31 December 2010

ED (I)

Once dip pens became obsolete with the invention of reliable feeders to control the ink flow the problem to store the ink in the pen became evident. A primary option to become the ink deposit is, naturally, the pen body. And that is the essence of an eyedropper (ED) pen: a hollow body connected somehow with the feed and therefore with the nib. To fill the deposit, simply detach the barrel from the section and put some ink inside the former with the help of an eyedropper or, nowadays, a syringe.

Three Swan pen. The first one is a lever filler Mabie Todd made in the US; the second, a British eyedropper; the third, a Japanese eyedropper with safety valve.

Such was the filling mechanism –by the way, is that a self-filling system?— in most pens by the end of the nineteen century. Further technical evolution changed the filling procedures into either piston systems or sac-based devices. However, eyedropper pens have survived all these years, especially in Japan.

A Japanese jumbo pen with Nakaya nib. An eyedropper with safety valve. Some more modern jumbo eyedroppers can be seen on the chronicle entitled Ink Tankers.

On top of that, lately there seems to be a revival of eyedroppers. A common complaint among pen users is the small capacity of cartridge and converters –the system of choice in modern pens—, and of many self-filling systems. As a result, many of us turned our eyes to eyedroppers, new and old. And to possible conversions of cartridge/converter pens into the old unsophisticated system.

Little is needed for such transformation: A barrel without holes, a good fitting thread between barrel and section (more on this, later), and the absence of metallic parts in direct contact with the ink other than the inevitable nib. This last point, that some consider of little relevance, is demanded by those afraid of the possible corrosion the ink might generate on those metals.

Elastic gaskets (synthetic rubber and silicone o-rings) and water-insoluble grease (petroleum jelly, for instance) come in handy to seal the threads closing the barrel against the section, thus avoiding embarrassing problems.

A plastic Kaweco Sport. It has no metal parts inside the barrel. There is a demonstrator version particularly well-suited to become an eyedropper.

There are a number of pens on the market apt for this conversion. The lack of metal parts is often associated to inexpensive writing tools, and, therefore, not much is lost in case the conversion went terribly wrong.

A Platinum Preppy. With the help of an o-ring, this pen was transformed successfully into an eyedropper.

A Pilot Calligraphy (Plumix in other markets). Another pen suitable for transformation into an eyedropper.

Pilot’s Petit-1, Plumix/Calligraphy, Vortex, and even Parallel Pens; Platinum’s Riviere and Preppy: Kaweco’s plastic Sport model; Daiso’s mini model; are all suitable candidates for this experiment.

The benefits? An enormous ink reservoir. And a fun time.

(Waterman CF – Sailor Red Brown)

Bruno Taut
(In exile, December 30th, 2010)
[labels: soluciones técnicas, Japón]

30 December 2010


The two nibs I am showing today belong to two very different pens. But both of them are very similar in their exoticism—these nibs can be adjusted in their stiffness.

Wahl-Eversharp Doric.

The older one belongs to a Wahl-Eversharp Doric, a true classic American pen from the 1930s.

The plate acts like a zipper on the nib. Closed, on top, the tines cannot open. Open, on the bottom, the tines can give under pressure.

The small piece on top of the nib slides up and down along the slit. Placed on the bottom end, the nib is very rigid. On the upper end, the nib –free from the constraint— shows its maximum flexibility. This nib's system was patented by Wahl-Eversharp in 1932.

Pilot Justus. The model number was FJ-1000R-B. That shows its price was JPY 10,000.

The Pilot Justus’s nib does exactly the same. This time, however, the pen owner does not need to stain his hands—the sliding plate is operated through a rotating ring inserted in the section.

The plate on the nib works simply by adding some resistance to the natual flexibility of the tines. this mechanism is less sophisticated than that of the Wahl-Eversharp.

The knurled ring acting on the plate, and the indication showing how to make the nib Harder or Softer.

The Pilot Justus on these pictures was manufactured in 1993 (December). This model reached some markets outside Japan.

The Pilot nib was manufactured in 14 K gold, on December 1993.

My thanks to Mr. Álvaro Romillo (Wahl-Eversharp Doric) and to Mr Nozue (Pilot Justus).

(Waterman CF – Sailor Red Brown)

Bruno Taut
(In exile, December 29th, 2010)
[labels: Wahl-Eversharp, plumín, Pilot]

28 December 2010

Super 200 (Small Nib)

Review of the Pilot Super 200 with small F or EF nib.

The Super range of pen, I already said on these chronicles, were the Pilot workhorse during the 1950s. They were the last complete line of Pilots implementing a self-filling system. The next generation of pens, already in the 1960s, were cartridge/converter pens.

Pilot Super pens came in a variety of nibs including music, falcon (flexible) and script (rigid) nibs. The pen under examination today is a Super 200 with a small size fine nib.

I bought this pen at a flea market in Tokyo for about a couple of euros. Some work it needed—the filling system had disappeared and the pen had to be inked with a CON-W converter.

1. Appearance and design. (8.0/10)
This is a classic looking pen in black with golden ornaments. The nib in 14 K gold is of the nail type. The filling system is a quarter turn lever operating the sac.

Design wise, this is a conservative pen, but a lot more interesting that the current Pilot workhorse—the Montblanc looking Custom series. And this is a self-filler!

2. Construction and quality. (8.5/10)
This pen was made in 1960, according to the nib engraving, and the materials still keep their original look despite the heavy use this pen undertook. The cap still fits perfectly both when closing the pen and posted on the barrel.

The disappearance of the original filling system might due to not knowing that sacs could be replaced. After the restoration, the pen works perfectly.

The name of a previous owner engraved on the barrel.

3. Weight and dimensions. (8.5/10)
Medium sized pen. Very well balanced either posted or unposted. The possible inconveniences to use this pen do not belong to this department.

Length capped: 134 mm
Length open: 119 mm
Length posted: 146 mm
Diameter: 11 mm
Weight: 17 g

4. Nib and writing performance. (7.0/10)
This pen is equipped with a fine or extra fine 14 K gold nib. It is slightly springy and fairly wet. It always starts right away with no hint of drying up.

The nib. No indication of the point on it. Just the brand, Pilot, the Japan Industrial Standards logo, and the production date, December 1960.

The nib’s look is not attractive—this is small nib with no interesting design or engraving.

All in all, it is a nicely reliable nib, correct not enticing. Nothing to call home about.

The feed.

5. Filling system and maintenance. (8.0/10)
This is a self-filling pen. The sac is contained inside a steel cylinder. A plastic lever pushes the plate pressing on the sac. This is a reliable system whose only maintenance is the periodic replacement of the sac. Disassembling it, should the pen require a deep cleaning, is very simple—the metal sheath is removed by pulling it from the section, and the sac is elastically attached to the feed.

Therefore, maintenance, although a bit harder than in a cartridge/converter pen, is easy.

The filling system in another Pilot Super.

6. Cost and value. (--/10)
This is a difficult element to evaluate. As I said, I bought this pen for almost nothing, and I had to work on it for some time looking for the missing parts. This, of course, is not the regular way to get to a pen like this.

Therefore, I will skip this point.

7. Conclusion. (40/50=80/100)
Interesting pen from the historical point of view—Pilot relied on the Super line for some years, and the quarter turn filling system is specific of these pens. However, this pen is not particularly attractive in any feature—regular nib, regular looks.

(Pilot Super 200 – Visconti Sepia)

Bruno Taut
(In exile, December 27th, 2010)
[labels: Pilot]

26 December 2010


The Kaweco Sport is a pen with a long history. The first model with this name dates back from 1918, and the present shape can be recognized as early as in 1934.

But at the same time, the mother company has suffered a number of crises including a bankruptcy file and what at the time looked like a total cease in activities in 1986. Some years later, in 1995, the entrepreneur and pen collector Michael Gutberlet bought the rights to use the company name and resumed the pen production. Apparently, all this came as a result of his fascination for the Sport model.

The object of this review is the current Sport model, albeit in the more upscale variation made in aluminum—the AL-Sport.

The pen, capped.

1. Appearance and design. (8.5/10)
This is a small metal pen. The cap is faceted and looks rather thick. The barrel, on the other hand, is almost perfectly cylindrical, and connects smoothly with the section. There is a subtle curvature close on the section to ease the grip.

This is a clipless pen, although in the case of the aluminum Sport, the ad-hoc clip is included (not the case in the regular plastic pen), and can easily be detached.

2. Construction and quality. (9.0/10)
Everything in this pen seem to fit properly. The cap screws to the barrel to close the pen, and the posted configuration relies on a tight fitting that does not show any problem. Ditto for the clip.

The posted configuration is especially important in a short pen like this, as most users need the extra length provided by cap for a comfortable grip.

The clip is easily detachable.

3. Weight and dimensions. (6.0/10)
Short pen, I said, but on the heavy side—23 grams. On top of this, the weight of the cap makes this pen uncomfortable when posted despite the fact that the pen does not really become that long. And if unposted, it is a bit too short.

The regular Kaweco Sport made in plastic, posted.

The cheaper plastic version of this pen works a lot better—lighter and better balanced.

Length capped: 104 mm
Length open: 100 mm
Length posted: 130 mm
Diameter: 13 mm
Weight: 23 g

4. Nib and writing performance. (7.0/10)
Kaweco was the first German company to produce its own nibs. That was in 1914, when the company purchased the former American supplier J. Morton. But after the resurrection of the company in 1995, the nibs are supplied by Peter Bock.

The Bock nib in M.

The Kaweco Sport can implement three different points—F, M and B. There also exist a Kaweco Calligraphy pen with four italic nibs with widths between 1.1 and 2.3 mm. However, finding one of them in particular can be difficult as distributors not always know what the options are.

These are rigid nibs and lack character. The ink flow is correct and generates no problem. Occasionally, the nib becomes dry and does not start promptly.

All in all, correct but boring nibs.

Nib and feed and section.

5. Filling system and maintenance. (8.5/10)
The Kaweco Sport uses short international cartridges, but Kaweco does not sell small converters to fit inside the barrel. But they exist!

Although previous versions of this pen were piston fillers, it could be argued whether we should sacrifice the convenience of the portable cartridge over the romanticism of the old inkwell. Small pens are easy to carry around, in a pocket or in a rucksack—for that, I rather use cartridges.

Cleaning this pen is no problem, as is the case with most cartridge/converter pens.

6. Cost and value. (5.0/10)
This is not an expensive pen –around €50—, but it is remarkably more expensive than the plastic version, and its heavier weight makes it uncomfortably unbalanced.

7. Conclusion. (44/60=73/100)
Attractive pen, but better go for the cheaper and lighter and equally convenient plastic version of the Kaweco Sport.

(Kaweco AL-Sport – Waterman Havana)

Bruno Taut
(In exile, December 22th, 2010)
[labels: Kaweco]

23 December 2010

Matching (V)

The controversy is always there: Is that pen original or a copy of another? Which company did father that idea? This time, though, the answers are clear…

Most Spanish fountain pens between 1940s and 1960s were made copying the very successful design of the Parker 51—Inoxcrom, Jabalina (now STYB), ICSA, Jaguar, Regia, Sepha (made by Myadle)… They all made their own version.

One exception to this rule was the company Apolón. I claim ignorance about whether this company actually copied any Parker pen, but Apolón did copy another successful American product—the Sheaffer with Triumph nib from 1940s.

The nib inscription reads "APOLON / IRIDIUM /PEN".

Apolón, however, did not dare to copy the complex snorkel filling system and put up with a bladder-type filling mechanism.

Quite surprisingly, the filling instructions are in English.

There is barely anything written on the history of Spanish fountain pens. However, it is safe to assume this Apolón dates back from the 1950s. These pens are valued more due to their rarity than to their quality.

My thanks to Mr. Alberto Linares.

(Platinum Celluloid – J. Herbin “Lie de thé”)

Bruno Taut
(In exile, December 22th, 2010)
[labels: Apolón, España, Sheaffer]

22 December 2010


For some unknown reasons, Parker has recently sent me a survey about writing instruments. Sure thing, these surveys have the goal of understanding what customers want and look for. Now, I wonder where the real business of fountain pens is—is it in pen collectors and heavy users who accumulate pens or is it in occasional users and in people in search of a distinguished present?

The survey started with questions on the number of writing tools over €150 purchased during the previous two years, and on their nature, fountain pen or other. Once decided fountain pens were my object of desire, the questions versed about the personal value ascribed to gold nibs and about how the pen was filled.

Most of those questions could be answered by checking fountain pen fora. But those answers reflect only the opinion of collectors and accumulators. I do not know whether big pen companies check these fora, but these surveys make me think that the business, the big money, relies in the group of occasional buyers with little or no information on pens.

The Parker IM, one of the low end pens in the Parker catalog nowadays.

Only this could explain why Parker does not manufacture any self-filing pen right now, why the gamut of their pens is so boring, or why it is so difficult to find any nib other than F and M, at least in the Spanish market

Parker IM, posted, showing the very rigid steel nib.

Of course, that is a personal opinion. It happens that I cannot help thinking of the modern Duofold as a major treason to a beautiful tradition.

(Platinum 3776 – Waterman Havana)

Bruno Taut
(In exile, December 20th, 2010)
[labels: Mercado, Parker]

19 December 2010

Nib Questions

The Súper T ads in the 1940s and 1950s spoke of twenty different possible nibs for its pens. The Kaweco Sport in the 1930s had the option of twelve different nibs including three Kugel (sphere) points.

Súper T ad from 1948. On the left hand side it reads that there are 20 different nibs available for this pen with "everlasting guarantee". Advertisement collected by Grafopasión member Claudio.

In 1934 the Kaweco Sport could have up to twelve different nibs. Image taken from the Kaweco website (December 2010).

Those are only two examples of the wealth of nib possibilities in former times. Nowadays, the options are mostly reduced to the typical F, M and B triad, and, if anything else, some oblique nibs catering the snobbish rather than any real writing need. The main exception to this observation are the big three Japanese companies and their interesting nib catalog.

Cross nib by Sailor. My thanks to Mr. Noguchi, of the Wagner Association in Japan. Some other nibs by Sailor can be seen on the British Sailor website.

Three music nibs by two Japanese companies: Platinum on the top, and Pilot on sizes 5 and 10. Platinum's nib selection is a lot more reduced than Pilot's. Its sister company Nakaya has some additional points, including a stub.

Now I wonder what the real reasons for this were. Is it just a matter of supply and demand? Might it be a result of pens being more of a collectible object than a real writing tool?

I have no answers. I do know, however, that I find fewer and fewer interesting features in modern pens and, consequently, I turn my face to vintage pens.

(Kaweco AL-Sport – Waterman Havana)

Bruno Taut
(In exile, December 18th, 2010)
[labels: Kaweco, Japón, plumín, Súper T, fora]

15 December 2010

German Pocket

To the regular reader of these chronicles, pocket pens are well known and need little introduction. Suffice to remember now that the first of them was launched by Pilot in 1968. But that might not be the first time the idea of a “pocket pen” came to light.

Kaweco is a German pen company in business since 1883. As early as in 1908, the model Sport was created—a dip pen of very compact dimensions: 10 cm when capped, and 14 when posted. A 1909 patent allowed the company to create a safety pen that did not leak, and in 1911 a new safety Sport was marketed.

Pilot pocket pen and Kaweco Sport in aluminum. Posted, the Pilot is 148 mm long, and the Kaweco is 130 mm. Capped, 118 mm for the Pilot; 105 for the Kaweco.

The year 1934 model was a safety pen made either in artificial horn or in ebonite in a shape very much alike to the current Kaweco Sport. Since then, the Kaweco Sport has preserved that basic style while changing the filling system -- safety, piston, and cartridge-- and the materials –ebonite, celluloid, plastic, aluminum, etc.

This Kaweco Sport model and the typical Japanese pocket pen have some similarities: both are very compact pens when closed, and they have unusually long caps. And posted, they become long enough for a pleasant grip.

Now, the construction of both pens is completely different. Might them be different interpretations of the same idea.

(Kaweco Sport with 1.1 italic nib – Diamine Evergreen)

Bruno Taut
(In exile, December 14th, 2010)
[labels: Kaweco, Japón]

12 December 2010

Matching (IV)

The controversy is always there: Is that pen original or a copy of another? Which company did father that idea? Well, this time the story is well known and well documented.

In April 1970 Parker released the very unique T1—nib and section were made out of the same piece of titanium. It was the perfect streamlined pen. But titanium was difficult to work with and the whole production process was very expensive. The T1 was phased out in 1971, after only 104000 units produced. Few of those are said to write satisfactorily. Its rarity, nonetheless, has made this pen highly valued among collectors.

Pilot Myu-701.

In 1971, Pilot, in Japan, released an all steel pocket pen with a similar nib—the Pilot Myu-701. This time, the pen worked very well and remained in production for about ten years. It is arguably the most successful pocket pen, that very Japanese invention from the late sixties.

Pilot MuRex (top), and Parker 50 (bottom).

A full sized evolution of the Myu-701, by the name of MuRex (or MR) was marketed in 1977. The nib has a very different design, showing somehow a less clean profile. The section, on its side, has a rugged area to provide a better grip. A later model (1978) of the MuRex had the decorative elements in red instead of black, and some changes in the clip, while it kept nib and section untouched.

Parker 50 "Falcon" (top), and Pilot Myu with black stripes (bottom).

Parker, by chance or by plan, created in 1978 the Parker 50, nicknamed as “Falcon”. In a sense, it was a new attempt to create the T1, but in steel, following the teachings of Pilot. This model showed a big improvement over the titanium predecessor—it actually wrote and was a lot less fragile.

Parker 50 "Falcon".

There is a newcomer to this story. In 2008, Pilot decided to commemorate its 90th anniversary with by recreating the 1970’s Myu under the name of M90. Although the M90 is not an exact copy of the old Myu, it certainly preserves the streamlined spirit of the design.

Pilot Myu-701 (top), and Pilot M90 (bottom).

Writing-wise, in my personal experience, Pilot’s Myu, MuRex and M90 win hands down over the Parker 50.

My thanks to Kinno-san.

(Parker 50 “Falcon” – Pilot Iroshizuku Sho-ro)

Bruno Taut
(In exile, December 11th, 2010)
[labels: Parker, Pilot]