Crónicas Estilográficas

14 May 2021

Japanese Ebonite

In many a pen forum, the Pilot Custom Urushi, marketed initially in 2016, raised a discussion—what is better, a Custom Urushi or a Sailor King of Pen (KoP)?

The answer to that question depends heavily on the market where you were located. In Japan, for instance, the Sailor KoP is in general cheaper than the Custom Urushi, but that is not the case in many other markets.

Custom Urushi or Sailor King Profit Ebonite?

However, I wonder whether those two pens belonged to the same category. Sure they both implement large nibs, but the urushi layer of the Pilot sets it apart and adds some refinement the Sailor lacks both in the plastic and ebonite models. The urushi, in other words, might be enough to justify the higher price of the Custom Urushi in the Japanese market. And, consequently, an even more expensive KoP would necessarily be at loss with respect to the Pilot.

More apt to comparison, in my opinion, are the Sailor King Profit made of ebonite and the Eboya Hakobune XL. Both pens are made of ebonite without any additional coating, both sport size 8 nibs, both are full sized. And both cost around JPY 75000.

Eboya Hakobune XL or Sailor King Profit Ebonite?

Their differences are also clear. The KoP has a plastic section –the same section valid for all KoP models. The Eboya, conversely, is completely made of ebonite.

The weakest element of the Eboya might be the nib—a German-made Bock clearly labeled as such. In exchange, the feed is made of ebonite, which is something that many aficionados appreciate.

Hakobune XL's nib and feed--18 K gold and ebonite.

The problem the buyer might have the limited distribution of these two models. Sailor seems focused on mode expensive versions of the KoP series of pens, and finding the King Profit in ebonite is very difficult lately.

Eboya's Hakobune XL is not in the regular catalog of the company, and its availability depends on the supply of the Bock 380 system.

Conspicuously absent in this discussion is Platinum. And that because Platinum does not make any nib of a similar size. Platinum's strategy for luxury pens seem based on the decoration and not on the nib.

Platinum Izumo and Nakaya Cigar. Platinum's sense of luxury is associated to the decoration rather than to the nib.

And now, the decision of what to buy is up to everyone of us.

Pilot, Eboya or Sailor? Up to you.

Arenton silver rings – Unknown blue-black ink

Bruno Taut
Nakano, May 13th 2021
etiquetas: Pilot, Platinum, Eboya, Bock, Sailor, plumín, mercado

08 April 2021

Kokutan, Year 0

This text is just an addendum to the previous Chronicle.

Soon after publishing it I could get my hands on another Precious Wood pen by Sailor. On this case, the pen is made of ebony –kokutan in Japanese.

Sailor's Precious Wood made of ebony.

Save for the material, this pen is identical to that made of tagayasan (Senna siamea). Even the nib –18 K Au-- carries the same manufacturing date: 003, March of a year ending in 0. So, this pen does not offer any additional information on the moment in which these Precious Wood pens had been marketed.

Tagayasan (front) and kokutan. Same pen, different woods.

The nibs of the previous pens. 18 K gold. M and F.

On the other hand, this pen could be seen –save for the different grade of the gold in the nib-- as the canvas for the maki-e work described some years ago on these pages.

Two pens made of ebony.

All in all, this pen is nothing exactly new, but shows another example of woods used in the Precious Wood series.

Moonman T2 with a Kanwrite nib – Private Reserve Dakota Red

Bruno Taut
Nakano, April 7th, 2021
etiquetas: Sailor

31 March 2021

Tagayasan, Year 0

Dating Sailor pens in often tricky.

As I have shown previously, the date stamped on their nibs between the late 1960s and 2017 was a three-digit number, on which the first of them was the last digit of the manufacturing year. And the other two were the month. This system creates a basic uncertainty—to which decade does the first digit belong?

That question is not always easy to answer as some models span their lives over several decades.

Such is the case of the following pen—a “precious wood” made of tagayasan wood. Tagayasan (鉄刀木, literally iron sword wood) is the Japanese word for Senna siamea, one of the multiple variations of ironwood.

When was this pen made?

According to Masa Sunami [Lambrou and Sunami. Fountain Pens of Japan. 2012], the first wooden pen by Sailor was marketed in 1968 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the begining of the Meiji period. That first wooden pen implemented a number of parts from previous models, and by 1972 the idea had adopted a new style and became as well a canvas for maki-e decorations. These pens, following the trend of the moment, had 23 K gold nibs.

This pen, from 1966, served as model for the 1968 wooden pen to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Meiji Period. The pen in the picture is made of plastic.

Sailor pen from 1972. The decoration is maki-e over ebony. The nib is made of 23 K Au.

Since then, this model has seen several variations in different materials and finishes—-mammoth ivory, wood, maki-e decorations--, and with different gold grades for the nib.

The same pen, this time made of mammoth ivory, a material not subject to restrictions. 1988.

In fact, these pens were included in the Sailor catalog up to 2009 as canvas for the most elaborated maki-e decorated pens made by Sailor at the time.

Page 2 of the Sailor catalog of maki-e decorated pens of 2008.

So, when was this “tagayasan” pen made?

This pen is a cartridge-converter, as was the case of all Sailor pens made between 1960 and 2006. The nib is made of 18 K gold. Its dating code is 003, meaning March of a year ending in 0.

Ebony (top) and ironwood (bottom).

The tagayasan pen, disassembled.

The nib and the feed. The engravings on the nib read "18 K / SAILOR", "4 003", and the JIS mark. 4 means this is a medium nib.

But, is it 1980, 1990 o 2000? Hard to say.

The closest relative to this tagayasan pen is a series of precious wood pens prepared by Sailor in 2003 thinking of the US market. However, those pens never entered production [Lambrou and Sunami. Fountain Pens of Japan. 2012]. But this pen is remarkably similar, including the grade of the gold nibs: 18 K.

This detail makes me think of 2000 as the year of production of this tagayasan pen. But this is just a speculation. More research is needed.

What we do know, though, is that this is a well-made pen, very reliable, and attractive. And collectable in its relative rarity.

My thanks to Mr. Kanesaki and Mr. Shimizu.

Ohashido - Lamy Petrol

Bruno Taut
Nakano, March 30th, 2021
etiquetas: Sailor

17 March 2021

Curidas (IV). One Year Later

It was about this time last year when the Platinum Curidas became available in the market. It was released after a lot of hype and some delays that made it both desired and scarce during those early weeks of Spring 2020. Now, one year later, what can be said about it?

I have been using intermittently three units-one with each point. My use was not excessive in any moment—they were part of the pens I had inked, and they rarely left my desk.

These are my observations after a year of irregular use:

– The nibs perform correctly. They are smooth, and the ink flow is correct and constant.

Not much difference between the EF and the F nib points. Other than that, pleasant nibs. The problems are somewhere else.

– The retracting mechanism, on the contrary, is far from being acceptable. Out of the three units, only one works smoothly. The other two are very slow at closing the lid when retracting the nib. There are also some reports of nibs becoming dry,  possibly due to a deficient closing of the lid.

– Occasionally, the nibs have become stuck inside the barrel and could only be released by carefully pushing the nib unit from the front –i.e. from the nib point-- backwards. In one case, out of three, the nib unit became stuck every single time I tried to use it. So, it became useless and in need to repair.

So, the conclusions on the Platinum Curidas cannot be positive. The mechanism and the nib unit need further refinement in order to become reliable. In the meantime, the pen is simply not good enough.

Ohashido - Lamy Petrol

Bruno Taut
Nakano, March 17th, 2021
etiquetas: Platinum, capless

09 March 2021

Against Marketing: New Parker 51

This is not new, and years ago I already argued in favor of the original model over the opportunistic re-issue:

Against marketing, history.

And that argument is again relevant on the occasion of the Parker 51. Well, the release of the newest version.

New or old?

Is it pertinent? Does it add anything to the market and to the old model?

The Parker 51 is, according to some sources, the best selling pen in history with well over 20 million pens sold. And this means that there are many Parker 51 available in the secondary market, and for not much money.

New and old.

The new Parker 51 with gold nib (JPY 33000, plus tax).

For the uninitiated, the classic Parker 51 is a well-built pen that was marketed in a number of finishes and sizes, with a variety of nibs –14 K gold and steel--, and with three different filling systems—vacumatic, aerometric and cartridge/converter. The very common aerometric, in particular, is a extraordinary pen in terms of durability and performance. And its price in pen shows, antique shops and flea markets can be as low as EUR 50 (about JPY 6500)--if not lower.

Two Parker 51 (top and middle), and a Parker 21 Super (bottom). The 21 is an alternative to the 51 for even less.

A collection of classic Parker 51. None of them cost more than EUR 200.

On the contrary, the newly-released Parker 51 comes only as a cartridge/converter, with two possible nibs –18 K gold and steel--, and with two nib points –F and M. And all that for JPY 12000 (steel nib) of JPY 33000 (gold nib).

And what can you buy in Japan for that money? A lot. For those prices, the big three Japanese companies offer about half dozen models with gold nibs nad many more options in nib points and filling systems.

So, we could conclude that neither as a classic pen or as novelty, the new Parker 51 makes much sense in the Japanese market. Parker, obviously, thinks differently.

WiPens Bokumondoh Kanshitsu – Lamy Petrol

Bruno Taut
Nakano, March 9th, 2021
labels: Parker, mercado, Japón

31 December 2020

Spurious Arguments

The last significant iteration of the Platinum 3776 came out in 2011 with the model 3776 Century. This version came with a shorter nib (save in the case of music nibs) and with the slip-and-seal mechanism to prevent the nib from drying up when not in use.

This model has since then been a useful canvas for the all-too-common creation of limited and special editions—the Fuji Lakes, the Nice pens, the Star Wars, the Fuji Seasonal Views...

Variations on a theme.

In 2012, Platinum marketed the pen called Jin-Shin, a limited edition of 300 units,150 for Japan, 150 for the rest of the World; both numbered over 150. As a pen, it is a variation of the 3776 Century, albeit without the slip-and-seal mechanism.

The Jin-Shin of 2012.

The main point of this pen is its maki-e decoration. Its technique is called “sumikoage taka maki-e” and it uses charcoal powder ("sumi") to form a raised surface. This technique has later been used by Platinum in a couple of pens of the Izumo series. The motif depicted on the Jin-Shin is a dragon—“Black Dragon in the Dark”.

Sexy underwear.

To justify this special edition, Platinum tries to make an argument invoking the Chinese astrology and the symbolism associated to the number 29... All in all, poorly explained mumbo jumbo, but repeated almost verbatim by retailers all around the World. However, it does not matter much—any argument is good to create yet another limited edition.

And this pen is beautiful.

Ohashido plain ebonite - Kobe Ginza, Sepia Gold (Sailor)

Bruno Taut
December 31st 2020
etiquetas: Platinum, maki-e

23 December 2020

More Custom 74

In essence, the Pilot Custom 74 is a torpedo-shaped pen, with golden accents, and a 14 karat gold nib. Its current price is JPY 12000 (JPY 14000 for two of its nibs), and that makes it to become the basic gold-nib pen of the brand.

But here were some variations on that model. As I described some time ago, in 1993 Pilot issued a special edition of a flat-top Custom 74 for the share holders of Pilot Corporation. That edition implemented a coarse (a BB or BBB) point in the usual size 5 nib.

At the time of publishing that text some commentators mentioned that there had been some other editions of flat-top Custom 74 with other nibs, but not many details were finally offered.

The pen I am showing today belongs to one such edition. In this occasion, the pen sports a three-tined music nib (size 5). Its manufacturing date is December of 1992. The pen came also with a label stating the nib point and the price—JPY 15000.

A flat-top Custom 74 with a music nib.

These data make the pen all the more interesting. First, the manufacturing date is very close to that of the share-holder edition (February of 1993), Therefore, both pens were manufactured with different purposes in similar dates.

Two flat tops; one for sale, another for share holders.

Two Custom 74 with music nibs, both available at the shops at some point.

Second, the label shows that this pen was for sale. Its price –JPY 15000- was higher than that of the torpedo version with music nib--JPY 12000 at the time.

So, all these pens raise more questions than they answer. Was this flat-top with music nib part of a limited edition? Was it ever included in the regular catalog? What other nib points were available?

And the search continues.

Parker 61 — Unknown blue-black

Bruno Taut
December 22th 2020
etiquetas: Pilot, plumín, plumín musical