My love for wood runs deep – for that reason, despite being offered a price I could not refuse, I refused to sell my Sailor Susutake with a gold plate bearing the signature of the esteemed, late Sailor nib-master Nobuyoshi Nagahara.
A durable, high-performance material, wood can truly endure the test of time. Since I started collecting fountain pens, I have always had my eye on pens made from exotic wood – the Graf Von Faber Castell Pernambuco, Sailor Hakone Yosegi-Zaiku, Sailor Susutake, Platinum Yakusugi, Pilot Custom 845 Ichii are just some examples.
It is no surprise then, that I jumped at the opportunity to add a wooden pen tray to my desk – one made of polished, lacquered mahogany and bearing my initials. Painstakingly handcrafted in Singapore by Aaron Lee of Andrew James Crafts, the mahogany hardwood tray looks perfectly at home on my desk.
An engineer working for an American multi-national, Aaron Lee is passionate about woodworking and fountain pens. After countless iterations, he has finally perfected the design.
Aaron says: “The hardest part was building rigs to hold the wood. This is important as it allows me to increase my efficiency. I had many failed pieces, and it was very sad to look at them pile up. The machining tolerance was rigid, but the challenge drove me to perfect my product.”
Andrew James Crafts (which we shall refer to as AJ) was named in dedication to his two-year-old son who is afflicted with down syndrome, a genetic disorder which affects 3,000 to 5,000 children worldwide each year. Proceeds from the business will go into a trust fund, which Aaron hopes will help sustain his son’s development and therapy in future.
Aaron says: “There is a general lack of awareness of down syndrome people in Singapore. Although an average of 30 babies are born with down syndrome here each year, they are an easily forgotten group of people.”
But AJ’s pen trays are not merely fallen trees upon which your pens will rest. They also bridge the digital and analogue worlds which we traverse each day – by wirelessly powering smartphones.
Aaron says: “I have always used pen trays and stands with my pens on my desk at home and at work. Amidst the mess, I realised that the most-used item apart from my laptop, pens and paper was my smartphone, which was wired to a wall charger. It was only logical that my pen tray should house all of these items.”
Each AJ pen tray is fitted with a “Qi” charging module manufactured by Orico, which employs resonant inductive coupling (to an arts student like myself, it may very well be magic) to power your phone. It can supply up to 10W of power to a Samsung S8, and 7.5W of power to an iPhone 8.
“I did a lot of research and bought myself a number of wireless charging components in order to test the induction strength across different materials such as plastic, wood and metal. Plastic was too cheap and metal would affect performance. Wood was the natural solution and my phone was charging perfectly,” Aaron says.
AJ desk pen trays are made of high-quality factory offcuts, which helps save the environment and reduce costs. Aaron says that he is searching for a sustainable, fair-trade source of wood for future products.
Coming in various designs, AJ’s “Masterclass” model in Mahogany or Suar retails at S$660 | US$490 and S$499 SGD | US$370 USD respectively. The “Protégé” model in Mahogany and Suar retails at S$499 SGD | US$370 USD and S$430 SGD | US$320 USD respectively.
Simply drop Aaron an email for enquiries about availability and customisation. AJ trays are available for order online, and will also be stocked at local retailer Fook Hing Trading Co in the near future. Visit Andrew James Crafts to find out more about this beautiful yet utilitarian desk accessory.
Click to have a look at the AJ pen tray in action:
Photos: Nicholas Yeo / Inky Passion
MESSAGE FROM THE AUTHOR: For some time now, it would have been evident to anyone who has visited my site that I was on a lengthy hiatus. I had decided to take a break from writing due to a busy schedule. I was busy with freelance photography jobs, and then I left Singapore for Sydney, Australia and spent half a year there.
It was in Australia that I found much-needed solace from the busy life I left in Singapore, and I spent much of my time there photographing beautiful landscapes. I am now back home. However, having multiple hobbies – pens, paper, cameras, tea and so on – is also an expensive endeavour.
I reached a plateau when I purchased the Namiki Yukari Moonlight Raden. I had conquered the grail, what else was there to covet? That said, I would like to assure you that I have neither quit pen collecting nor lost my passion for fountain pens. I am merely more selective today, and have found myself in a state of zen.
Throughout the years, I have received emails, messages from fellow pen lovers. I’ve also met many fascinating characters in the pen community. For that reason, I hope I will find more time and things to write of in the near future. If you see this, thank you for being here and for reading.
I wish you well.