Carving a legacy
By Jeanne Millsap Correspondent December 26, 2012 1:06PM
Chad Schumacher turns a pen on a lathe in his home business Allegory Pens in Joliet, Illinois, Thursday, December 13, 2012. | Joseph P. Meier~Sun Times Media
Updated: January 28, 2013 6:11AM
An unobtrusive workshop in Far West Joliet is becoming well-known by those who appreciate quality workmanship and a lovely writing instrument.
Allegory Pens, an area business only about a year old, produces fine wooden ink pens, both ballpoint and fountain, which are now gracing desks in homes and offices worldwide.
Longtime Joliet resident Chad Schumacher is the owner of the small business that has the motto, “Pens with a legacy, so you can leave yours.”
And each wood Schumacher uses for his pens does indeed have its own legacy. All of it is reclaimed or salvaged, some even historical.
The Bethlehem olivewood used in the “Aficionado” pen, for example, is from tree trimmings that are up to 2,000 years old in the heart of the Holy Land. The wood is highly prized, and those who protect the trees make the trimmings and deadfall available to tourists and woodworkers.
Schumacher is currently working with a mahogany stolen during the Cuban Revolution, wood from the threshold of the old Alabama state capital building in front of which the Montgomery bus boycott began in 1955, and a plank from a Civil War gunboat that he will use to make a few limited edition pens.
Other woods used include those from 50,000-year-old New Zealand Kauri trees, dark black bog oak from northern Europe, sinker cypress from pre-industrial America, and picklewoods taken from Douglas fir and redwood pickle vats of old.
“Our pens stand out in a mass production environment,” Schumacher said. “They are pretty far from the plastic look-alikes.”
His customers buy them to give as meaningful gifts or for their own personal use. He said he’s enjoyed hearing stories of how they are being used.
One special education teacher brought hers into her classroom and lets her students use it at the end of an assignment when they have been well-behaved.
Schumacher’s father, Chuck, is a woodworker and made his son a pen one day. That’s when he truly realized the value of a good pen. His father taught him how to make pens, and Schumacher found he enjoyed it. He was searching for a new position in his career as a marketing representative for a telecommunications firm at the time, but began seriously considering going into the pen business.
He teamed up with his college friend, Steve Elmore, a video game designer, and the two began Allegory Pens in Schumacher’s garage shop earlier this year. The Internet Kickstarter program vaulted Allegory into a full-time business with an initial 200 orders for its Original Collection. The company’s second project — the Precision Collection — netted them another 600 orders.
Both men love the down-to-earth aspect of crafting fine woods and quality metals into pens.
“From the first moment, I was completely hooked,” Elmore said. “There’s something about having this thing you have created in your hands at the end of the day.”
Elmore said he also loves the thought that the pens have an importance in people’s lives and that most are given as gifts. The craftsmen take custom orders as well, such as one customer who had pens made from wood used in the family cabin to give as gifts to his loved ones.
Another customer who was a Canadian native living in California had Allegory make him a pen using maple and redwood to fuse the heritage of his two homelands.
Allegory’s pens range from $40 for the “mini,” which can also be used as a stylus for touch screen electronic devices, to $75 for a mid-range pen, $150 for a limited edition, and $250 for a custom-made pen.
The company’s website is www.allegorypens.com.