Crónicas Estilográficas

30 April 2020

Against Inks

I had never done this before, but hanging out with some other pen aficionados –or should I say ink hoarders— made me create an inventory of my inks.

According to it I have 86 ink bottles of 71 different inks totaling 4.1 liters. Well, a bit less as some of them are open and I have inked some pens with their ink.

Some of my inks.

Anyway, what do 4 liters of ink mean? If I were to use 100 ml of ink per year –a generous amount—it would take me 40 years to use them up. 40 years!

So, why bother? Why spending so much money in a consumable product that is also perishable? Why bother with the inks of today when tomorrow there will be new and more attractive colors?

And more inks.

Behind this unreasonable accumulation of many of us (and I am just an apprentice on this field) lies the trend of smaller and smaller inkwells (::1::, ::2::). People, or ink aficionados at least, buy ink colors and ink labels –similar colors with different names and manufacturers— rather than milliliters of usable ink.

But, how much ink can we consume in the rest of our lives?

Ôhashidô, music nib – Sailor Blue

Bruno Taut
Nakano, April 30th, 2020
etiquetas: tinta, mercado

20 April 2020

10 Years

Exactly 10 years ago, on April 20th 2010, I started this blog.

Along this time I have published 659 texts where I tried to describe some old pens and analyze some new ones. I also ranted now and then on the situation of the pen market. I plan to continue doing this—I still enjoy this activity.

A 10-Years nib by Platinum from the mid 1950s.

And I hope to keep on having some readers out there.

Thank you very much for your support over the years.

Pilot Capless 1998 – Akkerman #8 Diep Duinwaterblauw

Bruno Taut
Nakano, April 20th, 2020
etiquetas: metabitácora

07 April 2020

Curidas. 3. Analysis

Then, how is this pen? And by “this” I mean the Platinum Curidas, about which I have spoken endlessly since January (::1::, ::2::, ::3::, ::4::, ::5::). And not only me—the hype Platinum created around this new pen inspired many an aficionado to publish his own impressions on it. So, is it possible to write anything new?

1. Appearance.

The Curidas is a capless pen with a very large push button made primarily of plastic, and it implements a removable clip. The nib is made of steel.

These are, once again, the actual dimensions of the pen:

.Platinum Curidas 2020.

Length closed (mm) 153
Length open (mm) 140
Barrel diameter (mm) 13.5
Weight, dry (g) 25.5
Ink deposit (*) (ml) 1.1/0.6
Nib points EF/F/M
Price (**) (JPY) 7000

*: Capacities of proprietary cartridges and converters.
**: MSRP price without taxes.

The removable clip addresses a regular complaint among users of other capless pens, and in particular of the Pilot Capless models. It is in the nature of these pens for the clip to be close to the nib. This location is inconvenient for some users and removing the clip might be the strategy they might choose with the result of Platinum gaining some additional buyers.

The pen, the clip, and the tool to remove and to reattach it.

Removing it is relatively easy following the instructions (and video) and using the tool, both included in the package. However, fellow pen connoisseur Inky Rocks have reported some problems doing that to the point of cracking the central guiding notch. So, careful operation is advised.

There is a second function, I found, for the clip—it informs you of the right orientation of the pen. Without it, the lower notch is more visible and gives the false impression of being the reference point to grab the pen correctly, but by doing so the nib will appear with the feed facing up.

Two notches on the body. The one on the top is the guide for the clip. The one on the bottom protects the position where the retracting mechanism is anchored when the nib is released.

The clip also serves as a guide to know where the nib is placed and in which orientation.

2. Construction.

The pen is externally made of plastic and is held together by a metal ring. The thread opening the pen is metal-to-plastic, which is often a vulnerable point that can affect the durability of the tool. This thread sometimes becomes loose during normal operation of the pen. I reckon, though, that this might be caused by my fear breaking the pen.

The releasing mechanism seems and sounds robust, but it is not particularly smooth or soft or silent. At times, the movement of the nib can be rough enough to splash ink drops inside and outside of the pen.

As is suggested by the length of the push knob, the movement of the nib is also long–about 30 mm. This detail allows for a larger portion of the nib exposed when writing, and a better view of what is being written. The drawback is the long button, which makes the pen to look disproportionate.

3. Nib and Writing.

Three are the nib points available to this pen: EF, F, and M. I tested extensively only two of them, F and M, and my words are mostly about them.

Two of the three nib options on the Curidas: F and M. There is also an EF nib.

Preppy and Curidas's nibs side by side. The Curidas's seems an evolution of the Preppy's.

The nibs seem derived from those in the Preppy family of pens (Preppy, Prefounte, Plaisir, etc.). However, the Curidas units are narrower and sport a proper breathing hole, although this is a misnomer and its presence is merely cosmetic.

These steel nibs on this pen do their work perfectly. Reasonably smooth and with a perfectly controlled flow.

The F point is very thin –probably about 0.3 mm, as that is the figure Platinum usually associates to F—, and seems perfectly symmetric. Smooth, ma non tanto.

Writing test of a Curidas with an F nib.

On the contrary, the M point (about 0.5 mm) is a bit stubbish, which adds a bit of character to its performance. This point is a lot smoother than the F.

Writing test of a Curidas with an M nib.

The nibs are quite resistant to drying up. Platinum, on its marketing, explains that the pen is designed creating a small chamber for the nib that is sealed when retracted. Inky Rocks tested this feature with inconclusive results, particularly when compared to the performance of the Pilot Décimo.

The weight of the pen, around 25 g, might seem on the heavy side, but the pen is well balanced and is quite comfortable over extended periods of writing.

4. Maintenance.

The nib unit is easy to extract from the pen and, being a cartridge-converter, cleaning it is not difficulty. Further disassembly of the nib does not seem easy at all, but it is not necessary for regular use.

As for the pen body and mechanism, not much is needed save for the occasional cleaning of ink splats—an easy task when the nib is not in place.

5. Cost and value.

The price of this pen in Japan is JPY 7000 (plus tax), and can be found for less at discount shops. For that price you get a retractable pen with steel nib and a reliable mechanism.

It is also less refined that other similar pens, but they are also more expensive.

6. Conclusions.

In summary, these are the more relevant characteristics of the Platinum Curidas:
– It is a correct pen with very reliable nibs.
– Its mechanism is also reliable albeit a bit inconvenient given its dimensions—long knob, long displacement.
– Original looks that might drive some users away.
– Plastic body. Not the sturdiest in the market.
– Removable clip that might attract those dissatisfied with other capless pens.
– Contained price at JPY 7000 in Japan.

Platinum Curidas, F nib - Diamine Teal

Bruno Taut
Nakano, April 5th, 2020
etiquetas: Platinum, capless

30 March 2020

Curidas. 2. Contenders

As I said on my previous Chronicle, the obvious competition for the newly arrived Platinum Curidas is the basic Pilot Capless model with steel nib. The reasons are easy to see:

The two contenders: Platinum Curidas on top, Pilot Capless with steel nib on bottom.

– Affordable price in the order of JPY 10,000, albeit the Curidas is significantly cheaper.

– Steel nibs on both of them.

The construction structure of both pens is quite similar, but the materials involved on them are different. The Curidas is made mostly of plastic whereas the Capless is fundamentally a metallic pen. The Pilot Capless has a metal-to-metal thread—a lot sturdier solution that the metal-to-plastic of the Curidas. The plastic material of the later does not seem particularly resistant and it might compromise its durability.

Basic disassembly of the Curidas. The metal-to-plastic thread is clearly visible on the body.

Sturdier construction of the Pilot Capless. A metal-to-metal thread on the body. It also costs JPY 3000 more than the Curidas.

This detail connects the Curidas with the previous Capless model of 1984 (FCN-500R and FCN-800R). This Capless has been highly praised by many because of its unobtrusive clip and light weight. And like the Curidas, it is made of plastic and closes through a metal to plastic thread that makes it a bit fragile.

Platinum Curidas on top, 1984 Pilot Capless (FCN-500R) on bottom. Both implement metal-to-plastic threads on the body.

Mechanism-wise, that of the Pilot model is much smoother than the Platinum's. Both of them, in any case, feel and sound reliable, although that of the Platinum has not yet passed the test of time.

About the dimensions, all that is actually relevant is summarized on the following table. And whether is pen is for you is for each of us to decide... by trying it.

.Platinum Curidas 2020.

.Pilot FCN-1MR 1998.
Length closed (mm) 153 141
Length open (mm) 140 138
Barrel diameter (mm) 13.5 13.3
Weight, dry (g) 25.5 30.9
Ink deposit (*) (ml) 1.1/0.6 0.9/0.5
Nib points (**) EF/F/M F/M
Price (***)(JPY) 7000 10000

*: Capacities of proprietary cartridges and converters. In the case of Pilot, the converter is the CON-40.
**: Steel nibs. Pilot offers six nib points on gold nibs.
***: MSRP prices without taxes.

Capless or Curidas?

Cosmetic-wise, both pens offer five different body colors, Platinum's being transparent or semitransparent. On its side, Pilot's nibs are gold plated and are mismatched with the silver body trim of this inexpensive version. The Curidas does not show much trimming save for the removable clip and the central ring. And both match the silver color of the steel nib.

Platinum Curidas, F nib - Diamine Teal

Bruno Taut
Nakano, March 23rd, 2020
etiquetas: Pilot, Platinum, capless

23 March 2020

Curidas. 1. Context

Finally the Platinum Curidas arrived in general retail shops in Japan; the wait is finally over and we can buy it at regular shops –instead of only at a couple of them--, and even at discount shops. Then, how is it?

The Platinum Curidas. At last!

A lot has been said already (::1::, ::2::, ::3::) after all the hype Platinum wisely generated to release its second capless pen after the Platinum Knock in 1965. The Knock was the first attempt of Platinum to compete with Pilot on its own grounds. But the Knock was short lived –a couple of years in the market-, and now it is more of a well sought-after anecdote than a real landmark in the history of pens.

Then, 55 years later Platinum tries again. This time, the strategy is totally different. In 1965, the Knock rivaled with the Pilot Capless in similar terms—both were in the same price range between JPY 2000 and JPY 3000, and both with gold nibs (model C-300SW and variations). Pilot, however, also marketed the cheaper C-100RW model for JPY 1000 with a steel nib in that same year of 1965.

Three capless in 1965. Only two Capless: C-100RW (top), and C-200SW (middle). And the Platinum Knock (bottom).

The situation now is different—Platinum's bet is on an inexpensive pen –JPY 7000—to challenge the Pilot's supremacy in the capless market.

The obvious competitor for the new Curidas is the cheapest version of the Pilot Capless—the regular model (FCN-1MR, 1998) with gold-plated steel nib sold at JPY 10000 (plus tax). But I can also think of a second competitor on the side of Pilot—the previous model of 1984 (FCN-500R and FCN-800R of 1984); also named as the faceted Capless.

Three current capless, only one Capless. The FCN-1MR (top) and two Curidas.

Although this model was discontinued in 1998 and there is an active second hand market on it, it is also possible to find old remains of unsold units at the original price. At least in Japan.

On the following table we can see the basic characteristics of these three points:

.Platinum Curidas 2020.

.Pilot FCN-1MR 1998. .Pilot FCN-800R 1984.
Length closed (mm) 153 141 137
Length open (mm) 140 138 135
Barrel diameter (mm) 13.5 13.3 11.7
Weight, dry (g) 25.5 30.9 17.5
Ink deposit (*) (ml) 1.1/0.6 0.9/0.5 0.9/0.5
Nib points (**) EF/F/M F/M F/M
Price (***)(JPY) 7000 10000 8000/market

*: Capacities of proprietary cartridges and converters. In the case of Pilot, the converter is the CON-40.
**: Steel nibs. Pilot offers six nib points on gold nibs.
***: MSRP prices without taxes. The FCN-800R commands high prices on the free market.

The old faceted Capless FCN-800R (also labeled as FCN-500R) of 1984, on top on the picture, is also a valid rival to the Platinum Curidas, particularly if found at reasonable prices.

The Curidas has just arrived and it is still difficult to gauge the impact it might have in the market beyond the initial waves wisely managed by Platinum. Its future might strongly depend on the interest of the company in making more variations, more luxurious based on this canvas.

This new pen poses some interesting questions—is the latest battle in the fountain pen market focused on the low to middle end segment of pens? Can Platinum compete with the Chinese production of fountain pens? And finally, is the Curidas going to change Pilot's policy regarding its Capless family of pens?

Platinum Curidas, F nib - Diamine Teal

Bruno Taut
Nakano, March 22nd, 2020
etiquetas: Pilot, Platinum, capless, mercado

11 March 2020

S System

Early Pilot pens, in those first 10 or 15 years of the brand, employed a number of filling systems. On these pages we have seen a number of them—the very early inner tube system (naikan shiki), safety pens, star system (hoshiawase), lateral lever (teko shiki), plunger, Japanese eyedropper (inki-dome shiki)... Some of those, of course, were more successful than others, and survived beyond those early days.

However, the usual literature does not mention the very simple eyedropper system, an eyedropper without any shut-off valve, just like Waterman and Parker (and others) used at the turn of the twentieth century. And that is why the following pen is so interesting.

A mid 1920s Pilot.

The pen is in immaculate condition. It even sports the original sticker showing the price –JPY 4.50-- and the nib point –細, F. It seems like it had never seen any ink, although a letter from the technical service of Pilot suggests that there had been some issue with the pen.

JPY 4.50, F nib point (細).

The instruction sheet calls its filling system S or standard type. And the instructions also warn the user that ink drops on the nib (or on the paper!) are indicative of having little ink in the deposit—a typical problem of eyedropper pens even nowadays.

A Western eyedropper, or the S System.

Signed by Pilot Technical Service, without date. The owner had sent the pen because of some ink leak. The response suggests that the only problem was a small amount of ink in the deposit. The letter assured, finally, the pen had been thoroughly checked for optimal performance. Somehow ironic...

The color of the ebonite is also very interesting. Its very uniform brown color, inside and outside, suggests an original non-black ebonite. In fact, we know of some Pilot (or Dunhill Namiki) pens of the time with a similar color.

Early 1930s Dunhill Namiki. Photo courtesy of Mr. A. Mur.

This is a small pen. It implements a size 1 nib made of 14 k gold . These are its dimensions:

Length closed: 122 mm
Length open: 113 mm
Length posted: 155 mm
Diameter: 9.5 mm
Weight: 7.3 g (dry)
Ink deposit: ~ 0.6 ml

On the barrel: '"PILOT / NAMIKI MFG. CO. / MADE IN JAPAN'. And the lifebuoy encircling an N.

Size 1 Pilot nib: "14Kt GOLD / "PILOT" / 1 / MADE IN / JAPAN". Mid 1920s.

All in all, an interesting pen that shows a number of uncommon features in a Pilot from mid 1920s—a regular Western eyedropper (S system in Pilot terms) and an unusual ebonite color.

And on another text we will revisit the filling systems Pilot used in those early years of the company.

My thanks to Antolin2.0, A. Mur, Poplicola-san and TinJapan.

Sailor FL Black Luster – Sailor Black

Bruno Taut
Nakano, March 11th, 2020
etiquetas: Pilot, soluciones técnicas

26 February 2020

Cancellation and Virus

The planned Japan Premium Pen Show (JPPS) has been canceled by the organizers.

This was a project initiated by the organizers of the Tokyo International Pen Show (TIPS). It was planned for the first weekend of May (in coincidence with the Chicago Pen Show), and aimed at the “discerning collector” avid to find “high-end fountain pen brands”.

The nominal excuse for the cancellation is the spread of the Wuhan Coronavirus (COVID-19). This has become a common argument these days—a deus ex machina under which to hide likely failures and disappointments. And that regardless the actual danger of the situation, or how premature the call might be.

Extract of the message sent by the organizers announcing the cancellation of JPPS 2020 and promising the organization of a similar event in 2021.

The rumor goes that the organizers of the JPPS were having a hard time finding traders to fill the 40 tables allocated at the luxurious hotel Chinzanso. In fact, there was a healthy doses of skepticism among aficionados  about the interest if a pen show based on new pens and on well-known retailers. Who would pay JPY 3000 (about EUR 25) to check on pens otherwise available at shops with no entry fee? Who would come to Tokyo instead of to Chicago given the option?

In any event, those potential problems are no more. However, the organizers are promising to try again in 2021. Hopefully with much better sense and knowledge about the pen world.

Iwase Seisakusho N-model prototype – Noodler's Beaver

Bruno Taut
Nakano, February 25th 2020
etiquetas: eventos, Tokyo, Japón