29 July 2010


Pen review of the Sailor 21 black pocket pen.

After having written a review on a black Platinum pocket pen, speaking about its Sailor counterpart is only natural—and boring. But this is my daily pen these days.

1. Appearance and design. (6/10)
Again, a formal black pen for shirt pocket. The accents are more silvery than golden. The nib, however, is golden in color and material.

As mentioned for already reviewed pens (I, II), this is a Japanese product of the 1970s. And, I add now, on the more formal style. But at the same time, it is a handy and convenient design.

2. Construction and quality. (7/10)
This pen had been used when I got it in my hands. It shows some tear and wear on the cap, mostly. The adjustment between cap and barrel and cap and section is perfect despite the years of use. And that is especially important for the writing comfort in a pocket pen.

3. Weight and dimensions. (8.5/10)
Standard size for a pocket pen. Well balanced.

Diameter: 11.0 mm.
Length capped: 118 mm.
Length uncapped: 99 mm.
Length posted: 146 mm.
Weight: 12 g.

4. Nib and writing performance. (8.5/10)
Very smooth fine nib in 21 K gold. There is no indication of the actual point. The nib engraving only says “Sailor, 21 K, -2-“.

The ink flow is just perfect for this nib. The demands are easy to meet as the nib is very rigid.

5. Filling system and maintenance. (5/10)
A Sailor pocket pen does not give you many options—you must use, or re-use, Sailor-proprietary cartridges of 1.1 ml in capacity. This is, nonetheless, quite enough for a fine nib.

There existed converters for these pens, but they are long out of production.

The adaptation of the current converters to these old pens presents a problem in the bore of the section—it is too narrow for the metallic part of the converter to fit in. There are exceptions to this general rule, but that is not the case of this particular pen.

Regarding maintenance, there is nothing complicated on this pen, as is the case on most cartridge only pens.

6. Cost and value. (8.5/10)
Cheap pen, good writer. Therefore, good value.

7. Conclusion. (43.5/60=72.5/100)
Good pen for daily use. Boring looks and proprietary cartridges with no possibility of converter take many points away. The nib scores very high.

(Sailor 21 black pocket pen – Sailor Brown)

Bruno Taut
(Inagi, July 10, 2010)
[labels: Japón, Sailor]

27 July 2010


Monthly meting of the Wagner association this past Sunday. As in previous occasions, lots of exciting pens, although the attendance was this time lower, maybe due to the heatwave we now suffer in Tokyo—terrible heat and mortifying humidity.

Mr Niikura, this time, came with a beautiful selection of Pilot pens from the 1920s. Their common characteristic was this security system called hoshiawase (星合せ)—star system.

The box with the sixteen hoshiawase pens Mr. Niikura presented. All of them, eyedroppers.

The story goes that Japanese manufacturers were, in the 1910s and 1920s, obsessed about leaking pens that could stain the valuable kimono of their customers. Sounds certainly charming, but I wonder if that is an element unique to Japanese pen manufacturers. I guess American and European brands were also concerned about the ink stains in the more boring suits and shirts. Boring maybe, but equally valuable to their owners.

Anyway, Japanese companies devised a number of systems to seal the ink deposit of the pen when this was not in use. The hoshiawase system is only one of them. It consists of a section composed by two parts that rotate one with respect to the other. Only when the two red dots are aligned the ink can flow from the deposit to the nib. Misaligned, the ink deposit was sealed and, we assume, it was safe to carry the pen with a minimal risk of staining kimono or shirts.

The stars (red dots) are alignedthe pen is ready to write.

The stars are crossedthe ink is sealed in the deposit and the pen is ready for your pocket.

The pens Mr. Niikura presented showed the evolution of this system. But the chronicles say it was never a good enough to fully confine the ink in its reservoir. Apparently, these pens were discontinued in 1926.

This is the back of the section. Note the two concentric cylinders: they rotate between the two ends, limited only by the small stick attached to the inner cylinder.

The barrel of the pen whose hoshiawase system was depicted before. Note the brand name engraved on the metal.

Regarding the nibs, they had a full gamut of possibilities—from hard nails to fairly flexible.

This was another example of the pens on display.

And this is its nib.

A total of sixteen hoshiawase pen were presented. Impeccable, uninked, with the original price tags—few yen could buy them back in their days. And that raises the question of the purpose and goals of pens and of pen collecting. But that demands a chronicle all for itself.

Suffice to say that I would use one of those pens if I had the chance.

(Sailor 21, black pocket pen – Sailor Brown)

Bruno Taut
(Inagi, July 26 2010)
[labels: Japón, Pilot, evento, soluciones técnicas]

25 July 2010


I wanted to talk about a stationery article that I have only seen in Japan. It is called ippitsu (一筆). Literally, it means “one brush”. A better translation, however, would be "few words". The second ideogram, 筆, by the way, is also used in the Japanese word for fountain pen: mannenhitsu (万年筆), ten thousand year brush.

Several ippitsu-sen (ippitsu notebooks) with different motifs.

These are small pieces of paper for short notes to mail—invitations, thank you notes, acknowledgments of reception… all those are often written on ippitsu.

Ippitsu with drawings inspired by the Kobe Jazz Festival.

Nothing strange or unusual, we could say. In fact, reduced format papers are used here and there in the West. But what is not so usual is the inclusion of clear decorative elements on them. And that is the feature that makes ippitsu unique.

On the left, a reproduction of a ukiyo-e engraving in an ippitsu bought at the Japan Ukiyo-e Museum, in Matsumoto (Nagano). On the right, an engraving by Jean Cocteau honoring Paul Klee.

I am always willing to send one of them on the mail, the old snail mail. Their paper is, more often than not, very good and it becomes a pleasure to write with a fountain pen on them. Now, I only need to find the right excuse.

(Sailor Pocket Pen WG – Sailor 100717031)

Bruno Taut
(Inagi, July 24 2010)
[labels: Japón, papelería]

21 July 2010


Long and hot weekend in Japan on the celebration of the Day of the Ocean. So, better stay inside, where temperature and humidity had some reasonable values.

Sailor organized this ink event in a department store –Isetan— in Shinjuku. As I had reported before, this ink mixer, Mr. Osamu Ishimaru, creates an ink to your taste.

He starts by asking you what type of color you wanted. He shows you a chart with tens of colors with the corresponding codes to recreate them. You choose one and then the game starts.

He creates a small sample of that initial color with eyedroppers and a watercolor mixing palette. A Sailor fude nib pen is offered to dip and write and check.

Darker, lighter, more red, more green,… The process continues until you become satisfied, or out of patience or, even, too confused to choose among all the endless small variations.

With the final color decided, he scales the sample up. Now the tools are jiggers and cocktail shakers to create 50 ml of the ink of your choice.

The final detail is to christen the new ink. Mr. Ishimaru then writes it on a label together with the numeric code to order more of that same ink through the department store or to Sailor directly. Mine is 100717031.

The final product, together with the business card of the expert mixer, Mr. Ishimaru.

All for the price of one of those shop-special inks made by Sailor—JPY 2100.

A real treat, or a terrible nightmare, for all those ink addicts in the world.

(Sailor WG Pocket Pen – Sailor 100717031)

Bruno Taut
(Shinjuku, July 19, 2010)
[labels: tinta, Japón, evento, Sailor]

20 July 2010

Tang Dynasty

Pen review. Platinum 18 K WG Tang Dynasty.

1. Introduction.
I bought this pen in a second hand pen shop in Tokyo. I checked it and I tested it before making my mind up. It did entice me with its looks and its smooth nib.

I guess this pen dates back to the seventies, but it is difficult to put an exact date to it.

2. Appearance and design. (8.5/10)
This is metal pen. Made mostly of stainless steel with a plastic gripping section. The body is nicely and subtly engraved. The pattern seems to reproduce some Chinese ornaments from the time of the Tang Dynasty (aD 618-907). To Western eyes, they might recall some designs by Scottish architect C. R. Mackintosh (1868-1928). So, in a sense, this could be an “art nouveau” pen—obviously non intentional.

Given the construction materials, plastic and steel, this seems to be a modern pen. Shape-wise, there is nothing really innovative.

3. Construction and quality. (8.0/10)
This is a full size pen. Basically metallic but not heavy. Very good balance either posted or unposted. The grip is correct and comfortable—the plastic section is not a problem.

These are the physical dimensions:
Diameter: 11 mm.
Length capped: 132 mm.
Length uncapped: 117 mm.
Length posted: 145 mm.
Weight: 20 g.

4. Nib writing and performance. (8.0/10)
The nib is an 18 K white gold medium. It is quite rigid and extraordinarily smooth. Therefore, almost no line variation. The ink flow is correct –not dry, not wet— and starts promptly in every occasion. Just the behavior Platinum pen consistently provides.

5. Filling system and maintenance. (9.0/10)
This is a cartridge/converter pen, and uses Platinum proprietary cartridges, but in Japan they are easily available. This might be different overseas, but there are also adaptors to use international cartridges in Platinum pens.

Refilling cartridges and using converters is economically wiser than using new cartridges. The converter is a transparent piston filler.

Not much maintenance is needed. It is easy to clean, as is the case in mostly every C/C pen.

6. Cost and value. (9.0/10)
These pens do not see to be valued in the Japanese second hand market. So, this pen has a great value: good, reliable, reasonable or even cheap in price.

7. Conclusion. (51/60 = 85/100)
This pen certainly scores very high. It performs very well in an attractive and discreet envelope. It could score higher had it a more exciting nib.

(Platinum 18 K WG Tang Dynasty – Platinum black, cartridge)

Bruno Taut
(Inagi, July 15 2010)
[labels: Platinum, Japón]

16 July 2010


There is something reactionary in this hobby called stylophilia. Those infected by this strange virus pay attention to an object whose prime time is long gone. We insist in using some utensils that are not convenient given the technological advances in the last fifty years. So, once the convenience of use is no longer an argument, almost anything goes.

Fountain pens have evolved a lot along their 150 years of history. One of the systems that has seen more changes is that related to the way the pen is filled with ink. From the dip pens with no ink deposit to the present disposable pens, a number of technical solutions have been proposed and developed. All of them, in practical terms, fit into these three categories: eyedroppers, self-fillers, cartridges.

Eyedropper pens need an external device –an eyedropper or a syringe— to fill the pen barrel with ink. This is an old system, but these pens have the great advantages of a big ink reservoir and of no technical complication.

A Sheaffer pen with the complex snorkel self-filling system.

Self-fillers, on the contrary, need of some internal deposit and of some device to pump the ink from the inkwell through the nib and feed. These systems are really varied—from piston fillers to aerometric bladders to levers acting on rubber sacs… These pens are the most technically complex in the market. Their ink deposits can be both big and small—each pen is different on this.

Cartridges and converters of the three major Japanese pen companies.

Nowadays, however, most newly made pens use sealed cartridges together –if the pen allowed so— with ad-hoc converters to make the pen to work as a self-filler. These pens, usually, have small ink capacity, given by the cartridge or converter, but their cartridges are small and easy to carry.

Two German piston fillers: a Pelikan 400NN (Merz & Krell, 1970s), and a Soennecken 110 (1950s).

Some brands remain loyal to self-filling systems. That is the case of Pelikan, for instance. Others opt for the simplicity of cartridges and converters. That is the case of most Japanese manufacturers, although recently they have marketed a couple of self-filling models. Some of their top models, however, are eyedroppers.

One of the few Japanese modern examples of self-filling pen. A piston-filler Katoseisakusho made in celluloid.

So, the final decision pertains to the collector or to the user. The convenience of the cartridge or the romantic tradition of the self-filling or eyedropper systems?

This discussion is never ending and often leads nowhere. Weight and technical complexity or ease of use and reliability? A second pen as a back up or a spare cartridge in the pocket? Romantic authenticity —whatever that might mean— or ease of use?

At the end, companies are catering the cravings of the buyer, not to mention that there exist a vast number of old pens with any technical solution. There are pens in all price ranges with either of the systems: self-fillers, cartridge only pens, cartridge and converter pens, eyedroppers… The exception, however, might be that of currently-produced eyedroppers—new eyedroppers tend to be very expensive.

It is my impression, however, that most stylophiles prefer self-filling fountain pens. Some, very ardently, following the backwardness of the fountain pen use.

As for myself, I am very eclectic on this matter. I do dislike disposable pens, although I manage to refill them. And I rather stay away from cartridge-only pens, despite I am fond of refilling cartridges with the ink of my choice.

Now, you, fellow stylophile reader, what do you prefer?

(Sailor 21 Black pocket pen – Sailor Brown)

Bruno Taut
(Inagi, July 11-12 2010)
[labels: estilofilia, Pelikan, Soennecken, soluciones técnicas, Katoseisakusho, Sheaffer, conversor, Japón, Merz and Krell]

14 July 2010


Pen review. Pilot Murex (MR, model MR-500SS)

1. Introduction. General impression. (8.5/10)
After the success of the all steel pocket pen Myu-701, Pilot decided to create a full sized pen in the same fashion with the goal of comfort in mind. Such is the Pilot Murex, in production between 1977 and 1983 (according to Russ Stutler) or starting in 1972 (according to Masamichi Sunami).

This is a well known pen that follows the trend initiated by Parker with the short lived Parker T-1. Interestingly enough, Parker followed up this idea in 1978 with the model Falcon 50—this time in steel instead of in titanium.

So, this Pilot Murex is an all–steel pen with the nib perfectly integrated in the grip section—they are the same piece of metal. The only contrasting elements in the pen are the black plastic feed and the black accents on the clip.

It is unavoidable to compare this pen to its immediate predecessor the Myu-701. The Murex lacks the overall cleanliness of lines and shows many more rough angles.

2. Design. (8.5/10)
This is a well made pen. It has a number of details that make it comfortable in the hand. The gripping section, for instance, has some grooves to reduce the slippery feeling of stainless steel. The cap attaches firmly to the section with a set of spring-loaded protrusions inserted in the section. Posted, the cap and the barrel fit tightly, making the set comfortable to write.

The spring-loaded protrusions inserted in the section to attach the cap when the pen is closed. The gripping grooves are also visible.

The black accented clip. It is loaded with a spring.

The clip is probably the least appealing feature on this pen. Very square, it looks like it had just been glued to the cap, with little if any intention to integrate both elements smoothly. Quite a paradox in a pen where nib and section show the ultimate integration. Anyway, the clip is not totally awful and this design allows to be spring loaded.

The company name and the pen model are engraved on the cap.

3. Design, size, weight. (7.5/10)
Despite being an all metal pen, it does not feel heavy. Its 21 grams are correctly balanced and writing is comfortable either posted or unposted. Perhaps it is marginally better unposted.

Size-wise, there is not much to add. This pen is average in size. Its only problem might be on its diameter—thicker would make it more comfortable to write.

These are the physical dimensions:
Diameter: 10.5 mm.
Length capped: 132 mm.
Length uncapped: 117 mm.
Length posted: 142 mm.
Weight: 21 g.

4. Nib writing and performance. (8.0/10)
This pen has a stainless steel F nib. Few examples of this pen can be seen with an M nib.

This is a smooth, albeit dry, nib to write with. And being as rigid as a nail, not much ink flow is needed. No line variation at all, of course.

All in all, a pleasant, if boring, writer.

5. Filling system. (8.5/10)
Being Pilot, both proprietary cartridges and converters can be used. Only the CON-20, aerometric, fits in. This converter does not allow checking the remaining ink in the pen.

As an all metal pen, this pen is not suitable for conversion into an eye-dropper.

6. Cost and value. (6.0/10)
The Murex pen, as well as its older cousin the Myu-701, is becoming popular and basic market laws are making both of them quite expensive.

The appeal of this pen lies mainly on the looks. Therefore, the question of how much is worth becomes very personal. The nib, nice as it is, is nothing special—just a smooth rigid nail with correct ink flow.

All in all, I give this pen low marks on this section based not on the performance and looks –I do like this pen— but on the present price.

7. Conclusion. (47/60 = 78/100)
This is a correct pen with a very nice design. It performs very well but without much excitement or character.

The lower scores come in the actual value given the current market conditions, which is alien to the pen or to the manufacturer.

(Pilot Murex – Pilot black, cartridge)

Bruno Taut
(Inagi, July 13 2010)
[labels: Pilot, Parker]

12 July 2010


Para Ningyo-chan, forofa.

Yesterday I paid a visit to a number of fountain pen shops in Tokyo. In one of them –a big one— I saw this nib I am very fond of. The display window had this Nakaya Piccolo with a beautiful soft-elastic M nib. These nibs are mostly made to order and, therefore, Nakaya craftsmen attending events do not have them for you to buy them on the spot.

Elastic nib by Nakaya. Picture taken from the Nakaya website.

I asked the clerk if I could try it:
–Sure, no problem--, and there I went.
“Nice pen”, I thought when writing the first letters. But soon afterward I realized it was not all that flexible. “Is it the pen or me?”

So, I asked if I could try the Pilot Custom 742 with the size-10 falcon nib. Oh! That was totally different. That was really flexible—at least, for a modern pen. What a difference with the elastic Nakaya nib!

Pilot's Falcon nibs in sizes 10 and 15.

I also tried the bigger size-15 falcon nib in the Custom 743. Nice as well, but not so flexible as the size-10, just as Leigh Reyes reported on her blog. And that poses some interesting questions indeed.

So, what should I choose, the wonderful looks of an urushi pen or a wonderful nib in a boring pen? The price of those stunning looks is almost three times that of the sweet nib!

The champion nib.

This time, I went for the champion nib.

(Pilot R Lever Filler 1956 – Pelikan Brilliant Brown)

Bruno Taut
(Inagi, July 12, 2010)
[labels: Pilot, Platinum, plumín]

Post data: Not everything was as nice and beautiful as I described here. There were a number of problems with this nib. They are described on the chronicles entitled Verdict (September 7, 2010), and Inadequate (September 21, 2010).

10 July 2010


Pen review. Platinum black pocket pen with soft fine nib.

1. General impression. Introduction. (6/10)
This is a formal pocket pen, black with gold accents. Very typical in he conservative attitude of the Japanese white collar worker –the sarariman (salary-man). The big three Japanese pen companies made similar pens in the seventies—small, black, formal.

2. Design. (8/10)
This is a handy and convenient pocket pen—short and compact when capped, and regular size and comfortable when posted for writing. Pens like this need to be posted to write comfortably unless the user’s hands were very small.

Clip and central rings are made in plastic, painted in gold color. The quality, however, seems good. The adjustment between cap and section and between cap and barrel is perfect despite its age. The V-mark engraved in the barrel has lost its color and is barely visible.

3. Size, weight. (8.5/10)
This is a regular sized pocket pen. It is light and well balanced.

These are the physical dimensions:
Diameter: 12 mm.
Length capped: 118 mm.
Length uncapped: 100 mm.
Length posted: 147 mm.
Weight: 11 g.

4. Nib writing and performance. (8/10)
The nib is a nominally soft fine in 18 K gold. Not really flexible, but it shows some nice springiness. But in actual terms, there is barely any line variation when pressing down. Springy, maybe; flexible this is not.

I rather very smooth nibs, but the feedback –some might call it toothiness— this pens shows is perfectly bearable. The flux in this very thin writer is perfect—it never misses a bite and it does not become dry easily. This is, in my opinion, the great virtue of Platinum pens—perfect flow.

5. Filling system. (7.5/10)
All I said about the Silver Cap Platinum filling system applies here.

Platinum stopped producing the pocket pen converters long ago and we are bound to use Platinum cartridges or to modify the current converters. A third option is to use the international cartridge adapter with those cartridges or with a short aerometric converter.

At the end, what used to be a problem has become a virtue by means of the inventiveness and resources of the users of these pens. But this is not the merit of the manufacturer.

6. Cost and value. (8.5/10)
Cheap pen in the second hand market in Japan. Great writer. Excellent value.

7. Conclusion. (46.5/60 = 77.5/100)
Boring looking pen, at least for those who are used to pocket pens. But inside there is a very reliable and pleasant writer.

This pen scores high in the design, nib and value departments. Looks took points away

(Platinum Black Pocket Pen – Platinum blue black)

Bruno Taut
(Inagi, July 06 2010)
[labels: Platinum, Japón]