Two things set these cases apart. The first is that Michael makes each case himself by hand and to order. The customer chooses the colors of the exterior, interior and stitching. Michael dyes the leather, builds the case and stitches it. The result is a bespoke case in any size and color combination you want.
The other difference is that Michael builds his cases around a protective core made of a plastic called Kydex. Michael heats up the Kydex and then molds into a hard shell, which is covered with suede or leather to make the interior of the pen case. The leather exterior is wrapped and stitched around that.
So each case is gorgeous handmade leather, and also very strong. Either style of Michael’s cases seems like it would protect the pen in any situation, whether inside a piece of baggage, jostled against a laptop in a briefcase, or accidentally dropped to the floor. This is particularly true for the round case: since that completely encloses the pen, I feel like I could actually step on it without harm.
Michael can make different sizes, but mine are large. My round case measures about 7 ¾ inches long closed. The Blackhawks case measures about 7 inches. Both weigh about 70 grams. For comparison, I have a Montblanc Meistersück double pen case that measures about 6 ¼ inches and weighs 42 grams.
The round case is bigger and Michael sizes it to fit a particular pen. Mine was sized to fit my Montblanc LeGrand/146 pens. It also fits pens of a similar size, like an Omas Vintage Paragon, Lamy Safari or Parker 51. The pen fits snugly inside the part of the pen case that’s lined with Kydex. The cover half then slides over that. You pull tight the leather laces and cinch the leather stopper against the case to “lock” it in place. Once the stopper is in place, I can’t pull it open if I try. This design feels like the safest possible option for transporting a pen.
I would not use this large size of the round case to carry a very small pen, however. I’d worry that the pen might slide up and down, or might even settle at the bottom and need to be shaken out. In the next photo you can see how the case looks next to the Montblanc LeGrand it was made to fit, versus a smaller Pelikan M101N that I wouldn’t use it for.
The Blackhawks case is shorter, but it’s actually wider than the round case. It fits any of my pens, from smallest to largest, and they all slide out easily. When you tuck in the flap closure, it holds securely, and it also feels very protective with its hard Kydex shell. The Blackhawks case opens and closes more quickly, and its more versatile size makes it an all-rounder.
If you have a range of pens that you carry, and want one case that will fit any of them, the Blackhawks case probably is the way to go. If you favor a particular pen, or tend to use pens of the same or similar size, then the round case probably would get the nod. They both look beautiful and feel great in the hand. They both are light in weight, too, and are easy to carry around.
I’ll briefly compare Michael’s cases to the Montblanc case once again, since that’s a more typical case. The Montblanc case also is made of handsome leather and is beautifully made. It is smaller but it will fit two pens of LeGrand or 146 size, if you position the clips on the outside. It has a nice fabric lining. It has a similar holster design as the Blackhawks case.
The Montblanc case’s leather does have a lining or backing, so it’s not soft like a glove. But even light hand pressure is enough to collapse it. So the Montblanc case protects against inadvertently scratching your pens, and does so beautifully, but it isn’t designed to handle pressure or impact like Michael’s.
I’ll talk a little about price and value. It’s useless to give the exact price, because these are bespoke and prices may vary. The Blackhawks case was priced less than the round case. Both of them are much less than the Montblanc case. But both cost more than a standard factory soft case. Still, I think Michael’s work provides great value. You get a handmade case, in any color combination you choose, of lovely hand craftsmanship, that’s beautiful but also protective. A standard soft case just doesn’t provide that same level of protection.
Plus you get to work with Michael, who is just a wonderful person. It is a joy to make a custom case with him. He’s a very talented artisan, and a very kind person.
Here are some links for further reading.
2. Michael makes more than just single-pen cases. He has a thread here on Fountain Pen Geeks forum that shows some of his other work. It’s a nice long thread, so it might make sense to start at the end. I really love his cases for two or three pens.
3. Here is a thread I started last month on the FPG forum that looks at my two cases in more detail and contains some good information from Michael and other pen case owners.
4. Among Michael’s commissioned projects was a case to hold many pens at once, which I think of as a pen suitcase. That gorgeous work is detailed here in another FPG forum thread.