Crónicas Estilográficas

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Hina Ningyo

March 3rd is, in Japan, Girl’s Day. People celebrate it with altars –the hina ningyo, 雛人形-- showing male and female dolls –the emperor and the empress— dressed in Heian period (794-1185 aD) costumes, and, space permits, a number of attendants and musicians.


The emperors in a Japanese home.

Pen people have an alternative, money permits, according to Pilot.


The hina ningyo I would like to have.

Pilot’s luxury brand Namiki has released a pair of maki-e decorated pens –two Yukari Royale-- with maki-e decoration, made by master Wakabayashi. The price, JPY 700000 (both pens, taxes not included).


Details of the main decorative themes.

These pens, in case you cared, are cartridge-converters (Pilot proprietary) and implement 18 K gold nibs in size 20.


Sailor Profit Naginata togi – Pilot Blue

Bruno Taut
Chuo, February 27th, 2015
etiquetas: Japan, Pilot, maki-e

Monday, March 2, 2015

Storia Inks

Sailor seems very active lately in the ink department. Last year, let us remember, Sailor changed the ongoing selection of Jentle (regular, dye based) colors for a selection of eight of the previously released as limited editions in the series of seasonal inks (2009-2010). (Incidentally, some sources have reported that the actual change was merely in the names, and that the colors remained the same).

For 2015, Sailor’s strategy is based on the area of pigmented (permanent) inks.

On top of the well known Kiwaguro and Seiboku, Sailor has announced eight new pigmented inks in apparently very bright colors. Their generic name is “Storia”.


The colors of the Storia series of permanent inks are red, pink, blue, purple, yellow green, green, yellow, and light brown. The inkwells hold 30 ml of ink and will cost JPY 1500, plus tax, which makes JPY 50/ml. For comparison, Kiwaguro and Seiboku cost JPY 40/ml. (Picture taken from the 2015 Sailor Catalog).

Initially, the launching of these inks was intended for this month of March, but it has been postponed to April. However, given the number of pen events in Tokyo in March, I would not be surprised if these inks showed up, even if in limited amounts, earlier.

There might be a niche for colorful pigmented inks in the market, but I wonder how much bigger the ink market might become.


Athena Basic Line – Sailor Yama-dori

Bruno Taut
Nakano, March 1st 2015
etiquetas: tinta, Sailor, mercado

Thursday, February 26, 2015

From Nebotek to Eboya

Up to about one year ago, Nebotek was –so to speak—the pen brand without name. On one hand, there was nothing on the pen that could identify its origin. nothing, well, save the nib, but this was signed as Bock. A Bock pen?

Then, on the other hand, there was a wealthy mixture of pens associated to these pens. Nikko Ebonite is the name of the mother company; then there was the name Eboya for its online shop. Finally, Nobotek was the pen brand.

All this changed when around January 2014 the company decided, first, to forget about the name Nebotek; and, second, to sign the pens. These pens are now named Eboya, with the lemma “Made in Tokyo” under it, as can be seen on the photography accompanying this text.


The newly branded Eboya, previously called, but unsigned, Nebotek.

Eboya’s marketing problems do not finish here. Eboya pens lack visibility in the market, and they rely solely on their website, which is only written in Japanese. This also might be changing. To start, Eboya pens are now going to be distributed in the US –and beyond— through John Mottishaw’s website Nibs.com. In fact, the first fifteen Eboya pens have just been shipped to the US, according to Eboya nibmeister Kanesaki.

Nikko Ebonite is a small company, and Eboya pens are in essence the product of one man alone, Mr. Noritoshi Kanesaki. Their limited resources might be at the bottom of their precarious marketing, but they could do better as many other small operation in the world of fountain pens are showing.


Pilot Custom 912, music nib – Sailor Yama-dori

Bruno Taut
Nakano, February 25th, 2014
etiquetas: Eboya, Nebotek, mercado

Friday, February 20, 2015

Changes and Updates in Tokyo

It is an impossible task to keep perfectly updated any list of places where to buy fountain pens in a city –or group of cities—the size of Tokyo metropolitan area. Now and then you notice some changes and you write about them… That I am doing now, together with some minor reflection.

-- Lemonsha’s branch in Shinjuku no longer carries fountain pens. That part of the business is now concentrated in the Ginza shop.

-- Map Camera-Kingdom Note, therefore, is the only available shop for second hand pens in Shinjuku. However, the selection of those –as of February 2015— is becoming alarmingly small, which combined with the usually high prices of this shop make this pen scenario not very appealing. Map Camera/Kingdom Note keeps having a very good inventory of inks (at MSRP prices).

And it is my impression that the second hand market is moving away from regular shops. The amount of pen on display on them seems to be shrinking. The trade might be moving to some other channels, probably eliminating the middle man.

-- Mori-ichi in Ginza-Kyobashi has been refurbished and no longer sells with discounted prices and its appeal is now very low. This shop stocks mostly Pilot pens.

-- Isetan department store in Shinjuku has enlarged its space for fountain pens. As in any other department store in town, all pens are marked at MSRP, and no bargains can be really found in them. This section has a small selection of maki-e decorated pens.

All in all, I want to see an increase on the importance of the fountain pen market—on this last reform of Isetan in Shinjuku, fountain pens have gained some importance.

Isetan Shinjuku
Shinjuku 3-14-1
Shinjuku
Tokyo 160-0022
Tel: 03 3352 1111
Hours: 10:30-20:00

-- Angers Bureau seemed to be a stationer and gift shop with a few fountain pens here and there, but nothing very interesting. However, now it is possible to see some vintage pens on display. Given their prices, they seem to be more of a decoration than an actual new product in their line of business. Some pen rookie might fall for them, though. Anyway, all this might be the result of a renewed interest in fountain pens.


Angers Bureau has three shops in Tokyo:

ANGERS Ravissant Shinjuku (Marui building)
Shinjuku 3-30-13, Marui Honkan  8F
Shinjyuku
Tokyo 160-022
Tel 03 3352 1678
Hours: 11:00-21:00

ANGERS Bureau ecute (Ueno JR Station)
Ueno 7-1-1, ecute 3F
Taito
Tokyo 110-0005
Tel: 03 5826 5681
Hours: 18:00-22:00

ANGERS Bureau Marunouchi (KITTE building)
Marunouchi, 2-7-2, KITTE 4F
Chiyoda
Tokyo 100-0005
Tel: 03 3217 2006
Hours: 11:00-21:00


Pilot Custom 912, music nib – Sailor Yama-dori

Bruno Taut
Shinjuku, February 13th, 2015
etiquetas: Tokyo, mercado

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

RomilloPens

The history of fountain pens in Spain is the story of a frustration—a big number of operations that failed to create a sustainable activity. Inoxcrom and, to a much lesser degree, STYB were the only survivors of the more or less glorious days of Spanish pens in the 1950s and 1960s.

However, in recent years, several small pen brands have appeared in Spain to cater the stylophile craving for more artisanal writing tools. Estilográficas Clavijo and Gimena are two examples of them.


Romillo Essential.

The better known of all those new companies is, however, RomilloPens. The Romillo family founded the brand in 2007 and after a couple of years of experiments, the RomilloPens Essential was launched. Since then, about 10 models have been produced. All of them save the latest arrival called The Celluloid Collection, are made of German ebonite.


Two Romillos with Bock nibs in sizes 6 and 8.

Initially, all the nibs were made by bock –sizes 6 and 8. After some years, in 2012, they started the production of a flexible nib, the K nib. Apparently very flexible, there are reports questioning the ability of the feed to provide the required inkflow. Starting in 2013, RomilloPens makes its own nibs (sizes 7 and 9), albeit feeds are still provided by Bock.

The philosophy of the company is to make pens resembling old models from the 1910s and 1920s using traditional materials and implementing arcane filling systems, although cartridge and converters are an available option for some models. RomilloPens claims all its pens were made by hand—obviously an exaggerated claim as lathe and files are in order to machine the ebonite. However, being made to order allows for a great deal of customization.

The final result is an attractive product with a steep price. In fact, for an average of EUR 1000, many an aficionado might, in fact, prefer a real vintage pen in pristine condition to a newly made pen without the glamour and tradition of a well known name.


The flagship of RomilloPens is the model Nervión. On the image, the version made of terracota ebonite with a size 8 nib by Bock.

This is a risky initiative, and brave too. Can the market support it? Time will tell. This luxury market is very competitive; most pen companies have luxury models, and there some small operations specifically targeting this high-end sector… And at the end, Montblanc wins.


NOTE ON THE NAMES: The name of the pen brand is, actually, RomilloPens, and is owned by the company Pixeline S. L. Romillo is the name of the founding family. RomilloPens, however, sounds strangely artificial in Spanish (probably in English too) and I tend to use the family name, Romillo, as the brand name.


Romillo Nervión Terracota – Pilot Blue

Bruno Taut
Madrid, November 27th, 2014
etiquetas: España, mercado, RomilloPens, Bock

Saturday, January 31, 2015

North Korea (II)

There is more to North Korean pens than copies of the Parker 51

By the 1960s, Japanese companies had long started to design and produce their own original models after the hard post-war years. One of those was the pocket pen. Sailor put that concept to work in 1963 and most Japanese companies soon followed the trend, Platinum among them as early as in 1964. And not only Japanese companies paid attention. Now we know that North Korean pen brand Mangyongdae, from Pyongyang, was also interested in the Japanese developments.


The Mangyongdae pocket pen.

The Korean version –this Mangyongdae, 만경대— follows closely the style of the Platinum pocket pen of the time, mid 1960s. It shows a long, quasi triangular damascene decoration, and a nib geometry very close to those of the Platinum. The filling system, however, is different—a self-filling integrated sac does the job instead of the usual cartridge of the Japanese original. The nib is made of 12 K gold, and carries the name of the brand written in Hangeul characters.


The Mangyongdae's nib is engraved with the gold purity, 12 K, and the brand name in Korean: 만경대. The cap carries an inscription in Cyrillic characters--an aftermarket addition.


This is a sac-based self-filling pen.

Incidentally, this pen is engraved with some inscription in Cyrillic characters. The pen was bought in Bulgaria, and only shows the economic connections among the countries in the area of influence of the Soviet Union.

That is not the only North Korean pen copying a Platinum pen. The following example clearly shows its Japanese influence—again, a damascene inlaid (zogan in Japanese) following the pattern of some Platinum from the 1960s. And, as in the previous case, a Platinum-type nib made of 12 K gold, engraved with the brand name, Chullima (천리마, also read as Chollima), as was the case of the copies of the Parker 51 made in North Korea.


The Platinum-inspired Chullima.


The Platinum original. Note the nib geometry and the size and shape of the inlaid decoration, laid in reverse. More pictures of this Platinum pen can be seen on the Chronicle Sixties Music.


A 12 K gold nib engraved with the brand name 천리마.

Its filling system departs from the Platinum original cartridge—it is a self-filling bulb filler.


Again, a sac-based self-filling pen.

Every industrial revolution, save the English original, is started by copying. North Korea was no exception, but the industrial power that this country was after the Second World War and during the Korean War (1950-1953) failed as soon as the Soviet Union collapsed. Fountain pens are not of any industrial value nowadays, of course, but they were so in the 1950s and even 1960s, and the fact that there existed a production of these consumer goods in North Korea is an obvious sign of its lost industrial capability.


A family picture of North Korean pens.

My thanks to Mr. Sunami.


Montblanc 3-42G – Pilot Blue

Bruno Taut
Nakano, January 30th, 2015
etiquetas: Corea del Norte, Platinum, Chullima, Mangyongdae

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

15 ml Iroshizuku

Iroshizuku inks, by Pilot, have a new presentation. Up to now –up to November of 2014--, the basic presentation is the well-known 50 ml inkwell. in the past, Fall of 2010, there existed an alternative: three 20 ml inkwells for JPY 3000 (plus taxes). Those packs had their colors set and the buyer could not create his personal selection.


The old three-pack presentation--three 20 ml inkwells for JPY 3000, plus tax.

Now, Pilot has gone one step forward: 15 ml inkwells in all 24 colors of the Iroshizuku gamut. Pilor calls the “Iroshizuku Mini”. The price is JPY 700, plus taxes. However, Pilot’s website implies that these inkwells come is sets of three, albeit one could freely choose the colors. At some shops, Pilot adds, only made-up sets might be available. Nonetheless, I have managed to buy just one single of them without even asking for any special treat.


The Yama-guri inkwell hold 20 ml and belongs to the presentation released on September of 2010. The Shin-ryoku inkwell contains 15 ml. Its price is JPY 700, plus tax, although it might not be available individually.

The drawback of this new presentation is, needless to say, the price. The already expensive Iroshizuku ink becomes even more so—from JPY 30/ml to JPY 44/ml in the new presentation (taxes not included).

The question strikes back—quantity or variety?


Athena Basic Line – Sailor Yama-dori

Bruno Taut
Nakano, January 13th, 2015
etiquetas: Pilot, tinta, mercado
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