Will Hodges wants to run a one-man company. He doesn’t want to outsource work if he can do it himself. He still wants to grow his company—and fulfill customer demand, but instead of outsourcing and expanding, he’s constantly in search of finding more automated and efficient ways of manufacturing so he can still run his business as a one-man show. Will is constantly iterating on new designs, so he creates small-patch products and uses Kickstarter as a funding source.
Will is a builder. He loves to build things.
So what does Will build? He says he makes badass pens that feel like nothing else. His goal is to create some of the most beautifully crafted pens you have ever seen.
There are many of us who see the beauty in writing instruments—it is a visual, tactile, and mechanical experience like none other.
Will believes his customers get something they can’t find anywhere else—amazing design that is superbly machined and quality that can’t be represented through photography. “When people get one of my pens in their hand they know it is special, says Will, “I also try to include them in on the manufacturing process so they know how it was made and the level of care that went into each and every part.”
Will discovered his passion by seeing a Kickstarter campaign of someone else building a machined metal pen. “I had some background with machine shop equipment, but the biggest thing was that I knew I could make something better,” he says, “I had no equipment and hadn’t even been on a lathe for years, but I put an ad on Craigslist asking if I could rent time on a machine. Someone responded, so I went one day and realized how much I needed to learn to turn out something worthwhile from the idea I had. So I went up once a week for a month and by the end I had some pretty cool prototypes that I put on Kickstarter and sold about 1,000 of them.”
With that funding, Will bought his first lathe, a 1953 Warner & Swasey #3 Turret lathe. Since then he’s added a CNC lathe for speed and accuracy and has come up with a few designs that have seen the market, and a few others that are still percolating in his brain or in various stages of development.
“Currently I only do pens,” says Will, “but soon that will change to a whole lot more.”
So what does it take to make an awesome pen? According to Will, it all starts with awesome materials. “I don’t go for second-rate materials. From there I try to keep every design as simple as possible. If it isn’t functional, it doesn’t make it to the machining.” He usually starts prototyping and something inspiring happens along the way. “There is something really great about being a designer that can also make what I design. My business cards don’t say CEO, they say designer/machinist as my title. I’m not in this to be a millionaire, I am in this to make awesome precision instruments that people get to use every day and hopefully get a smile from knowing that they are using something really cool.”
Yep. Will Hodges Loves to Build Things.