Crónicas Estilográficas

Saturday, May 20, 2017

The Itoya Pen

Itoya is one of the reference stationers in Tokyo, and it has already shown up on these Chronicles. Most of the times, these appearances were due to changes on its shops, particularly at the headquarters in Ginza, the quintessential shopping district in the big city. But on occasion, Itoya also showed up because of its pens. For Itoya has marketed a number of pens under a number of brand names along it more than 100 years of history.

Romeo and Mighty were two popular brands for those pens, and Romeo, in fact, is still used nowadays. Some other pens were simply labeled as Itoya, or “The Itoya Pen”, as we are about to see. Finally, Itoya currently markets high end pens under the brand Taccia, and some inexpensive, Taiwan made, pens as Natsuki.


A selection of Taccia pens, by Itoya. These pens implement Sailor nibs.

The pen on display today is an Itoya pen made of celluloid. Instead of being cylindrical, its body and cap are octagonal. The filling mechanism is a sac operated by a lever. A similar pen, albeit made of black hard rubber (ebonite) and signed as Romeo, can be seen on the book Fountain Pens of Japan, by Lambrou and Sunami (ISBN: 978-0-9571230-0-2) on page 120.


The barrel is obviously engraved: "THE ITOYA PEN". No other brand name appears on the pen. Cap ring and clip are labeled with the gold content: "R14K", rolled gold, 14 K.


There is a patent number engraved on the lever: "PAT. 93914".

These are the dimensions of the celluloid version:

Length closed: 118 mm
Length open: 107 mm
Length posted: 154
Diameter (cap crown): 16 mm
Weight: 15.7 g (dry)


On the nib we can read "ITOYA / (logo) / -<3>- / 14 KT / GOLD".


The lever is also engraved with the Itoya logo.


Finally, the barrel end carries an mysterious number: "8550".

This pen sports a beautiful nib of size 3 made of 14 K gold. The pen was manufactured, probably, during the first half of the 1930s.

My thanks to Mr. Sugimoto.


Sailor Pro Gear – Sailor Black

Bruno Taut
Nakano, May 19th 2017
etiquetas: Itoya

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

On the Capless Clip

Pilot’s Capless, in all three or even more variations, are indeed successful models, well known by aficionados. Its design is often praised and deemed as functional, but its clip also remains as a point of contention for many. Is the clip really intrusive or the problem is in the user? Interestingly enough, though, there are very few examples of clipless versions along the more than 50 years of history of this model: the “seirei-nuri” version of the 1963 model (C-600MW), the never-marketed transparent version of the RW model (1965), and the Hermes Nautilus based on the current Fermo.




Three clipless Capless pens by Pilot, although the last one is marketed as a Hermes.

The first model of Capless, the C-600MW from 1963, sports a very short clip located on the lower side of the nose. It is just 16 mm long to allow for the middle finger to grab the pen on the classic tripod fashion. On the top side, two arrows show the position of the nib point.


The very short clip of the first model. Note how it is located on the lower side of the nib. The pen on the picture is the gold plated version of it, with catalog reference C-1000GW.


The arrows on the top side of the section-barrel pointing at the nib.

Today I am showing two prototypes of this first model. On one of them, beautifully made in stainless steel, there is a clip on the upper part of the barrel-section.


A prototype of the C-600MW made in stainless steel. Note the clip on the top side.

On the second prototype, made of aluminum, there is no clip. The overall look points out at the “seirei-nuri” limited version of the first Capless.


This prototype is made of aluminum. It has no clip.

There are some other small variations among all these pens, particularly on their noses and how they are cut with respect to the axis of the pen. The basic dimensions are approximately the same for all of them, save for the weight, where the manufacturing material really shows its presence.



The marketed model C-600MW, on top, and the two prototypes. Note the subtle differences on the curve on the nose.

The conclusion might be that it is not an easy task to design a clip for an “upside-down” pen like a capless, any capless. But few of us stylophiles and users would object to any of those prototypes.


My thanks to Mr. Shiomi and to Mr. NK.


Nakaya Cigar – Platinum Black

Bruno Taut
Nakano, May 10th 2017
etiquetas: Pilot, Capless

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Crisis of Growth?

Sailor has made a couple of shocking announcements in the last months. First was the suspension of the production of specialty nibs, including the basis for them all, the Naginata Togi nib. Then came the news of the discontinuation of the possibility of re-ordering original inks created with the invaluable help of Mr. Ishimaru, Sailor’s ink mixer. However, the creation of these personalized inks is still possible at the ink workshops regularly organized by Sailor throughout Japan.


My original ink, named Hiroko's Green.

Why would any company eliminate two of the elements that truly separated it from the rest? Why is Sailor giving up on his features of distinction in the market of fountain pens?

The issue with ink seems to be that many a user have been selling those original inks online at a premium cost, but I wonder if that should pose any problem for Sailor. More relevant could be that the ink production might have reached its limits with the popularization of some shop-original inks, particularly those by Nagasawa and by Bung-Box.


A Naginata Togi nib.


The Cross-Music nib.

That seems, in fact, to be the problem of the specialty nibs—the troubles of Mr. Nagahara to cope with the demand. Increasing the price of those nibs could ease the problem, but that is also an almost irreversible step.

Then, in summary, is Sailor suffering a growth crisis?


My thanks to Tinjapan.


Sailor Profit, Naginata Togi – Tomikei Blue

Bruno Taut
Nakano, April 18 2017
etiquetas: Sailor, tinta, plumín, mercado

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Friend and Foe

Now and then I need to rant. Or reflect aloud.

Members of the stylophile community like to brag about how wonderful we are, about how we are willing to share information and resources. And there is some truth to it. However, it does not take much thinking to realize that your friend in the community is also a potential competitor in the market. And then the attitude changes—information then becomes precious and treasured, and even rationed. Few people reveal where they found their exotic pens, almost nobody speak of prices paid… All these gestures are rarely disruptive—a smile can do wonders when refusing to reveal those secrets. But the competition is real and can reach the point of plain rudeness when spotting an interesting pen—the basic politeness of “you saw it first” is not always honored.


Then, are we friends or are we foes? And what is the value of all the information the community as a whole continuously publish online? Sheldon Cooper quoted (The Big Bang Theory 3.15 The Large Hadron Collision) economist Fred Hirsch to explain the concept of “neener-neener”—a pen is valued by some because it is not possessed by others, and therefore the need to display it. That exposure does not come without consequences, both positive and negative: that display can trigger some additional interest in the market and generate some inflation. It can also appreciate the displayed pen when reselling was the goal.

And at the end, the guy with the thicker wallet wins.


Sailor Profit, Naginata Togi – Tomikei Blue

Bruno Taut
Nakano, April 18 2017
etiquetas: metabitácora, mercado, estilofilia

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Kobe in USA

The Kobe-based stationery shop Nagasawa started selling its rage of inks—the Kobe inks—in Tokyo last February. The Tokyo partner for this operation is Itoya, and its headquarters in Ginza are the only place where these inks are sold in the big city.


Nagasawa in Kobe.

This marketing decision seems successful, and the pile of Kobe inks at Itoya does shrink down. The arrangement is stable, though, and the stock of inks should be replenished regularly.


Kobe inks at Itoya. They seem to go fast, but not being a limited offer, the shelves should be replenished regularly.

But the more interesting news are that Nagasawa intends to sell these Kobe inks in the US market in a near future. Not much more information is available now. In particular, not about what retail channel the Kobe shop will use for this move. However, it is only reasonable to think Itoya America could be in charge of the distributing these Kobe inks made, after all, by Sailor.


Pilot Prera – Gary's Red-Black (Wagner ink 2012)

Bruno Taut
Shinjuku, March 29th 2017
etiquetas: tinta, Nagasawa, Tokyo, Estados Unidos, Sailor, mercado

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Onoto Type by Sakai Eisuke

Ban-ei pens have shown up several times on these Chronicles and the basic data are is well known. But the devil is in the details: Sakai Eisuke and his team did not leave much information behind and any pen can be a source for more knowledge.


The following pen seems to have been made in the 1960s. It is an “Onoto-type” pen, so popular in Japan even nowadays. On the information sheet accompanying we can read that this is a pen inspired on the Onoto model of 1918, with a plunger filling system. Needless to say, the Japanese pen does not use any self-filling operation but the very dear Japanese eyedropper system (::1::, ::2::) derived from the old Onoto plunger.


On this picture, both threads of the ink deposit and of thr shut-off valve are half unscrewed.


This pen is designed to be posted, although the final length is quite long--180 mm.


Classical design of the section of an "Onoto-type" Japanese pen.

The information sheet also states that the pen is the work of just two people—Kabutogi Ginjiro, nib, and Sakai Eisuke, body. And the two other regular actors of the Ban-ei group, Tsuchida and Takahashi, are absent, which points out at the idea of this being a precursor of what later would become the Ban-ei/Tsuchida brand of pens. But, to what are we calling Ban-ei or Tsuchida pens?


The information sheet signed by Kabutogi Ginjiro (兜木銀次郎) and Sakai Eisuke (酒井栄助).

The nib, made of 14 K gold, is engraved with the name of one of the Kabutogi’s registered brands—Steady: “K14 / Steady / Special / Perfect / -<3>- / Pen”.


The Steady nib made by Kabutogi Ginjiro (JIS no. 3233, although there is no JIS mark on this nib).

These are the dimensions of this Onoto-style pen:

Length closed: 147 mm
Length open: 142 mm
Length posted: 180 mm
Diameter: 11.0 mm
Weight: 11.8 g (dry)
Ink deposit: 2.8 ml

This particular pen was commissioned by Seibu Department Stores in Tokyo.


The weak point in the Japanese eyedropper pens--the point where the rod operating the shut-off valve enters the ink deposit.

The weak point of this pen is the back seal between the valve rod and the ink deposit. This is the main source of problems in Japanese eyedropper pens.


Sailor Profit, Naginata Togi – Tomikei Blue.

Bruno Taut
Nakano, March 21st, 2017
etiquetas: Ban-ei, Kabutogi Ginjiro, Steady, Onoto

Monday, March 6, 2017

Kobe in Tokyo

On the previous text I spoke about a new arrival in the Tokyo pen scene. Hamamatsu’s shop Bung-Box has recently opened a branch in Tokyo. An obvious effect of this move the availability of a wide range on original inks in the big city.

The other big name in original inks —that is, inks made by Sailor for specific retailers— is Nagasawa, in the city of Kobe. Kobe inks, as Nagasawa calls them, were the first gamut to receive a wide attention from stylophiles both in Japan and overseas.


Kobe ink in Kobe. Picture by Randall Stevens. Used by permission.

The new move of Nagasawa is to market these inks in Tokyo as well. But this time in partnership with one of the main shops in Tokyo—Itoya.


Kobe ink in Tokyo.


That’s it—now Itoya sells a wide variety of Kobe inks at, at least, its flagship shop in Ginza. The price of this inks is the same as in Nagasawa shop—JPY 1800, plus tax, for 50 ml. And this is indeed remarkable—Kobe inks are JPY 200 cheaper (for a 50 ml inkwell) than any other original ink, of course Sailor made. But there is an exception—Bung-Box inks are a lot more expensive at JPY 3000.


Kobe inks in Itoya Ginza.

Are these moves by Nagasawa and Bung-Box mere timely coincidences?

My thanks to Randall Stevens.


Sailor Profit, Naginata nib – Nagasawa Bokkô

Bruno Taut
Chuo, March 3rd, 2017
etiquetas: Sailor, tinta, Tokyo, mercado, Nagasawa
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