18 June 2018

Pilot 65

The Pilot 65 –or Custom 65 as some called it—is a model I have mentioned a lot on these pages, but I have never described it in detail. Given its relevance to understand modern Pilot pens it is about time to review it.

The 65 was the first (::1::, ::2::, ::3::) of those anniversary pens that later became a regular model, albeit with some minor differences.


The Pilot 65. Standard Pilot ball clip with "PiLOT" engraved on it.

So, in the year 65 of the Pilot era, 1983, Pilot launched a limited edition of 6500 pens –6460 in black, 20 in red and 20 in blue— in the well-known balance shape that many insist in associating to Montblanc. Pilot’s argument is that it follows the style of some Pilot models produced in the 1920s and 1930s, which is undeniably true.


On the cap band, the number 65 and the unit number. This was a limited edition of 6500 units.

The Pilot 65 is made of plastic with a barleycorn finish, with a wide golden cap band with an intricate decoration. The nib is made of 14 K gold and its size is not marked—this was the first of the future Custom models with a whole new set of nibs. But in actual terms, the 65’s nib corresponded to a current size 10.


The 14 K gold nib. The inscription: "PILOT / 14K-585 / / (JIS):, plus the manufacturing date.

What is more interesting on this pen is the filling system—a captive CON-70 converter. Captive, I say, because it is built in the gripping section of the pen. This is, in fact, the first version of what later would become the CON-70 converter.


The captive CON-70 before this converter existed as such.

These are the dimensions of the Pilot 65 together with those of the Custom 67 and Custom 74, the natural evolutions of this anniversary pen:

Pilot 65 Custom 67 Custom 74
Length closed (mm) 140 142 143
Length open (mm) 126 125 126
Lenth posted (mm) 159 160 159
Diameter (mm) 13.5 14.0 14.6
Weight (g) 17.9 18.3 22.5

The Pilot 65, with its 6500 units, is now a well-sought after collectible pen. And that seems to be the fate of anniversary pens.


My thanks to Mr. NK.


Parker 50 – Sailor Tomikei Blue

Bruno Taut
Nakano, May 15th 2018
labels: Pilot, soluciones técnicas, conversor

11 June 2018

Trends 2018

Following the news and the movements in the market of fountain pens I can identify the following trends:

1. The Chinese invasion.

Chinese pens are no longer low quality pens. The proliferation of Chinese copies of the popular Lamy Safari (::1::, ::2::) some years ago was a very interesting sign—Chinese makers were able to compete in quality and in price with Western –and Japanese—entry-level pens.


Later on, those same Chinese companies have created other interesting models with higher price, thus creating an actual competition to many mid-range models.


Chinese pens are no longer cheap. The well made Hero H718. Photo courtesy of Foro de estilográficas member Antolín.

The expansion and reach of all these Chinese pens is severely limited by the lack of distribution networks, which –worth to notice—would increase the actual cost of tehis pens. But, is it worth for, say, Sailor to produce the Sailor Procolor (a cartridge-converter, steel nib, plastic body, JPY 5000) when Penbbs is selling a decent copy for less than JPY 2000?

Pilot, Lamy, Pelikan, Sailor, Platinum… might need to analyze seriously their new positions the market.


A Penbbs 308 (in red) and a Sailor Procolor. Similar pens with similar construction quality. Photo courtesy of Pedro Haddock, author of the blog El pajarete orquidiado.


2. The luxury end.

Western and Japanese companies preserve their position in the high end of the market. however, these luxury pens rely more on the decoration and exotic materials than on the intrinsic quality of the pen as a pen.

This trend, consequently, opens the market to small manufacturers with limited production. Needless to say, this is not new as we all know operations like Edison, Namisu, Eboya, Conid… My contention, though, is that this trend will continue and we might see new small brands not bound by the necessity to mass produce in order to be profitable.


A luxury pen made by a small company: a Hakase made of buffalo horn. My thanks to Inquisitive Quill.


3. Small selection of nib points.

Nibs are becoming boring and predictable. Pens might look different and exciting, but under the cap we mostly find the same type of nib: rigid and with the very trite trio of F, N, and B points. And any variation on this is bound to result in additional costs.

The exception to this simplification are the big three Japanese makers, who offer a might wider selection (see, for instance, Pilot).


4. The ink inflation.

Ink maker have realized that people buy colors —many colors— instead of volume. On these Chronicles I have seen the cases of Sailor and Platinum, but this situation also affects to Caran d’Ache and Montblanc, at least.

Again, this is good news for small companies because these higher prices allow create some room for higher production costs. Now, is there a limit to this inflation of makers, colors and price?


Sailor's Ink Studio inks: inflation in colors and inflation in price. Is there a limit on this trend?


These are my reflections. And I could be very wrong.


Kubo, Momose and Iwase – Sailor Blue Iron

Bruno Taut
Shinjuku, June 6th, 2018
labels: tinta, mercado

30 May 2018

Carving

The title of this Chronicle could be a trite “yet another filling system”, for we have seen how fertile Japan has been on this field. But few truly innovative systems have survived that one model that oh-so-briefly put the system in the market. After all, cartridges and converters are truly handy and user friendly. Consequently, most of those systems are mere anecdotes. At times, though, anecdotes offer some interesting information.


The Carving pen. On the barrel there is an engraving: "CARVING / MADE IN TOKYO".
Dimensions of the pen: length closed: 138 mm; length open: 124 mm; length posted: 154 mm; diameter: 10 mm; weight: 12.6 g.

Nothing do I know about the brand “Carving”. However, the shape of this particular model, and the geometry of the nib point out at the 1960s as the production time.


A gold plated stainless steel nib. The engraving is simple: "CARVING / JIS ". The geometry is similar to some nibs made by Pilot and Sailor during the 1950s and 1960s.


Inside, something that looks like a cartridge. The inscription reads "カービンオーツマン61 / 吸入もできるスペアー" (Carving ôtsuman 61 / inhalation spare).

Its filling system also suggests an intermediate time between the 1950s and 1980s—it is an interesting middle point between two known systems. The first of them is the pulsated piston Pilot named as A-shiki (system A) in the late 1940s. The second, obviously by now, is the CON-70 converter, also by Pilot, currently on production.

On the first system –A-shiki–, the whole pumping action is driven from the tail, and a sliding sheath in the internal rod acts as stopper preventing the ink from going out on the downward movement of the system.


The system A on a Pilot from late 1940s.

The CON-70 acts in a similar fashion. Now the sealing valve is a rubber part that moves quite freely along the metallic rod in the central axis of the converter. And the basic difference with the system A is the spring that retracts the piston automatically. Well, and the fact that the CON-70, as a converter, can be detached from the pen.


A built-in CON-70 in a Pilot Custom (no additional number) from 1985. This filling system was also implemented on the Pilot Custom 65 (1983).

The “Carving” system implemented on the Carving pen works on the same principles: a pumping system and a closing valve. But now the pumping mechanism is a type of a sac, although on this case it is more of a plastic cartridge with some flexibility. The valve, on its side, moves freely inside the bladder, and seals it –partially— when pressing it. Carving called this “inhalation spare” and it makes some sense as the whole mechanism can be detached from the pen and could easily be replaced. I ignore, however, if the company marketed spare filling systems or had designed (and sold) more traditional –nominally disposable— cartridges.


The de-facto converter. The internal stopper is visible through the cracked plastic. The durability of this device is an obvious concern.

The fact that this “Carving” system was trivially detachable is, in itself, very interesting. First, because it shows that the time of the self-filling systems was ending and yielding its way to the disposable cartridge. Second, and more relevant here, because Pilot implemented the early versions of the later called CON-70 as built-in, non-removable filling systems on a couple of models in the early 1980s. In this regard, the Carving pen was well ahead of its time.

But it is also a small anecdote in the history of Japanese pens.

My thanks to Mr. Sugimoto.


Minka Saturn – Diamine China Blue

Bruno Taut
Nakano, May 2018
labels: Pilot, Carving, soluciones técnicas, conversor

22 May 2018

Kubo, Momose, and Iwase

The works of Mr. Iwase as a raden artist have already appeared on these Chronicles, and today I wanted to describe more in detail one of his creations.

Two are the basic types of canvases Mr. Iwase uses for his works—Pelikan and Montblanc pens on one side, and pens manufactured by lathe master Momose Yasuaki. Today’s pen belongs to the later type.

Three elements characterize this pen: the pen body, the nib, and the decoration. Each of them was created by a different craftsman.


"18 K pen raden / Kubo Kohei fountain pen".

As I mentioned before, lathe master Momose Yasuaki made the pen itself. Its material is ebonite (from Nikko Ebonite), although the barrel and cap finials are made of wood. The pen was originally intended as a Japanese eyedropper –the tail can be unscrewed and detached from the barrel--, but the final result is a cartridge-converter pen (Sheaffer type). The cap lip is protected with a silver ring.


A raden pen...


... or a cartridge/converter pen.

The nib and the feed were provided by nibmeister Kubo. The nib is made of 18 carat gold and is associated to an ebonite feed. The size of the nib would be comparable to a Bock's #5, or to a Pilot’s 10 (::1::, ::2::) or a Sailor’s “big” size.


The Kubo Kohei's nib: "ELEGANT / KB / 18K 750 / MADE IN / JAPAN".
The feed has three ink channels that provide a rich ink flow.


Writing sample with the Kubo-Momose-Iwase pen.


Nothing special on the tip. Just well cut.

Finally, the decoration is a rich example of the raden technique: carefully cut sea shells glued to the pen body; then, urushi is used to fill up the spaces between the shell stripes and smooth the whole pen. Ad additional later of transparent resin protects the decoration. The gripping section is decorated with red urushi.


There is a simple inscription the cap ring: "silver 925 / 11/20".

All in all, the pen is an original and attractive work; the final result of three Japanese craftsmen. And in this regard, this is not a unique example, albeit other models are mostly one of a kind.

This pen is one of the 20 units Mr Iwase marketed in 2015 and 2016, some of which were sold through the Wagner group. And as it is often the case on artisanal products in Japan, there is no clear sign of the authorship, with the sole exception of the engraving on the nib. However, not many stylophiles (much less occasional buyers) would identify the letters KB as a signature of Mr. Kubo.

These are the dimensions of this pen:

Length closed: 142 mm
Length open: 126 mm
Length posted: 165 mm
Diameter: 15 mm
Weight (dry) 21.9 g
Ink deposit: 1.1 ml (Sheaffer converter)


Minka Saturn – Diamine China Blue

Bruno Taut
Nakano, May 21th, 2018
labels: Nibmesiter Kubo, Momose, Iwase, maki-e

07 May 2018

Kubo Meets Sakai

The figure of Kubo Kohei (久保幸平) is already known to the readers. He is a very prestigious nibmeister with a long history of nibs made for his own brands –Elliott, Nobel–, and for others –Push, Danitrio, even Zôhiko. The purpose of this Chronicle is to show some more remarkable creations of this master.


An unusual music nib by Kubo Kohei.

Kubo Kohei has made music nibs in the past, as I have reported here. However, that example was a very traditional music nib: two slits, three tines. The following examples go one step forward: three slits, four tines. The result is a very broad and wet line showing a good –but not extreme— variation on the writing.


Writing sample of a 4-tine music nib by nibmeister Kubo.

These three music nibs are associated to three outstanding pens—three old pens made by Sakai Eisuke (酒井栄助). They had not reached the market and had been retrofitted with Henckel nibs, which is not rare in what looks like production leftovers by the Ban-ei group.


All three nibs carry the same inscription: "ELEGANT / KB / 18 K - 750 / MADE IN / JAPAN".


However, the ways their tips are cut are different--the one on top is very sharp, and that on bottom is the roundest of them.

These pens are all Japanese eyedroppers of very generous dimensions. So big, in fact, that the Kubo’s nibs seem a tad too small. These are the dimensions of the pens:

-.Wooden.-

-.Plain,
- black ebonite.-
-.Bamboo-like,
- black ebonite.-
Length closed (mm) 145 173 152
Length open (mm) 130 150 132
Length posted (mm) 180 208 186
Diameter (mm) 20 18 20
Weight, dry (g) 36.3 44.0 44.9


The three pens where Kubo met Sakai--years after the disappearance of the later.
Only the pen in the middle (black ebonite in the shape of bamboo) has an additional engraving--on the clip it says "NEW CLIP", showing some parts coming from Fukunaka Seisakusho. The plain black pen (on top) has no clip.

Remarkable pens with remarkable nibs, although they might not be the best match. But sure they are attractive and desirable.

My thanks to Ms. Lai.


Platinum pocket, steel and stripes – De Atramentis Jeans Blue

Bruno Taut
Nakano, May 6th 2018
etiquetas: nibmeister Kubo Kohei, Ban-ei, plumín, plumín musical

02 May 2018

Matching (XXII). A Platon

Historically, the Japanese pen industry has created a mixture of original models and of copies of successful designs from the West. Today’s pen in an example of the later—an obvious copy of the Waterman’s 100 year pen… by Platon.

The company Nakayama Taiyôdô, owner of the brand Platon, was active between 1919 and 1954, and created a number of pens made of celluloid and ebonite, some with maki-e decoration. Platon also implemented a wide variety of filling systems, although this was always a fertile field of experimentation among Japanese manufacturers.

Around 1950, Platon marketed the following pen:


A Platon pen from ca. 1950. JPY 350.


A Japanese eyedropper made of celluloid.

It’s original price was JPY 350. The pen is a Japanese eyedropper made of celluloid following the style of the iconic 100 year model made by Waterman.


The pen implements a steel nib, partially gold plated. The inscription reads "WARRANTED / PLATON / HARDEST / IRIDIUM / <3>".


These are its dimensions:
Length closed: 130 mm
Length open: 120 mm
Length posted: 153 mm
Diameter: 13 mm
Weight: 14.7 g


Even the clip follows the lines of the Waterman original. Both the clip and the cap itself, just above the band, are marked with the brand name: "PLATON".

My thanks to Mr. Sugimoto.


Omas Ogiva Demonstrator – Tomikei Blue

Bruno Taut
Nakano, April 19th 2018
etiquetas: Platon, Waterman

26 April 2018

Back to China. II. Integral Nibs

Integral nibs --those made out of the same piece of metal of the section—are rare in the history of pens. Only Parker –models T1 and 50 (Falcon)-, and Pilot –models Myu, M90 and Murex— made to the history books with them.


A collection of integrated nibs by all the makers whoever made them--Pilot, Parker, and Hero.

But the Chinese company Here, under brand names Hero and Paidi, also manufactured some examples, as I reported on these Chronicles (::1::, ::2::). And commentator Tefolium, of the blog "Brown Rice" (茶米(デ—ビ—)ノブログ), added some valuable information to my texts:


The three Paidi Century pens.


Hero 849.


Hero 850.

The Paidi Century pens were made around 2003 at the Jiangyin Craft Factory/Paidi Group of the Shanghai Hero Pen Company. The same company also produced pens with similar integrated nibs branded as Hero (models 849 and 850).

My thanks to Tefolium.


Montblanc 149 – Tomikei Blue

Bruno Taut
Nakano, April 4th 2018
etiquetas: Hero, Pilot, Parker, China

05 April 2018

Back to China. I. Capless

This blog does not really have a lot of readers, but sure are they knowledgeable. So much so that sometimes they write some texts on their own.

Such is the case of Tefolium. He is the author of the blog “Brown Rice” (茶米(デ—ビ—)ノブログ), a great source of information on pens made in China. Tefolium passed by and shed a lot of light on the origin of some Chinese pens that showed up on these Chronicles.

According to Tefolium, the Chinese got their hands in the Pilot Capless as early as in 1967, but the political turmoil of the times –the Cultural Revolution and all that followed— prevented them from producing any capless pen until the 1990s.


The two capless pens made in China: a Lily 910 on top, a Dangong 56 on bottom.

Eventually, three Chinese companies filed patents of uncapped pens: Wuhan Pen Factory, Heifei Pen Factory, and Anda Group. However, only the first two produced any such pen.

In 1990, Wuhan Pen Factory made the Dagong 56. And in 1991, Heifei Pen Factory made the Lily 910 (where 910 points out at the year of production). The Anda Group never came with a capless pen.

My thanks to Tefolium, who is the actual author of this text.


Pelikan M200 Cognac – Diamine Graphite

Bruno Taut
Nakano, April 3rd 2018
etiquetas: capless, Pilot, Lily, Wuhan, China

02 April 2018

Red Clip

The Lamy Safari is a well known model to all of us stylophiles. It is indeed a classic pen given the fact that it was launched in 1980—38 years ago. Yet, Lamy keeps on milking it… annually, and then more. On top of the yearly editions in original colors, Lamy is also keen on marketing local editions and to partner with other companies (::1::, ::2::) to generate special versions.


More anxiety... for some.

A local edition is this last Lamy Safari—a white pen with a red clip. This model was released on March 7th (2018), and its distribution is limited to Taiwan, South Korea, and Japan. Or even more limited, as in the case of Japan, this pen is for sale at only three shops: Isetan department store in Shinjuku, Itoya headquarters in Ginza, and Lamy’s shop in Aoyama. All of them in Tokyo.


A new presentation for the not so new pen. Its price is the same as of regular Safari: JPY 4000, plus tax. However, the limited distribution makes it impossible to find it at discount shops.

In itself, the pen is not particularly original. White Lamy Safari with red clip has shown in the market in several occasions: In 2010 in Japan, with a re-edition in 2013; and a similar version in Taiwan also in 2010. However, there is a difference. On these versions from 2010 and 2013, the cap is finished with a very obvious red dot whereas this edition of 2018 carries the traditional cross, in white, on the cap top.


The version of 2013 sold in Japan. Note the red dot on the cap top.


The regular white Safari together with the new version with red clip.

So, more milk from the old cow; more pens to trigger the collector’s anxiety. But the trick works, although this case might have something to do with the proliferation of Chinese copies of the Lamy Safari (::1::, ::2::).


Pelikan M200 Cognac – Diamine Graphite

Bruno Taut
Nakano, March 29th 2018
etiquetas: Lamy, mercado, Japón, Corea del Sur, Taiwan
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