Crónicas Estilográficas

28 February 2024

Kanreki

The Japanese word “kanreki” refers to the celebration of the 60th birthday. For the occasion, the birthday guy wears a red outfit composed by a cap and a vest –the “chanchanko”— typically used by babies to represent the rebirth and the beginning of a new life.

In the world of fountain pens, though, “kanreki” primarily refers to the Sailor Kanreki, In the Winter of 2007-08, Sailor marketed a Professional Gear pen in several hues of red to celebrate the 60th anniversary of Kawaguchi Akihiro, the Pen Doctor. Mr. Kawaguchi, in fact, participated in the design of this pen.

And years later, in 2023, the rival company Pilot celebrated another kanreki—that of the Capless model, originally released in 1963.

Again, a red pen –only one tone of red— with black trim and black nib. This time, though, it was a limited edition of 2023 numbered units.

It is quite obvious the cultural appeal of the term kanreki, and despite its very local nature —or maybe because of it!— both Sailor and Pilot have used it for their products. Should we wait for a Platinum Kanreki as well?

Kanreki.

Anyway, now in 2024 we have two pens from two different brands with the same model name. Confusing? Maybe, but you should never underestimate the inabilities of Japanese companies to name their products.


Pilot pocket Sterling Silver – Pilot Black

Bruno Taut
February 2024
Etiquetas: Pilot, Sailor, Capless, mercado

31 January 2024

Soft or Marketing?

We know of the existence of Sailor nibs labeled as S –particularly in the 1990s- instead of as H, as is more common. The obvious understanding of these two letters were soft and hard, although there is hardly any difference in their flexibility.

S-M and H-M nibs. Soft and hard? Different alloys?

Some further investigation, including some input from Sailor personnel, pointed out that S and H merely indicated different gold alloys.

But is that all?

The following Sailor Profit pen implements one such S nib, and also sports an interesting sticker on the barrel: 軟, nan, soft. Therefore, not only the nib is S, but the pen was also “soft”.

軟, nan, soft.

The point here is that S could mean almost anything of being just a code for, say, a specific gold alloy. But adding the ideogram for soft implies something more. Was it a marketing operation of some sort associated to those labels and stickers?

S but not soft.

But clothes do not make the man and labels do not change the flexibility.


Opus 88 – Caran d'Ache Electric Orange

Bruno Taut
January 31st, 2024
etiquetas: plumin, Sailor

03 December 2023

Madrid 2023

During the weekend between November 10th and 12th, the 19th edition of the Madrid Pen Show took place at the Meliá Castilla hotel. And as it is already customary (::1::, ::2::, ::3::, etc.) I will offer my reflections on the event.


This 2023 edition was celebrated one weekend before the usual schedule –the 3rd weekend in November— because of a chronic problem—the difficulties to find a hotel in Madrid in November with a large enough salon (about 700 m2). And on this occasion, the organizers had to settle with what was available—a nice hotel (and known from the 2021 event) with a big enough salon, but at a wrong date.


And the wrong date came with a number of issues. First, it was a long weekend in Madrid and many locals decided to leave the city. Then, an important football match was celebrated on Saturday evening in the neighborhood of the hotel. Finally, a number of political demonstrations –with occasional bouts of violence— took place in Madrid on those days.

The result? About 30-40% lower attendance than in previous editions. And that meant a lower amount of money in circulation.

Photo courtesy of JMBS.

On the positive side, the mere size of the event remained untouched—about 65 traders, including some new faces coming from Ireland, Greece, India, Japan... And the available space was also enough for a pleasant experience. Of course, the lower attendance also helped on this regard. However, one of the two rooms of the event lacked some light, a detail noticed by both dealers and visitors.


I hope the problems experienced on this 2023 edition could be solved in 2024, as I also hope for a long and prosperous life of the Madrid Pen Show. Nevertheless, the average age of visitors is not a good omen, and that is a most fundamental problem.


Jinhao Dadao 9019 – Montblanc Irish Green

Bruno Taut
December 3rd, 2023
etiquetas: evento, Madrid

19 November 2023

Timber! Timber! TIPS 2023

The 2023 Tokyo International Pen Show (TIPS) took place during the first weekend of November 3rd to 5th, and it´s time to reflect on it and on the new trends in the market. Needless to say, what I might write is just my perception and I am sure I am missing many other movements.


First, the pen show in itself. 3 days, 180 tables, five shifts to attend it, most of them sold out. The figures clearly speak of a big success. It might not be what you expect from a pen show, but this East Asian style pen show does work, and, best of all, attracts younger generations of stationery aficionados.


And that because, as I have repeatedly said, TIPS is not a pen show but a stationery fair where many vendors simply display their latest products. More on this later.

The shift system –you pay to enter the show during a limited period of just four hours, morning or afternoon- is one of the unfortunate aftereffects of the pandemic years. What initially was a good idea to limit the number of people at the lounge at once and thus limiting the risk of infection is now an excuse to increase the total number of visitors and the revenue associated to selling tickets. The downside of it is easy to understand—this fair is not a meeting point for aficionados but just a market place where you better rush to see it all and to execute your purchases.

On this occasion, 2023, the large number of vendors –180- pushed the organizers to use two lounges on two different floors in the building. Moving between them could be very easy, but the organizers decided to make it difficult and unpleasant despite giving you a paper bracelet as soon as you entered the fair. It looked like they did not trust their own controlling mechanisms. But do not ask difficult questions...

So, what was on offer at TIPS 2023? More of the same things we saw on previous years: very few second hand and vintage pens, many more new pens, inks, paper, assorted paraphernalia...

Assortted paraphernalia...

However, I could see some new trends:

1. Timber, timber, timber! It seems wood lathes are on sale and the number of people making wooden pens –fountain pens, ball pens, mechanical pencils-- was surprising. But, is the market big enough for so many operations?

Timber! Timber!

2. Emerging markets. TIPS is a success in previous years and so it seems like a good stage where to present new companies and new products. In previous years we saw some European and American traders. This year, we also saw dealers from India, PR China and Turkey.

An Indian trader--Endless.

3. Urushi might be from East Asia, but now it is everywhere. And by urushi I also mean urushi-based decorative techniques. At TIPS 2023 we could see some interesting examples of urushi and raden decorated pens made in India and in Turkey.

Urushi-nuri and raden from Turkey.

Conclusions:

– The TIPS model –a stationery fair- works and is here to stay, Its ability to attract younger aficionados is a powerful argument to support this event in the years to come. Pens might not be the argument to attract them, but it does not matter as long as they come.

– New trends come and go. Wooden pens and urushi-decorated pens might be fashionable now, but everything can change overnight.

– Look out for products and companies coming from emerging markets as they will pose a very serious competition to well established companies.

Would I come again? Not sure. I always end up disappointed, but it is a good place to find out what is going on in the world of stationery.


Moonman A2 - Diamine Bilberry

Bruno Taut
November 8th, 2023
etiquetas: mercado, evento, Tokyo, maki-e

06 November 2023

The Four Seasons of Mr. Sato

(You shall excuse my recent silence on these pages. Some personal issues came in my way and had to pay attention to them. Hopefully I will be able to post more often in the following weeks).

In the last years we have seen how urushi-based decorative techniques have been adopted by a number of craftsmen well beyond the traditional locations in East Asia. Now we see urushi-decorated pens in Poland, Spain, Switzerland, USA, Turkey, India... and probably many more, plus some others waiting to be discovered.

In the meantime, the Japanese scene remains relatively calm. Sure some younger figures have made some beautiful noise –such is the brilliant case of Bokumondoh—, but there are some others hidden in their own studios scattered all around Japan. And few of them become known beyond their communities and customers.

Such is the case of Mr. Tateo Sato (佐藤建夫, Sato Tateo in Japanese), an urushi master from the mountains of Miyagi, about 350 km North of Tokyo. Mr. Sato was born in Miyagi in 1951 and has been active since very early age, first learning with masters Sawaguchi Shigeru, Nishiya Kazuo and Yamamoto Hideaki; and since 1981 as the head of his own studio in Narako, Miyagi.

And now, thanks to the initiative of Mr. Uehara Yu-ichi of Ohashido, another fellow from Miyagi, we can see some of the works of the urushi master. Uehara commissioned Sato Tateo with the decoration of some pens. The result, or part of it, is the following set of four pens:

The Four Seasons.

The name of the set is “The Four Seasons”, and the pens are individually named after some evocative Japanese word: tsukushi (土筆) for Spring, hotaru (蛍) for Summer, kagerô (蜻蛉) for Autumn, and tokiwa (常盤) for Winter.

Tsukushi for Spring. Note the signature near the pen end.

Tsukushi is a form of horsetail (equisetum) that grows in Spring. Initially it is yellowish in color.

Fireflies in Summer.

Hotaru is firefly. For this pen, Mr Sato used some subtle raden decoration combined with black urushi.

Dragonflies in Autumn.

Kagerô is an old word for dragonfly, an insect deeply associated with Autumn in Japan.

Evergreen Winter.

Tokiwa, finally, means evergreen、with its usual connotations of youth and longevity.

All four pens are signed with the kao –stylized signature— of the master.

As for the pen, not much can be said once you know the works of Mr. Uehara. They are regular Ohashido pens made of ebonite with a medium size nib (big in Sailor terms) made of 21 K gold, manufactured by Sailor.

The Sailor nib labeled as Ohashido.

Rare as these pens are, they won't become representative of the works made by Uehara and the Ohashido brand, but sure they will become collectibles sought after by aficionados. And maestro Sato might become better known.


My thanks to Poplicola-san.

Parker 50 “Falcon” – Sailor Yama-dori

Bruno Taut
November 6th, 2023
etiquetas: Ohashido, maki-e

15 September 2023

Oversized Jinhao

The speed at which Chinese pen companies are releasing their new models is no longer a surprise. An obvious side effect of this practice is the practical impossibility to keep track of all the novelties in the market. But now and then a model strikes out and makes some waves.

The Jinhao Dadao 9019. Engravings on the clip ("JINHAO") and on the cap ring ("JINHAO - DADAO No. 9019").

Lately, Jinhao has released an oversized pen with a size 8 nib—the Jinhao Dadao 9019. In essence, this is a torpedo-shape pen, with very clean lines, made of plastic. Its overal shape and proportions ressemble those of some pens made by the Ban-ei group of artisans (and a number of small operations making jumbo pens). The actual dimensions of this pen are as follow:

Length closed: 142.4 mm
Length open: 130.3 mm
Length posted: 171.0 mm
Diameter: 19.1 mm (cap), 16.3 mm (barrel)
Weight: 31,5 g (dry)
Ink deposit: 2.2 ml

The barrel diameter, 16.3 mm, is slightly smaller than that of a 6-bu jumbo pen. However, the proportions seem basically preserved, rendering a very familiar pen... albeit with some interesting additions.

First and foremost, this pen is a cartridge-converter, and accepts short (0.7 ml) and long (1.45 ml) international cartridges, and standard converters. But the pen comes with its own converter that takes benefit of the oversized barrel—a girthier, larger converter holding 2.2 ml of ink.

An oversized converter that holds 2.2 ml of ink.

Not a new idea —Sailor used this same strategy in the 1960s for its model Magna L-, but is seldom seen in the industry.

A second detail, very common in Japanese pens, is the o-ring on the thread coupling the barrel and the section. This rubber gasket secures the connection between those two parts, and some users might feel tempted to eyedropper this pen, but first they should seal the tail hole on the barrel.

On the negative side, the pen lacks an inner cap, and this absence might cause premature drying of the nib, although it does not seem the case during the days I have been using this pen.

The size 8 nib made of steel: "JINHAO / F / X159". And a plastic feed.

The nib, a size 8 made of steel, had the options of EF, F and M nib points. Out of the box, my unit was dry and a bit rough, Some adjustment was done and now it writes smoothly and with an adequate flow. The conclusion is that this nib is correct, but it is not fully finished when leaving the factory.

All in all, the Jinhao Dadao 9019 is a very interesting pen, in particular when the price –about EUR 13, or even less— is taken into account.

On the other hand, the problems we see on it, however, are those common to many (PR) Chinese pens—lack of nib points, mediocre quality control, and limited distribution channels.


PS: At the time of publishing this Chronicle I took the pen from the pouch where I had carried it around for some days. Actually, I had not open the pen for over a week. And much to my surprise, the cap was filled with ink, and the converter was almost empty, and this, given the high capacity of the ink deposit, can be a very dirty issue. None of the other three pens in the pouch had this problem. So, we might need to handle this pen with care. Caution is adviced.


Jinhao Dadao 9019 – Platinum Black

Bruno Taut
September 2nd, 2023
etiquetas: Jinhao, China, mercado

09 August 2023

Hifra Again

Hifra, Joker and Presidente are three brands I have documented on these texts with the help of some friends from a number of countries. These brands, let us remember, were operations that used Platinum pens as their own in the late 1950s in their own countries: Hifra in South Africa, Joker in Greece, and Presidente in Spain.

Among them, Hifra seems to be the better established company, and used more Platinum models –among some others-- and its operation extended beyond those late 1950s. And today, I am showing one more of those pens—a Sheaffer inspired pen.

A Hifra pen. On the barrel, "HIFRA" / TRADE (logo) MARK / REG 85809 / 4415 .

This Hifra is an aerometric filler with a metallic cap and a black body. The nib is an inlaid unit with a close resemblance to some Sheaffer nibs. These are its dimensions:

Length closed: 135 mm
Length open: 118 mm
Length posted: 153 mm
Diameter: 16 mm
Weight: 18.3 g (dry)

The insides. A bladder-type filler.

The nib: HIFRA / SUPERIOR / 105-PEN .

Platinum, could not be otherwise, used these inlaid nibs in several pens during the 1950s.

A similar nib in a President pen, one of the brands historically used by Platinum.

But all in all, the whole pen is very close to some Sheaffer models of the time. On the picture, a Sheaffer Sentinel.

Sheaffer Sentinel.


Moonman T2 with Bock nib – Pilot (Thai) Black

Bruno Taut
August 9th, 2023
etiquetas: Hifra, Platinum, Sheaffer