Saturday, October 21, 2017

10 Years of Color Drops

Time flies.

By the end of this year of 2017, Pilot’s Iroshizuku inks will become 10 years old. The first “color drops”, such is the meaning of 色彩雫, “iroshizuku”, showed up in the market in December of 2007: Asa-gao, Aji-sai, Tsuyu-kusa, Kon-peki, and Tsuki-yo. All of them blue tonalities.


All in all, Pilot has released a total of 27 ink colors under the label Iroshizuku at an irregular pace:

December 2007 (5): Asa-gao, Aji-sai, Tsuyu-kusa, Kon-peki, and Tsuki-yo.

July 2008 (5): Ku-jaku, Sho-ro, Shin-ryoku, Kiri-same, Fuyu-shogun.

November 2008 (4): Yu-yake, Momiji, Yama-budo, Tsutsuji.

January 2009 (3): Shimbashi-iro, Edo-murasaki, Fukagawa-nezu.


May 2009 (3): Tsukushi, Fuyu-gaki, Yama-guri.

August 2011 (4): Ina-ho, Kosumosu, Murasaki-shikibu, Chiku-rin.

November 2011 (3): Take-sumi, Shin-kai, Ama-iro.

Those released in January of 2009 formed the Tokyo Limited Edition, and are no longer available. In fact, their distribution was also very limited. The final result is that the actual gamut of ink comprises only 24 colors.



The price –in Japan, at least— has not changed in all this time, save for the increase in sale tax in 2014 from 5% to 8%. JPY 1500 (JPY 30/ml) is the catalog price (MSRP), although it is easy to find these inks for less.

In October of 2010, another presentation of the inks was marketed: three 20 ml-bottles for JPY 3000 (JPY 50/ml). These sets were fixed-there was no possibility of choosing the colors. That presentation was very short lived.


In January of 2015, a second version of smaller inkwells was launched—the Iroshizuku Mini. Now, it is composed of three 15 ml inkwells at a price of JPY 2100 (JPY 47/ml). On this occasion, the buyer can generally choose the colors included in the set. At some shops it is even possible to buy the inkwells individually for JPY 700 (minus some possible discounts).


And now, what? Platinum recently launched its new line of iron-gall inks. Sailor has rebranded the old line of inks as Shikiori, and not so long ago offered some smaller bottles of the nanopigmented Storia inks. Pilot is, in comparison, very relaxed on the ink front.

So, will Pilot take benefit of this opportunity to start a marketing campaign?

(NOTES: 1. Prices quoted in Japanese yen without taxes. 2. The names of the inks have been written following the more standard Hepburn Romanization, and the names of a couple of inks might look misspelled. This is completely intentional and only shows the problems Japanese people often have with the alphabetic transliteration of their own language).


Nakaya Portable Writer – Platinum Black

Bruno Taut
Nakano, July 6th 2017
labels: Pilot, tinta

Monday, October 16, 2017

Masahiro Again

Past July, I wrote a text –“From Shizuoka”— about the small pen maker by the name of Masahiro Seisakusho. Its website, I said at the time, was only written in Japanese and was also very confusing. That, together with some questions asked on the Fountain Pen Network made that Chronicle of mine extremely popular. I wonder now if that new information translated into more sales…


A thick Masahiro. The engraving on the nib is the only brand sign.

Anyway, another Masahiro pen became available for me to inspect, and writing about it was only natural.

On this occasion we have one of the bigger models, and therefore it implements a Pilot size 15 nib. The body, as usual on this brand, is made of (probably) German ebonite.



The nib is a typical Pilot unit: "PILOT / 14K-585 / 15 / ". Closer to the section, the manufacturing date: 314.

However, despite the size of the nib –similar to a Bock size 6, or a Pelikan M800—, it seems too small for the very wide pen body. Sure enough, its girth allows for a big amount of ink thanks also to the old fashioned and efficient A-shiki filling system. This system, let’s remember, was briefly used by Pilot in the 1950s, although it is very common nowadays in the form of the Pilot’s CON-70 converter.

As was the case with the other Masahiro pen here analyzed, the feed is made of ebonite, which is a significant change with respect to Pilot pens implementing these nibs, whose feed are made of plastic.


The very beautiful ebonite feed, custom made by Narihiro Uchino.

These are the dimensions of this Masahiro pen made in Shizuoka:

Length closed: 143mm
Length open: 133 mm
Length posted: 170 mm
Diameter: 17 mm
Weight: 43.9 g (inked)


The tail of the pen is the handle of the pulsated piston (A-shiki system).

Pens like this go over JPY 100000 (actually, almost JPY 110000), according to Masahiro’s website. Now, it is up to us to decide whether this pen is a good value and how it compared to Pilot pens with the same nib.


My thanks to Mr. Minagawa.


Romillo Nervión – Sailor Blue Iron

Bruno Taut
Shinjuku, October 11th 2017
labels: Masahiro, Pilot

Friday, October 6, 2017

Even More Sailor Inks

Shikiori –meaning “four seasons” in Japanese--  started as a series of fountain pens, ball pens, and mechanical pencils. They came in different colors and were associated –creative marketing at work— to, of course, the four seasons. One of the fountain pens in that series, a slim Professional Gear in whitish color by the name of Meigetsu, became particularly popular among young users in Japan.

Now, Sailor has enlarged this collection with a tricky marketing operation that includes some new inks.

On one hand, Sailor has rebranded the old line of Jentle inks –all those 16 inks that started in 2010 as seasonal inks— as Shikiori inks, with the additional label of “Izayoi-no Yume” (“sixteen nights”). They come in a new presentation, 20 ml inkwells, and a (much) more expensive price per milliliter. As of now, the old (50 ml inkwells) and the new packaging coexist at the shops.


The new inkwell of 20 ml, and the four new colors.


A lot of news are included on this picture. From top to bottom: On the first row, Sailor converters in assorted colors. On the second and third rows, the newly marketed Shikiori inks in their 20 ml bottles. And on the last row, the well-known Jentle inks in colors black, blue and blue-black in their new presentation of 50 ml inkwells. The same inkwell is used for the pigmented "Kiwa-guro" and "Sei-boku" inks. Finally (bottom right), the "ink reservoir" just released by Sailor to use up the ink of any bottle.

On the other hand, there are four new colors have been added to the Sailor catalog. These are the Shikiori “Tsukuyo-no Minamo” inks (something like “water surface under the moonlight”). These inks only come in 20 ml inkwells. These colors are called Yonaga (blue black or purple black). Shimoyo (black or very dark grey), Yozakura (light purple), and Yodaki (a brownish red).


The four new colors of the Shikiori line of inks. But make no mistake--these are Jentle inks with their very characteristic smell.


The catalog of the Shikiori inks. On the left, the new inks under the name "Tsukuyo-no Minamo". On the center-right, the rebranded seasonal inks now called "Izayoi-no Yume".

These Shikiori inks –20 in total— have a price of JPY 1000 per 20 ml. This implies a steep increase in the price with respect to the old presentation: JPY 50/ml versus JPY 20/ml (tax excluded). For comparison, Pilot’s Iroshizuku inks come at JPY 30/ml in the 50 ml inkwells, and at JPY 47/ml in the set of three colors in 15 ml bottles.

More marketing? Of course this is. And the final result might simply be a dramatic increase in the cost of the not-so-new inks. It might be worth to remember that this was the case some years ago when Sailor marketed the at-the-time called Seasonal Inks.

But, how much ink can the market digest? It seems that a lot!


Pelikan M200 Cognac – Diamine Graphite

Bruno Taut
Shinjuku, October 6th 2017
labels: Silor, tinta, mercado

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Kobe in Tokyo (II)

Some months ago I wrote about how Nagasawa Kobe’s inks were available in Tokyo at Itoya's main shop in Ginza. And the prices of those inks were the same as in Kobe, which made those inks all the more appealing.

Now it is not only Itoya offering them but also its natural competitor in the fountain pen scene—Maruzen. At least at some branches. The pictures of this text were taken at the newly open shop in Ikebukuro (Toshima).


Maruzen in Ikebukuro.

And again, like at Itoya, the prices are the same as at Nagasawa in Kobe—JPY 1800, plus tax.


This is probably good news for the consumer—more competition should translate into higher qualiy and lower prices. But what does Sailor, the actual maker of those inks, think about these moves by Nagasawa?


The well known chart of the colors of the Kobe inks.

And, how big is the ink market? How much offer can the dwellers of the ink-swamp --インク沼—support?

Finally, is there a bubble in the market of fountain pen inks?


Gama “The Wand” – Pilot Iroshizuku Ku-jaku

Bruno Taut
Nakano, Sept 28 2017
etiquetas: tinta, Tokyo, Sailor, Nagasawa, Maruzen

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Madrid 2017

Autumn is here and that also means that the biggest pen event in Europe is coming.

The Madrid Pen Show will take place between November 18th and 20th –this is a three day event—at the NH Collection Madrid Eurobuilding Hotel, and is sponsored by retailer Iguana Sell.


The nominal access fee is EUR 3 per day or EUR 5 for the three days. However, as it was the case on previous years, the sponsor will offer free tickets on its website. It might also be worth to check some of the fountain pen fora in Spanish (::1::, ::2::), where those invitations were also published.

In 2016, about 1300 visitors and 65 dealers, plus some illustrious guests (::1::, ::2::), contributed to create a truly exciting experience. It is also the major celebration –the “fiesta mayor”— of the very active Spanish pen community.


I will be there.


Romillo Nervión – Sailor Iron Blue

Bruno Taut
Nakano, September 27th 2017
etiquetas: Mdrid, evento

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. These 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 others 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
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