Crónicas Estilográficas

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Nakahara-shiki (中原式)

I finished the previous Chronicle with the picture of an interesting but mostly unknown pen—a Surat. Now, given the reactions that picture triggered it seems that further information is in order.


I discovered this pen through a fellow stylophile from Kansai (Osaka region). Mr. Mochizuki had found a big number of them at some flea market. And, even better, many of them were complete with box and papers—like the one I am now presenting.



On the manual, the pen is described as featuring an original filling system names as Nakahara-system (中原式, Nakahara-shiki). However, upon opening the pen we only see a bulb filler –a rigid cylinder closed with a rubber sac. Nothing new as bulb fillers were one of the earliest self-filling systems and can easily be found in American, European and Japanese pens.


Basic parts of the Surat. In the middle, the "magic center", or breathing tube. Note the conic piece on the left end. It works as a valve against the section of the pen.

The Surat, though, does present an original detail. Inside the ink deposit, the breathing tube is not attached to the feed. On the contrary, this breathing tube –named “magic center” by the manufacturer— can move back and forth inside the deposit. The conic piece on the front part works like a valve to avoid emptying the deposit when depressing the rubber bulb. In this regard, this system reminds of two Pilot’s creations: the pulsated piston A-shiki, and the current CON-70 converter. The system works efficiently and the deposit is filled up in about 10 strokes of the bulb. This means that the ink enters the deposit through the “magic center” despite not being attached to the feed.

On its side, the manufacturer also claimed that this “magic center” balanced the internal pressure and prevented ink leaks. Whether this is real or just hype is at anybody’s guess.


The blind cap displays, on this picture, the black button that touches the rubber bulb enough to release a drop of ink out of the feed. A clear mistake in the design.

The Surat also displays an unsettling detail—the blind cap protecting the bulb has some sort of push button at the end. Its movement is not wide enough to depress the rubber bulb in any efficient way and, therefore, it cannot be used to ink the pen. But it does touch the bulb enough to release a small drop of ink through the feed. The manual simply mentions the existence of this button and does not comment on its actual function. This problem is just a flaw in the design, but does not affect the writing performance of the pen.

Finally, the deposit can be unscrewed from the section and the pen could also be filled with an eyedropper or a syringe.

These are the dimensions of the pen:
  • Length closed: 129 mm
  • Length open: 115 mm
  • Length posted: 151 mm
  • Diameter: 12.5 mm
  • Weight (dry): 12.1 g
  • Ink deposit: 2.2 ml

All in all, this pen seems another experiment in filling systems carried out in Japan in the last 100 plus years.


The nib is an extra-fine point with a hint of flexibility. It is made of stainless steel and carries the following inscription: “WARRANTED / HARDEST / IRIDIUM / STAINLESS / SPECIAL / PEN”.

The pen is also signed on the barrel (“SURAT / TRADE MARK / PATENTED 6564”). The instruction sheet speaks of Tokyo Suishindô as the manufacturing company. No address is provided.


And nothing else we know so far. This is just another pen that would rarely make its way in any book on pens despite its interesting features. But a detailed description of the technical evolution in pens would allow for some way of dating it. My best guess is that this Surat was manufactured around 1950.


My thanks to Mr. Mochizuki and to Poplicola-san.


Universal, music nib – Pelikan 4001 Brilliant Brown

Bruno Taut
Nakano & Shinjuku, July 2014
etiquetas: Surat, soluciones técnicas

Friday, July 18, 2014

Context

I have insisted a number of times on these Chronicles on the need to generate reliable information about fountain pens. The history of these tools is only half written. Some brands, needless to say, are well known and documented. A few of them, Pelikan, for instance, produce their own books and documenting material. In other cases, pen enthusiasts have written a number of monographies on a particular model or brand. The case of Alfonso Mur and his “The Conklin Legacy” is a remarkable example.


Alfonso Mur's book. Available in fine book stores everywhere... Or maybe not--it is about pens.

But more is needed. The history of pens in a number of countries has not yet been written. Too often, and there are many examples, the approach to these pens is brand-by-brand. However, a historical perspective is more comprehensive and useful. And the reason is clear—a careful description of the technological developments, aesthetic trends, and sociological environment provides the frameset in which to fit, even if approximately, any rarity.


An unknown and yet interesting Surat pen. Made of celluloid, steel nib, bulb filler--and more.

That, of course, is not incompatible with the addition of an appendix on relevant brands and models, even though that implied some failure in the general text. We should never forget, and this is why the historical overview is fundamental, that the number of pen brands tends to infinite, and for every well-documented pen there are tens (if not hundreds) of them basically unknown.

My thanks to Mr. Paul Bloch.


Super T Gester 40 – Sailor Yama-dori

Bruno Taut
Nakano, July 16th 2014
etiquetas: Pelikan, Conklin, libro, Surat

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Music Evolution

The current Pilot model Custom in the all-too-well-known balance shape, so dear to Montblanc, has its starting point in modern times in 1983. In that year, to celebrate its 65th anniversary, the Custom 65 was released as a limited edition, This pen was designed, Masa Sunami says, following the style of some Pilot models from the 1930s, although some might insist in the German-copy theory.


Pilot Custom 65, released in 1983. 6500 units were marketed.

Two years after those 6500 units, in 1985, Pilot launched the non-limited Custom 67. This newer model preserved the shape and dimensions of the previous model while simplified the cap ring. The nibs of these two pens were identical and, in actual terms, they are number 5 nibs (Pilot numbering) albeit without that label. Size 5 nibs, let us remember, are those of the current models Custom 74 and Custom Heritage 92, plus that of some low-end maki-e models branded as Pilot and as Namiki.


Pilot Custom 67, from 1985. Of course, a cartridge-converter pen.


Custom 74 (top) and Custom 67 (bottom), side by side.

Both Custom 67 and 74 implemented three-tined music nibs. They are apparently identical, but a careful inspection of their points reveals a clear change. On the older nib, made in 1989, the tipping material is smoothly integrated in the nib, and creates no apparent ball at the end. In this regard, this nib unit is closer to that of the Custom Grandee (1978). The nib of the newer Custom 74, on the contrary, displays an wide plateau that sticks out of the nib on the writing area.



The music nib of the Custom 67.

Feeds are also different: the newer unit implements and internal channel for ink and air that does not exist in older feeds by Pilot.


On the left, music nib of the Custom 74. On the bottom, that of the Custom Grandee. On the right, the Custom 67.

Therefore, the apparent similarities should not confuse us. There is always room for changes and innovations. In this particular case, the looks of the tip and the writing feeling on the hand are much closer to those of the Custom Grandee released in 1978, with which the nib has no resemblance.

My thanks to Mr. Noguchi.


Universal, music nib – Pelikan 4001 Brilliant Brown

Bruno Taut
Nakano, July 13th 2014
etiquetas: Pilot, plumín, plumín musical

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Last Piston by Platinum

If some time ago I spoke about the first piston filler made by Sailor, the original Sailor Realo, it might also be worth to speak about the last piston filler made by Platinum.

This pen was released by Platinum in 1989 to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the company. Several models –or rather several costumes— were made in different materials —celluloid, ebonite, wood— and colors. The example here shown is a jade green celluloid. The filling system is, as I already mentioned, is an integrated piston operated from the tail.


Platinum 70th Anniversary in jade green.

The nib is made of 14 K gold and resembles the unit currently implemented on the President model, albeit the latter is made of 18 K gold. The feed in this commemorative pen, as can be seen on the picture, is made of hard rubber.



The nib is made of 14 K gold. The inscription reads "14 K - 585 / PLATINUM / 70 / S*N logo / SM". This is a soft medium (SM) nib.

These are the dimensions of the pen:
  • Length closed: 142 mm
  • Length open: 125 mm
  • Length posted: 159 mm
  • Diameter: 14 mm
  • Weight (dry): 21.1 g


The beautiful ebonite feed.

On these Chronicles I have already described another piston filler nominally by Platinum. That was the Platinum Regent—a student pen with steel nib. But this was manufactured by Senator in Germany. Therefore, in actual terms, the 70th Anniversary Platinum remains as the last self-filling pen made by this company. It is also one of the very few examples of such in the Platinum catalog since 1956, when the company adopted the cartridge as its system of choice, save for those Platinum pens marketed overseas by other companies (see labels Hifra, Joker and Presidente).


The piston is operated from the tail. On the barrel it can be read the following inscription: "TRADE MARK / PLATINUM (S*N logo) SINCE 1919 / TOKYO JAPAN".


The booklet includes this blueprint. Despite how it might look, the piston is operated from the tail and there is no blind cap to access the handle.

Platinum has been remarkably loyal to the idea of cartridges, and that despite the current trend of recreating arcane filling systems. Let us remember how the other big two pen companies in Japan have marketed several piston fillers (Pilot Custom Heritage 92, Sailor Realo) and a plunger filler (Pilot Custom 823). But not so Platinum, or its sister company Nakaya. And this Platinum piston filler of 1990 becomes a rare, sought after and expensive relic.

My thanks to Mr. Furuya.


Sailor pocket pen, 18 K, Yamada Seisakusho – Pilot Blue-Black

Bruno Taut
Nakano, July 8th 2014
etiquetas: Platinum, Japón, soluciones técnicas, Pilot, Sailor

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Capless Speciation

Up to the Capless model of 1971, the decision of whether two Capless pens were different models or just variations on one single model was relatively easy: each Capless model had its own type of nib unit. And even though there existed variations, most types of nib units –check, for instance, all the variations in models from 1964, nib type II, and 1965, type III--, all of them were compatible and interchangeable (albeit with some occasional problems, as was pointed out on these Chronicles).


Capless nib units from several models--the key to separate models from variations?

This characteristic changed with the 1973 model (CN-400BS). From 1973 on, all nib units are compatible. One could, in fact, use 1973-nib units on current (model of 1998) Capless models including those called Fermo (2006) and Décimo (2005). And the other way around—current nib units could be implemented on old Capless from 1973.


Model of 1998 on top, and of 1973 on bottom. Their nibs are not identical, but can be use in any of the empty boxes.

This new feature has several effects. The most obvious is the convenience of use—the user has now a large number of pen bodies in which to install that nib unit of choice, that favorite writer.

But traders can also take benefit of this to create perfect-looking but anachronic combinations, like a 1981 model (FCN-500R) with a nib manufactured, say, in 2010. This, we know, might be all right for many users and totally unacceptable for many a collector.


From top to bottom, Fermo (2006), Décimo (2005) and Capless (1998).

Finally, this compatibility among these nib units (the type VIII) makes it more difficult to decide whether that new Capless is a new species or just a cosmetic variation of a known model. Case in point: are the current Capless , the Décimo, and the Fermo different models or mere variations on the modern concept of capless pens according to Pilot? This is a sterile discussion, of course; one with no end or conclusion. Both answers have their merits, but for the taxonomical purpose, some decision must be adopted.


Décimo (on the front) versus the faceted model from 1981 (on the back). Different models or just variations?

My decision is to consider the variations in shape and structure in Capless pens after 1973 as different models. And my final argument is purely utilitarian: the description of each model will be easier.

Back to the "Pilot Capless - 50 years" page.


Sailor Pro Gear Senior – Daiso Black

Bruno Taut
Shinjuku, April 16th 2014
etiquetas: Pilot, Capless

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Nibs and Pens

“Chase the nib, not the pen”, the wise pen user says. And the reason is clear—the nib provides most of the writing character of the pen.

But in the pen world we often see how the same nib is implemented in many different models. But, are they so different? Aren’t they the same pen under different costumes?

Last week I spoke of the Pilot Elite family of pens –as shown at an exhibition—and published a picture of pocket Elite pens with inlaid nibs. Today I add another picture of similar nibs as implemented on other pens by the name of Custom.


Three Pilot Custom from 1970s.


The nibs of the Custom pens of the previous picture together with those of some Elite. Any differences?

Same nib, different body styles—different pens?

This is a general policy among pen makers, as we have already seen on these Chronicles (see, for instance, the case of Nakaya/Platinum). Then, is it worth to go for those pens with a higher, even much higher, price tags when the nibs are exactly the same?

The otaku and the user would respond in different ways.


Pilot Custom 74, music nib – Gary’s Red-black

Bruno Taut
Nakano, April 22nd, 2014
etiquetas: Pilot, estilofilia, mercado

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Pens at an Exhibition

I have already mentioned the news, already old by now, of the release of the Pilot Elite 95S, a pocket pen, to celebrate the 95th anniversary of the company. And I also published my reflections on these policies to increase sales: against the Elite 95S, the original Elite from the 1970s…


Of course, Pilot might not be happy with that idea, but this company seems indeed aware of the interest –and of the market—of second hand and vintage pens. Its museum, the Pen Station, is a clear example. And now, during these days, and up to May 31st (2014, of course), there is an exhibition on the Pilot Elite model at the Pen Station.



Assorted Elite pens including the modern reissue from 2013.

Information adds value, and this exhibition might do that not only to those pens from the 1960s and 1970s, but also to the current reissue. And this might be the main argument behind this nice operation of public relations.


Exotic nibs in the Elite gamut of pens (ca. 1970). The exhibition includes some memorabilia.

Sometimes modern marketing has some interesting side effects.


Pilot Jumbo pen (size 50) – Pilot Blue

Bruno Taut
Nakano, April 14th, 2014
etiquetas: Pilot, Tokyo
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