Crónicas Estilográficas

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Matching (XVIII). Chuanren 3323

The Pilot Petit-1 is already well known on these Chronicles (::1::, ::2::, ::3::). Over three generations of this model, we have seen several modifications, but in essence it has remained the same: a cartridge-only pen, steel nib only available in F, colorful plastic bodies… The nib, might be worth to remember, is shared with that of the disposable Vpen, and therefore it is easy and cheap to have a Petit-1 with an M point. The feeds of both Petit-1 and Vpen carry a wick connecting nib and ink deposit. Some argue that this wick makes the trick for such reliable and ink-ready pens even after days or weeks of inactivity.

The third generation of Pilot's Petit-1 fountain pens.

All that for JPY 200 (USD 1.65 at the time of writing), plus taxes. The main drawback for this pen might be the limited distribution outside Japan.

Then we have a Chinese version—the Chuanren 3323 Student Pen, manufactured by Zhejiang Chuanren Pen Co. in Lishui (Zhejiang province in PR China).

Four decorations for one pen, the Chuanren 3323 Student Pen.

The similarities between the Chuanren and the Pilot are startling, as can be seen on the pictures. But there are also some differences. The Chinese pen is about 2 cm longer than the Japanese one. This extra length allows for the use of an ink converter.

From top to bottom, the Chuanren 3323, the 3rd generation, the 2nd generation, and the 1st generation of the Pilot Petit-1.

Chuanren 3323 and 2nd generation Pilot Petit-1, side by side.

The Chuanren 3323 Student Pen, disassembled.

The nib, as is the case with the Pilot Petit-1, slids off the feed. And the feed does not have any wick in the ink channel.

In fact, the Chuanren 3323 comes with converter and, in principle, there might be no need for a cartridge. However, the converter shows a number of flaws: great interaction with the ink, and limited pumping power. Short Parker cartridges are a clear alternative.

The nib, made of steel, is a smooth F point with a decent flow. The feed follows the traditional pattern—an ink channel without any wick, as opposed to the scheme of the Pilot Petit-1 feed.

Writing sample of the Chuanren 3323. Regular flow for a neutral --neither very dry or very wet-- nib. But the feed is really full of ink, as can be seen on the following picture.

The inked feed. The B engraved on the feed has nothing to do with the nib point. Probably, it refers to the feed and pen color.

And inked Chuanren. The ink stickes to the walls of the converter defying gravity.

The construction quality of the Chinese pen is mediocre and is significantly worse than that of the Petit-1. Cap and body of the Chuanren are never properly aligned when the pen is capped, for instance. Plus, the cap cracked after a couple of days of use, and the nib and feed can be extracted from the section all too easily.

This picture shows two of the issue of this Chinese pen: the cracked cap and the misaligned cap and barrel when the pen is closed.

These are the dimensions of the Chuanren 3323 and the Pilot Petit-1, 3rd generation:

.Chuanren 3323.

Pilot Petit-1
.3rd generation.

Length closed (mm) 127 108
Length open (mm) 113 94
Length posted (mm) 148 132
Barrel Diameter (mm) 13 14
Weight, dry (g) 9.5 9.6
The weights are dry with either an empty converter (Chuanren) or an empty cartridge (Pilot).

As the Pilot pen does, the Chuanren pens come in different colors, and the company often changes the overall looks through variations on the pen graphics.

The typical price of the Chuanren 3323 is around USD 1.75 (JPY 210 at the time of writing), which poses an interesting question: Is it worth to copy an inexpensive model? Sure enough, the Chinese pen offers some advantages over the Pilot Petit-1; but, is that enough economic profit of a two dollar pen knockoff? Can the Chuanren 3323 attract the buyers of the Petit-1?

My thanks to Mr. Sunami and to Mr. Mizukushi.

Chuanren 3323 Student Pen – Wagner 2008 ink (Sailor)

Bruno Taut
Nakano, February 2nd, 2016
etiquetas: Pilot, Chuanren, Parker, mercado

Friday, January 29, 2016

Gama (II). A Stick

On the previous text I presented the brand Gama, produced by the stationery shop Gem & Co. in Chennai. The models I showed were all eyedropper with steel nibs and very classical looks… save one I left for another Chronicle.

Some Gama pens. One sticks out...

The first look of this particular model is surprising—it looks like an ebonite blank ready to go to the lathe. It is almost perfectly cylindrical, and only under close inspection the line between cap and body can be seen. The ends are almost perfectly flat, and, contrary to the rest of the pen, they are polished. This feature is shared by other Gama models—the Raja and the Kuyil, for instance.

The stick. Note the band name engraved on the barrel end.

Inside, we find a gold plated nib engraved with the brand name. The feed (diameter of 5.0 mm) is made of ebonite. The pen is an eyedropper and the whole barrel works as ink deposit. On the outside, a subtle engraving informs us of the pen brand, but you really need to look for it.

The section is polished, as is the case of both ends of the pen.

The cap has no clip, keeping the clean lines of the pen unaltered. It cannot be posted in any way as the pen has a constant diameter all along. These are its dimensions:

Length closed: 152 mm
Length open: 141 mm
Diameter: 13 mm
Weight: 19.5 g (dry)
Ink deposit: ca 2.5 ml

The writing quality is more than acceptable on this particular unit. The line is quite wet although occasionally the flow becomes irregular, but without interruptions or blobs. It seems, though, that there is not much consistency on the quality of the nibs and some adjustment is often needed. The quality control is still precarious in many an Indian good.

The nib --gold plated steel-- and the feed --ebonite--. The nib inscription reads as follows: "(G logo) / GAMA / FIVE / YEAR POINT / (logo with an A)".

I do not know the model name, albeit takes a number of featured from the desk model Ezhuthani. The pen cost around EUR 16.

My thanks to Paco-san.

Gama in black ebonite – Montblanc White Forest

Bruno Taut
Shinjuku & Nakano, January 21-29th, 2016
etiquetas: India, Gama

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Gama (I)

The city of Madras, the old name of present day Chennai, has already shown up on these Chronicles as the home of the Indian manufacturing plant of Pilot. That center closed down in 1978, but that did not mean the end of pen production in the city.

The stationery shop Gem & Co. from Chennai produces its one line of pens under the brand name Gama. The company started business in the 1920s as importers of pens and pen parts from Great Britain, and around 1950, the brand Gama was launched.

Today, Gem & Co. makes mostly eyedropper pens in ebonite. Some other materials such acrylic and vegetable resin are also used. Occasionally, high-end models implement German nibs by JoWo, and can be inked with cartridges and converters.

It is indeed not clear how many different models there are currently on production. The basic reference as of today, seems to be the website if the stationery merchant Asa Pens. On it we can check some of the Gama models, but the selection is likely to be driven more by the current stock than by the actual catalog of the manufacturer. It is also possible that being Gem & Co. a small company, models and variations were subject to small productions and quick changes.

Four of the pen models by Gama. From the top, the first and the third are made of ebonite; second and fourth, of plant polymer. All of them are eyedropper pens.

The model named Forever, nonetheless, seems to be a stable pen within the catalog. This is an ebonite eyedropper pen, with a steel nib. It is a fairly large pen –146 mm long when closed— that holds about 2.5 ml of ink in its barrel.

The Gama Forever in blue and black ripple ebonite. Steel nib in size 6. Ebonite feed.

On the other end, we can find a very small pen: 69 mm long (closed) and less than 6 grams in weight. This is also an eyedropper made of ebonite.

The very small model of Gama pens. The total length is 69 mm. Again, an eyedropper made of ebonite.

Two other pens shown on the pictures of this text are eyedroppers, but they are made of some kind of plant polymer (vegetable resin, some call it) that has a very distinctive smell. These come with steel nibs of sizes 5 and 6.

A Gama pen made of plant polymer. Eyedropper, size 6 steel nib. This pen has an ink window that can be a source of ink leaks.

Finally, there is another pen, black in color, about which I will speak extensively on another text.

My thanks to Paco-san.

Gama, black ebonite – Montblanc White Forest

Bruno Taut
Shinjuku and Nakano, January 21-23, 2016
etiquetas: Gama, India

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Matching (XVII). Paidi Century

It might be time to revive this old series of Chronicles on originals and copies and inspirations and homage. In a sense, all I had to say on these issues had already been said, but some recent encounters show new and different models for the copies. Now, the originals seem to be Japanese, and this is interesting in itself.

The following pen is a Paidi “Century 1”. Paidi is just one of the brand names of the well known Shanghai Hero Pen Company.

Paidi "Century 1".

Under the rather colorful body, an interesting nib emerges—an integral steel nib in the fashion of the Pilot Murex/Myu and the Parker T1/Falcon.

The integrated nib.

The Paidi Century 1 (middle) together with other well known integrated nibs.

Can we speak of copies? This Chinese pen dates from the 1990s and therefore showed up in the market years later than the American and Japanese counterparts. At the same time, the variations in shapes and colors among all these pens are clear and hardly any confusion could exist in the eyes of the consumer. But is this enough to speak of different pens instead of plagiarism? The answer might depend on the side of the border you were in.

From the top, clockwise, Parker Falcon, Pilot Murex, Paidi Century 1.

From the top, clockwise, Parker Falcon, Pilot Murex, Paidi Century 1.

This is the model Century 1, and there are other variations—the Century 5, and the Century oversize with a screw on cap. The same nib was also implemented on some models marketed as Hero.

These are the dimensions of this pen:
Length closed: 135 mm
Length open: 113.5 mm
Length posted: 141 mm
Diameter: 10.0 mm
Weight: 19.5 g
Ink deposit: 1.0 ml

Pilot and Parker rely on cartridges and converters for these models. Only the Paidi is a self-filling pen.

This is a self-filling pen with an aerometric system.

My thanks to Mr. Mizukushi and Mr. Sunami.

Pilot Capless FCN-500R – Montblanc Racing Green

Bruno Taut
Shinjuku, January 19th, 2016
etiquetas: Hero, Parker, Pilot

Friday, January 8, 2016


Some housecleaning on recent posts:

-- I changed the out-of-focus pictures of the Chronicle “Combo”. Sometimes, life gives you a second chance and I could take more pics of that very special pen.

-- I have re-written the Chronicle formerly named “Polish Star”. Some of the details I included were not that clear and I felt the need to make some corrections. However, the main point of that text was the technical solution offered in that pen and not the particular origin of the brand.

Gama “The Wand" (my name) – Montblanc White Forest

Bruno Taut
Nakano, January 7th, 2016
etiquetas: Pilot, Astra. metabitácora

Monday, December 21, 2015

Astra Piston

(Note added on January 8th: This text has been amended on this date to correct some inaccuracies and eliminate some uncertain data.)

… or how to make a piston with little hassle.

… or the evolutionary ancestors of Conid’s Bulkfiller.

For many, the piston filler, so dear to German makers, is the filling system of choice, however, it does not come without disadvantages, the most clear being the large space needed to harbor the piston mechanism inside the barrel. All that space, needless to say, is dead space in terms of ink capacity. To minimize this problem several technical solutions have been suggested. The better known of which is the telescopic piston. A more modern strategy is that of Conid for its Bulkfiller model: a piston whose plunger rod is decoupled from the seal and is stored inside the ink deposit once the filling process had been completed.

Maker Astra tried a similar –but not equal— approach in the early 1940s: the plunger that moves the piston seal up and down in the barrel can be unscrewed from it and removed altogether from the pen. And, in fact, it MUST be removed once the pen was filled up and, therefore, the cork seal was at the top of the ink deposit.

The disadvantage of this system is clear: there is the need to keep the plunger rod stored while the pen is in use. Without it, filling the pen is not possible. But there are advantages too:

If compared to a standard piston, this system clearly takes a lot less space in the barrel and the ink deposit is a lot bigger.

The closing piece of the barrel has this particular shape to keep the piston seal from rotating and allowing the rod to be unscrewed.

If compared to the Bulkfiller by Conid, the metal rod is not in contact at all with the ink, and there is not need to create any seal between the rod and the seal itself. In the Bulkfiller, the rod literally moves across the piston seal, and there can be leaks through seal along the rod.

The engraving on the nib reads "DURFLEX / FPT / 4 / EXTRA".

As for the rest of the pen, the Astra is made of ebonite (section) and celluloid (barrel), and implements a steel nib. The dimensions of the pen are as follows:

Length closed: 124 mm
Length open: 116 mm
Length posted: 151 mm
Diameter: 12 mm (barrel)
Weight (dry): 15.5 g
Ink deposit: 2.5 ml.

No filling system is perfect, and this “detachable plunger” is no exception, but there are great advantages to it. The large ink capacity is indeed a powerful argument on its side.

It is not clear where this Astra pen was made. The inscription on the nib suggest an Italian origin. As an anonymous commentator pointed out, Durflex was the brand of the Pecco brothers, and FPT meant "Fratelli Pecco Torino". The owner of the pen bought it at a flea market in Warsaw, and a selling argument was that Polish soldiers used this pen during the Second World War and kept the detachable rod in their breast pocket. Probably an exaggerated claim... Any information on the origin of the brand Astra would be gladly appreciated.

Very special thanks to KDENA.

Inoxcrom Corinthian – Sailor Yama-dori

Bruno Taut
Madrid, December 19th, 2015. Nakano, January 8th, 2016.
etiquetas: Astra, Conid, soluciones técnicas

Monday, December 14, 2015

Kato 2000

Kato Kiyoshi, the thinking head behind Kato Seisakushô pens, died in January of 2010. This company was Kato’s last endeavor after a life of turning pens here and there, in Europe and in the Middle East. His legacy passed onto Mr. Onishi, a former worker in Kato Seisakushô company.

Kato Seisakushô's model 2000.

Onishi and Kato share a taste for anonymity and for celluloid. The lack of external markings and the irregular distributions of these pens –both Onishi’s and Kato’s— poses a number of problems on the side of the buyer. And that is what happened to me when I saw the pen I am presenting today: How many Kato’s pens remain unsold? How do we distinguish them from those made by Onishi? Is there, in fact, any real difference between them?

Today’s pen –I was assured by knowledgeable sources— belongs to the last series produced by Kato Kiyoshi and, therefore, dates back from 2009. In fact, the size and the shape match the records of the model 2000 of Kato’s pens.

This model 2000 is a cartridge-converter pen, and it implements a 14 k gold nib. As in the case of the model 800F, already described on these Chronicles, the nib inscription is very non-descriptive: “SUPERIOR / 14 K / LIFETIME / GRATIFY / JAPAN”. However, the size and dimensions of this nib are the same as those of the big size nibs made by Sailor, which is not surprising by now. But contrary to the usual Sailor policy, these nibs implemented by Mr. Kato are not engraved with any dating code.

Nibs and feeds of the Kato's model 2000 (left) and of a big size Sailor nib (right).

Two Kato Seisakushô's models: 800F and 2000. Note the differences in the nib size.

The celluloid of this pen deserves some additional note. Traditional celluloid was a family of compounds of cellulose nitrate and camphor (plus dyes and some other agents). Modern celluloids were developed later and substituted the former in some applications, film stock to name just one, due to the instability and flammability of the old compound. However, some high end pens, particularly by Italian makers, still use some variations of the classical formulation. And this seems to be the case of this Kato Seisakushô’s pen: it has a very distinctive camphor smell, very noticeable inside the cap and inside the barrel.

These are the dimensions of this pen:

Length closed: 144 mm
Length open: 125 mm
Length posted: 163 mm
Diameter: 15 mm
Weight: 23.0 g (with converter, dry)

Both Mr. Kato and Mr Onishi can be seen on the following video in the series “Masters of the Fountain Pen” published by VirtuThe3rdTV on YouTube:

My thanks to Mr. Sunami.

Parker 51 demi, vacumatic – Private Reserve DC Supershow Blue

Bruno Taut
Madrid, December 13rd, 2015
etiquetas: Kato Seisakushô, Onishi Seisakushô, Sailor
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