Review: Franklin-Christoph Penvelope 3 and Penvelope 6

Just full disclosure here: Franklin-Christoph is probably my favorite independent manufacturer of pens and pen-related goods. I’ve picked up a number of their products over the years, and even though there’s a lot of small companies doing a ton of super cool shit right now, I just really dig the company’s whole aesthetic.

They lean pretty heavily into a vintage look, and even though they do offer their pens in a lot of bright (some might say gaudy) acrylics, I’d say their bread-and-butter options are pretty tame blacks, browns, greens and other muted tones that give their pens a classic vibe.

Just as an example, this is a Franklin-Christoph Model 20 with a black cap and their signature “antique glass” finish.

One of the really cool things Franklin-Christoph does (and I realize this isn’t exclusive to Franklin-Christoph, but I’m writing about them today so cool your jets) is making limited edition, small run batches of pens and other products throughout the year – which brings us to the Franklin-Chrisoph Penvelopes we’re looking at here.

They usually make these in several standard colors and materials that I’ll touch on in a bit, but since orange is my favorite color, I couldn’t pass these up when Franklin-Christoph offered them as a limited edition during their recent online pen show.

Excellent Name, Excellent Product

The Franklin-Christoph Penvelope 3, loaded with a F-C Model 20, Sailor Pro Gear and Parker Duofold Centennial.

As might be apparent by the dumb name of this dumb blog, I like dumb wordplay. And though it isn’t dumb, “Penvelope” – a portmanteau of pen and envelope – is outstanding.

The company offered these limited edition versions in two sizes – one with space for three pens, and another for six. The outer case is made of glossy smooth-grain leather panels that are lined on the front and back with some sort of stiff material – I’m assuming plastic sheeting – that makes them surprisingly rigid.

Inside, you’ll find a removable insert. These too have the same rigid backing, though I’m having trouble putting my finger on what the material is. It too is fairly stiff (though has worn in a bit with use). It doesn’t quite feel like suede, but is maybe something more like what I’d imagine flannel might feel like if you were to starch it before ironing.

But just for the record, if you’re ironing – much less starching – your flannel, you’re a damn monster and you must be stopped.

Edit: Out of curiosity, took a look at Franklin-Christoph’s website and apparently the liners are “made of soft cotton with a firm backing insert“. So there we go.

That aside, each individual pen slot is separated by stitching, and given that they run nearly the full length of the entire insert, they offer a bit more protection than the simple loops you might see on some similar cases.

The top flap is secured with a tab that fits snugly into a loop on the front. I’d wondered if it might not have a tendency to work itself loose in my bag, but the flap itself is so stiff that it basically prevents itself from popping out without intent.

Rounding out the design is the only branding on the entire case – Franklin-Christoph’s gothic “F” and diamonds logo – debossed small and centered on the lower rear.

The Penvelope 3 measures roughly 2.5″ wide by 5 7/8″ tall and just over an inch thick, while the Penvelope 6 doubles the width to around 5″. Franklin-Christoph also offers a 12-pen model, which it says is a little over 10″ wide.

Things I Like

The Penvelope 3, Penvelope 6 and their inserts, pictured beside a standard Field Notes notebook because I have a hard time contextualizing dimensions based on numbers alone.

I feel that the Penvelope – like all of Franklin-Christoph’s products that I own – is built to last, and if for some unforeseen reason it were to fail, their excellent customer service folks (more on them in a bit) would make it right.

Granted I’m not carting off to the office much these days because… you know… The ‘Rona… but in my limited experience tossing these into a bag, I’ve had no issues and appreciate that the stiff lining provides a pretty good amount of protection.

I also like it when companies design their products with some thought, and it’s clear Franklin-Christoph put some thought into the whole Penvelope system.

In fact, this is the second (I think?) generation of their Penvelopes and introduces several refinements – chief amongst them being the removeable inserts, which are modular and awesome.

The 3-pen insert is the smallest, but due to the way they’re designed, I could purchase an additional one (for a paltry $8) and use two side-by-side in my Penvelope 6. Or, I could get two 6-pen inserts ($14 each) and use them in a Penvelope 12. It’s just a really clever system, and it gives you some options.

For instance, I usually carry the Penvelope 6 case, but with the 3-pen insert. I’ll then toss a few cartridges or even a couple of those 7ml-sized ink sample vials in the empty half, and that’ll sustain me for a very, very long time.

Things I’m Not As Crazy About…

When full, it’s a pretty tight fit in there.

My primary complaint about both Penvelopes – but this seems particularly true for the 3-pen version – is that when it’s fully loaded, it’s a tight fit. So even if you don’t have sausage fingers like me, it’s pretty difficult to fish the insert out since you’re left to grasp at whatever small bit of the cap might extend past the clip. And since so little of the cap is exposed, you almost have to slide the insert out any time you want to remove a pen.

It’s a minor annoyance and I generally get around it by just leaving one slot empty – that way I can put a finger into it and pull the insert out – but Franklin-Christoph, if by some unfortunate accident you stumble upon this post, might I make a suggestion? Add a pull tab, or even something so simple as a ribbon, to the insert to make it easier to remove.

This next one isn’t so much a complaint as it is a general note. As I mentioned earlier, this is a stiff case, and even though it’s covered in leather, the stiff inserts give it some hard edges. So, even though the Penvelope 3 would fit into a pants pocket, it’s probably not something you’re going to want to carry that way just given its bulk.

As far as the inserts themselves go, it’s a good system and I like the near full-length protection they give my pens. However, as they are (I’m almost 100-percent positive about this) sewn by hand, there’s a bit of variation between the size of each slot. So just for instance, in the 3-pen insert, my fattest pen – a Parker Duofold Centennial – fits pretty much perfectly in the middle slot, is a little loose in the right slot and barely fits at all in the left slot.

Overall though, it doesn’t really impact my usage, and I kind of just see it as a nice little reminder that these are made by actual human hands.

Last – let’s talk for a quick second about the color. I don’t know if this was a one-time deal or not, but I was expecting a darker, more “true” orange just based on F-C’s photographs. In reality, it’s much closer to a Tennessee orange. So, while it’s definitely still on the orange spectrum, it’s got a lot more yellow in it than red.

I don’t want to imply that I feel misled, however, because even in taking photos for this post, I noticed that the color seemed to shift quite a bit from picture to picture. For reference, the closeup I used in this section is probably the most accurate representation of how it appears in most lighting.

…and One Thing I’m Very Crazy About

I alluded to Franklin-Christoph’s excellent customer service earlier, but I have a quick story I feel is worth sharing.

You might notice that I have two of these Penvelopes. I didn’t originally intend on purchasing both the three- and six-pen version, and had already placed my order for the Penvelope 3 when I decided to grave the Penvelope 6, knowing that they were both limited editions and thus might never show up in this colorway again.

So, being that they were made as separate orders – neither of which met the price threshold for free shipping – I was perfectly content just to eat the shipping costs on both since it was my fault for not having the foresight to know I’d cave and want both. Mea culpa and whatnot.

Well, not even an hour after I submitted my second order, I receive an email from Franklin-Christoph, telling me that they’re not only combining the order, but also paying for shipping.

And I mean, sure, that seems like a pretty insignificant thing and under normal circumstances, I’d halfway expect their fulfillment department to notice two orders going to the same address and at bare minimum, just put them both in the same box.

But, this was all taking place right in the middle of their online pen show at a time when several hundred limited edition products were flying off their virtual shelves at a rapid pace. I mean, literally, there were something like 500 items included in that sale, and they were essentially sold out within minutes.

So, I just felt like it was pretty exemplary, especially under those circumstances, not only to notice it entirely on their own – but also to take the time to send me a personal email letting me know what they were taking care of it.

Anyway. I know I’m just some random dude with an insignificant blog that features a grand total of like, four entries, but when companies work proactively in their customers’ interests, I feel like it’s worth talking about.

Final Thoughts

I like both Penvelopes, and I think I’d really like the Penvelopes if I were commuting or traveling more, just given what I wrote earlier about them not being particularly pocketable.

But, when the day comes and I’m back in an office or on the road again, these are going to have a spot in my bag.

Where to Buy

Franklin-Christoph offers the Penvelope in a number of sizes and materials, ranging from $25 to $75, on their website here.

Disclaimer: I receive no compensation for providing links to retailers or companies, nor was this product received as a review sample.

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