Guest Post: Two Writer's Boxes, A Cautionary Tale
I am very happy to welcome my good friend Mardi back to the blog for another brilliant post!
'As a notebook and fountain pen collector, I suppose it was inevitable that I would eventually discover the new/old thing called the Writer’s Box. Writer’s boxes were used by people like Thomas Jefferson, as a sort of portable desk and briefcase all in one, for pens, inks, and important papers. His original box is in the National History Museum of the Smithsonian Institution, and legend has it that he drafted bits of the Declaration of Independence on it.
If you search on a site like Etsy, you can now find many modern versions of this box, Including the one made by Walden Woodworks for our friends at Galen Leather. This review will cover that box, as well as another that - well, you will soon see.
The Galen writing box comes beautifully packaged as do all of their other products. There is the sturdy and attractive cardboard box, along with a pouch containing all of the little goodies that Galen sends along with their leather goods.
Inside this box, a beautiful thing.
The wood grain will be different and beautiful on each of these boxes, no two are alike. The box is heavy, made of solid walnut, and as smooth as satin with a linseed oil finish. It has a sturdy metal clasp as a closure.
Inside, there are loops for six pens, and large loops for rules, clips, or whatever you should want to put in them. The box is lined with felt on the bottom. The top is leather with the elastics coming out from behind.
The small stick at the right comes up to prop the box lid for writing on an angled surface. Here is mine, with a sample loading of writing things.
When I took this photo I had not really explored the loops at the top, but now that I look at them they would be the perfect size for ink test cards.
You can order a leather carry strap for the box.
This box is a high quality, meticulously hand made item, finished beautifully in every way. You would expect to pay a lot for such a thing, and it is a bit pricey at $149.00, but once you get it you will see it is worth every penny. It’s so beautiful that it is hard for me to subject it to any sort of hard use, although I have seen reviews in which others have carted theirs all around, gotten them dinged and scratched and they then acquire a different sort of beauty. I may yet dare to do so, but for now it sits peacefully on the wide arm of a chair in my house, ready to hand.
Now for the cautionary tale.
You know how Facebook figures out everything that you look at and buy or even consider buying, and then ads for those things begin to float across your feed? Well, once it had learned about me and writing boxes, ads began to pop up. They carried this image:
Looks nice, right? On a par with the Galen box, perhaps, but at a smaller A5 size. The ad that I saw came from a website I had never heard of, and stupidly did not investigate further. This box was much, much cheaper than the Galen box, and I was intrigued, thinking it would make a nice gift. So, I ordered one.
After I did, I began to see the same photo appear on my FB feed, but from a different website, and that’s when the alarm bells began to ring. I realized that I had fallen for some sort of scam, and frankly never expected to hear anything about it again. But a couple of weeks ago I got an email telling me that there had been “supply chain problems” but that my item was coming soon. Oh, right, I thought. By this time, I had discovered the real source of the photo, which was an Etsy site called bluestarcraftsmnx, which you can actually read on the metal plate, that name was blurred on the fake website.
If you search for them on Etsy you will find this box and others, at VERY hefty prices. And it is clearly the box in the photo from the other website. So this mystery site had grabbed the photo from this craftsman and used it to promote…something. Well, that something arrived today. It came in a padded envelope, the box was wrapped in cellophane, and something had sliced the box before it had gone into the envelope as you can see in the photograph.
I wish I had left the thing in its original state, but all I could think of when I saw it was, can I salvage this thing? So out came sandpaper and wood polish, and I went to work. But you can’t make something of poor quality into something good, no matter how you try. Trust me, in these photos it looks much better then when it arrived.
Above is the box with its strap, which is fake leather and fabric, not real leather.
The strap fastenings look nothing like the website photo, and the hinges are cheap and badly attached.
It is ridiculously light, it feels as though it is made of balsa wood. When it arrived it was quite rough and felt as though the pieces had just been slapped together and then stained, but not sanded or finished. Inside, the cheapness was even more obvious.
A first glance this doesn’t look so bad, but close up you can see that the elastics are simply stapled to a fabric covered piece of cardboard.
The clasp looks similar to the one on the Galen box, but is lightweight metal, not steel. In addition you can that the two panels of wood that make up the lid do not even meet at the end.
And remember that slice on the box?
A nice deep scratch across the wood. And it happened BEFORE it was put into the mailing envelope, so just another indication of very poor quality.
So, lessons learned - you get what you pay for and let the buyer beware. Do NOT buy any item like this off of a website without much further investigation, and if it seems to good/cheap to be true, it very likely is. This box is fit for nothing but the trash bin, in spite of my feeble efforts to save it. If you want a lovely writer’s box save your pennies and give them to Galen Leather, a wonderful and conscientious family run company.'