Crónicas Estilográficas

17 August 2018

Signs of Change? (Ink Market)

On July 25th I wrote about a new line of inks by Sailor commissioned by Nakabayashi, a stationery company. As is often the case with Chronicles on new inks, I expected a big impact resulting in an increase in visits and a number of links point out at these pages.

But that was not the case at all. In fact, the news on these new inks on English-speaking fora barely raised any brow. This is a sharp contrast with the passionate reactions new inks, particularly by Sailor provoked not so long ago.


The "Blue Revolution" did not mobilize the masses.

Are ink aficionados saturated with all these new colors? Or is the market saturated of inks? The ironic detail is that at JPY 54/ml, these Sailor-Nakabayashi inks were not the most expensive Sailor inks in the market

Maybe the reasons are completely different. Maybe the colors of the “Blue Revolution” were not attractive. Maybe 50 ml inkwells were too big… All this is, so far, mere speculation, but I also think that the ink market has grown into a bubble of colors and prices.

And we might be seeing some signs of change.


Pelikan M800 "kodaishu" by Iwase – Sailor Red Brown

Bruno Taut
Nakano, August 17th 2018
etiquetas: Sailor, tinta, mercado, Nakabayashi

09 August 2018

Eclectic or Weak?

I have said this a number of times: fountain pens are obsolete objects, and there is nothing necessary in them. Then, on top of wanting fountain pens, we want them to be in certain way, even though some of those ways might be plain silly.

We want gold nibs. Sure steel nibs can be excellent and more of then than not a blind test would confuse most of us. But gold is gold; and, for some, the more the better.

We want feeders made of ebonite. Japanese makers have proved that plastic feeders work well when properly designed, but the more expensive ebonite is what rocks the boat of stylophiles.

We want self-filling mechanisms. Or, in other words, stylophiles want their fingers stained with ink. Cartridges and converters are too clean, too efficient, too functional. And if not a self-filling mechanism, an eyedropper pen would do it.

We want exotic and outdated materials for the pen body. Many despise current plastics and long for ancient and unstable celluloid like if current acrylic were not colorful enough. Ebonite is also a beloved material despite its propensity to discolor.

Those are, dare I say, the features many –or most— pen aficionados look for on modern pens. And they connect the collector of modern pens with those more fond of vintage fountain pens. In essence, this is the niche market for modern brands like Danitrio, Kanesaki-time Eboya, Gama, Masahiro, Romillo


An old pen by Eboya--ebonite body, ebonite feeder, button filler, gold nib. It belongs to the time when Kanesaki Noritoshi was in charge of the pen production.

And it goes without saying that most contemporary pens don’t fulfill those characteristics. The typical modern pen is made of plastic, implements plastic feeders and uses cartridges and converters. But that is not an obstacle for some of them to become iconic: Pilot Capless, Japanese pocket pens including the Pilot Myu, Lamy Safari


An iconic pen despite its steel nib, its plastic feeder, its filling system, and its material.

So, what do we want? Probably we want old fashioned pens, but we are also happy with almost any pen. Then, the competition in the market selects who wins. And given the available offer, we stylophiles are still too weak in front of the mass of occasional buyers. That or we are too eclectic and in one way or another any pen makes us happy.


Muji Aluminum – Diamine China Blue

Bruno Taut
Nakano, July 21st 2018
etiquetas: mercado, estilofilia

02 August 2018

At a Pen Show

Pen shows are always exciting events for the aficionado. They are also overwhelming and intimidating, but that is part of the appeal, for in a pen show, more is always more--and better.

Then, immersed in that abundance of pens –and with limited resources in the pocket—the aficionado faces a fundamental question:

‘How do I proceed?’


How do I proceed? (Madrid Pen Show 2012).

Some years ago I wrote a short list of tips on how to face a pen show. Then, members of the Spanish pen community through the forum “Foro de Estilográficas” (excuse the overwhelming adds, but it is hosted on a free server) added their insights and comments. This is what came out:


I. BEFORE THE PEN SHOW.

1. Keep focus on what you want. This might be a model, a brand, a category of some sort, etc. Your eyes and your brain will quickly filter the signal from the noise.
However, do not close your eyes totally to those pens not fitting your primary interest. A pen show is an exceptional opportunity to see and to touch extraordinary pens.

2. Do your homework—learn as much as possible about the pens you are specifically interested, check prices,… All that will help you to analyze the pens and to negotiate their prices.


Madrid Pen Show 2015.

II. TIMING.

3. Try to get a general view of the event before pulling the trigger. A pen show takes time and you cannot rush it. Gauge the right time to buy. On one hand, there are pens that will disappear quickly from the tables (and this is an additional reason why point 1 is important). On the other, at the last minute, vendors are keener on offering discounts.
You must understand and accept that you will not see all the pens on display. That is why point 1 is so important—at least you will see most of the pens you were interested on.


Tokyo Pen Trade 2017.

III. BUYING.

4. Ask, touch, try… and ask again. Ask for help if you needed it. Don’t be shy and learn from vendors and fellow visitors.

5. Inspect the pen carefully. Cracked nibs and barrels, fading colors, erosions… All that will serve you to negotiate the price and to avoid later disappointments. A magnifier comes in handy.

6. Negotiate and bargain... politely. Think of buying more than one pen for a lower price. Some vendors might accept a pen you want to sell as part of the payment.
If buying, get the data of the vendor for possible follow ups on the purchase. Not all vendors have the same policy.


Madrid Pen Show 2017.

May no one be afraid of a pen show. Everybody, even the more seasoned collector, is overwhelmed.

Enjoy!


Montblanc 149 – Platinum Black

Bruno Taut
Nakano, August 2nd 2018
etiquetas: evento

31 July 2018

Tokyo International Pen Show 2018

Despite the active pen community existing in Tokyo, this big city lacks an international pen event. Sure there are small fairs (::1::, ::2::, plus the pen fair in Maruzen-Nihonbashi) in Spring attended by some foreign aficionados, but those fairs are basically Japanese in their scope.

Some initiatives were tried in the past with irregular success. The Sapporo Pen Show in 2013 was a one-time thing. Kobe’s Pen Show is now a regular event in November. And Tokyo never got that lucky despite several attempts.

But now, the Tokyo International Pen Show —TIPS— seems to gain the necessary momentum. Pen maker Eboya and stationer BunguBox are the organizers.


The event will be celebrated on September 29th (from 13:00 to 17:00) and 30th (from 10:00 to 16:00) at the Taito Municipal Industry and Trade Center –Taito Hall— on the seventh floor. The entry fee will be JPY 500 per day.


There exist, right now, a list of traders/exhibitors. Most of them are Japanese, and the international representation lies on just five brave traders from Singapore, Taiwan, Switzerland, and France (2).

May the TIPS be successful, for Tokyo deserves a truly international pen show.


Platinum Preppy – Platinum Blue Black

Bruno Taut
Nakano, July 31st 2018
etiquetas: Tokyo, Japón. mercado, evento

25 July 2018

More Sailor Inks: Nakabayashi

The ink business seems very attractive… even to companies with no interests in the fountain pen world.

Such is the case of Nakabayashi, a Japanese company producing stationeries and office supplies. And the closest to a fountain pen it has is a set of notebooks with a decent paper—and no pen, although there is a link to Taccia pens on its website in Japanese. But ink business might be too good to ignore and Nakabayashi searched the company of Sailor to produce its own line.


The five brand-new inks by Sailor... or by Nakabayashi.

So far, these Nakabayashi-Sailor inks follow a very Japanese argument—colors from ukiyo-e engravings by Hokusai and Hiroshige. The first batch of colors is named “Blue Revolution” and suggest that there might be more revolutions in the future. Well, more colors.


The first revolution was blue. Can we be sure thse colors could not be found in the market before?

The “Blue Revolution” is formed by five colors named as “konjô”, “konpeki”, “ai-iro”, “tetsukon” and “koiai”. They come in 50 ml bottles and the boxes are decorated with reproductions of popular engravings by the above-mention artists.


The ink bottle resembles the new presentation of regular (black, blue and blue-black) Sailor inks, but the aspect ratio is different. Photo courtesy of TinJapan.

The price in JPY 2700 plus tax. This means JPY 54/ml, which is in between the Shikiori line of inks at JPY 50/ml and the Ink Studio series at JPY 60/ml.


Many actors involved in the this operation: Nakabayashi, Sailor, a "stationery sommelier" by the name of Hiroshi Isuzu, and a color supervisor named Hide Matsumoto.

Am interesting feature of these Nakabayashi inks is that they are not associated to a particular shop –with a limited distribution—but to a whole company whose distribution network spans over the whole country and beyond. We might need to wait, though, to see where these inks might become available.

In any event, these moves are showing that the ink market is still attractive. Will it ever become saturated? Only at that time prices will go down.

My thanks to FPN member and friend TinJapan.


Platinum Preppy – Platinum Blue-black

Bruno Taut
Nakano, July 24th 2018
etiquetas: tinta, Sailor, Nakabayashi, mercado

23 July 2018

A Correction

Yes, a correction to a previous mistake.

On a recent Chronicle I mentioned that a pen decorated by Mr. Iwase had its body made by lathe master Yasuaki Momose. Well that is not correct.

As I have mentioned previously, Mr. Iwase perform his trade on two types of pens. On one hand he uses Western pens, mostly Pelikan and Montblanc, as canvases for his decorative overlays.


A Montblanc 149 and a Pelikan M1000 decorated by Mr. Iwase".

The other activity is more complex: Mr. Iwase gets old –and unfinished— pen bodies, finds the right nib and feed for them, and decorates it with raden (shells) and urushi. And most of those old pens had been made by Mr. Momose, the old master now retired.


The body of this pen is the work of Mr. Yasuaki Momose.

But not all of them. The case of the pen described on May 22nd 2018, the pen body belonged to an old batch of unfinished Yotsubishi pens, made by the company Ishi Shoten.


Let the mistake be corrected.


Kubo-Yotsubishi-Iwase – Platinum Black

Bruno Taut
Nakano, July 22nd 2018
etiquetas: Iwase, Yotsubishi, metabitácora, Momose Yasuaki, maki-e

14 July 2018

Nib Sizes, Feed Diameters

Few elements in a pen are really standardized. Each maker created –still creates– many of the components and they only had to match the other parts of the pen without any regard to other manufacturers.

The closes one could get to normalization was in the area of nibs, where at some point there was a consensus about their sizes. In that environment, sizes 6 and 8 were quite big; sizes 10 and 12 were huge, rare, expensive and highly desirable.

And half the world away, Japanese pen makers had their own life to live. Sure Pilot numbered their nibs in a similar fashion --from 0 to 8--, but the consistency in the size was far from exemplary. Sailor, on its side, used some crazy numbers—sizes 30, 80, and 200 for some of the nibs that, in actuality, were rather small.


An old Sailor nib labeled as size 30.

Nowadays, Japanese makers are very consistent in the sizing of their nibs, but the naming is very arbitrary.

Pilot, on its more common line of nibs, calls them as 3, 5, 10, 15, 20, 30, 50. These numbers, however, do not mean much.

Platinum has three basic nibs—the 3776 with two and three tines, and the President. There is no indication of size.

Sailor, finally, has three basic sizes called medium, big and superbig.

And in the West, German nibs –third party nibs—tend to follow a more systematic approach. Bock nibs, albeit having their own number, follow a relevant pattern—the diameter of the feed. And the same happens with JoWo nibs: the feed diameter sets the nib size.

So, the question is how all these nibs –Japanese and German—compare. The following tables show the diameters of the feed of some manufacturers:

Pilot-Namiki

Nib

description

Feed

diameter

(mm)

5 6.0
10 6.2
15 6.4
20 6.5
50 9.0


Pilot and Namiki nibs. From left to right, sizes 5, 10, 15, 20, and 50. Sizes 20 and 50 are implemented currently only on Namiki pens. However, the examples here shown are still Pilot (::1::, ::2::). Missing on the table and on the picture are sizes 3 and 30.

Platinum-Nakaya

Nib

description

Feed

diameter

(mm)

3776 old model

music 2-tined nib

6.0
3776 new model 6.5


Two 3776 nibs. These are the nibs implemented on Nakaya pens, the "alter ego" of Platinum. On the left, the feed and the nib of the old version of the regular nibs. This feed is still used on the music nibs of Platinum and Nakaya. On the right, the modern nib and feed of the 3776 series of pens and of Nakaya pens save for the cases of music nibs. Missing on the table and on the picture, the President nib.

Sailor

Nib

description

Feed

diameter

(mm)

Medium 5.8
Big 6.4


Sailor nibs and feeds of sizes medium (left) and big. Missing on the picture and on the table, the "super big" size of the "King of Pen" models.

Bock

Nib

description

Feed

diameter

(mm)

060, 076, 180 5.0
220, 250 6.0
380 8.0

JoWo

Nib

description

Feed

diameter

(mm)

#5 5.0
#6 6.0
#8 8.0


From left to right: Bock model 250 (6.0 mm in diameter), Bock model 380 (8.0 mm), and JoWo nib of size #6. All the feeds on the picture are made of ebonite.

The following pictures show how some of those nibs compare across brands.


Japanese nibs with similar external sizes. From the top left, clockwise: Sailor nib size big, Platinum 3776 Century (current model), Platinum 3776 (previous model), Pilot size 10.


Assorted pens whose nibs are about the size of a size 6 nib. From bottom left, clockwise: Pelikan M800, Clavijo with a JoWo #6, Senator pen with a Bock 250 (6.0 in diameter), Eboya with a Bock 250, Romillo with a Bock 250, Pilot with a size 20 nib, Pilot with a size 15 nib, and a Montblanc 146.


Assorted pens with nibs of about a size 8. From the bottom, clockwise: Romillo with a Bock 380, Eboya with a Bock 380, Montblanc 149, Pelikan M1000, and Sailor King of Pen.

The conclusion is interesting: Japanese follow their own systems and the actual sizes are very different to those of the German manufacturers.


Montblanc 149 – Platinum Black

Bruno Taut
Nakano, July 13th 2018
etiquetas: plumín, Japón, Alemania, Pilot, Platinum, Sailor, Bock, JoWo