the included forest restoration/tree ring history information card. It does an excellent job on both accounts and earns its spot next to Lamy and Pilot for their packaging of the Dialog 3 and Matte Black Vanishing Point.
Eric: 7.5 - The Tree Ring pen comes in a tan colored, heavy paper box with a large Tree Ring label on the top. It doesn’t make you go ooh. It doesn’t make you go aah. But it seems very environmentally friendly, so you’re ok with it. Inside, there’s some tissue paper, an informational card, an instruction sheet, an ink cartridge, and another tan colored, heavy paper box.
Inside that second paper box you’ll find a very nice wooden pen case/holder. It’s triangular in shape (lengthwise) and the top opens on a hinge in clamshell fashion. Even if you don’t much care for wooden pens, I’m guessing you’re going to like this box.
If you keep the pen case on your desk it makes for a nice pen rest. The instructions indicate that the “Restoring Old Growth Forests” information sheet can be placed upright between the pen case bottom and open top for display purposes. My information sheet doesn’t quite fit correctly without one or two convoluted bends. I could solve that by trimming the sides of the sheet, but I don’t really want it on display anyway, so I put it back in the paper box.
Dan: 6.75 – The Tree Ring pen uses the ever familiar cartridge/converter filling system and includes both a cartridge and a converter with the pen. I was actually pleasantly surprised when I removed the barrel from the section to find a long international cartridge inside that holds 1.45mL of ink. I much prefer this to a single standard sized international cartridge, or even two of them if the pen will allow it. And if you’re looking for maximum ink capacity the long international cartridge trumps the converter there, too.
Eric: 5.5 - The Tree Ring pen uses the cartridge/converter filling system. This system is not my favorite, but it certainly beats cartridge only systems. And if the pen allows for the long international cartridges, as this pen does, all the better.
As many readers know, I’m not a fan of cartridges because of their environmental impact. But even I can’t help but be impressed when I run across a long international cartridge. They’s no denying it: They’re gorgeous.
Dan: 9.0 – There’s a lot of neat aspects to the Tree Ring Natural History fountain pen that really helped to give it a great first impression. The first obviously being the character found in the Douglas-fir wood the pen is made from. The black titanium coated cap and fittings appeal to my eye, but above all, the nib wrote fantastically out of the box. I filled it with Diamine Crimson, just one of the few samples we recently received, and it wrote a juicy, wet line like the kind you dream of.
Eric: 7.0 - Removing the portion of the section that needs to come off in order to fill the pen with ink is not easy. The surface is small and slick. Ok, to be fair, it’s not terribly difficult to remove once you get the grip you need, but when compared to all the other sections whose removal requires no thought, this one stands out.
I inked the Tree Ring pen with Diamine Ochre and then visited a nearby pad of Rhodia. The nib worked well immediately. I first tried the pen posted, since the cap can be screwed on to the end of the barrel, but I found it too top heavy so I switched to non-posted. My fingers moved around a bit to find comfortable locations, but once in place, they seemed quite happy.
Dan: 7.0 – The Tree Ring Natural History fountain pen comes with a #5 German made stainless steel nib with iridium tipping available in sizes fine, medium and broad. While the performance of the nib was quite good, something I’ll get into in more detail in the next section, the appearance failed to impress me.
The #5 nib just looks too small in a pen of this size. I love that the Tree Ring logo is front and center on the nib but I really wish it was stamped instead of lasered on. The logo looks like it’s about to receive a gang beating by the surrounding scroll work which also reduces the potential size of the logo, making it a little difficult to see. It would probably look better if the logo could be larger either by removing the scrollwork on the nib or by moving up to a #6 size nib.
Eric: 6.0 - Ok, time for me to come out of the closet: I’m a nib snob. It pains me to admit it, but I have to face reality. I’d prefer to be more flexible when it comes to nibs (didja see what I did there?) but try as I may, I fail.
Tree Ring Pens use JoWo nibs. Using JoWo seems to be gaining traction. Off the top of my head, there’s Tree Ring, Edison, Franklin-Christoph, and most recently, TWSBI announced they are moving to JoWoLand.
There’s nothing wrong with JoWo nibs. They are good, solid workhorse nibs that get the job done. My problem lies with aesthetics. It seems very common for the pen maker’s logo to be laser engraved/etched onto JoWo nibs. It looks tacky. It looks like an afterthought. But then, I’m a nib snob. I prefer a logo/mark that is stamped into the nib – and if that’s not possible, then just give me a plain, logo-less nib.
The #5 JoWo nib on the Tree Ring pen works very nicely, but in addition to having the laser engraved logo, it’s also too small a nib for this pen. As soon as you remove the cap you want to begin filming, “Honey, I shrunk the nibs.”
Don’t get me wrong. The nib does it’s job. My only gripes are based on appearance and that’s only because I’m a nib snob. I was born that way.
Dan: 8.0 – This pen performed very well out of the box. The fine nib was smooth and provided good feedback. The feed was tuned on the wet side, which is probably a safe bet and more satisfying to most people than a dry nib. During my entire time with the pen I never experienced a skip, hard start, scratch, or inconsistent flow. The pen just worked every time the nib hit the paper.
Eric: 8.5 - From the get-go, the Tree Ring pen performed very nicely. Only once did I experience a slightly hard start. That was after having not used the pen for two days and even then, the hard start was barely noticeable. Twice I saw hesitations, but I blame that more on pen rotation in my hand rather than the nib/feed/flow. My fingers must be on the wooden barrel of the pen. If they are on the section, my middle finger drags on the paper. Because of the slightly high position of my grip, minor pen rotation seems to be inevitable.
Dan: 8.0 – This pen uses one of the best looking kits I’ve ever seen. It’s not garish or gaudy and I think the black titanium coating combined with the natural wood body gives it a subdued sophistication not found in many kit pens.
The cap is shorter than caps on most other fountain pens and has several interesting characteristics. The first being the pattern, which contrasts nicely with the rings in the wood. Next is the clip. It functions very well and provides enough tension to keep the pen where you put it, but isn’t difficult to slip into place. It doesn’t look half bad either. To top it off is a series of facets around the top that makes the light dance as you rotate the pen.
One and a half turns is all that’s required to remove the cap and reveal the matching black titanium coated section. There’s only a small area of the section that is smooth but the threads are of a flat, square variety which smooths them to the point where it really doesn’t feel like you’re touching threads at all. The threaded part of the section is attached to the barrel and the smooth part is what’s actually removed, requiring only 4 rotations. Removing the section can be a little difficult at times because the gripping area is so small and smooth.
Moving on to what is essentially the heart and soul of this pen: the Douglas-fir wood barrel. Near the section is the bark of the tree and the year 2011 denoting the year the tree was harvested. Moving towards the end of the pen we make our way to what was the center and beginning of the tree. Ours happened to be born in 1884. The thickness of each ring depends a lot on the climate at the time. Thin, closely packed rings are signs of drought while thicker rings mean just the opposite.
One very neat aspect about the Tree Ring pens is the personalization options. If you’re celebrating a birthday, anniversary, or other major event you can have the year inscribed in the barrel next to the ring it corresponds to. Since the rings are basically a timeline of the life of the tree it’s easy to see where that special event of yours took place.
Finishing off the end of the pen is a threaded knob that the cap can post to. It only takes half a turn to securely post the cap on the back of the pen. For all you OCD types out there you’ll be happy to know that the clip does line up with the nib slit when posted.
Eric: 9.0 - Yes, absolutely, everything that Dan has mentioned plus more!
Just to reiterate: Dan’s not kidding when he says the Tree Ring pen uses the best looking kits. The black titanium is beautiful and the threads are so flat, I can hardly believe they function, but they do.
Dan’s also right on the money when he calls the Douglas-fir barrel the heart and soul of the pen. There is something awe inspiring about holding a pen whose parts are identified by year, stretching all the way back to 1884. At first I thought holding the pen was like holding a piece of history, but I realized it’s more than that. Holding this pen is like holding time in your hand. Time that you can see. Time that you can count (grab a loupe, you can count those rings).
But wait, there’s more: All of the wood used for Tree Ring Pens is personally harvested by Tree Ring Pens owner, Dave Wager. Dave is a Forest Ecologist. He left a full-time forest ecology job in 2010 to devote more time to Tree Ring Pens. He still spends about 30% of his time as a forest ecology consultant.
The State of Montana is happy to have Dave’s assistance with restoring old growth forests, but they do not pay him for the service. It is very much a labor of love. Dave will visit forest patches, often on his bicycle, identify the trees that should be removed for the health of the forest – and he fells them himself. He then takes them, towing them by bicycle if needed, back to his workshop where he carefully identifies the ring years (using other trees from the same patch to verify his findings when needed).
In my mind, these pens are magical. They’ve been in the making for over 100 years and are delivered to us by the Fountain Pen Community’s very own version of Paul Bunyan. Can it get any better than that?
Dan: 8.75 – Spending just a few minutes with the Tree Ring pen is enough to see that it is assembled very well. Each component is of high quality with great attention to detail. The black titanium coating looks great with no signs of chipping, flaking, scratching, or wear after my several weeks of use.
The wood barrel has been polished to a beautiful shine that makes it very easy to see each ring. The profile of the barrel is pleasing to both the hand and eye and makes smooth transitions to the section and the threaded end knob.
The fit and finish of this pen is just as high quality as that found on such renowned pens from Lamy and Delta. The only issue I can find, and this is a tiny issue, is the ring between the threaded section and the barrel is able to spin. It seems as if the section wasn’t pushed into the barrel with enough force to securely lock the ring in place. It doesn’t affect functionality whatsoever or make any kind of distracting noises. It’s just something I noticed while thoroughly inspecting the pen. Other than that little quip, this pen is awesome.
Eric: 8.75 - The detailing on the Tree Pen is excellent. All the metal parts are very well made and look lovely to both the naked eye and through a loupe. The main feature of the pen of course, the tree rings, cannot be improved upon. Nature, as it is wont to do, surpassed anything we mortals could accomplish. There is one very small piece of wood missing from the bark-end of the barrel (section end of pen). When I say small, I mean you would never see it without a loupe. And personally, I think it’s a naturally missing tiny bit of bark, so I’m perfectly willing to admire it.
Dan: 6.0 – I’ll just get right to it: this was not the most comfortable pen for me. The step from the section to the barrel is in the exact location where I wanted to grip the pen.
I use a modified tripod grip where my thumb and forefinger have most of the control of the pen and my middle finger supports it from the bottom. The modified part is that the tips of my thumb and forefinger do not touch. Instead, I rest my thumb further away from the nib than where my index finger rests. Moving my grip down to avoid the step results in my thumb resting on the barrel and my other two fingers trying to grip the threaded part of the section. This actually isn’t an uncomfortable spot to hold the pen, it’s just that I can’t get a good grip on the section. My fingers keep slipping and I feel I have very little control. The other option is moving my grip so all my fingers are on the barrel, but the problem there is that my grip is much too far away from the nib. I feel I have no control in this position and could tell the legibility of my writing had suffered.
Everything else about the pen was utterly fantastic. The nib performed perfectly without a single problem. If only I could get every pen to perform out the box as well as this one did!
Eric: 5.0 - The Tree Ring pen is not well suited to the way I hold a pen. I can hold the Tree Ring pen very comfortably if my fingers are completely on the barrel (the wood). Unfortunately, that’s just far enough away from the nib to cause a slight lack of control while writing. If I move my fingers a bit lower (where I would normally want them), they are smack-dab on top of the step from the barrel to the section. If I move them completely on to the section, they are far too close to the nib – my middle finger drags on the paper and the pen is nearly vertical.
A few minutes into the Road Trip, I decided I would keep my fingers on the barrel (where they were comfortable) and ignore the lack of complete control while writing. That actually made for some fun loop tops and undercurves. I’d have to say that it hurt my writing’s legibility, but it was fun none-the-less.
Control issues aside, the pen performed beautifully. Flow was great. There were no hesitations. There were no skips. All pens should write so well.
|Intersting origin||Section design|
Famous Last Words:
Dan: The Tree Ring Natural History fountain pen is a unique and eye-catching piece. Most of the people I showed it to seemed genuinely intrigued by its look and background. Priced at $200, it’s competing in a fiercely competitive segment of the fountain pen market. The ace up the sleeve for this pen is definitely the unique style of personalization that other pens can’t offer because of their material. Whether or not this pen is for you may all come down to how well you get along with the section.
Eric: I love the Tree Ring pen for the story behind the pen. For me, the Tree Ring pen doesn’t need to be a long writing session pen. It’s flawless for quick notes, has an amazing history, and let’s face it, how else can you hold 127 years of productivity in your hand? As soon as I place the period at the end of this sentence, I’m going back to counting tree rings.