Crónicas Estilográficas

19 February 2019

The Namiki Effect

Stylophiles are a special bunch. Driven by our anachronistic passion we often crave for certain features: gold nibs, self-filling mechanisms (as opposed to cartridges and converters), ebonite feeds, some specific materials like celluloid or ebonite,… And we demand those features for pens over certain price. Or, in other words, we might despise pens over certain price if they didn't offer some of them.

But the market might be telling us that we are mistaken. Just a quick look at today's catalogs shows how many luxury brands offer nothing but cartridge-converter pens with plastic feeds. Materials and gold nibs are less of a problem, though.


An expensive Pilot. Cartridge-converter and plastic feed.

Luxury pens of Platinum-Nakaya and Sailor are cartridge-converters. Pilot-Namiki does offer Japanese eyedroppers, but only for the biggest nib size. All the others, with nibs sizes 5, 10, and 20, are cartridge-converters despite how expensive they are.


An expensive Hakase.

Then, small makers like Eboya, Hakase, Ohashido, Stylo-Art Karuizawa, all focussed on higher-end pens only offer cartridge-converter pens. The only exception to this trend might be Masahiro and the newly-arrived Iwase Seisakusho.

Now, are these two brands –Masahiro and Iwase Seisakusho— on the right path or the success of all the other brands shows the opposite? How important are those details like ebonite feed and self-filling mechanisms in the final price –and in the final value-- of the pen?


A Masahiro pen. Expensive, but it implements an ebonite feed, a self-filling mechanism, an ebonite body, and a gold nib.

The market might be telling us that we stylophiles are still a minority in the business. Or it might only be that I am very mistaken about what we demand, and cartridge and converters and plastic feeds are perfectly all right even on very expensive pens.

Or it might be that we are very easy targets. After all, every pen has its charm, and all those cravings are not so important.

And that is the Namiki effect--expensive pens can be, in essence, very simple. Namiki has proven it through years in the market.


Iwase Seisakusho prototype – Takeda Jimuki Hisoku

Bruno Taut
Bunkyo, February 9th 2019
etiquetas: estilofilia, mercado, makie, Eboya, Hakase, StyloArt Karuizawa, Masahiro, Sailor, Ohashido, Iwase Seisakusho, Pilot, Platinum

13 February 2019

Pilot in 1993

The following two pens were available in the market in the year 1993, the year of the 75th anniversary of the company.


Pilot Custom 748 on top; Pilot 75th Anniversary pen. Both from 1993.

For the occasion, Pilot created a flat top pen with a size 15 nib made of 18 K gold. It was a limited edition of 7500 units and cost JPY 50,000. This pen, as is also the case of its natural successor the Custom 845, has most of the cap and most of the body coated with urushi.


These are the nibs of the previous pens. Both are made of 18 K gold. The anniversary pen, a limited edition, has a special engraving for the occasion.

On that same year, Pilot had marketed the more luxurious versions of its workhorse fountain pen—the Pilot Custom 745 (FKK-5000G and FKK-5000MS) and 748 (FKK-8000G and FKK-8000MS), based on the Custom 742 and 743. This luxury pens had their bodies in vermeil (G models) or Sterling silver (MS models), and each of them had two possible decorative pattern: barleycorn and pinstripe. The 745s implemented size 10 nibs and cost JPY 50,000; and the 748s, size 15 nibs for JPY 80,000; on both cases with a gold purity of 18 K.


The insides of the Pilot Custom 748, implementing a black-coated CON-70 converter.

And this is the paradox—a limited edition with urushi cost less, a lot less, that the regular edition made of Sterling silver. All the rest is the same—nib, feed, filling system... JPY 50,000 vs. JPY 80,000.

It seems that in 1993, silver was a lot more valued than urushi. That does not seem to be the case nowadays on the Pilot catalog. Although there are some difference on the nibs, the Silvern series and the Custom 845 cost the same, JPY 50,000. And the second hand market also reflects this trend—limited editions preserve their value better than regular models.

Custom 745 and 748 were discontinued in Spring of 2007.



Iwase Seisakusho prototype with Henckel nib – Takeda Jimiku Hisoku

Bruno Taut
Chuo, February 12th 2019
Etiquetas: Pilot, mercado, maki-e

07 February 2019

Ohashido (II)

As I had said before, Ôhashidô pens, as of now, implement Sailor nibs of sizes medium and big (in Sailor terms). These nibs are engraved in origin, at the Sailor's plant in Kure (Hiroshima), with the Ôhashidô imprint. In fact, Ôhashidô occasionally implements nibs that are not available on regular Sailor pens—big size nibs made of 14 K gold, and nibs labeled as S –soft– as opposed to the omnipresent H –hard– nibs.


An Ôhashidô nib labeled as S, soft, that in actual terms is very rigid.

There is, usually, a second element carrying some form of identification on Ôhashidô pens—the clip. If present, as there are clipless Ôhashidô pens, that carry the inscription “JSU”, for “Japan Sendai Uehara”.

However, all those signs might not be there, or there might be some others—such is the lack of system in the production of Ôhashidô pens.

Two examples of these pens I am showing today—one with very typical features; the other, right the opposite.


Exhibit one. Note the engraved clip: "JSU".

The first one is a pen finished in unpolished urushi. The clip is also engraved with the usual imprint: "JSU". The nib is large and carries the usual inscription “SPECIALITY / ÔHASIDÔ / SINCE 1912 / J.S.U / 21 K”, although without any statement about the nib point. The differences between "Ôhashidô" and "Ôhasidô" are the result of the lack of consistency among Japanese on how to transliterate Japanese names.



“SPECIALITY / ÔHASIDÔ / SINCE 1912 / J.S.U / 21 K”

The second pen has none of those usual identifications—the nib has no engraving save a hidden JIS mark and and manufacturing date, and there is no clip. But the barrel is engraved: “OHASHIDO / SINCE1912 J.S.U”. These two details are very unusual. As the nib itself is—it is certainly a Sailor, but a very soft one. It is a medium size made of 14 K gold (according to Mr. Uehara), and the nib point is M.


Exhibit two.


Unusual engraved body: "OHASHIDO / SINCE1912 J.S.U”.


Unusual plain nib, save for the JIS mark and the manufacturing date.

Interesting pens, but the lack of systems in the production process is a problem if the potential customer were looking for a defined –and unnamed- model. But this might be part of the success recipe of Ôhashidô's.


Iwase Seisakusho prototype – Takeda Jimuki Hisoku

Bruno Taut
Bunkyo, February 5th 2019
etiquetas: Sailor, Ohashido

31 January 2019

Capless in 1966

The following advertisement (thanks, Kamisama) is from 1966:


It shows five different Capless models from three different generations: 1963, 1964, and 1965. The problem is that each of these generations of Capless used a different type of nib, and those types are not compatible. In other words, Pilot had to produce all three of them to satisfy the offer they had generated.


From left to right, models CS-100RW and C-100RW from 1965; C-200SW and C-300GW from 1964; and C-600MW from 1963.


These are the nib nits of the previous models--different year models use different nibs, and they are not exchangeable across model years.

The contrast with the current situation is startling: three different Capless models with just one type of nib unit that fits all of them!


From top to bottom, models Fermo, Décimo and (regular) Capless. All three of them use the same nib unit (although occasional incompatibilities have existed).

This example shows the crisis Pilot was experimenting during the 1960s. Another example of this inefficiency was the multiplicity of filling systems and cartridges Pilot manufactured at the time, as could be seen on a previous Chronicle.

The situation came to an end by 1969. A reorganization in the production and management, and the launching of some very successful model, resulted in a more powerful company.


Iwase Seisakusho prototype – Takeda Jimuki Hisoku

Bruno Taut
Chuo, January 22th, 2012
etiquetas: Capless, Pilot

28 January 2019

The IG Effect

Some of you might have seen that I have joined the ranks of Instagram (IG). That happened last October. Since then, I have published over 30 posts –30 pics-- with irregular reactions, and I have learned a couple of things.


IG creates a totally new context with new rules. Leigh Reyes made some very interesting remarks on her end-of-the-year recap, and I recommend reading them. I am more naïve, and more illiterate in all things Internet, but I cannot help offering my own observations.

With IG, the already volatile Internet is even more so. On one hand, the contents are not indexed and it is not possible to perform any real search within the IG world. Then comes the very short time during which contents are really active—that is, appearing on the feeds of other users.


My most successful post on IG.

The effect of this strategy, as Leigh Reyes pointed out, is that when we play the IG game we all become brands. The obvious consequence is the need to be present on the feeds and to be liked by others. To satisfy those we need to publish often even if we might publish essentially the same thing. And that because that is what the IG algorithm prioritizes.


Some more random posts of mine.

The lifetime of a post is about 48 hours. After that, it just rests confined to the list of your own posts. Therefore, it is not surprising that IG glorifies the image over the texts. Actually, it despises the texts—everything must be fast and easy to consume, and you consume all that on the go. So, the text editor is awful and the options for making later amendments, limited. But it does not matter—live fast, die young, leave a beautiful corpse...

Instagram works well for advertisement, but not for the calm consumption of information. In more than one sense, IG is incompatible with the slow life of a fountain pen. Incompatible with the way of the pen, the mannenhitsu-dô, 万年筆.


Pilot Petit-1, 1st generation – Pilot Brown

Bruno Taut
Chuo, Janaury 25th 2019
Etiquetas: redes sociales, metabitácora

24 January 2019

Even Rarer

Long time ago I wrote about one of those mysterious pens—a pen that is known to exist but that I sso rare that has become almost mythical. That was the Platinum Knock, Platinum's take on the idea of a capless pen.


Platinum Knock-18. 18 K gold nib, JPY 3000, 1965.

That pen, marketed initially in 1965, was short lived due to the threats of Pilot to start legal actions. However, there were two version of the pen: the initial 1965, and a second one with a lighter cut-out clip in 1966.


The two versions of the Platinum Knock. From a panel at the temporary exhibition at Itoya Ginza (January-February 2019).

And now, thanks to a temporary exhibition on the history of Platinum hold at Itoya Ginza in Tokyo we can see that there existed an even rarer pen—the demonstrator version of the capless Platinum Knock.


The demonstrator version. Did it ever make its way to the street, even in the hands of a salesman?

So, let this be heard—there are transparent versions of the Platinum Knock, even if they were only prototypes.


Iwase Seisakusho N model – Pelikan 4001 Royal Blue

Bruno Taut
Bunkyo, Janaury 20th 2019
Etiquetas: evento, Platinum, Pilot, capless

20 January 2019

Nagahara 2020

The bare news:

Nibmeister Yukio Nagahara will retire from his current position in Sailor in February of 2020. He plans to pursue an independent career under the name “The Nib Shaper”. Nagahara is already preparing the website of this new operation.



Who will succeed Nagahara in Sailor?



Iwase Seisakusho prototype – Sheaffer Blue-black

Bruno Taut
Nakano, January 20th 2019
Etiquetas: Sailor, nibmeister Yukio Nagahara