"Battle of Kings" Desk Set
The “Battle of Kings Pen” began taking shape during the first week of November, 2020. I was in the middle of taking a night class on entrepreneurship, attempting to complete a lengthy grant application for business expansion, and reinventing our business model with regard to production and purpose. All of these withstanding, I needed a distraction that was less business-minded and more for the joy of making an art pen.
I set about early sketches with few parameters in mind. I knew only that I wanted to incorporate a fantasy theme with a Late Middle Ages flavor. Symbols, characters, ornamentation – it was really an exercise in design with no other purpose than to relax and apply old and new skills in a different fashion.
The first material decision was to find a rod that would have special features unto itself while not drawing too much attention from the metal work. The base material for the pen was selected entirely for color. The “Triple Black” resin rod material by Jonathon Brooks allowed for a dark contrast against the ideas I had for the metal fittings, while still offering subtle variations that nearly take on quiet wood grain appearance and with a beauty all its own.
As sketches for the art of the pen evolved, structure of the metal parts was the next concern. For many of my more extensive builds, I commonly assemble parts by soldering them together while flat, and then forming the assemblage into a cylinder. That process presents several difficulties, not the least of which being the equidistant placement of components where any sort of symmetry is required for the design. In this case, I decided to use a sleeve of nickel made on the lathe for both the cap and the body, as it allowed for more even placement of ornamentation in the round. (Making these sleeves was more a test of my machining skills than anything else – each sleeve has a wall of less than half a millimeter, or about the thickness of a matchbook cover. Suffice to say that it took more than one attempt.) In the end, this helped evenly place the four heraldic charges around the cap sleeve and the three dragons around the body sleeve of the pen.
Once the other details were established, the finishing touches of the design – while still in keeping with the theme – included a seven-spire, crown-style finial on the cap with a three-spiral inset, and a black obsidian cabochon in a setting with seven prongs to match the cap for the end of the body. These components (and the sleeves on cap and body) are all set apart with sculpted bronze and black resin rings (rings also present on the section of the pen) and completed with a black plated nib. Not including the nib unit and converter, the pen includes about fifty pieces of material in all.
As the pen began to take shape, the idea of a pen cradle crept into discussions with my son in the shop every morning before work. It was finally decided that a throne to fit the pen theme would best suit the purpose. The cradle is constructed of only four pieces of material. The interior back, seat, and throne front are a single piece of nickel cut from sheet. The sides and exterior back are another cut piece of sheet. Then “C-channel” material was formed from sheet as curved sleeves over the arms. Once soldered and formed, the throne was acid etched to achieve the patterns and textured for detail.
As the throne design took life (which included a slate platform on an oak base), other accoutrements came to mind and found their way into the set. A blotter (oak and bronze), an inkwell (vintage glass inkwell with bronze), and letter opener (nickel, Damascus steel and faux ivory). All of these were then added to a slate base desk stand. The metal work details were carried from pen to the other accessories and include the bronze three-point florals and an emphasis on “seven” (as seen on the handle of the blotter), and “three” (three-point spiral repeated on the ink well cap.
As “pen” became “complete desk set,” I was confronted with a scheduling complication. Weeks had turned into months – six months, start to finish, and the submission deadline for the annual Pen Artisan Guild suddenly crept up on me. Having no other special pen to submit or time to make one, I offered the “Battle of Kings” pen as my entry in the 2021 contest. I am pleased to say that the pen was awarded the Best of Show award for the contest in June of 2021 – my “Secret Garden Pen” won the award in 2020, so we were twice as thrilled to win with this pen.
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