Crónicas Estilográficas

16 April 2024


I have often said that I just write about what I see. And then I publish my texts and wait to see how readers react to them.

Not many comments do I receive on this blog, but the information stays here and anyone can come back to check it. And at some point someone sees it and continues writing the story.

That is what Joshua Danley, author of The Pelikan's Perch, just did. He now tells the story of Kabutogi Ginjiro's Pelikan nibs from a different perspective while adding a lot of information on the original –Pelikan's— counterparts of the moment.

Only one of those nibs was made by Pelikan.

Two suspiciously similar pens, but only one of them is an Ishi Shoten-Yotsubishi. The other, on the back, is anonymous, but its nib was made by Kabutogi Ginjiro.

And that is great as the whole point of these texts is to learn about fountain pens and about their history.

Thanks, Joshua.

Romillo WiPens Toledo – Pilot (Thai) Black

Bruno Taut
April 16th, 2024
etiquetas: Pelikan, nibmeister Kabutogi Ginjiro, metabitácora

04 April 2024


To my friend Michel.

I won't speak about pens today, but about notebooks and paper. Although I use notebooks to write these texts, this one comes as a reaction to some recent news. This is the story:

The so-called Oscars of the stationery world, officially named The Stationery Awards (::1::, ::2::), are announced in February each year. On this occasion, 2024, the Grand Price was for the Pentel Matte Hop ballpen, but what matters more to us is the Functional Award given to the Kokuyo “Flat Kimochii” notebook, on which the company had been working for about three years.

The functional virtue praised by the jury is that these notebooks lie flat on the table when open.

Kokuyo's Campus "Flat Kimochii".

But, is that new?

Mr. Nakamura, of Nakamura Insantsujo, had created a flat notebook around 2015. He did that in collaboration with a book binding business located in the neighborhood of this office in the Kita district in Tokyo.

A potential big order of those newly made notebooks drove Nakamura Insatsujo to produce a large number of them. But the order was canceled and the company was left with a big unsold stock.

Nakamura Insatsujo's "Granddad's Notebook".

Mr. Nakamura, then about to retire, gave some of those notebooks to his granddaughter. She, in turn, on January 1st of 2016 published a Twitter message praising them and complaining about the lack of exposure they had. The Tweet became viral and Nakamura Insatsujo received orders from retailers, making the notebook a best seller while acquiring the nickname of “Granddad's Notebook”.

On its side, Showa Noto, a company well known in Japan for its stationery products for school children, had developed a similar notebook. However, it was quickly discontinued as the binding glue was not durable enough.

Then, in that year of 2016, Showa and Nakamura reached an agreement of collaboration: now both companies produced these flat notebooks. In 2020 the "Granddad's Notebook" received an award of the Ministry of Education, and in 2021 the Stationery Award.

Showa's "Granddad's Notebook".

Kokuyo's development started in 2021 and the "Flat Kimochii" received the Stationery Award for its functionality in 2024.

My thanks to Poplicola-san.

Stationery Awards:
Stationery Awards 2024:
Chronology of the "Granddad's Notebook":
More information on the "Granddad's Notebook":
Showa Noto's press release August 2016:
Showa Noto's flat notebooks:
Kokuyo's Campus "Flat Kimochii":

WiPens Toledo – Pilot (Thai) Black

Bruno Taut
March 3rd, 2024
etiquetas: papelería, Kokuyo, Nakamura Insatsujo, Showa Noto

29 March 2024

Added Value

Regular commenter Saltire Turquoise posed a very interesting question to my initial description of Sakai Eisuke's prototypes made for Pilot in early 1980s: Why can't Pilot make pens like those?

Although probably intended as rhetorical, it does trigger some reflections on the current situation of the pen market.

The first and easy answer to that question is a series of economic concerns—is there a market for those pens? Would they be economically viable?

It is worth to remember that Pilot does have a pen with similar characteristics to those prototypes: ebonite, urushi, Japanese eyedropper... but just bigger, much bigger—the Namiki Urushi 50. And this pen has a price of JPY 150000 in Japan. Expensive or not is anybody's guess, but it is not a pen you see everyday in the hands of aficionados.

From back to front, Pilot Urushi 50 (prior in time to the current Namiki model), Sakai's #10 and Sakai's #3.

However, I can think of a good argument for the marketing of pens like those Saltire Turquoise craved for–those prototypes and smaller versions of the Namiki Urushi 50.

In recent years we have seen how some Chinese companies have copied some very iconic Japanese (and other) fountain pens—Pilot Capless, Pilot Custom Urushi, Sailor ProGear, Platinum Curidas are some examples of pens with Chinese counterparts at much lower prices.

Jinhao or Sailor?

Lanbitou or Platinum?

In this scenario, little can the Japanese companies do save increase the value of their products. And pens like those Sakai's prototypes or like some older models offer interesting templates of what could offer that added value to their catalogs.

The critical question, however, can only be answered experimentally—is the market ready for those more expensive pens?

Thanks, Saltire Turqouise, for your questions.

Pilot Custom 748 – Pilot (Thai) Black

Bruno Taut
March 26th 2024
Etiquetas: Pilot, Sakai Eisuke, mercado, Japón

26 March 2024

Pilot vs. Ban-ei

So, these prototypes were made by Sakai Eisuke. Then, how are they compared to other pens made by this master?

Needless to say, Mr. Sakai made pens in many shapes, some of which I have shown on these pages. However, balance models in a number of sizes and decorations were a very common canvas that came out of Sakai's lathe.

Four Ban-ei balance pens in four different sizes.

On the following pictures we see Sakai's prototypes and balance Ban-ei pens side by side. Do they share a common language?

From left to right, Pilot's Sakai #3, Ban-ei 4-bu, Pilot's Sakai #10, and Ban-ei 5-bu.

On top, Ban-ei "nashi nuri" in size 5-bu. Bottom, Pilot's Sakai #3.

Pilot Custom 74, Yamada Seisakusho – Diamine Teal

Bruno Taut
March 21st 2024
Etiquetas: Pilot, Ban-ei, Sakai Eisuke

22 March 2024

Sakai's #10

The size 3 nib we saw on the previous text makes that pen a strange creature with no clear counterpart in the general catalog of Pilot.

On the contrary, the size 10 pen uses a more standard –and contemporary- Pilot nib. In fact, we can see a close relative in the form of the Pilot 65, the commemorative pen Pilot launched in 1983.

As we can see on the following picture, their nibs and feeds are identical to he manufacturing date, September of 1983.

These are the dimensions of these two pens:

.Pilot 65. .Sakai's 10.
Length closed (mm) 140 146
Length open (mm) 126 124
Length posted (mm) 159 176
Diameter (mm) 13.5 15.0
Weight (g) 17.9 18.6

Lotus Saral Titanium – Pilot (thai) Black

Bruno Taut
March 19th, 2024
etiquetas: Sakai Eisuke, Pilot, plumín

19 March 2024

Sakai's #3

On the previous text I spoke about a couple of Pilot prototypes made by Sakai Eisuke in the early 1980s. These pens are urushi-coated balance units with Japanese eyedropper filling system.

The bigger of them implements a well-known size 10 nib, and I will go back to it on another text. Today I want to speak about the other pen, that with a size 3 nib: about what it is and about what it is not.

And this size 3 nib is not a modern size 3 nib. This nib size, not very popular, is implemented in current models Grance, and in discontinued Legance 89s, Legno 89s and Stella 90s.

The obviously different size 3 nibs. The Sakai's pen on top; a Stella 90 on bottom.

On the contrary, this nib is much closer, but not identical, to those made in the 1920s and 1930s. Its engraving, actually, follows the pattern seen on Pilot pens from the early 1920s.

The nib on the right belongs to the 1980s Sakai Eisuke pen. The other three nibs belong to late 1920s Pilot pens.

Exceptional size 8 Pilot nib from early 1920s. It belongs to a hoshiawase pen. Photo courtesy of Mr. Syrigonakis.

Then, where does this prototype nib come from? Is it an old nib that came in handy for the occasion? A newly crafted unit for the pen, either by Pilot or by some friend of Mr. Sakai's?

Hard to say as there's hardly any information on these singular pens. And when there is nothing we still have the pen...

Opus 88 Koloro – Caran d'Ache Electric Orange

Bruno Taut
March 18th, 2024
etiquetas: Sakai Eisuke, Pilot, plumín

15 March 2024


The world of prototypes is an uncharted one. And that despite the fact that we certainly know that they existed and how the final result –the marketed model– looked like.

But what we do not know far exceeds those basic facts: who made them? How many of them were made? How many iterations did the idea go before settling on the final design? Why and how were those prototypes released into the wild?

From a historical point of view, their interest –dare I say– is limited. Sure they inform the creative process to reach the final model, but their intrinsic scarcity makes more of the anecdote than a reference in themselves. The model is the story, the prototype is the footnote.

But that singularity is what attracts the attention of collectors and what brings prices up on those rare occasions those pens show up in the market.

The following two pens are prototypes of what later became the balance Custom models in the Pilot catalog (Custom 67, 74, 742, etc.). The man behind them, commissioned by Pilot, was lathe master Sakai Eisuke (酒井栄助) in early 1980s.

Two prototypes by Sakai Eisuke for Pilot.

Mr. Sakai looked back in the Pilot catalog to recreate the balance models of the brand in the early 1930s. As a result, these pens are made of ebonite, coated with urushi, and implement the very traditional Japanese eyedropper filling system.

Both of them have their bodies engraved in the same way, copying the style of those old Pilots: “PILOT” / THE PILOT PEN (P logo) MFG. CO. LTD. / MADE IN JAPAN. Note, though, that the P logo, P encircled by a lifebuoy, was adopted in 1938 and that those models from the early 1930s used a similar logo but with an N, Namiki, instead of the P.

The most significant difference between those two pens, aside of the size, lies on the nibs.

The smaller pen sports a size 3 nib with a very old fashioned engraving: WARRANTED / 14 K / PILOT / 3. It is not dated, and it is matched with a very generous ebonite feed.

The size 3 nib with the very generous feed made of ebonite.

The bigger unit has a size 10 nib similar to those present on models like the Custom 742. However, on this case the nib is not numbered as 10. Is is dated September 1983. The feed is also a contemporary unit made of plastic with the interesting detail of a shortened tail to accommodate the seal of the Japanese eyedropper system.

The size 10 nib made September 1983.

These are the dimensions of the pen together with those of a Custom 74:

.Size 3.

.Size 10. .Custom.
Length closed (mm) 137 146 143
Length open (mm) 120 124 125.5
Length posted (mm) 166 176 160
Max diameter (mm) 13.8 15.0 14.5
Weight, dry (g) 13.9 18.6 21.3
Ink deposit (ml) 2.6 2.7 1.0 (*)

From front to back, Sakai's #3, Sakai's #10, and Custom 74.

All in all, Sakai Eisuke combined his expertise in Japanese eyedroppers with the old aesthetics of the 1930s, balance Pilot pens. And at the end, from the prototype to the final model, only the basic shape was preserved.

One could argue, then, that the prototype was not representative of the final model, but this fact only adds appeal to these footnotes to the basic story.

Pilot Custom 748 – Pilot (Thai) Black

Bruno Taut
March 14th, 2024
etiquetas: Sakai Eisuke, Pilot