First off, I would like to give a huge shoutout to Galen Leather for sponsoring this post and providing a review sample of their leather pen roll! They are a small startup company founded in 2012 in Istanbul, Turkey. They are a two-person company specializing in handmade leather, brass, and wood products and have a wide selection of notebook sleeves, laptop cases, pen cases, and much more! Check them out here.
It's been a long while since I've done an accessory review, so let's get right too it! Their leather pen roll is made completely of soft calf leather and features an adjustable leather wrap-around strap to keep it all together.
The pen roll comes in a lovely custom cardboard box that was quite the unboxing experience. The front of the box has their company design printed with a very vintage look which I quite appreciate. I find that it adds to the vintage feel of the product (and fountain pens as a whole). While not made from the most high quality materials, the box definitely feels like it's worth a lot. The only complaint is the nature of the cardboard, which feels a bit "tacky" or "dusty" on the fingertips. It's not a real problem, but just something to put out there.
Pulling off the top lid reveals the pen roll wrapped in another cardboard accent strap. The pen roll is front and center in the box, just like what a good box should do. I must say that their packaging is both well designed but still simplistic—if I might say, one of the best!
Taking the product out of the box, you are instantly greeted by the strong scent of genuine leather as well as the soft feel of the surface. For a first impression, the leather is undoubtably high quality and the stitching is very well done. Immediately, you can tell the leather comes in one whole piece, as opposed to other cheaper products that simply stitch together multiple pieces. However, the leather wraparound strap seems to be a weakness for me. The strap (although leather) seems quite flimsy and thin. I'm consistently afraid that an accidental tug may end up snapping the strap, rendering it useless. As well, the fact that it must wrap around multiple times makes opening/closing the pen roll a bit of a long-winded task.
Unfilled, the pen roll lays reasonably flat on the desk, but nonetheless has a good amount of thickness. Given the amount of space inside though, this is obviously expected and makes sense. You won't be keeping it empty most of the time anyways, so empty thickness isn't really important. However, when empty, the top flap does seem to "ride upwards" a bit, often not sitting in a perfectly straight line, due to being folded and rolled up. This is not much of a design flaw, but due to the inherent thickness of the leather. While I'm perfectly fine with it, it may trigger a bit of OCD in some people. As a side-note, my top flap was not creased very level, resulting in a bit more unevenness when open.
Opening it up, you'll find the 5 slots and a top flap covering the openings. The slots are around 4.5" (11.5cm) tall and come in 3 sizes. I found the smallest slot comfortably holds 1 pen or 2 pencils. The medium one holds 2 pens or a pair of scissors. The larger slot easily takes 3 of the my largest fountain pens without difficulty. The "maximum" height is around 8" (20.5cm) for all the slots. I leave "maximum" in quotes, because there is no real hard limit—the limit is just where the top is currently creased.
The insides of the pouch are unfinished leather, that gives it a suede feel. The thickness and softness of the insides give me confidence that the pens I put inside will be protected well. I am a little bit worried putting objects with exposed sharp points (mechanical pencils, scissors) point down, though it likely won't damage the leather too much. When filled and rolled up, it's about the size of a larger Chipotle burrito (for the lack of a better comparison).
Astute readers may have noticed an "FJ" on the bottom right corner of the front of the roll. Galen Leather offers a personalized monogram of up to 3 letters on the front of most of their products for only $5 extra. It's definitely worth the 5 dollars as it adds a nice flair to the pen roll, as well as a personally identifying bit, incase you misplace it. Currently, the engraving is only available in Times New Roman 14pt font in the bottom right corner. I do hope they would offer different font, size, and placement choice (near the center?) in the near future.
Now, onto a few other concerns I have about this pen roll. First off, the leather strap. While I mentioned it already, it bothers me enough to deserve a second—and fuller—mention. After some use, I found the continued use of the leather strap a bit of hassle. Given its length, opening and closing the roll becomes a bit of a tedious activity, having to carefully wrap it up every time. When open, the strap is also very long, often cluttering the desk or trailing on the floor (and being a cat toy). Albeit adding to the vintage look, I think that either a magnetic or button clasp would serve much better. I understand the design reasoning—to accommodate thicker rolls—it seems to have too many drawbacks for its benefits.
Next, the pen roll itself seems very handmade, which it indeed is. The edges are trimmed and hand-burnished. However, the edges seem raw or slightly uneven in some areas. I feel that a folded leather edge—where the edge is either tucked into the joint or folded inside—would make for a much more luxurious product. Though, because it's handmade, imperfections are an inevitability.
I also wished they offered a similar product in different sizes. For those that don't carry too many pens around with them at one time, a pen roll this big may be overkill. I have a couple friends that really only have 3-4 pens at one time, so perhaps an option for one with only 3 slots would be more appropriate. I personally like to carry a lot of stuff around, so this is the absolutely perfect size for me.
My final concern for this product would be its extremely strong smell. When opened for the first time, you are immediately hit by a wave of the leather's natural scent. I know many people enjoy the initial smell, I am extremely sensitive to strong scents (allergies...), so I had to let it sit and air out before use. I can't dock too many points off with this fact, because I know the scent is often the hallmark of a genuine leather product.
That about wraps up this review! All in all, this is a very good quality handmade leather pen roll with a few shortcomings, but still a great product. It is $89 without monogram and $94 with monogram. You can pick it up at Galen Leather's site directly here. Also, check out their Amazon Storefront for those of you that enjoy buying from Amazon.
Again, special thanks to Galen Leather for sponsoring this post and providing a review sample. This review consists of my genuine thoughts and was not influenced in any way to provide a positive review.