Crónicas Estilográficas

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Pattern, Made in Japan

The history of fountain pens is mostly written by the major brands. However, on the side there have always been a bunch of small companies struggling for a place in the market with a number of arguments. We have seen some of those pens on these pages on these pages—Vanco, Surat, Mitaka, Capless Kogyosho, Sakai Eisuke, etc… Little we know about most of them, but some are interesting on their own merits.


"Pattern". Made in Japan.

Nothing we know, indeed, about this particular brand: “Pattern”. This particular model is made of celluloid and employs the well-known Japanese eyedropper system. The body is perfectly engraved with the company and brand names: “PATTERN” / THE FURUTA (logo) MFG. CO. LTD. / MADE IN JAPAN.


A Japanese eyedropper pen made of celluloid.


“PATTERN” / THE FURUTA (logo) MFG. CO. LTD. / MADE IN JAPAN.

The nib, made of steel, is also engraved: WARRANTED / KOKUJU / IRIDIUM / POINT / -<3>-. It is questionable, though, whether it is the original unit of this pen. The feed, on its side, shows the typical shape found on pre-war pens. All in all, albeit with many reservations, indicated a production date around 1940.


WARRANTED / KOKUJU / IRIDIUM / POINT / -<3>-. A replacement or the original nib? I would say the first...

These are the dimensions of the pen:
Length closed: 127 mm.
Length open: 115 mm.
Length posted: 157
Diameter: 13 mm
Weight: 18.0 g (dry)


The flat feed.

But what matters here is the existence of a well-made pen of an unknown brand. Sometimes it pays off to look for unknown and anonymous pens at flea markets and similar places. There are interesting surprises out there even though, like in this case, further research was needed.


Pilot Capless 1998 – Pilot Iroshizuku Ku-jaku

Bruno Taut
Nakano, August 13th 2017
etiquetas: Pattern, Japón

Monday, August 14, 2017

Pilot Custom 743 with Oblique Nibs

Contrary to how it used to be in Germany –but not anymore!—, oblique nibs are a rarity in Japan. Sure enough they exist, and I have shown an example of those in a Pilot Custom 67 on these Chronicles, but they are conspicuously absent from today’s catalogs of the Japanese makers. This absence is all the more striking given the very wide variety of nib points offered on those same catalogs. Some of them are truly exotic -–two and three folded nibs, multiple tines, bent up and down, etc.--, but none of them is slanted, none of them is oblique.

Well, that is the usual situation, but there are exceptions now and then, but they do not make it to the general catalog.

Recently (August 2017), at stationery Itoya in Ginza, three oblique nib points were on display. They are size 15 nibs made by Pilot, and were implemented on the model Custom 743.


Three Custom 743 with unusual nibs ready to be tested. The two pens on the background implement more usual nibs: posting and falcon.

The following table summarizes the characteristics of the nibs.



The (left) OB nib named as L3.

Two of them are left oblique, with cut at angles of 20 and 30 degrees, labeled as L2 and L3 respectively. The third nib is a right oblique at an angle of 20 degrees (R2). The imprint on the nibs shows the original nib out of which the special point as cut: two B nibs and one FM. The results can be seen on the written sample: the L3 --an OFM nib-- draws a finer line than the other two, which are OB nibs.


Writing sample of the three oblique nibs made by Pilot.


The (left) OFM nib (L2), on both sides.


The (right) OB nib (R2), on both sides.

These nibs are a limited release offered by Itoya. They are available while stocks last. There are no differences in the price of the Custom 743 implementing these oblique nibs—JPY 30000, plus tax.

So, there exist some oblique nibs in Japan! In small numbers, with almost clandestine distribution… but they exist.


Pilot Custom 823 – Pilot Iroshizuku Ku-jaku

Bruno Taut
Nakano, August 9th 2017
etiquetas: Pilot, plumín, Itoya

Monday, August 7, 2017

Missreadings

Over seven years of writing… I struggle to provide accurate and reliable information. Sometimes, of course, I have made mistakes and I have tried to mend them with additional texts and notes.

However, what is beyond my reach is how readers understand what I had written. I will mention two examples, often repeated:

-- Years ago I wrote about how it was possible to exchange the nib of a Twsbi Diamond 530 —Twsbi’s first model— with a size 5 nib by Pilot.


A Twsbi Diamond 530 with a size 5 music nib by Pilot. There is an obvious color mismatch between the trim of the [pen and the nib.


Another example, this time with an M point of a Pilot's size 5 nib. Other nibs are possible: Sailor, Pelikan,...

I think my words were very precise: Twsbi Diamond 530 and size 5 Pilot nib. But both in written –on some fora—and through conversations, some people have complained about the problems they had faced. Well, the whole problem was that they were using other nibs and, more often, other pens—the Diamond 540, for instance. But I had said nothing about the Diamond 540!

-- The second example is about the Pilot’s size 10 “falcon” (FA) nib. I published several texts on the deficient performance of that nib—size 10 “falcon” (FA) nib (::1::, ::2::, ::3::). Then, several people replied that they had had no problem with the “falcon” nib… in size 15! Actually, I had also said that I had had no problem with the the size 15 falcon nib on the Pilot Custom 743 (::1::, ::2::). Some others insisted in mixing up the falcon nib with the Falcon (Elabo in Japan) model by Pilot.


Pilot's "falcon" (FA) nibs on sizes 10 and 15. These "falcon" have nothing to do with the Falcon model (Elabo in Japan).

I am well aware, though, of how much louder those who misread the texts are. There people do need to raise the voice on their different experiences, whereas those who read correctly usually keep silent or, at most, write a “thank you” comment.


Much worse is someone taking a picture from the blog—and that is unavoidable— but unable to read what those pictures say. These people, at least, show that the mistake were theirs and not mine. And I am innocent.


This nib is, obviously, a Pilot. Not yet a Namiki.

The conclusion of all this is obvious—I am responsible for what I write, but not for what other read.


Romillo Nervión – Sailor Iron-blue (original ink)

Bruno Taut
Nakano, August 2nd 2017
etiquetas: Pilot, Twsbi, metabitácora

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Ebonite Feeds in Japan

This text is long overdue. This is, in essence, a correction to a couple of old posts on the Pilot (and Namiki) pens with size 50 nibs (::1::, ::2::). I said (but I cannot recall when or on which text) that their feeds were made of ebonite, and that is not correct—they are made of plastic. Actually, all feeds made by Pilot are made of plastic.


Emperor size pen by Pilot, later on labeled as Namiki.


The feed of the previous pen. It is lacquered on one side, but the material is plastic.

And not only those by Pilot, but also those by Platinum and Sailor are made of plastic. Are there, in fact, any exception to this rule? There is, but it comes from small makers and in unusual forms:

-- Eboya (formerly Nebotek) pens implement ebonite feeds on its higher end pens, but Eboya feeds and nibs are made by Bock.


Ebonite feed on a pen made by Nikko Ebonite. But the feed is made by Bock in Germany out of, probably, German ebonite. The rest of the pen is made of Japanese ebonite.

-- Masahiro creates ebonite feeds for its pens, which use Pilot nibs.

And that seems to be it. Stylo-Art Karuizawa, Hakase, and Ohashido take their nibs from the big three Japanese companies, and they do not modify the feeds. Onishi Seisakusho employs Schmidt nibs and plastic feeds.

Some old nibmeisters –and I am mostly thinking of Kubo Kohei— keep on making their nibs on demand, and their feeds are often made of ebonite, but these craftsmen do not manufacture pens regularly or according to a established model.


A nib made by nibmeister Kubo Kohei. Its feed is made of ebonite.


Nibs and feeds of a Platinum 3776 and of a Nakaya. On both cases, the feeds are made of plastic.

So, the interesting conclusion id the almost complete absence of ebonite feeds among Japanese maker. This fact does not pose any functional problem to Japanese pens with one possible exception —the irregularly behaved Pilot’s size-10 falcon nib implemented on the models Custom 742 and Custom Heritage 912. And there are powerful arguments to support the use of some plastics, mostly ABS, on feeds.


Sailor's nib and feed. The nib is made of 21 K gold. The feed is made of ABS plastic.

But for some stylophiles, ebonite feeds are the one and only way to go. And they will never be satisfied with modern Japanese pens… save for a couple of exceptions.


Pilot Custom 823 – Sailor Blue Iron (original ink)

Bruno Taut
Nakano, July 27th 2017
etiquetas: soluciones técnicas, Pilot, Platinum, Sailor, Masahiro, Ohashido, Stylo-Art Karuizawa, Eboya, Kubo Kohei, Japón

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

From Shizuoka

Besides all the big pen companies there are always some much smaller brands doing their best to stay alive in a very competitive market. In Japan we have already seen the case of Eboya and Onishi, and I have also mentioned brands as Ohashido, Stylo-Art Karuizawa and Hakase. But there are more.

Masahiro Seisakusho is the brainchild of Narihiro Uchino (内野成広). It is a small company located in the city of Shizuoka, about 150 km South-West of Tokyo. Its pens are only sold on-line through its own website, which happens to be only in Japanese (and very confusing on top of being in Japanese), thus limiting the distribution and visibility of the brand.


Masahiro Seisakusho.

Masahiro pens use Pilot nibs in sizes 5, 10, and 15, and no effort is done in hiding its origin. In fact, Masahiro Seisakusho is also a selling agent for Pilot pens. But Masahiro Seisakusho makes a point of making custom ebonite feeds for its nibs instead of using those manufactured by Pilot in plastic.



Ebonite, indeed, is the signature material of Masahiro pens. Most of its pens are made of this material, which is imported (presumably from Germany) instead of sourcing it from Nikko Ebonite, as all Japanese makes do save Hakase. However, Masahiro also produces some pens in acrylic plastic.



As for the filling systems employed, cartridges and converters (Pilot proprietary) are reserved for the lower cost models. More expensive models use the so-called M-system, which is nothing else than the old A-system implemented by Pilot in the 1950s on some 53R pens. This system, a pulsated piston, is the obvious predecessor of the Pilot’s CON-70 converter.


The pen whose pictures accompany this text is a fine example of all those characteristics: ebonite body, Pilot’s size 10 nib, A-system filing mechanism…

Its price was JPY 40000 in 2012. Since then, its price has increased greatly—JPY 98000.


My thanks to Mr. NK.


Romillo Nervión – Sailor Blue Iron (original ink)

Bruno Taut
Nakano, July 25th 2017
etiquetas: Pilot, Masahiro

Saturday, July 15, 2017

On the Pilot Custom 823

I ended up my previous Chronicle with a call to myself—I should say something about the Pilot Custom 823. This is a pen I have avoided on these text as it is well known and many people have reviewed it in detail. One more review on my side would hardly offer anything new.

However, the release of the Pilot Custom Urushi has reframed the pen scene –if only, for Pilot— and the Custom 823 might have become even more interesting now. That is the contention of this piece.

The Pilot Custom 823 was launched in the year 2000, or year 82 of the Pilot era. A story published in a French forum affirmed that this model was the Pilot reaction to the Pelikan M800, a pen many aficionados consider as a compendium of virtues. I have not been able to confirm that story, but its narration is worth of Ben Trovato.


Pelikan M800 and Pilot Custom 823.

In any event, the M800 and the Custom 823 are very different. The sizes of their nibs are almost the same, but that might be the end of the similarities. The Custom 823, in fact, follows the tradition of the first Onoto pens arriving in Japan at the turn of the 20th century. The plunger filler is, in that regard, a lot less alien to Japan than the very German piston of Pelikan. Of course, there are examples of pistons made in Japan, most notably by Vanco in the 1930s. The big three companies have all made some pistons, but all those examples are rather new: Platinum in 1989, Sailor in 2006, Pilot in 2010.

Anyway, the Custom 823 first appeared in 2000 and included a fully transparent version. Its price was JPY 30000 (plus tax) and has not changed since then. The clear version soon disappeared from the catalog, leaving the amber and smoke models we now know. The clear version reappeared around 2011 at some shops —and can still be found at those—, but it has not yet reached the glory of the catalog.


The Custom 823 in its three versions: smoke, amber, and clear (back to front).

Nib-wise, the Custom 823 implements size 15 nibs (in Pilot way of sizing), but out of the 14 available points of this size, only three, according to the catalog, are implemented on the Custom 823: F, M, and B. Some shops, at least in Tokyo, also offer other nib points, particularly the waverly (WA) and the falcon (FA). In fact, the 823 could implement any size 15 nib, and that is what some retailers do by exchanging the nib with any of the options available in the Custom 743 model. Whether those swapping void the warranty offered by Pilot is not clear.


A Custom 823 clear with a "falcon" (FA) nib. This combination is not included in the Pilot catalog. It is offered by some shops. This picture was taken at Maruzen-Nihonbashi.


Another combination that does not appear on the books: clear Custom 823 with a "waverly" nib. Available at Asahiya-Kami Bungu.

The model 823 is now 17 years old and it remains as one of the most interesting models currently made by Pilot. Now, the Custom Urushi might, paradoxically, make it even more interesting. The Custom Urushi is certainly an impressive pen, but it is also expensive (JPY 88000), and the search for alternatives within the Pilot (and Namiki) catalog leads to the smaller Custom 845 (JPY 50000), also decorated with urushi, and to the Custom 823 and Custom 743 (JPY 30000). On these three cases, the potential buyer had to settle down with the smaller size 15 nib. My contention, then, is that faced with the obligatory reduction in nib size to lower the actual cost of the pen, the JPY 30000 of the nominal price of the Custom 823 are an even more impressive value given, most interestingly, its self-filling system.


The urushi relatives of the Custom 823: Custom Urushi (top) and Custom 845 (bottom).

The stark contrast between those JPY 88000 of the Custom Urushi and the JPY 30000 of the 823 makes the later a lot more appealing. A lot more, in fact, than when the obvious competitor was the Custom 845 at a value of JPY 50000.


Lanbitou “Vista” – Noodler’s Zhivago

Bruno Taut
Nakano & Shinjuku, July 2017
etiquetas: Pilot, mercado, Pelikan, Platinum, Sailor, Vanco

Friday, June 30, 2017

Internal Competition

The big news in the world of fountain pens in 2016 –at least in Japan—was the release of the Pilot Custom Urushi.


The three points of the Custom Urushi (FM, M, B) ready to be tested. And a Custom 845 on the right hand side.


Custom Urushi (top) and Custom 845 (bottom).

The size 30 nib has created a new category in Pilot’s catalog of pens, a category in between sizes 15 and 20, on one side, and size 50 on the other. Sizes 20 and 50 are exclusive to Namiki pens, and are implemented on models Yukari Royale, size 20, and Emperor, size 50, including the Urushi Series in black (ro-iro) and red (shu). Pilot’s size 15 nib is implemented in a number of Custom models: 743, 823, 845, Ichii (一位), Enju (槐). Let us remember, finally, that sizes 15 and 20 are very similar, like KMPN showed on his reference post on the matter.


The insides of the Custom Urushi (top) and of the Custom 845 (bottom). Their ink converters are the same--CON-70.


Nibs 30 (top) and 15 (bottom), side by side.

Externally, the new Pilot Custom Urushi (JPY 88000), as shown on these pages some months ago, is little else than an oversized Custom 845 (JPY 50000). Both pens are coated with urushi, and on both of them the section and the finials on cap and body are made of black plastic. Interestingly enough, both pens use the same ink converter –the CON-70— and, therefore, the bigger size of the Custom Urushi does not enjoy any difference on the filling system.

Cheaper (JPY 30000) Custom models with size 15 nibs –Custom 743 and 823— are all made of plastic and their gold purity is lower: 14 K Au vs the 18 K of the Custom 845, Ichii, Enju, and Custom Urushi. On the higher end, the Yukari Royale-size pens of the Urushi Series (nib size 20) are made of brass and are totally coated with urushi. Their price is JPY 128000.

Model

nib size

material

nib points

filling system

ink capacity (ml) (1)

price

(JPY) (2)

743

15

14K Au

14

-EF-F-SF-FM-SFM-M-SM-

-B-BB-PO-FA-WA-SU-C-

C/C

CON-70 - 1.0 ml

30.000
823

15

14K Au

3

F-M-B (3)

plunger - 2.2 ml 30.000

845,

Ichii (一位) (4),

Enju (槐) (5)

15

18K Au

4

F-M-B-BB (3)

C/C

CON-70 - 1.0 ml

50.000

Custom

Urushi

30

18K Au

3

FM-M-B

C/C

CON-70 - 1.0 ml

88.000
Namiki

Urushi #20

20

18K Au

3

F-M-B

C/C

CON-70 - 1.0 ml

128.000

NOTES: Data according to Pilot's and Namiki's catalogs.
(1) C/C: cartridge and converter. Other converters (CON-20, CON-40, CON-50) can also be used. Their ink capacities are smaller than that of the CON-70.
(2) Catalog prices without taxes (8% in Japan).
(3) At some shops, Custom 823 and Custom 845 can be found with some other nib points.
(4) Custom Ichii pen only has two nib points available: F and M.
(5) Custom Enju comes in three nib points: F, M, and B.
Comparative chart of the Pilot and Namiki models with nibs of sizes 15, 20, and 30.


Three urushi pens.

The obvious question now is whether the Pilot Custom Urushi might be stealing some of the market of the Namiki pens with nib size 20. Those JPY 40000 of difference in their prices, together with the much bigger nib of the cheaper of Custom Urushi might be hard to overlook when comparing both pens: Custom Urushi and Namiki Urushi Series 20.


The Pilot Custom 823.

And looking at the comparative chart, some might go back to considering the well known Custom 823 as an excellent value. And this might be the right time to speak about that pen in depth.


Sheaffer’s TM Admiral – Pilot Iroshizuku Ku-jaku

Bruno Taut
Shinjuku, June 15 2017
etiquetas: Pilot, plumín, mercado, maki-e
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