Ajoto is a small company located in Manchester making simple and essential tools for creatives with an emphasis on craftsmanship. What drew me initially to them was their enthusiasm to share the manufacturing story behind their products. They even have a page on their website dedicated to their suppliers and are willing to share what most companies would consider frivolous information. When they reached out and sent me their collection of products, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that unlike most small brands, they were actually serious about craftsmanship, rather than just the idea of being a company that does. This is a refreshing change.
The products have been sent by Ajoto.
Good, but nothing exceptional.
Great. Worth purchasing.
Exceptional. A spectacular product.
The Pen /Brass /£150
The first of their products is called The Pen. It’s available in either brass or aluminum which are then plated or anodized in a variety of colors. We'll first talk about the former, which is brass model. One of the most delightful things about The Pen is its packaging. The box is made from a beautiful folded letterpressed paper stock that is torn open. Once torn, the packaging blooms open, revealing a silver foil pattern and an aluminum box. The attention to detail here is really worth praise.
The outer sleeve of the box is made of extruded aluminum and astonishingly has a nicer finish than many products out there. The aluminum extrusion surrounds a sliding cork tray that houses the actual pen. It really is one of the best unboxing experiences I’ve seen recently.
The molded cork tray makes a nice aesthetic touch while being a functional part that cushions the pen during transport. Ajoto says that the tray is made of waste material from wine bottle stopper manufacturing.
The Pen. Ajoto uses CZ109 brass composed of 60% Cu, 40% Zn and is notably lead free. Being brass, it oxidizes over time displaying an elegant patina. Other than being finished in a fine brushed texture, it’s free of ornamentation.
The design of the pen is pure and classic. It’s arguably too pure though - there’s nothing preventing it from rolling off a desk.
Twisting the knob at the end of the pen reveals the rollerball tip. It operates using a screw, which in itself is a wonderful work of machining. A rubber gasket keeps things nice and dampened. It's simple yet effective.
The Pen is made in the UK using a lathe. It’s notable that the pen tapers slightly towards the back, giving it an elegant form and a downward weight bias for improved handling.
Ajoto includes a rollerball cartridge made in Germany. It’s marvelously smooth and has a versatile medium point. Refills are £12 for a pack of three.
Using the pen makes it feel like everything you write is monumental. It has a significant heft and is fairly thick, making it a bit unwieldy at times to write with. It’s not something I’d grab to write a letter or sketch but is perfect for simple tasks like jotting down quick ideas or writing a check. It’s exceptionally attractive, making it something you want to keep at your desk too.
The Pen /Aluminum /£125
Ajoto also offers an aluminum version of The Pen. It also comes inside an extruded aluminum box, although it’s anodized in black this time.
Like its brass counterpart, the aluminum The Pen has an uncoated, finely spun finish and tapered design. It’s nice but aluminum requires a bit more work to get to a beautiful state, making this one less successful visually in comparison. In the wrong light, it may even come off as looking cheap. A fine anodized finish could have been more successful.
I was sent a model with the black anodized top, which I would personal avoid. Black anodization always ends up looking a bit too like plastic. The silver top version is probably the way to go.
Being made completely of aluminum, this pen is much lighter than the brass version. This makes for a completely different writing experience. The aluminum pen is far more comfortable for extended use and handles with agility. I would have preferred a nicer finish on the aluminum so I’d personally go with the patina-friendly brass version. Neither are cheap but that extra £25 gets you something that feels far more substantial.
The Pen Pouch /£30
Ajoto offers a companion to The Pen, The Pen Pouch. Like the pen, it comes wrapped in paper packaging with thoughtful letterpressed details.
The leather is vegetable tanned in Italy and then hand made in the UK into the pouches. I think a smoother, more pliable hide would have been ideal, as the leather tends to wrinkle unattractively with the pen inserted.
Other than a bit of branding on the back side, the pouch is unadorned.
I would honestly skip The Pen Pouch. Ajoto also provided a caramel colored pouch and despite photographing well, it’s full of cosmetic faults like poor branding and severe wrinkling with the pen in place (probably because the leather is even thicker than the black model). Patina might make these shine over time but right out of the box, I wasn’t left impressed.
The Wallet /£69
After being disappointed by The Pen Pouch, I wasn’t expecting much from The Wallet, which is made from the same leather and manufacturer as The Pen Pouch. Like the other Ajoto products, The Wallet comes in beautiful paper packaging.
The Wallet has a bifold design and is remarkably simple in design. It gave a first impression of being boring in design but redeemed itself by being well made and functional.
There are four compartments in total, one of which has an accordion design for bills and receipts. Each of the four compartments are able to take around three cards, which should be just about enough for most people.
The card slots have V cutouts making it easy to grab your cards. There’s a bit of branding here as well.
As far as functionality goes, The Wallet is perfect if you’re like me and carry primarily cards and only a few bills for tipping the valet. A wallet is something that receives a ton of abuse overtime and this seems like something that’ll last many years thanks to its durable stitching and patina friendly surface. If the design was a little more clever and attractive like The Pen, this would have been a home-run.
Everyday, people ask me to review products ornamented by keywords like “craftsmanship” and “premium”. Most of the time, these promises simply don’t live up to the grand descriptions of their creators. I was afraid that Ajoto would be one of these instances but thankfully they were serious about their wording. It’s refreshing to see that there are people that still actually care about craft and don’t use the word because it’s fashionable to do so. We have surrounded ourselves with dishonest products, and that in turn seems to have created a culture of dishonest creators. Ajoto isn’t one of them. Let’s hope we see more people like them in the future.