Crónicas Estilográficas

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

Saturday, January 10, 2015


Je suis Charlie.

I am Charlie. Soy Charlie. わたしはCharlieです。

Bruno Taut
Nakano, January 9th 2015
etiquetas: metabitácora

Monday, January 5, 2015

North Korea (I)

North Korea had already shown up on these Chronicles—at the Pilot’s Pen Station there was an inkwell by the name of GuangMyung made in Pyongyang. That, I said at that time, was only normal as pens and inks were basic writing tools for years. But that left an obvious question open: did North Korea ever made fountain pens?

The answer is yes—there existed a North Korean production of pens.

The first example are some clear copies of one of the most iconic pens of all times—the Parker 51. No surprise on this, as this model has been copied over and over, even today.

Two North Korean copies of the Parker 51.

The black model implements a gold nib. On the cap lip it says "CHULLIMA".

The inscription on the nib reads "천리마 (Chollima) / 12 K".

These North Korean pens are aerometric fillers. One of them implements a steel nib, while the other’s is made of 12 K gold. They seem to have been produced around 1960. They are branded as “Chullima”, albeit the sign on the gold nib –천리마— reads “Chollima”, referring to the mythological horse Chollima, that gave name to the Chollima Movement of economic development in North Korea in 1956.

The red unit is of worse quality.

The nib is not only made of steel, but also shows a poorer construction if compared to the gold unit we saw before. The aerometric system is engraved with a "Made in Korea" sign.

On another Chronicle I will describe other North Korean pens, this time a lot less obvious.

My thanks to Mr. Sunami.

Fit de Bayard 840 – Waterman Blue-black

Bruno Taut
Atami, January 2nd, 2015
labels: Corea del Norte, Parker, Chullima

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

On Maki-e Pens

I think we should face it—maki-e decorated pens are a class on their own, apart from any other. The reason lays on the fact that these pens attract the attention of people more interested on the decoration itself than on the pen. Consequently, details as the nib or the filling system or the quality as writing tool become almost --if not completely-- irrelevant. The pen, then, becomes a jewel with a nib, a cylindrical canvas for the maki-e artisan.

A small cup with maki-e decoration.

So, when the decoration is more important, the whole set of rules under which a stylophile analyzed a pen is turned upside down. Stylophiles greatly value the originality of all the components of the pen—nib and feed must correspond to that particular model, the clip could also have been replaced… And somehow the pen should be known to have existed (this might be tricky at times, but can be applied to the vast majority of pens).

But for the maki-e buff, all that is secondary. The quality of the decoration is paramount. Therefore, is there such a thing as a fake maki-e decorated pen? No, dare I say, as long as the maki-e is there (of course, there exist some maki-e-like decoration using some other less elaborated techniques that hold a lot less value, but they are not maki-e). In fact, this scenario favors the creation of one-of-a-kind pens based on almost any pre-existing model. There are, nowadays as in the past, maki-e artisans who decorated pens on demand, with no knowledge, of course, of the manufacturer.

Two unique maki-e decorated pens. In acual terms, they are Pilot Custom 67.

An obvious side effect of this phenomenon is the proliferation of organized customizations—Pelikan, Parker, Danitrio, Loiminchay… and, of course, the big three, Pilot-Namiki, Platinum-Nakaya, and Sailor. Indeed, this is an easy and safe way to add value to any given pen. As well as a convenient costume to pass as Japanese, which seems another way to add value.

A maki-e decorated Pelikan M1000.

Maybe we all –stylophiles and those fond of maki-e pens-- should remember that maki-e is an old decorative technique that long predates fountain pens. And narrow cylindrical shapes are rarely the most convenient canvas for any purpose.

A bowl for miso soup.

On my side, and this is just a personal option, I insist in thinking that a pen is a pen—and is a pen! And no decoration makes it any better, or any worse, as a pen. Some people, though, do not think like me.

Romillo Essential Black – Pilot Iroshizuku Kon-peki

Bruno Taut
Madrid, December 14th 2014
labels: mercado, Japón, estilofilia, maki-e

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

War Time

War-time German pens are well-known. That might be due to the current importance of some German brands and to their ability to create iconic models. On the contrary, Japanese pens from the same period are mostly unknown. Maybe rightly so, but they are not without interest.

The war period in Japan is a lot longer than in Europe and in America, and in fact dating its starting point is difficult and controversial. Regarding pens, on the years 1932 and 1938 –well before the beginning of the war in Europe— some restrictions were imposed on the production of consumer goods.

On 1932, the first restrictions on the use of gold were enacted. Gold nibs became rarer in the domestic market and pen companies manufactured gold nibs with lower-grade gold.

A 12 K gold nib by Pilot.

1938 meant the total embargo in the use of the noble metal and no gold nibs were manufactured until well after the end of the war. This is the golden era of the so-called “shiro nibs” (white nibs) made of stainless steel.

The following unit is an interesting example of a war-time pen in Japan. It is a Pilot with a size 2 nib made, of course, of stainless steel. The filling system is a lever filler. The pen is made of hard rubber.

The brand name is written on three different places—the clip, the nib, and the barrel. The later is partially hidden by the original sticker, where the price –JPY 3.48— is marked. The brand logo, though, is visible and shows the N (after Namiki) encircled by the lifebuoy, but the company name, as engraved, is “Pilot Pen Mfg. Co.”, thus certifying this pen had been manufactured after 1938.

The construction quality is not great, as could be expected in a product made during those hard times.

JPY 3.48 for this pen. Out of context, that does not mean much--was it expensive around 1940?

A steel nib --a "shiro" nib-- in size 2. The breathing hole points out at a certain flexibility.

These are its dimensions:
  • Length closed: 123 mm
  • Length open: 114 mm
  • Length posted: 156 mm
  • Diameter: 12 mm
  • Weight (dry): 12.7 g

That was a war time pen, just like some Pelikan 100—but a lot less known.

A war time Pelikan 100. Note the absence of any ring on the cap, and the steel nib. Photo courtesy of Foro de Estilográficas member Antolín.

My thanks to Mr. Sunami and to Foro de Estilográficas member Antolín.

Romillo Nervión – Pilot Blue

Bruno Taut
Madrid, December 2nd 2014
labels: Pilot, Pelikan, plumín

Saturday, November 29, 2014

The Pen Addict

Some weeks ago, Brad Dowdy of The Pen Addict contacted me to participate on his series “Three Questions with…” Needless to say, I was delighted and tried to reply as soon as possible despite my impending trip to Spain. And that shows on my poorly elaborated answers.

They were published on November 22nd. But you might also want to explore Dowdy’s immense blog full of interesting information.

Thanks, Brad!

Romillo Nervión Terracota – Pilot Blue

Bruno Taut
Madrid, November 26th 2014
etiquetas: metabitácora

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Madrid Pen Show 2014

The 11th edition of the Madrid Pen Show was celebrated on the weekend of November 14th to 16th, and I am bound to report on it. But that is no easy task, as mostly all that there is to say had already been written on these Chronicles.

Year after year, the pen show is the big celebration of stylophiles in Spain, and even more than that, as some foreign residents also attended the event. Therefore, this is a major social gathering for many of us, a meeting point for people you only know by name or by alias on a number of pen fora or through email. And then, face to face, a lot more information is actually exchanged.

The conversation often moves onto the dining table, where pens and paper are spread our easily.

Sarj Minhas is well known in Madrid.

The commercial aspect is obviously important, but a pen show is rarely the place to find unexpected bargains. Pen traders do know their job and what they are selling, and they are also aware of the typical customer at those events—we are there because we value pens, and we would pay a lot more that the average person on the street. In fact, we know we are quite foolish when we pay more than, say, EUR 10 for a writing tool. And that is a common mistake among newcomers to a pen show—“pens are not cheap”, they say. Of course not, albeit there might be exceptions buried in the myriad of pens on display.

The space in between tables was scarce at times. That seems to be solved for the 2015 edition, when over 500 sq. meters will be available.

Gary Lehrer, David Nishimura and Carlos Sánchez-Álamo. Among others, of course.

A visitor and a trader. Rick Propas and Jim Marshall. Photo courtesy of Foro de Estilográficas member Antolín.

A third leg in a pen show is the didactic one. Some events do this very well by organizing seminars and workshops. Madrid Pen Show fails at that, but by no means the learning aspect is absent. Both traders and visitors are often well versed on pens and they are willing to share their knowledge. That comes very easily, and it is indeed a pity not to take benefit of this well-informed crowd.

Jonathan Steinberg, Darek Sot, David Nishimura--all of them trading pens.

Luiz Leite and Rick Propas.

Pens, pens, pens...

Figure-wise, the Madrid Pen Show congregated about 1200 visitors and 67 traders over thee days. For the next edition (November 13 to 15, 2015) there will be a maximum of 72 traders on a larger lounge of over 500 square meters. The Madrid Pen Show is now the largest event of its kind in Europe.

Jim Marshall attending some customers. Photo courtesy of Antolín.

My thanks to Foro de Estilograficas member and friend Antolin.

Romillo Nervión Terracota – Pilot Blue

Bruno Taut
Madrid, November 25th 2014
etiquetas: Madrid, mercado, evento, estilofilia
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