Crónicas Estilográficas

11 March 2022

Eboya's Eyedroppers

Eboya, the pen brand of Nikko Ebonite, shifted gears in 2016. Lathe master Noritoshi Kanesaki left the company and the production moved to using a CNC lathe instead of the traditional “rokuro”. And it was at this moment that Eboya fountain pens relied solely on clean and boring cartridges and converters.

This situation came to an end, somehow, with the introduction of the model Yuzen in 2020. This pen was specifically designed to be used as an eyedropper filler, but a plain one at that, without any sealing system. And to do so, the pen implemented a rubber gasket –an o-ring— on the section to provide a tight seal when screwed onto the barrel. And the packaging includes an eyedropper and some spare o-rings.

The very elegant Eboya Yuzen.

The section of the Yuzen. The o-ring is right behind the thread.

But at the same time, the Yuzen can also be used with a cartridge or a converter.

The Yuzen, with a converter.

The slightly older model Kobue is intended as a cartridge/converter pen, but its design also includes a gasket on the section, making this pen apt to be filled as an eyedropper.

The Eboya Kobue. The o-ring is visible before the thread.

Are these Eboya models the only eyedropper fillers? I do not think so—Eboya pens do not use internal metallic parts, and the manufacture is precise enough to not leaking should their barrels be filled with ink. In other words, with or without gaskets, all modern Eboya fountain pens work properly as eyedropper fillers (caution is advised, though).

This Eboya Hakobune is not intended as eyedropper pen, but it works as such (although not on the picture, obviously).

And that's the bottom line—all Eboya pens work well as eyedroppers and there was no need to create any specific model, however attractive. After all, these models do not fill the gap opened in 2016 when the last Japanese eyedroppers (and previously button fillers) were manufactured by Eboya.


Namiki Urushi 50 – Unknown red ink

Bruno Taut
March 11th, 2022
etiquetas: Eboya, soluciones técnicas

25 February 2022

Nomikomi Inkwell (II)

The nomikomi system, we saw previously, is a thing of the past—the 1930s—and those old inkwells might not be used again.


But what about the idea? Could it not be revived now?


Modern plastics and sealing gaskets would easily make the whole system better and more reliable. After all, Twsbi created the Vac-20 inkwell to work in combination with some of its pens in a similar fashion as the nomikomi filling—inverting inkwell and pen together.


But the secret of the old Pilot filling lied on the pen feed—a very long feed whose capillary action was able to overcome the surface tension of the ink. And to recreate those pens we would need a daring company.


Is there room in the market for such a pen?


Pelikan M200 Cognac – Pilot Iroshizuku Yama-budo

Bruno Taut
February, 2022
etiquetas: soluciones técnicas, Pilot, Twsbi

16 February 2022

Nomikomi Inkwell (I)

One of the most original filling systems ever invented was the easy-drinking or nomikomi system.

Pilot created it in the mid 1930s and was fully marketed in combination with the model 38, the newly arrived workhorse of the years to come. However, this filling system can also be seen on balance models –with maki-e decoration—by the mid 1930s which seem to be proofs of concept and sample pens.

N-system (N-式), or nomikomi. Translated, easy drinking filler.


The key element in this filling system is obviously the inkwell, without which the dedicated pens would be regular eyedroppers or pens with reusable cartridges. The inkwell needs a secure sealing system—inverting it while full of ink is not for the faint-hearted. It is, in fact, a recipe for disaster.



But collectors are fetishists for whom utility is a very secondary element... and that is why a nomikomi inkwell might never see new action.

Antigua's Perseus S – Sailor Yama-dori

Bruno Taut
February, 2022
etiquetas: soluciones técnicas, Pilot

20 January 2022

Foreign (and also Domestic) Urushi

There are some people, mostly outside Japan, for whom anything related to urushi acquires a semi-mythical value. In Japan, some companies do cash on this perception through high prices and long, very long waiting times to deliver the order.

Expensive and slow.

But the landscape has changed dramatically in recent years. An increasing number of craftsmen both in Japan and overseas have started their business decorating pens, and other goods, with urushi-related techniques. Their names are becoming well-known—Bokumondoh in Japan, Tamenuri Studio in Poland, Manu Propria in Switzerland, Vivek Kulkarni in India, Mr. Cypress in Taiwan, … Needless to say, their quality and styles are different, but they do offer an alternative to those companies with high prices and long waiting times.

Urushi-e made in Japan. Bokumondoh in action.

All these operations make me think that the excuses some use are just means to control the demand instead of real arguments. The fact right now is that most of those artisans are producing more and cheaper, and with high standards of quality regardless of the local climate—if someone can polymerize urushi in the very dry Spanish plateau you can do it almost anywhere!

Urushi-nuri made in the dry plains of Spain. Nuart Cygnus (base pen by Antigua's).

But the consequences of this popularization of urushi, and the proliferation of craftsmen all over the World, is the cheapening of urushi and the decoration associated to it. Now, urushi is no longer something rare and difficult. Now, urushi decoration can come from Japan or from the US; from Korea or from Poland. The offer is deep and wide and the market will apply its rules.

The label “made in Japan” will still hold some value, but that label is no longer the exclusive property of a couple of makers. And in the meantime, third-party craftsmen, in Japan and abroad, compete with the same tools.


Pilot Vpen, M nib – Pilot Iroshizuku Ku-jaku


Bruno Taut
December 18th, 2021
etiquetas: Japón, urushi, mercado

13 January 2022

Thai Pilot Inks

Some months ago I got to know about some Pilot inks made in Thailand, where the company had a manufacturing plant since the 1950s.

There were at least three ink colors manufactured in Thailand—blue, blue-black, and black. I could only get my hands on two of them, and the current analysis is limited to those—blue and black.

Two Pilot inks made in Thailand. Photo courtesy of Papishdama.

The question to answer is obvious—are these Thai inks of the same formulation as those made in Japan?

Two blue inks by Pilot, one is made in Japan; the other, in Thailand.

Smell wise, the Thai inks have a very distinctive phenol odor whereas those made in Japan are almost odor-less. The black ink, though, releases a hint of ammonia.

On paper, both pairs show similar tones. The Thai blue is slightly lighter in color, and the Japanese version occasionally adds some purple sheen. The Thai ink has a higher surface tension.

Re black ink, the Thai one is again slightly lighter and less brilliant than the Japanese  ink.

Mise en place.

Finally, the chromatography shows that the dye composition is different in both pairs. The differences are bigger in the black inks. But the conclusion is clear—Thai and Japanese inks are different formulations.

Chromatographies.

Not much can I say about Pilot in Thailand. It started in 1953, and the manufacturing plant was located in Bangkok. The Thai black ink is dated in 2013, and we can assume that the Pilot plant was open until at least that year. As of today, the Pilot Thailand website (http://www.pilotpen.co.th/) is not active, and there is no reference to Thailand in the Pilot Global site.

Manufacturing date of the Thai black ink--Thai year 2556, which corresponds to AD 2013. Photo courtesy of Papishdama.


My thanks to my friend and ink connoisseur Papishdama.


Chilton Large – Sailor Yama-dori

Bruno Taut
January 12th, 2022
etiquetas: Tailandia, tinta, Pilot

10 January 2022

East and West

The following picture shows the fundamental difference between pen shows in in the East and in the West:

Pens, pens, and pens. Madrid Pen Show 2021.

On this picture alone there are more pens than in any of the pen shows celebrated in Tokyo. And that is a representation of the differences in philosophies associated to them—Western shows are about pens, pens, and pens. Second hand and vintage pens are the name of the game, and after that you could also find some new pens and some inks and paper.

On the contrary, pen shows in Tokyo –and in other East Asian cities- are about cute things... and some pens, mostly new. Sure enough a couple of traders might be there offering used pens, but their offer pales in comparison to what you can see on a single table in Madrid, as the firs picture showed.

Lots of people, very few pens.
Tokyo International Pen Show 2019.
(Picture courtesy of Inktraveler).

As I have repeatedly said (::1::, ::2::), they are not pen shows but stationary salons where brands and new entrepreneurs show their products. But the formula works and there is no real incentive to change it.

Bottom line—if you were interested in pens go West, paradise is there.


Omas Extra ca. 1940 – Sailor Yama-dori

Bruno Taut
December 17th, 2021
etiquetas: España, Japón, evento, Tokyo, Madrid

17 December 2021

The Pen Show of Hope. Madrid 2021

The Madrid Pen Show of 2021 was not like those of previous years—it just could not be.


This pen show had everything against—a pandemic, a hotel that was closed on the planned dates, a new venue, the changing local policies, the unclear and ever changing travel requirements, a new mutation of the virus discovered days before the event... So, not much was in there for the pen show to be celebrated and, much less, to succeed.

But the people responded. There was a real crave in the Spanish aficionado to reconnect with the community and with the market.


Needless to say, the event figures did not reach the values of 2019 (no pen show in Madrid in 2020) and before. On this occasion, only 49 traders and about 1000 visitors joined the party. But it was a good party.


Several traders reported that they were selling more pens than on previous pen shows, which shows that there were some savings after two years with similar events.

But it was the sense of community what made the event successful. Visitors from all over Spain –from the Canary Islands and from the Balearic Islands, from the Basque Country and from Andalusia, from Murcia and from Catalonia...-- gathered at the Meliá Castilla Hotel and spent their money on pens that came all the way from all over Europe (UK, France, Netherlands, Germany, Portugal, …) and from the US.


So, the Madrid Pen Show is alive and kicking. This year´s edition proved how well connected the Spanish community is despite the pandemic, and in 2022 the Madrid Pen Show will be even better.


Montblanc 146 – Sailor Yama-dori

Bruno Taut
December 15th, 2021
etiquetas: España, Madrid, evento, mercado