Crónicas Estilográficas

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Early Pilot Nibs. VI. Size 4

As the nib size increases, the pens become more rare and more expensive. For size 4 nibs I have found two examples: two post-war 53RT units. However, their nibs are significantly different:

Manufacturing date .Non dated. .Sep 1954.
Length (mm) 26.7 25.9
Width (mm) 5.3 5.5
Feed diameter (mm) 5.3 5.5
Weight (g) 0.3 0.5
Material Steel 14 K Au
Basic data of two Pilot nibs of size 4.

Steel nib. Undated. The engraving reads "BESTQUALITY / PILOT / -(4)- / MADE IN / JAPAN".

Size 4 gold nib dated on September of 1954. However, it is not marked with the JIS stamp. The engraving: "MANIFOLD / WARRANTED / "PILOT" / 14 K / -<4>- / MADE IN / JAPAN".

Manifold vs. unlabeled point; gold vs. steel; dated vs. undated… Even their sizes are different despite they were probably not that apart in their manufacturing date.

The undated Pilot 53RT with steel nib.

The 53RT with the manifold nib made of 14 K gold.

Platinum pocket pen, steel striated body – Platinum Black

Bruno Taut
Nakano, September 18th, 2015
etiquetas: Pilot, plumín

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Early Pilot Nibs. V. Size 3

Size 3 units, as seen on size 2 nibs, have different dimensions depending on whether they were made before or after the Second World War. But there might be some other reasons as well.

First, two steel nibs about 10 years apart:

Non dated steel (shiro) nib. Probably from the very late 1930s or early 1940s. The engraving reads "BEST / INTHEWORLD / PILOT / -(3)-".

Steel nib made in 1950. The engraving now includes a reference to the place of production: "STANDARD / PILOT / -(3)- / MADE IN / JAPAN".

Manufacturing date Undated
.(Ca. 1940).
.April 1950.
Length (mm) 28.5 28.0
Width (mm) 6.8 7.3
Feed diameter (mm) 5.5 5.4
Weight (g) 0.4-0.5 0.2-0.3
Material Steel Steel

Pilot RT from ca. 1940. The original price was JPY 4.55.

The second nib correspond to this Pilot that implements the A-shiki filling system. This pen also preserves the original price: JPY 150.

The first nib is not dated, but the pen is clearly an R model from the late 1930s. It still carries the sticker—its price, JPY 4.55. The second pen is an R model, with an A-shiki filling system. It still preserves the original price sticker: JPY 150. Ten years, a war in between, and a price difference of a factor of over 300.

The following pen is more clearly a post-war unit. It is a 53R model whose nib was made in January of 1953. The embargo over the use of gold had been levied in 1952.

Post-war (January of 1953) size 3 nib made of 14 K gold. Note the thinner diameter of the feed in the area usually under the section. The engraving, "WARRANTED/ "PILOT" / 14 K / -<3>- / MADE IN / JAPAN".

Manufacturing date .Jan 1953.
Length (mm) 24.4
Width (mm) 6.0
Feed diameter (mm) 5.3
Weight (g) 0.3
Material 14 K Au

The feed of this pen also shows a thinner diameter in the area attached to the section, as was the case of nibs of sizes 2 and smaller.

The last example of size 3 nib belongs to a pen exhibited at the Pen Station, the pen museum of Pilot in Tokyo. It corresponds to a maki-e pen from 1926. May it serve to illustrate the differences on the engraving. Needless to say, I cannot measure the actual dimensions of this nib.

Pilot nib from a maki-e pen from January of 1926, exhibited at the Pen Station, the Pilot museum in Tokyo. The engraving, much simpler, reads "WARRANTED / 14 K / "PILOT" / 3".

Pilot Justus 1989 – Pilot Blue

Bruno Taut
Nakano, September 18th, 2015
etiquetas: Pilot, plumín

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Mr. Iwase's Creations

Mr. Iwase is a pen aficionado who likes to decorate his pens with sea shells; that is, with raden. At the last meeting of the Wagner group in Tokyo he brought a couple of superb examples of his hobby.

The raden decorated pens based upon Momose's creations. The filling system follows the Japanese eyedropper scheme (shut-off valve manned from the tail).

The bases, in this case, are two ebonite pens made by Mr. Momose (lathe work) and Mr. Kubo (nib)—in fact a winning combination desired by many a stilophile in Japan. And then, the decoration. It is particular brilliant—note how the different stripes of raden preserve the colorful pattern of the shell.

The superb work of Mr Iwase is clearly visible on this pic. Note how the decoration preserves the color pattern of the original shell.

The nib by nibmeister Kubo Kohei. The engraving reads "Kubo / MIKADO / K18 750 / MADE IN JAPAN". The section is decorated with urushi resin, therefore the reddish color.

These are the dimensions of the flat end pen:

Length closed: 165 mm
Length open: 150 mm
Diameter: 27 mm
Weight: 67.5 g (dry)

These works by Mr. Iwase are unique pens—one of a kind. They do not appear in any catalog or book. These lines might, in fact, be one of the few records ever made public about them. And their relevance in the history of Japanese pens is merely anecdotal. But those pens are real, and their maki-e, outstanding.

The cap top is decorated with three circles meaning, according to the author, the three persons involved on the pen: Iwase, Kubo and Momose.

It is hard not to compare Mr. Iwase’s pen to that made by Zôhiko also with raden decoration. The later, let us remember, shared a similar base pen valued in JPY 1200000. But this pen lacked a real nibmester’s nib, and some seriously doubt it performed as a pen. Iwase’s creation is more interesting—better decoration, better nib.

My thanks to Mr. and Ms. Iwase.

Pilot Custom 823 – Montblanc White Forest.

Bruno Taut
Nakano, September 11th, 2015
etiquetas: maki-e, Zôhiko, Momose Yasuaki, nibmeister Kubo Kohei

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Of Nibs and Models. Pilot

Pilot has a strange policy for the model names of its pens. Strange and even confusing.

Pilot relies heavily on the numeric catalog references while customers deal mostly with model names. But these change from market to market, and what is a pen model in some of them becomes a specific type of nib of another, very different, pen.

Thus, the term “falcon” names both a model –named Elabo in Japan— and a particular nib of sizes 10 and 15 present in Custom models. To make matters worse, both the Falcon/Elabo and the falcon nibs (for Custom models) display some degree of flexibility. On the following picture we can see how those different nibs behave.

Writing samples of the Pilot Elabo/Falcon pens and of the size 10 nibs with soft and falcon points. Size 10 nibs are implemented on the models Custom 742 and Custom Heritage 912.

On the writing sample, the top four lines belong to the four different points of the Pilot Elabo/Falcon. The last four lines correspond to several size 10 nibs of the Pilot Custom 742 pen.

On top, the nib of the Elabo/Falcon pens. The pens are the plastic (in red) and metal (in blue) versions of the pen. Pictures taken from the Pilot website.

I have included the three soft nibs (SF, SFM, and SM) to offer a comparison with the performance of the Elabo/Falcon pen. They are on par.

Falcon nibs in sizes 15 and 10. They belong to a Custom 743, size 15, and to a Custom 742, size 10.

The Pilot Custom 742 that implements size 10 nibs, including the falcon nib (size 10) of the previous picture.

The nib that truly stands out in terms of flexibility is the falcon of cut shoulders. The past problems of ink starvation seem to have been mostly solved.

The Pilot Elabo pen used in these samples were the metal models—more expensive and slightly longer than those made of plastic.

Twsbi Diamond 530 with Kubo Kohei music nib – Nagasawa Bokkô

Bruno Taut
Nakano, September 9th, 2015
etiquetas: Pilot, plumín

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
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