Anyone a fan of ACME writing instruments?

A long time ago, back in the 1990’s, I was gifted an unusual looking “1960’s retro” pen, made by ACME and designed by Verner Panton. ACME is an interesting brand in that they got a number of very well known and highly respected designers from USA, Europe and Asia to collaborate on various designs. They’re also super well known for reviving iconic designs, such as those by Frank Lloyd Wright and Charles Eames.

It’s a brass bodied writing instrument, so it has some heft to it. The cap is meant for posting and has a plastic liner to prevent scratches to the body, but it makes the thing a bit top-heavy. What’s great about the design is that you can swap sections with fountain pen and ballpoint, depending upon your desire.

I’ve actually collected a couple of ACME writing instruments, but my most prized one is a 1+1 multi-pen done in Frank Lloyd Wright style.

One design in particular caught my eye. I’ve been aware of this ACME pen designed by Peter Shire for just over 15 years. When I’d discovered it, it had already been discontinued and was hard to find. Eventually ACME made a limited reissue run, but only for sale through their site for a crazy $1,000 USD price. I passed up a few chances to buy it at $150 USD (about 6~8 years ago). The original price was $120 USD.

The design is a representation of an artist’s smudge stick. Overall, a bit plain of a design, except for the curious “towel rack” style anti-roll device. Anyway, it’s getting harder to find over time, so I figured now was a good time to just grab it while I had the chance. The seller gave me a discount, which helped. This comes equipped as a fountain pen, but it’s easy to install a rollerball section into it and they’re not terribly expensive to buy.


I had looked into getting the FLW 1+1 a while back and it was $120 on eBay. I wish I had grabbed it. I know nothing about ACME, but I grew up near Frank Lloyd Wright’s Dana Thomas House and it always amazed me.


I only have the one FLW leadholder because of my Blade Runner fascination. The pencil has the Ennis Brown textile block design etched on the grip, a motif that’s also seen on your rarer multi-pen.

Interestingly, my version of FLW leadholder has a different tip design from yours. On mine, the clutch does not protrude from the tip. The operation is by incremental clicks instead of a drop clutch.

The thing about ACME is that it seems to be a brand that was built on the culture of collecting art objects. There are some outstanding designs made in collaboration with living artists, architects and celebrities, but also many that I suspect were simply rights-licensed from the respective estates and designed by unknown workers in a backroom. The FLW series for example, definitely had no direct input from the man himself. In these kinds of cases, I can only judge each offered design on its own merits and personal attraction.

Amongst those that I am interested in:

  • Shigeru Ban’s architect ruler pen
  • Pentagram Design’s P1U and P1C
  • Some of Ettore Sottsass’ black and white striped designs

What holds me back are the ‘art collector’ prices…


Well, I have to say… the Smudge Stick impressed me a bit more than I thought it would.

Unlike your usually friction fit caps, the travel on this one is very short, and clicks into place with just the right amount of force. There’s also a thin chromed accent on both the cap bottom edge and on the body where it meets, that looks very refined. Granted, you can’t post this cap, but then you wouldn’t want to. It would be too heavy.

The clip is NOT secured on both ends, as I was expecting. In fact, I thought it wasn’t a clip at all but just an anti-roll device. Turns out the bottom part lies flush to the cap and there’s a slight bit of flex to the clip allowing that free end to lift just a little for thin fabric to slide in between. Of course, I’d never use it like this. While the clip is pretty sturdy, I would worry about stress points over time. Still, it’s the design that matters most to me. I’m glad it’s not a “towel rack” closed loop.

The weight is also not very problematic. Since there’s no cap posting, writing with the pen body free is a nice, usable weight.

It’s really more of a conversation piece item. Something I’ll write with on occasion. But it’s just a neat design piece by a well respected artist and product designer who is still working today (age 76). And this is not an easy piece to come by without paying a massive markup over the original price.



I’m still picking out a pencil to go with this one…

This was a collab with Pentagram Design (whom my neighbor works for). Pretty cool!


That Frank Lloyd Wright is a knockout! Wow.

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