Before we dive into the deep black sheeny finish of Wingback’s new Black Steel Mechanical Pen, I had better mention their Kickstarter campaign ends on Wednesday the 2nd September, in two days’ time. If you want to pick one up with a big early bird discount, once you’re finished here, teleport over to the Kickstarter campaign before it closes. It’s already exceeded its funding target 11 times over.
The Black Steel Mechanical Pen is not the first Wingback product to grace my desk. A while back, I had the pleasure of reviewing their brass version for their initial Kickstarter campaign. I’ll go into why the black finish is worth talking about in a moment, but in case you missed my earlier review, let’s recap on the pen’s main features and the company behind it.
You don’t have to be a pen enthusiast to appreciate that the Wingback Mechanical Pen is a high-quality writing instrument. Wingback founder Alasdair MacLaine started his London-based company as a reaction to disposable culture ̶ and this shows in the pen’s construction, which is built to last a lifetime. Each part has been painstakingly designed to fit together to some seriously tight tolerances. Knurling is nigh-on flawless, with each tiny diamond point looking like it’s been precision cut.
A full metal twist-action mechanism extends and retracts the nib, which is operated by twisting the pen’s knurled crown. It offers a fail-safe actuation method that can be used one-handed, and shouldn’t go off in your pocket.
With function and reliability so important to Wingback, it is no surprise they opted for the Fisher PR4 Space Pen refill, which is probably unrivalled as the most rugged and dependable ballpoint on the market. If this ink choice isn’t your bag, the Schon Design adapter will convert the Mechanical Pen to take D1 type refills.
There’s a fair amount more to be said about the Mechanical Pen’s finer details, but the bottom line is it’s a compact, comfortable to hold everyday carry pen with a well-executed design. If you want to read more about that, see my full review here.
Back in Black
Black might just be my new favourite finish for the Mechanical Pen. Neither polished nor matt, the Black Steel has a kind of low-light sheen that’s probably better explained in the pictures.
Every part of the pen, bar the Wingback logo, is black. It’s a ballpoint squarely aimed at anyone with a fetish for the ‘all-black everything’ look. Yes, that includes me. This darker colourway enhances the pen’s no-frills, function-led aesthetic. It is a very serious writing tool.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, given Wingback’s obsession with balancing aesthetics with functionality, the Black Steel pen is more than just a new colourway. The black finish also adds an extremely durable coating on all parts of the pen as well as lowering friction of metal-on-metal contact areas.
This is thanks to a process called “Magnetron Sputtering”, which is just as cool as it sounds. Usually reserved for mil-spec equipment and high-end watches, this metal finishing process coats the pen’s steel body in vaporised tungsten to create a black finish 9.5 times tougher than the stainless steel below. Whilst I haven’t tested it out, I’ll wager the Black Steel Mechanical Pen will stand up to the usual scratchy culprits like bunches of keys and loose change.
Interestingly, the Black Steel Mechanical Pen has a noticeably smoother twist-action mechanism when compared with the brass version. Whilst their brass pen was a little stiff to begin with, the Black Steel’s mechanism glides effortlessly from the get-go and doesn’t need to be broken-in.
The easier action is down to the carbon present in the pen’s tungsten carbide finish, which has the added bonus of reducing friction between mechanical components. This also explains why all parts of the pen have been coated, including the threads – which are usually left bare on metal pens with alternate finishes such as anodising.
Like the entire manufacturing process for the Wingback Mechanical Pen, the black finishing is done entirely in the UK. “Made in the UK” is laser engraved crisply on the pen’s mechanism, which is a nice little surprise when you unscrew the pen’s crown to the replace the refill.
The Black Steel pen arrives in an updated black fabric slip, which is a nice improvement on the larger drawstring bag Wingback used to supply. If you don’t want to chance the pen’s scratch-resistant finish, you can use the slip to protect the pen from drops and knocks. Don’t expect a big presentation box though, Wingback pride themselves on sustainability and steer clear of throwaway packaging.
There are plenty of black metal pens out there. But I’m not sure how many can boast the durability of a tungsten carbide finish. Making a black pen that shouldn’t chip or scratch with everyday use definitely isn’t easy, and it’s a leap for Wingback to go from bare metal writing instruments to black. Wingback’s latest pen is true to the company’s no-compromise, function-led philosophy, and it’s nice to see them sticking to their values by offering a new all-black finish with the longevity to stand the test of time.
The full retail price for the Black Steel Mechanical Pen is £140 GBP, but you can grab one for £95 if you pull the trigger before the Kickstarter ends imminently on the 2nd of September. The pen forms part of Wingback’s larger Black Steel Collection of EDC gear, which you can check out on their Kickstarter page.
And here’s the disclaimer: I get to keep the Wingback Black Steel Mechanical Pen featured in this review. No money changed hands for the review and all I did was spend hours of my own time using, photographing and writing about it. There were no strings attached and all opinions are my own.