Pen storage is serious business. Everyone has their own preferences and space restrictions. Additionally, you might have more “bulk” pens and less fancy urushi pens than someone else so your storage demands might be completely different.
Here are our favorite pen storage containers that can be mixed and matched to tailor a solution that’s best for you.
One big thing to keep in mind before you buy any piece is this: the length of the pens you want to store. It’s typical to store expensive pens parallel to you and cheaper pens perpendicular. This means cheap pens get stored close together in a space-saving manner while expensive pens get their own compartments and full presentation of the cap and body.
Given the width of most pens you are going to want to make sure that your drawers are at least 160 mm (6.3 inches) wide. This will accommodate extra long pens, like a Staedtler Triplus Fineliner.
Bulk Storage or Showcase?
Depending on your pen collection you might want to store a lot of pens or you might want to store a smaller number of more sensitive pens. The first will require large containers with limited dividers while the second will generally be wide, flat containers with each pen kept apart from the rest. You’ll also have to decide if you want ever pen/pencil to be visible at all times of its if OK for items to be overlapping one another.
Bulk Pen Storage
First up, we’ll review storage for your normal pens, pencils, and stationery gear. If where you’ll keep your collection of sub-$10 Uniballs and Pilots, not your Montblancs.
Muji Storage Containers
Muji’s polypropylene storage container are out favorite storage containers, full stop. These containers are affordable, fully modular, and come in all sort of shapes and sizes. They are very simple and they aren’t designed for dedicated pen storage, but Muji really offers a very nice product there.
Some downsides of these containers is that they aren’t good for expensive pens and many of the narrow drawers are too narrow to store pens perpendicular to you, so you have to go parallel. This means drawers appear messier than they would and it’s harder to scan your pens.
Our favorite Muji container is the “Storage Case Wide/Extra Shallow Wide Two Drawer” which is not as deep as the standard containers but it’s very wide. This gives you maximum potential for pen storage. The dual drawer setup means you have two compartments for organization purposes. There is a single drawer version as well, which can get a bit messy inside but offers even more storage since no space is lost with the middle walls separating the cabinets.
All Muji containers are all fully stackable so if your widths are consistent you can built yourself a custom drawer system. Muji sells a small number of pre-configured systems, like the PP 4 Drawer Trolley (18 x 40 x 83 cm) seen above. It’s a nice system but it’s a bit too narrow for our purpose.
The Wide/Extra Shallow containers are 37 x 26 x 9 cm. The price of these containers is a very reasonable at $17.50.
Muji Containers: Starting at $15
Crafter’s shelves are also sometimes used for makeup and other purposes, so it’s a bit hard to pin down the exact name for them, but the point is that these are open shelves with the items in individual compartments. Craft shelves are normally plastic and, frankly, not very attractive or space efficient but they are very good at organizing pens, pencils, markers, colored pencils, and just about anything else that is long and skinny.
A main selling point of these shelves is that your pens are out in the open and can be easily scanned and grabbed. If you are anything like us you use what’s in front of you and tend to forget about those pens that are stuck in a drawer somewhere. These shelves solve that problem better than any other form of large-scale pen storage (20+ items).
The shelves are normally sold in clear lucite or black plastic. Muji has some of these type shelves as well. With these shelves the brand tends not to matter so much.
Craft Shelves: About $15
Craft Design Technology Brass Pen Cup
A pen cup is, not surprisingly a good way to store pens. You can use anything from an old mug to a wide-mouth mason jar, but you want something that’s heavy enough that it won’t fall over and nice enough that it can proudly be placed on your desk. Our favorite pen cup is from Craft Design Technology. This is a splurge item that is beautifully constructed and it’s more of an heirloom piece than it is practical storage, but it does get the job done.
The grail-quality pen cup weighs over a pound and has it a green felt coaster at the bottom so your pens don’t scratch the soft brass interior.
The pen cup is 7 cm across so it can comfortably fit about 12 pens.
CDT Brass Pen Cup: $200+
Also know as pastel drawers, artist drawers are a good way to storage a lot of pens (or pencils, crayons, or whatever) in a handsome wooden shelf. These shelves are almost always made of a lightweight wood and are very thin, so your items are only a single layer deep.
These drawers are not modular or as easily stackable as the Muji ones, but they are sturdy and very functional. They also have nice compartments inside so pens can be organized. Just make sure that the compartments are long enough and are organized to your liking.
Artist Drawers: $20 and up
What We Use
Unsharpen’s pen archive isn’t as organized as you might expect, but we can find what we need when we need it. Our current setup is:
- West Elm desk (2 drawers)
- CDT Brass Pen Cup (on the desk)
- 1x Muji Storage Case Wide/Extra Shallow Wide One Drawer
- 2x Muji Storage Case Wide/Extra Shallow Wide Dual Drawer
- 2x Muji Storage Case Narrow/Deep Drawers
- Multiple assorted cardboard boxes