Crónicas Estilográficas

Monday, August 31, 2015


Combo pens; that is, the combination of a fountain pen on one end, and a pencil (or any other writing tool) on the other; are very rare in Japan. They were never that common in the West, but most American companies made some combos at some point in their history.

Lambrou and Sunami only mention one such pen, albeit shown twice using the very same picture, in their book Fountain Pens of Japan. That is a Romeo (the pen brand of Itoya) from 1926. It was made of ebonite and implemented a lever filler system and a 14 K gold nib of size 3.

Today’s pen is probably even more extraordinary—a combo pen made by Pilot in 1932.

A Pilot combo from 1932. The engraving on the barrel reads "PILOT" / USA PAT (Namiki Logo) NO 1600293 / PILOT PEN MFG. CO. LTD.

This Pilot is made of ebonite coated with urushi. Pen-wise, it is a Japanese eyedropper whose shut-off valve is operated by moving the whole pencil unit, as can be seen on the picture. The nib is a size 2 made of 14 K gold, dated on the back as manufactured in May of 1932.

The picture is terribly out of focus but it shows a number of features of the pen. First, the eraser attached to the pencil unit; second, the slightly open valve of the shut off system in the pen portion; third, the flat feed of the fountain pen, typical in pre-war pens in Japan. My sincere apologies for the quality of the picture.

Another out-of-focus picture. The rod to open and close the shut-off valve is clearly exposed.

The pencil section of the combo. Arrow A points at the opening of the shut-off valve. Arrow B, at the separation between pencil and pen.

The barrel is imprinted with a reference to a US patent, 1600293, already mentioned on these Chronicles. This patent was filed in 1925 by Ryosuke Namiki and is about coatings and working on ebonite surfaces—nothing to do with the pen design or the idea of a combo pen.

The fountain pen part of the combo. The engraving on the nib: 14 KARAT GOLD / "PILOT" / REGISTERED / PATENT OFFICE / -<2>- / POINTED / HARDEST / IRIDIUM.

These are its dimensions:
Length closed: 148 mm
Length open: 135 mm
Length posted: 153 mm
Diameter: 14 mm
Weight (dry): 20.8 g

Indeed a rare pen. Therefore, of little relevance in the history of Japanese pens, but it shows that Japanese companies were paying attention to what was happening in the West.

My thanks to Mr. Takahashi.

Pilot Custom 823 – Montblanc White Forest

Bruno Taut
Nakano, August 31st, 2015
etiquetas: Pilot

Friday, August 28, 2015

Early Pilot Nibs. IV. Size 2

Size 2 nibs are significantly bigger than those of size 1, and reach a total length of about 23 to 24 mm. There seem to be some variations, towards a smaller size, in the dimensions of those units manufactured in the 1950s.

Manufacturing date .Aug 1926. .Sep 1937. .Oct 1953.
Length (mm) 24.4 24.2 22.9
Width (mm) 5.8 6.0 5.8
Feed diameter (mm) 5.0 5.0 4.9
Weight (g) 0.3 0.2 0.3
Dimensions of three Pilot nibs of size 2 made of 14 K gold.

Nib made on November of 1926. Very simple engraving

From September of 1937.

From 1953. Note the JIS mark. The feed of this pen, and of those of the 53R models (1950s) are slightly thinner on the area attached to the section.

As can be seen on the pictures, there are size-2 nibs made of steel. The exact dimensions of these units are not available—the integrity of the pen is still more important that those data.

Steel nib of a nomikomi-shiki pen from around 1940.

A post-war 53R-T model. Note, again, the JIS mark.

The engravings on the nibs, as was the case with other sizes, show a clear evolution along the years of production.

Pilot Justus, 1979 model – Pilot Blue

Bruno Taut
Nakano, August 28th, 2015
etiquetas: Pilot, plumín

Friday, August 14, 2015


There is a relatively new guy –albeit old as well— in town. Zôhiko is indeed a old company as it was founded in 1661 in Kyoto. Its original business was ivory –the in the name actually means elephant—, but with the second generation of owners the market expanded to include maki-e and related techniques and the ivory section ended up disappearing.

But only recently Zôhiko included fountain pens in its catalog of luxury goods. This happened in 2008 by means of an association with the French craftsman Michel Audiard.

More recently, around 2012, a new series of fountain pens were produced. These pens were the initiative of fountain pen entrepreneur Mr. Katayama and Zôhiko, and involved a group of unique Japanese craftsmen.

Raden, on the front, and maki-e.

Body and feed were made by Mr. Momose Yasuaki—an old, now retired, lathe master well known and respected in the Japanese scene. He was also in charge of the filling system, Japanese eyedropper (i. e. with shut-off valve), which is one of his fields of mastery.

Nibs, made of 18 K gold, carry the monogram KMK (with the first K inverted), meaning Katayama-Makino-Kubo. This is a brand name registered by Mr. Katayama. However, these Zôhiko nibs were manufactured by jeweler Mr. Tsukii Masao.

The 18 K gold nib made by Mr Tsukii Masao. Note the monogram KMK engraved on the nib.

The feed is also imprinted with the initials KMK, the registered brand by Mr Katayama.

The final assembly of the pen was made by nibmeister Kubo Kohei, well know for the readers of these Chronicles.

The maki-e decoration, finally, was commissioned to Mr Yamamoto Munori, a Zôhiko regular “in-house” craftsman.

The results of the good work of Mr. Yamamoto Munori.

The final result is an outstanding collection of maki-e decorated pens. But they do not come cheap or in large numbers. Of the raden-decorated unit, only three were made at a cost of JPY 1.200.000. Of the rest, between 4 and 6 units of each were produced. Their price is JPY 600.000, save for the unit with spiral motifs, whose price is JPY 800.000.

JPY 800.000.

Some of the pieces carry a signature, but it simply says Zôhiko.

Now, are they good pens? How do they write? The fact that a jeweler and not a nibmeister crafted the nibs is an unsettling and worrisome detail… But maybe the question is a different one: would anyone ink any of them?

Pilot Custom 823 – Montblanc White Forest

Bruno Taut
Nakano, August 13-14th, 2015
etiquetas: Zôhiko, nibmeister Kubo Kohei, Momose Yasuaki, maki-e

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Chilton Violet

After having seen a great number of filling systems on Japanese pens, both imported from the West (::1::, ::2::, etc.), and originated (::1::, ::2::, ::3::, to name just a few) in Japan, it will be no surprise to find yet another one.

This time, the pen –by the name of Violet— implements the pneumatic filling system initially created by the Chilton Pen Company in 1925. This Japanese pen, however, was manufactured in the early 1950s.

On the barrel, '"VIOLET" / TRADE MARK / Fountain Pen'. And a very Parker clip.

As for the rest, the nib is made of steel and does not carry any reference to the pen brand, which raises the concern of whether this nib was the original unit of this pen. However, that is not the relevant feature of the Violet.

The nib, made of steel, carries the following inscription: "WARRANTED / EASY / BEST / PEN / 1". This unit could be a replacement.

These are its dimensions:

Length closed: 121 mm
Length open: 105 mm
Length posted: 142 mm
Diameter: 11 mm
Weight (dry): 11.5 g

The barrel extended, the pen ready to be filled.

The hole at the barrel end typical of pneumatic fillers.

This pseudo-Chilton Violet is a rare pen even in Japan, but it illustrates the great variety of filling systems explored by Japanese makers long its more than 100 years of history.

My thanks to Mr. Sunami.

Pilot Bamboo – Nagasawa Bokkô

Bruno Taut
Nakano, August 8th, 2015
etiquetas: Chilton, Violet, soluciones técnicas

Friday, July 31, 2015

Early Cross Nib

Nagahara’s double and triple (and even quadruple) nibs are, arguably, the most interesting development in fountain pens in recent years. But, how recent is that development?

Sailor started marketing cross nibs (2-fold nibs) by the late 1990s. Most of them, as is the case now, were made over open nibs—those present on the current line of Profit/1911 and ProGear line of Sailor pens. But there were also some cross nibs made over the old style finger-shape nib present in the Sailor catalog since the early 1970s.

The only engraving on the pen, other than on the nib, is on the cap lip and simply reads "Sailor".

Such is the case of the following pen. It is a luxury desk pen of the Precious Wood (Mei Boku, 銘木) series. The oversized cap, with no clip, posts securely on the barrel and provides with the usual extra length of desk pens. The four-tined nib ensures a rich flow and a thick line for the typical purpose of these pens—to sign. It is made of 21 K gold. The filling system is by proprietary cartridges and converters.

These are the pen dimensions:

Length closed: 163 mm
Length open: 124 mm
Length posted: 182 mm
Diameter: 15 mm
Weight: 33.0 g

Three different Cross nibs. The one on top is a Cross Concord (with Emperor, the overfeed) with the current nib engraving. The nib on the bottom left is a regular Cross nib with the previous engraving. The nib of the Precious Wood desk pen is on the bottom right. Its engraving only says "21 K / Sailor".

The point of the desk pen is significantly smaller than that of the current Cross nib (bottom left on the previous picture, albeit with the old engraving).

This pen was made in early 2000s.

My thanks to Mr. Demboku and to Wagner member Yoppee!

Pilot Custom 823 – Montblanc White Forest

Bruno Taut
Nakano, July 29th, 2015
etiquetas: Sailor, plumín

Friday, July 24, 2015

Pilot Capless - 1984 - FCN-500R and variations


As was described on the more extended introduction to this model, this evolution of the CN-400BS was released in 1984 (some sources speak of 1981, though). This model is commonly known as the “faceted” Capless (usually as Pilot) or Vanishing Point (usually as Namiki). It was made in a number of colors and included some limited editions.

Two faceted Pilot Capless in green and black.

Pairs of Pilot-Namiki Capless-Vanishing Point in different colors. The clips are engraved as either Pilot or Namiki. My thanks to Mr. Capless.


Codes. FCN-500R, FCB-800R-B, FC-1MR-B. All these codes belong basically to the same pen, the last two being of the all-black models. The different numbers in the codes show the price of each variation. This model is made of aluminum and plastic in a number of colors.
Original_price. FCN-500R: JPY 5000 (1984-1998)
FCB-800R-B: JPY 8000 (1989)
FC-1MR-B: JPY 10000 (1999)
Production_years. 1984-1999. Possibly longer.
Nib_unit. Type VII, variations a and b. Gold 14 K and steel, all in golden color. 18_K gold nibs were made after 1998 for the following model FC-15SR.
Filling_system Single spare cartridge. CON-20 and CON-50 can be used.
Opening_system. “Knock system” (push button).

The all-black model in matte finish. Photo courtesy of Antolin.


FCN-500R & variations
Length closed 137 mm
Length open 134 mm
Diameter 11.8 mm
Weight 17.6 g

Nib unit:

Type VII, variations a (common to the previous model CN-400BS from 1973) and b. In 14 K gold and in steel, both with golden finish. 18 K gold nibs available from 1998.

This nib unit uses single spare cartridges and converters CON-20 and CON-50.

Variations a (top) and b (bottom) of the type VII of Capless nibs. Variation a is present on the previous model from 1973, but can be used on the FCN-500R of 1984.

Additional information:

Nibs are engraved with the production place and date, but not so the bodies.

Testing unit of a Namiki Vanishing Point for a shop. My thanks to Mr. Capless.

My thanks to Mr Capless and to Foro de Estilográficas member Antolin.

Back to the "Pilot Capless - 50 years" page.

Bruno Taut
Nakano, July 2015
etiquetas: Pilot, Capless

Monday, July 20, 2015

Early Pilot Nibs. III. Size 1

Size 1 nibs by Pilot are not that different in size to those of size 0. Here we can see the dimensions of two size-1 units:

Manufacturing date .Oct 1955. .Nov 1937.
Length (mm) 21.7 22.7
Width (mm) 5.3 5.8
Feed diameter (mm) 5.0 5.0
Weight (g) 0.2 - 0.3 0.3
Dimensions of two Pilot nibs of size 1.

Nib made on November of 1937. "WARRANTED / "PILOT" / 14 K / MADE IN JAPAN / -<1>- / HARDEST / IRIDIUM".

Nib made on October of 1955. "WARRANTED / PILOT / 14 K / -<1>- / MADE IN / JAPAN".

There are some obvious differences between these two units made 18 years apart. And the feed diameter seems even smaller than that of the size 0 nib described some days ago.

The engravings of these two nibs are very similar, but this detail changes with the manufacturing date, as we will see along this series of texts

Parker 51 – Nagasawa Bokkô

Bruno Taut
Nakano, July 19th, 2015
etiquetas: Pilot, plumín
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