Crónicas Estilográficas

15 September 2023

Oversized Jinhao

The speed at which Chinese pen companies are releasing their new models is no longer a surprise. An obvious side effect of this practice is the practical impossibility to keep track of all the novelties in the market. But now and then a model strikes out and makes some waves.

The Jinhao Dadao 9019. Engravings on the clip ("JINHAO") and on the cap ring ("JINHAO - DADAO No. 9019").

Lately, Jinhao has released an oversized pen with a size 8 nib—the Jinhao Dadao 9019. In essence, this is a torpedo-shape pen, with very clean lines, made of plastic. Its overal shape and proportions ressemble those of some pens made by the Ban-ei group of artisans (and a number of small operations making jumbo pens). The actual dimensions of this pen are as follow:

Length closed: 142.4 mm
Length open: 130.3 mm
Length posted: 171.0 mm
Diameter: 19.1 mm (cap), 16.3 mm (barrel)
Weight: 31,5 g (dry)
Ink deposit: 2.2 ml

The barrel diameter, 16.3 mm, is slightly smaller than that of a 6-bu jumbo pen. However, the proportions seem basically preserved, rendering a very familiar pen... albeit with some interesting additions.

First and foremost, this pen is a cartridge-converter, and accepts short (0.7 ml) and long (1.45 ml) international cartridges, and standard converters. But the pen comes with its own converter that takes benefit of the oversized barrel—a girthier, larger converter holding 2.2 ml of ink.

An oversized converter that holds 2.2 ml of ink.

Not a new idea —Sailor used this same strategy in the 1960s for its model Magna L-, but is seldom seen in the industry.

A second detail, very common in Japanese pens, is the o-ring on the thread coupling the barrel and the section. This rubber gasket secures the connection between those two parts, and some users might feel tempted to eyedropper this pen, but first they should seal the tail hole on the barrel.

On the negative side, the pen lacks an inner cap, and this absence might cause premature drying of the nib, although it does not seem the case during the days I have been using this pen.

The size 8 nib made of steel: "JINHAO / F / X159". And a plastic feed.

The nib, a size 8 made of steel, had the options of EF, F and M nib points. Out of the box, my unit was dry and a bit rough, Some adjustment was done and now it writes smoothly and with an adequate flow. The conclusion is that this nib is correct, but it is not fully finished when leaving the factory.

All in all, the Jinhao Dadao 9019 is a very interesting pen, in particular when the price –about EUR 13, or even less— is taken into account.

On the other hand, the problems we see on it, however, are those common to many (PR) Chinese pens—lack of nib points, mediocre quality control, and limited distribution channels.

PS: At the time of publishing this Chronicle I took the pen from the pouch where I had carried it around for some days. Actually, I had not open the pen for over a week. And much to my surprise, the cap was filled with ink, and the converter was almost empty, and this, given the high capacity of the ink deposit, can be a very dirty issue. None of the other three pens in the pouch had this problem. So, we might need to handle this pen with care. Caution is adviced.

Jinhao Dadao 9019 – Platinum Black

Bruno Taut
September 2nd, 2023
etiquetas: Jinhao, China, mercado

09 August 2023

Hifra Again

Hifra, Joker and Presidente are three brands I have documented on these texts with the help of some friends from a number of countries. These brands, let us remember, were operations that used Platinum pens as their own in the late 1950s in their own countries: Hifra in South Africa, Joker in Greece, and Presidente in Spain.

Among them, Hifra seems to be the better established company, and used more Platinum models –among some others-- and its operation extended beyond those late 1950s. And today, I am showing one more of those pens—a Sheaffer inspired pen.

A Hifra pen. On the barrel, "HIFRA" / TRADE (logo) MARK / REG 85809 / 4415 .

This Hifra is an aerometric filler with a metallic cap and a black body. The nib is an inlaid unit with a close resemblance to some Sheaffer nibs. These are its dimensions:

Length closed: 135 mm
Length open: 118 mm
Length posted: 153 mm
Diameter: 16 mm
Weight: 18.3 g (dry)

The insides. A bladder-type filler.

The nib: HIFRA / SUPERIOR / 105-PEN .

Platinum, could not be otherwise, used these inlaid nibs in several pens during the 1950s.

A similar nib in a President pen, one of the brands historically used by Platinum.

But all in all, the whole pen is very close to some Sheaffer models of the time. On the picture, a Sheaffer Sentinel.

Sheaffer Sentinel.

Moonman T2 with Bock nib – Pilot (Thai) Black

Bruno Taut
August 9th, 2023
etiquetas: Hifra, Platinum, Sheaffer

28 July 2023

Japanese Workhorses in 2023

We have just seen that the Pilot's model Custom 74 has been in the market for over 30 years. But what about the direct competitors in the Japanese market?

The three contenders. From back to front, Platinum 3776 Century, Pilot Custom 74, and Sailor Standard Profit.

Platinum had released the 3776 model in 1978, but this model has gone through a number of modifications over the years, as we had seen in previous texts. The latest iteration, so far, is the 3776 Century initially released in 2012. At the time, the Century's price was JPY 10000, and it had eight nib options, although the model with the music nib was more expensive at JPY 15000. All of them were made of 14 K gold.

Platinum 3776 Century Bourgogne, M nib. This color variation does not convey any overprice. JPY 10000 in 2012, JPY 20000 in 2023.

Sailor had marketed the Profit model in 1983 based on the 70th anniversary pen of 1981. In 2003-04, the current version saw the market—two cap rings, new nib decoration, etc. By 2012, our reference year, the Standard Profit cost JPY 12000 and offered seven nib options. Should you want a 21 K gold nib in the same size, the price was JPY 15000.

Sailor Standard Profit, F nib. JPY 12000 in 2012, JPY 13000 in 2023.

In that same year of 2012, Pilot's Custom 74 with the size 5 nib in 14 K gold had a total of eleven nib options: nine of them for JPY 10000, and two, music (MS) and coarse (C), for JPY 12000.

Pilot Custom 74 with SM -soft medium- nib. JPY 10000 in 2012; JPY 12000 in 2023.

How are these pens in 2023?

The Pilot Custom 74 costs now JPY 2000 more: JPY 12000 for most of the nib points, and JPY 14000 for MS and C nibs.

Platinum has increased the prices a lot more: JPY 20000 for the basic version, and JPY 28000 for the Century with music nib.

Finally, Sailor also increased the prices to JPY 13000, plus an additional hito to JPY 15000 for the zoom and music nibs. (The 21 K option became JPY 22000, and JPY 22000, respectively).

In all three brands, the number of nib options remains untouched, although Pilot did release an new variation—the S, signature—that is not shown in the catalog.

So, after 10 years, these old pens are still the workhorses of their companies, but the changes in their prices have altered their relative positions with respect to each other.

Pilot is now the cheaper option while having the highest number of nib options.

Platinum's Century is now in a higher price range. This pen is now on par with the Pilot Custom 742 (size 10 nib), but the Pilot offers many more nib points in that pen—16.

Platinum 3776 Century with music nib. It went from JPY 15000 to JPY 28000.

Sailor's price hike was, proportionally, lower than those by Platinum and Pilot, but still high enough to become more expensive than the Pilot Custom 74. However, Sailor's problem might be different—the immense number of variations in the form of “shop-original pens” creates a complex scenario where the basic Standard Profit became buried if not invisible.

So, the conclusion is that, in this context, the Pilot Custom 74 becomes even more desirable than 10 years ago.

(All prices quoted without taxes. In Japan, VAT is 10%).

Moonman T2 – Pilot Black (Thai version)

Bruno Taut
July 28th 2023
etiquetas: Pilot, Platinum, Sailor, mercado

19 July 2023

Signature (II)

So, Pilot created a new nib point for its size 10 implemented on the model Custom 742 (and potentially on the rhodium-trimmed Custom Heritage 912). But, only on that size? No, but this other Signature nib came as a limited edition.

Also in 2022, Pilot celebrated the 30th anniversary of its workhorse pen, the Custom 74. And for the occasion, the company released a special edition of the pen.

The boxed set includes three different pen barrels in three transparent colors, a bottle of ink of “Anniversary Blue”, a CON-70N converter, and a booklet summarizing the history of the Custom models since its inception in 1971.

There are some other details that make this pen –or these pens- special and different to the regular Custom 74. The cap ring is engraved with a specific text: “PILOT CUSTOM 74 30th ANNIVERSARY JAPAN”. The nib, rhodiated size 5, also displays an original design and script: some bay leaves –or so Pilot declares- framing the text “PILOT CUSTOM 14K-585”, plus the nib point.

The anniversary nib in Signature point.

Four points are available on this limited edition: F, FM, M and the new S, Signature. And the fact that this S point is now and exclusive to this model makes this option the most desirable among them.

S nibs on sizes 5 and 10. Note how the size 5 nib is not labeled as such.

This new S nib becomes the twelfth nib point available in the size 5 nib by Pilot. Whether this nib became part of the catalog or not remains to be seen, but one more nib option in an affordable workhorse like the Custom 74 would indeed be great.

The price of the Custom 74 30th Anniversary is JPY 28000, plus taxes, for any of the nib points.

Moonman A2 - Diamine Bilberry

Bruno Taut
July 18th, 2023
etiquetas: Pilot, plumín

16 July 2023

Signature (I)

Last year, 2022, Pilot released a new nib point for the model Custom 742—the Signature. And by doing this, the number of points available in Pilot's size 10 nibs (::1::, ::2::) is 16.

The Signature point—a sort of smooth stubbish broad nib— is not particularly new. In Japan they existed in the 1960s and 1970s by the hand of Pilot and Platinum. On the picture we can see two of those together with the new Custom 742.

Now, do they draw a similar line? Or, in other words, are all Signature nibs alike? Not really, and the larger differences are between those made by Pilot—a smooth broad nib with a stubbish character on the 742, and a very round symmetric point on the Pilot E from 1968. On its side, the Platinum pocket pen, also from 1968, is more of a stub nib, with an overall width finer than that of the Custom 742. So it might be worth to reflect on those names and their definitions at some point.

Anyway, the Custom 742 with Signature nib adds even more value and appeal to the Pilot lineup of nibs, particularly to the size 10. 16 different points in a single pen model is not something any other company currently could brag about.

Pilot Custom 742 - Diamine Imperial Purple.

Bruno Taut
July 14th, 2023
etiquetas: Pilot, plumín, Platinum

08 July 2023

Mannenhitsu-no Yamada

Nothing lasts forever...

万年筆の山田. Mannenhitsu-no Yamada.

Mannenhitsu-no Yamada, the operation run by Mr. Kubota in the city of Matsumoto (Nagano, Japan) closed its doors this past May. Therefore the production of pens came to an end.

Mr. Kubota, born in 1939, took over the business in the 1980. Initially he used maki-e techniques to decorate his pens, but that proved too time consuming and not many customers were willing to pay for them and make ends meet. As a consequence, he changed his approach and began to use Damascene techniques that were popular in Japan in the Edo period. Kubota's pens started showing those metallic inserts together with some mother-of-pearl designs and some other materials –wood, tortoiseshell,...

Lately, his pens were simpler—plain ebonite, bamboo,... But he still took orders from customers.

The nibs were more often than not, Sailor. However, he used Pilot cartridges and converters on some of his pens.

Well, no more. Mr. Kubota, now 84, has decided to retire and his pens will become more appreciated. After all, that is how the market works.

Mr. Kubota.

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

Pilot #10 Tsugaru nuri - Diamine Imperial Purple.

Bruno Taut
San Fermín 2023
etiquetas: Mannenhitsu-no Yamada, mercado, Japón

02 July 2023

Gold 60th


Pilot continues with the old policy of rehashing the well-known Capless through yearly special editions or, less often, exclusive/original models made for a particular customer. Nagasawa, Isetan, Mitsukoshi had their own Capless pens at one point or another.

And by the end of 2022, Pilot went one step further—Pilot collaborated with the company JMA Management Center to produce a Capless model to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the release of the Noritsu Techo Gold planner in 1962.

The Pilot Gold 60th for Nolty. Note the decoration on the pen body.

This anniversary pen is named Gold 60th. It is a black matte Capless decorated with a golden double central ring. The engraving on it reads “Limited Edition XXX/365 NOLTY GOLD 60th”. The XXX refers to the pen number in the 365-unit limited run. Nolty is the commercial brand of the Nortisu Techo planners and other office supplies.

The package includes a small Nolty notebook.

The nib is a standard Pilot Capless unit in 18 K gold and golden trim. And there is only one point available—EF.

The EF nib, dated September 2022.

The distribution of this pen was very reduced. I could only see it in the Nolty website and in Itoya. The price was not cheap—JPY 33000, plus taxes, which is more than twice the price of a regular Capless with a similar nib.

Is there any point in making this pen? For one, it was a big success—it sold out quickly. And we also know that rarities like this preserve their value over time.

Sailot Profit Sr, Naginata Togi nib – Sailor Blue-black

Bruno Taut
June 30th, 2023
labels: Pilot, Capless