Crónicas Estilográficas

Saturday, October 11, 2014

A Word of Thanks

I owe an explanation and a word of thanks to the readers of these texts and, more in particular, to those who took the effort to comment on my text entitled “Question”.

These are the reasons that triggered that text: I was going to be away from home and I wanted some Chronicles ready to be published easily. Then, it also happened that that “Question” text was my 400th Chronicle and the self-reflection on this effort was –still is— unavoidable. Finally, I discovered myself browsing over some blogs, including my own, without really reading any text in depth.

Therefore, once again, are these texts appreciated?

Thanks to those commenting I see now I have some actual readers, and I feel relieved. But the question was relevant—there are a number of people in the cyberspace trying to provide some relevant information on –re our context— fountain pens. And yet, too often, it is hard to avoid the feeling that no real impact they make. The information is out there, but many ignore it and do not make any effort to look for it. The impression –might be wrong, of course— is that little improvement is achieved on the general pen literacy. And then, the same questions arise once and again in fora and similar spaces. Never before information was more widespread and easy to find, but few seem ready to make the effort of finding it.

And if so, why bother writing anything?

Your comments meant a lot. This blog receives very few comments and therefore they are most valued.

Thanks.


Platinum pocket pen, music nib – B-Stock-Nakajima Sumire (Sailor)

Bruno Taut
Shinjuku, October 13rd 2014
etiquetas: metabitácora, fora

Monday, October 6, 2014

53R

It is well know that post-war years in Japan were very difficult. In the pen business that was reflected with a proliferation of pen operations--over 2500 family business, Masamichi Sunami says on Fountain Pens of Japan (2012), written in collaboration with A. Lambrou. This came to an end when in 1952 the Ministry of Industry implemented the JIS mark policy in pen nibs. It was not mandatory for companies to adopt it, but within the first year, 38 of them registered before the ministry, thus rendering as second class or of dubious quality those that did not register.


A collection of Pilot R pens from different times. On this picture, all of them are made of celluloid, but there are R models made of ebonite.

Pilot’s model of the time was the 53R. In actual terms, it was an evolution of the R model from 1938. But on the newer models, gold nibs were implemented soon after the end of the embargo in the use of this noble metal. Some luxury units had gold plated and even, according to Sunami, solid gold caps. There also exist some maki-e decorated units.


A Pilot 53R-T. A lever-filler with a 14 K gold nib.

Re filling systems, older R models were mostly eyedroppers (with shut-off valve) and lever fillers. However, in 1938, the nomikomi-shiki was also released on some R models, but this system does not seem to be very common. Later on, other systems as the pulsated piston (A-shiki) were added. The 53R were mostly, if not all, lever fillers (the 53R-T, where T stands for teko, lever), and eyedroppers. This model was, in fact, the last eyedropper made by Pilot until the recreation of the old jumbo pens carried out in 1985.


Another 53R-T. This time with a steel nib marked with the JIS logo.


The steel nib of the previous Pilot 53R-T.

The model that put the R to rest was the Super series from 1955 (a general overview of these years in the history of Pilot pens can be seen on the text entitled "Pilot. Super Ultra 500". Please, note it was written in Spanish). These implemented sac-based filling systems (aerometric, hose-system, bellow-type sac) and, already in the 1960s, ink cartridges. An approximated chronology of this evolution is exposed on the Chronicle "Pilot Filling Systems in the 1960s".

Pilot 53R models are not hard to find, probably indicating that a large number of them were made. However, their condition is very variable.


Pilot black pocket pen 1970, Elite – Platinum Black

Bruno Taut
Nakano, October 3rd, 2014
etiquetas: Pilot

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Matching (XVI). Kilot

Like any other successful company, Pilot is bound to be copied and competitors and wannabes. But, when did that started? Well, I cannot give a clear answer, but I will show a very obvious example of these practices in the Japanese market.

Nowadays, the market is quite unified and copies, imitations and counterfeits take their models out of the World market. This was often the case, as anyone knowing pens like the Inoxcrom 55 could easily check. However, not so long ago, there also existed copies based on the domestic market. Domestic competition, in fact, created its own rules and its own local idols. Pilot was a successful company very early on and consequently had to deal with a number of not-so-loyal competitors and counterfeits within Japan.

The following pens are a very interesting example. The brand name, Kilot, says it all. Under that name a number of models were produced, and as it could hardly be otherwise, they mimic Pilot models. Some of them even sport the well known “kikuza” clip, so common on Pilot pens.


Three Kilot pens from, most likely, the 1950s.

Among the three examples displayed on the pictures, two correspond to copies of the model 53, while the third one mimics some of the Super models (from 1955 on).


The nibs of two of the Kilot pens. On the nib closer to the camera the Kilot logo is visible, and shows a remarkable similarity with that of Pilot at the time. Note the L underlining the O.


Pilot nib with the logo of the company during the 1950s. Again, note the L underlining the O.

The filling systems of these Kilot pens are invariably aerometric, a system a lot easier to implement than those usually employed by Pilot at the time—lever filler (T-shiki), eye-dropper with safety valve (inkidome-shiki), and hose-system.


A Kilot copy of the Pilot 53 model.


This Kilot pen clearly resembles a Pilot Super model. This aerometric system could be seen on smaller Super pens (Super 80A, for instance) made by Pilot.

Not much is known about this brand. On another Chronicle I will describe more in detail one of these Kilots.


Super T Gester 40 – Sailor Yama-dori

Bruno Taut
Nakano, August 16th 2014
etiquetas: Kilot, Pilot, mercado

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Feeds

The world of pens, nowadays, is full of reactionary obsessions. It could not be otherwise, for fountain pens are obsolete tools. Consequently, once this point is accepted and understood all cravings are allowed—ancient materials, old filling systems, outdated manufacturing techniques…

One of the debates involves the material out of which the feed is manufactured. Old pens, before 1950s, used ebonite (vulcanized hard rubber) and around that time different plastics made their way as the material of choice for feed it is today. Ebonite, though, is still used today on mostly high-end pens and this is often used as a selling argument (however, it might be worth to note that Montblanc’s flagship pen, the 149, implements plastic feeds). Many a stylophile are happy to buy that argument and swear by ebonite as the ultimate material to provide a good (and generous) flow of ink to the nib.

But, is the feed material that important for the final performance of the pen? Or, in other words, what are the differences between these two materials, plastic and ebonite?

The main difference lies in the way the ink interacts with those two surfaces. Ebonite is hygroscopic and favors capillarity and circulation of the ink along the ink channels.

On the other side, ink forms drops on plastic and its flow becomes more difficult. There are some ways to correct this issue: making the surface less smooth (“unpolishing” it) the surface of the channels increase and the ink smears a long them. Another strategy was to add some hygroscopic layer to the feed.

But the final conclusion might be that due to that problem –the ink not wetting the plastic feed—ebonite should be the obvious option. However, ebonite carries its own problems to the production line—it is more expensive than plastic and needs to be cut. Ebonite oxidizes in the wrong environment, and its purity (or the presence of impurities in it) plays an important role in the final quality of the manufactured good. The final result is that it is not unusual to see deformed, bended or cracked pieces of ebonite, in feed or in other pen parts.


Ebonite feed from a Platinum pen from around 1935.


Section, nib and feed of a Super T Gester from ca 1960. This feed, made of ebonite, was bended and could not drive the ink to the nib efficiently.

Plastic, on the contrary, can be molded into the desired shape, and is very stable chemically. So, plastic is cheap, fast and reliable.


Two plastic feeds by Platinum from the late 1950s. The one on the left was misstreated, whereas the one of the right has never been used. Both preserve the original shape.

Well designed feed, on their side, do work well and are able to provide fairly big flows of ink. Case in point—the Nagahara’s two- and three-fold specialty nibs are attached to plastic (ABS) feeds. There are no complaints in the pen community about their reliability, and they show that a proper design does the job despite the limitations of the material.


Plastic feed of a cross-music nib by nibmeister Nagahara. But in fact, all feeds are the same for a given nib size in the Sailor catalog.

Some may argue that plastic feeds have not passed the test of time and that we cannot really asses whether they might degrade with time. And they go further into saying that we can also find perfectly preserved ebonite feed after many years of use or storage. But we also know –and that is the point here— that ebonite feeds are vulnerable.

After all these considerations personal preferences and romantic ideas come. And they are welcome, for writing with these tools is in itself romantic and anachronic.


Pilot Custom 74, music nibGary’s Red-Black

Bruno Taut
Nakano, August 15th, 2014
etiquetas: soluciones técnicas

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Casa Hassinger

There was a time when there existed a production of Waterman ink in Spain. And maybe even more than just ink…


A bottle of Waterman ink produced in Barcelona.

A man by the name of Egon Hassinger acquired the license to produce ink from the American company Waterman. And the production was made in Barcelona, as can be read on the bottle. But the activity of the company Casa Hassinger might have included the assembly of Waterman fountain pens for the European market. The company imprinted a small H on clips and nibs to mark those units passing through their hands in Barcelona. Some stylophiles in Spain even suggest that some parts could have been manufactured locally, including the nibs. These could have been manufactured by Damiá Onsés Ginesta, a prolific nibmeister who provided units for mostly any Spanish pen company at one point or another.


A Waterman clip with the Hassinger mark. Picture courtesy of waltonjones.


The Hassinger's Waterman. Picture courtesy of waltonjones.

Casa Hassinger was registered in Barcelona at the address C/ Balmes 75. Egon Hassinger lived in this city between 1915 and 1948, when he passed away. The company was liquidated in 1990.

The bottle of Waterman ink marketed by Hassinger can be seen at the Gaudi’s Casa Milà in Barcelona. This is but one example of local production of ink of some well known brand. The cases of Parker and Pelikan had already been mentioned on these Chronicles.

My thanks to stylophile waltonjones for his pictures of the Hassinger’s Waterman fountain pen.


Pilot Elite pocket pen, manifold nib – Platinum Black

Bruno Taut
Nakano, September 10th 2014
etiquetas: tinta, Waterman, España, Barcelona, nibmeister Onsés Ginesta

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Matching (XV)

Which one is the original and which one is the copy? Sometimes the answers are easy, but the context of those copies is always interesting.

Some people, including some Japanese, like to bash Japanese pens on the grounds of not creating original products and, instead, copying well known alleged masterpieces, even though these were not original in the first place.


A selection of balance pens by the big thre Japanese manfacturers. Among them, a couple piston fillers (::1:: and ::2::) and a plunger filler. The rest are cartridge/converter pens.


Some of the nibs of the previous pens. They include several music nibs, a couple of falcon, a fude, some Naginata, a two-fold nib...

Some truth there is in that claim—those Japanese-made balance pens exist because of the success and ubiquity of the Montblanc models. But it is also true that the big three Japanese companies have proved their capability to innovate and have created most original products. And this, in fact, does not make any more innocent of the accusation of plagiarism. Most likely the opposite—cannot these companies implement their nibs and filling systems in original designs? In fact, now and then, they do that


Sailor released this pen on the occasion of the 90th anniversary of the company. It sports a cross nib by nibmeister Nagahara.

(More on the matter soon).

My thanks to Mr. Noguchi.


Inoxcrom 77, steel nib – Platinum Black

Bruno Taut
Nakano, August 12th 2014
etiquetas: mercado, Japón, Montblanc, Pilot, Sailor, Platinum

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Jentle 2014

More unpaid and unintentional advertising.

Some weeks ago I spoke of the new release of eight not-so-new ink colors by Sailor. Not-so-new because those eight colors had already been marketed 2010 as seasonal inks in limited editions with big success.


Weeks later, news and rumors in the Net claimed that Sailor had reduced the selection of inks in its catalog. From now on, only three basic colors would be available—black, blue and blue-black—and that there would be some fancy colors at a premium. That would mean, at least, that the basic color line (peach, sky-high, ultramarine, grenade, epinard and apricot) was coming to an end after just three years in the market.


The ink selection in 2011. Taken from Sailor website in 2011.

Now, Sailor has just released a new catalog of fountain pens and accessories after years of the same boring and incomplete edition. The new catalog included, needless to say, the latest releases like the Sigma and the Promenade and the Precious Woods series. And on the page dedicated to consumables we can see that the transition in the ink department is completed. Now, besides the permanent black (kiwa-guro) and blue-black (sei-boku), Sailor makes eleven Jentle inks: the basic three plus the eight re-editions of the 2010 seasonal inks. And the price is the same for all the eleven Jentle inks—JPY 1000 plus tax. So, no variations on this department with respectto the previous colors.


Page of consumables in the new (Summer 2014) catalog of Sailor for fountain pens and high quality writing utensils. Click on the picture for better resolution (too often Blogger is not up to the challenge).

One final reflection—does Sailor have any consistent policy about its inks? The changes in its catalog of the last five years seem quite erratic, especially when compared to Pilot and Platinum. However, those changes could also be understood as an effort to call the attention of all of us. And that Sailor did get.


Super T Gester 40 – Sailor Yama-dori

Bruno Taut
Nakano, Augusr 15th 2014
etiquetas: tinta, mercado, Sailor
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