31 August 2010


The Platinum Knock-18 is one of those mysterious fountain pens. The books say it existed, you can even see some pictures of it in the Internet, but it is quite unlikely to run into it for real.

The Platinum Knock 18.

Last Sunday, at the monthly Wagner Pen Clinic I had the chance to put my hands in one of them.

The Knock 19 compared to the 1965 Pilot Capless model. The later, in red, is about 1 cm longer.

The push buttons are totally different. While the Pilot has a relatively small button entering the barrel, in the Platinum pen, the whole barrel is the button.

Transparent feeders on both nibs. Platinum nib moves further out from the section than Pilot's.

The openings for the nibs. Both are closed when the pen is not in use, although that cannot be seen on the pic.

Pilot marketed its first Capless model in 1963 at a whooping price of JPY 6000, which could be something in the order of JPY 60000 nowadays. Given the limited success, a JPY 3000 version was released the following year –aiming at students, some sources say— and it became a real success. Platinum then made its own model –this Knock 18— trying to take benefit of the new trend. This model was short-lived due to patent infringement issues.

My thanks to Mr. Niikura, who allowed me to inspect his never inked pen.

(Platinum 3776 music nib – Sailor Red Brown)

Bruno Taut
Inagi, August 31, 2010
labels: Pilot, evento, Platinum

22 August 2010


Speaking some days ago about my experiments swapping nibs and feeds between a Platinum and a Nakaya I said I had to speak about its economic aspects. So, here I go.

The two nibs.

The basic facts are these:

Price in Japan of the cheapest Nakaya (celluloid): JPY 36750
Price supplement in Japan of the Nakaya music nib: JPY 10500
Price in Japan of the Platinum 3776 with music nib: JPY 15750
Price in Japan of the Platinum 3776 with a non-music nib: JPY 10500

A Nakaya in red lacquer with its original soft-fine nib.

The numbers are easy to add:

Option one:
Celluloid Nakaya with music nib: JPY 47250

Option two:
Celluloid Nakaya: JPY 36750
Platinum 3776 with music nib: JPY 15750
Total: JPY 52500

The Platinum 3776 with its original Platinum nib.

In the second case, those extra JPY 5250 buy an additional nice writer with a Nakaya nib. The main inconvenient? Having a Nakaya with a Platinum-engraved nib, and a Platinum with a Nakaya engraving. Is it so grievous?

A Platinum with a Nakaya nib.

These options make sense in the case we could not find a Platinum music nib and feed sold as separate parts. The alternative is to look in the second hand market for a used Platinum music nib pen. But I have rarely seen any of those for sale.

The decision, of course, is on the side of the buyer.

Platinum Celluloid pen with music nib. This one belonged to Leigh Reyes, whose picture I gratefully acknowledge.

All these considerations did not make sense some months ago, when the Platinum 3776 in celluloid with music nib was still in the market for JPY 31500. That is no longer the case. Was it a case of direct competition within the same company?

(Pilot Custom 74 music nib – Sailor Red Brown)

Bruno Taut
(Inagi, August 22, 2010)
[labels: plumín, Platinum]

21 August 2010


This coming Sunday 29th, the August meeting of the Wagner Association will take place at the Subaru building in Ebisu, Tokyo. And now, checking my notes of the July Pen Clinic I see some pens worth to mention here.

On a previous entry I spoke about the creations of Mr. Yamada. This time I focused my attention on his modification of a Pilot Custom 823.

On these chronicles and in some other discussion fora, pen users have complained about the boring looks of the pens equipped with more interesting nibs. The case of Pilot is very significant. This company makes as much as 15 different nibs –actually, many more--, of which five or six really stand off the common trend of purely symmetric points. But these interesting nibs only come in black torpedo pens.

Mr. Yamada’s way to correct this problem is quite radical—and inspiring. He modifies the nibs by thinning the nib plate and by drilling holes on them with the final goal of making those rigid nibs more flexible. When needed, he also works on the feeds.

On its side, the Custom 823 model is often praised by its self-filling system (one of the few self-filling pens in the Japanese pen scene) and by its huge ink capacity. On its cons, the small selection of nibs: F, M, and B.

Then, he chose this interesting pen to create a more exciting writer. The result, looks aside, is not spectacular. Maybe because the baseline of this nib is a B, quite broad by default. Therefore, the apparent increase in the line-width is compared to an already wide line. To create more striking results, a fine nib would be more suitable.

There is, however, another alternative to this DIY (do it yourself) approach. Pilot’s size 15 nibs come also as a flexible falcon (FA). Exchanging the nib and feed in a Custom 823 is easy—just grab them firmly and yank them out of the section. A different story might be where and how to find this extra nib and feed.

The discussion on how efficient the falcon nib actually is should be the topic of another chronicle.

(Pilot Custom 742 music nib – Sailor Red Brown)

Bruno Taut
(Inagi, August 21, 2010)
[labels: plumín, evento, Pilot, Tokyo]

17 August 2010


On my previous chronicle, in which I compared two music nibs, I complained about the boring looks of the costume of those exciting nibs.

In the elaboration of that review, I tried a number of things with several pens. I even dared to extract the nib and the feed of some of them to take some pictures. And once the box is open, experiments are in order.

Externally, it was not difficult to see how similar the Platinum 3776 and the Nakaya feeds were. And once disassembled, it became evident that they were basically the same, save, of course, the beautiful detail of the twin grooves for the music nib.

Nakaya's feed and nib on the left, labeled as Nakata. Platinum's set on the right.

So, what if I swapped the nib and the feed between those two pens? No problem, and this is the result:

So, finally I got an exciting nib in a beautiful urushi pen.

This should be no surprise. After all, Nakaya and Platinum are closely related. I cannot say for sure whether they are the same company or not, but I tend to consider Nakaya as the luxury division of Platinum, much in the fashion of Namiki as the luxury division of Pilot.

Nakaya has music nibs among its options for their custom-made pens, and there even exist the additional possibility of making it flexible. However, all these come at premium prices, not to mention the overprice of both the music nib (additional JPY 10000, or USD 80) and the flexible character (another JPY 10000 on top of the previous surcharge). I will leave the economic analysis of these figures for another chronicle. (Figures and availability as seen on Nakaya's website on August 2010).

Similar nib swapping can be made within the Pilot family of pens. Most Pilot maki-e pens and some Namiki (Yukari and Nippon Art collections) use size 5 and size 10 nibs. In those, the implementation of music or falcon or stub nibs is easy and straightforward. The obvious question, then, is why Pilot does not offer those exciting nibs as an option.

(Nakaya aka-tamenuri with Platinum music nib – Sailor Red Brown)

Bruno Taut
(Inagi, August 17, 2010)
[labels: plumín, Pilot, Platinum]

13 August 2010

Ongaku, 音楽

Para Kinno-san.

Comparative review of the Platinum 3776 and the Pilot Custom 742, both with music nibs.

In my limited knowledge, only three companies produce nowadays music nibs: Pilot, Platinum, and Sailor. Some sources say that the German company Bock can make these nibs, but I know of no company implementing them.

Of the above mentioned companies, Sailor’s music nib has only two tines and lacks, in my opinion, the visual appeal and the extra flow of the second slit. Sailor’s is more of a smooth stub than a real music nib.

The two nibs under analysis.

Pilot, on its side, makes two versions in sizes 5 and 10 for its Custom 74 and 742 respectively. The pen chosen for this review is the bigger of them.

Platinum, in principle, has only one model for its 3776 pen. Its cousin company Nakaya also has a music nib that I suspect is the same as this one albeit with a different engraving. That Nakaya nib has the possibility of becoming flexible by cutting its sides, according to the Nakaya website on August 2010. The pen chosen for this review is, needless to say, the Platinum 3776.

Both pens were filled with the same ink –Sailor Red Brown— using their converters: the CON-70 provided with the Pilot pen, and the standard Platinum piston filler.

1. Appearance and design. (Pilot: 7.5/10; Platinum: 7.0/10)
Both pens are black torpedos with golden accents. And these are the only possibilities for those nibs—exciting nibs in boring costumes.

Top: Pilot Custom 742. Bottom: Platinum 3776.

Pilot’s pen is bigger and seems more substantial. The plastic looks of better quality that its Platinum rival. This is the reason for the difference in the grades in this department.

The rest, clips and ornamental rings, do not make any real difference.

2. Construction and quality. (Pilot: 9.0/10; Platinum: 9.0/10)
Both pens seem to be solidly made. Caps screw on the barrels. When posted, the attachment between cap and barrel is firm in both cases.

These pens might be boring, but they are not cheap in quality.

3. Weight and dimensions. (Pilot: 7.5/10; Platinum: 7.75/10)
Pilot's is bigger and slightly heavier. It is comfortable and well balanced when unposted. Posted, it certainly feels a bit heavy on the back.

Pilot Custom 742 dimensions:
Diameter: 15 mm
Length capped: 146 mm
Length uncapped: 129 mm
Length posted: 158 mm
Weight: 25 g

The Platinum pen is lighter and shorter, and is easier on the hand. It is well balanced if unposted, and less so posted. Both caps weight 9 grams. The difference in the balance when posted –in favor of Platinum— is therefore related to the actual length of the pen.

Platinum 3776 dimensions:
Diameter: 14 mm
Length capped: 137 mm
Length uncapped: 118 mm
Length posted: 151 mm
Weight: 23 g

All in all, the Platinum pen is slightly better than the Pilot in this department.

4. Nib and writing performance. (Pilot: 7.5/10; Platinum: 9.5/10)
La madre del cordero. In boring-looking pens like these, nibs are their basic argument. and more so when these nibs cannot be obtained in any other model.

Both nibs are made on 14 K gold, and have three tines and two slits. Both are enjoyable and fun to use. However…

On the left, feed and music nib of the Pilot Custom 742. On the right, those for the Platinum 3776.

Pilot’s size 10 nib is a wet writer, slightly flexible—springy. Reasonably smooth, but with some feedback. Occasionally, one of the slits might run out of ink, leaving a thinner line. The reason for this problem might lay in the structure of the feed—this has only one groove leading to the tip.

The tips of the nibs are very different--square and flat that of the Pilot on the lower side. Platinum's tip is smaller and thinner.

The difference between the horizontal and the vertical lines is very clear: 0.40 mm on the horizontal, and 1.10 mm in the vertical. In my normal writing, the effect of this change becomes more evident when pen and writing line are at an angle of 45 degrees.

Platinum’s nib is buttery smooth, and very stiff—a nail. Wet writer with a perfectly controlled flow. Its feed, as can be seen on the picture, has two grooves—one for each slit. And it is significantly longer than that in the Pilot pen.

Feeds of the Platinum, on the left, and of the Pilot on the right. The twin grooves of the Platinum are clearly visible.

The line difference is also very clear: 0.50 mm on the horizontal, 1.20 mm on the vertical.

Handwritten samples with both nibs. Platinum's pen on the left hand side; Pilot's on the right.

Filling system and maintenance. (Pilot: 7.5/10; Platinum: 7.0/10)
Both pens use proprietary cartridges and converters. Pilot has some advantages, however, because of its extensive range of converters. And one of them, the CON-70 provided with the pen, really holds a lot of ink—about 1.4 ml.

On its side, Platinum converter is a much smaller piston filler—0.5 ml. It did not come with the pen and had to be bought separately, which is simply cheap on the side of the company.

Maintenance wise, both pens are similar. The nib and the feed can easily be extracted from the section by pulling if a deep cleaning was required.

In conclusion, Pilot scores a bit higher in this department due to the good performance of its CON-70 converter.

The pens with their converters attached. Platinum, on the top with its piston filler. Pilot, on the bottom with the CON-70.

6. Cost and value. (Pilot: 7.0/10; Platinum: 9.0/10)
Both pens offer nowadays unique nibs. Therefore, it is difficult to compare them to anything else in the market.

Comparing them face to face, Pilot is more expensive than Platinum –JPY 20000 and JPY 15000, plus taxes. An alternative could be the less expensive Pilot Custom 74 with a size 5 music nib at a cost of JPY 12000.

Therefore, given the writing qualities of the Platinum, this pen is a better deal than the Pilot.

7. Conclusion. (Pilot: 46/60=77/100; Platinum: 49.25/60=82/100)
The overall score favors Platinum, but the difference is small. Pilot pen wins in appearance and in the use of a good converter. On the other side, Platinum’s wins hands down in nib performance.

My preferences go for the Platinum pen. I tend to value the nib of any pen a lot more than any other issue. But both pens are fun to use.

(Pilot Custom 742, music nib – Sailor Red Brown)

Bruno Taut
(Inagi, August 11-12, 2010)
[labels: Pilot, Platinum, Sailor, plumín]

Post data: Some weeks later, I wrote another review on a similar pen: the Pilot Custom 74 with music nib.

09 August 2010


Some days ago I wrote a review on a Sailor Fude Pen. On that pen, the nib is bended up at an angle of 40 degrees. The result was, as I concluded, a nice and fun pen, although definitely not a daily writer.

Soon after I finished using that pen, I inked its counterpart—a Sailor Fude Pen with the nib making an angle of 55 degrees. This small detail is, in actual terms, very significant in order to write comfortably. Therefore, here I am adding these additional notes to complement the above-mentioned review.

The nibs under analysis face to face: the 50-degree on the left, the 40-degree on the right.

In summary, there are three different cheap Sailor Fude Pens:
—a long pen in blue with a 40-degree nib,

—a long pen in green with a 55-degree nib,

—a torpedo in blue with a 55-degree nib.

The first two of them have exactly the same dimensions and price—JPY1050 (about €10). The third one is shorter and slightly more upscale in appearance. Its price is twice that of the previous two—JPY2100.

Then, how does the angle affect the writing? The answer is, however, very personal because it depends on the way each user holds the pen, and on the preferences regarding the line width. My experience is as follows:

With the 40-degree nib, writing with a thin line is relatively easy—the angle between pen and paper has to be greater than those 40 degrees. In my case, that is not difficult, and the line variation associated to the pen inclination is easy to achieve.

On the contrary, the 55-degree nib requires a higher angle to draw that same thin line. But higher than those 55-60 degrees, the pen is very perpendicular to the paper and that makes the grip uncomfortable.

The torpedo Fude Pen's 55-degree bended nib.

So, my writing style is such that I tend to hold the pen at a nearly 55 deg with respect to the paper, which is the optimal angle for the very wide horizontal lines. But these are not convenient for usual writing. Therefore, I rather use the 40-degree Fude Pen –the one I reviewed— and make a conscious effort in making a thick line at 40 degrees than making that conscious effort in writing my usual thin line.

Those are my personal constraints. People who enjoy writing with thick lines –those B or BB or BBB nib people— might choose the opposite strategy.

(Sailor torpedo Fude Pen 55 – Sailor Red Brown)

Bruno Taut
(Inagi, August 8-9 2010)
[labels: plumín, Sailor, caligrafía, Japón]

06 August 2010


All three big Japanese pen companies have torpedo-like models on their catalogs. Pilot calls them Custom –74, 742, 743, 823,…—; Platinum, either 3776 —the altitude of Mount Fuji— or President; Sailor, Profit in Japan and 1911 overseas. Of course, we all think of Montblanc and it seems that the German brand is not very happy about these copies. Rumors say that there were a number of legal actions against them.

Several torpedo pens, including a French Bayard, and a Japanese Tombow.

The usual explanation goes by saying that Japanese express their admiration by copying. However, I find this explanation hard to swallow.

Some Pilot models. From left to right, Custom Sterling (1976), Custom 743 (2009), Super 100 (late 1950s or early 1960s), Custom 742 (2009), Super 200 (1960).

The Montblanc Meisterstück was created in the late 1940s and early 1950s. During the 1960s and 1970s, Japanese companies did not copy them. Pilot’s Custom models or equivalent (the Super series) could be equally boring in looks, but they were also different.

The Pilot 65 released on the occasion of the 65th anniversary of the company (1983).

Actually, only in the 1980s modern torpedo pens were marketed. It was on 1983 when Pilot created the limited edition Pilot 65 on the occasion of their 65th anniversary. With some minor variations, that model is nowadays the Custom 74.

Montblanc Meisterstück 147, Pilot Custom 74, Sailor Profit, Platinum 3776.

My conclusion is that this copying strategy obeys to marketing arguments: Give ’em what they want! And the general public still thinks of Montblanc when fountain pens are in the conversation.

From top to bottom, Sailor's Junior 21 K gold nib, Montblanc's 14 K gold nib in a 144, Platinum's music nib, Pilot's falcon nib in size 15. All of them in boring-looking torpedo style pens.

Luckily enough, Japanese nibs are a lot more exciting than their boring Montblanc counterparts of these days.

(Platinum 3776 Music nib – Sailor Red Brown)

Bruno Taut
Inagi, August 6 2010
[labels: Japón, Pilot, Sailor, Platinum, Bayard, Tombow, Montblanc]

03 August 2010

Fude 40

Pen review of the Sailor Fude Pen 40.

This is a very special, and very East Asian pen. Fude pens, as they are called in Japan, have their nibs bended up at a certain sharp angle. By doing this, the user has the possibility of choosing the line width by changing the angle between pen and paper. On top of that, at a certain inclination, a horizontal line drawn with this nib is very wide, while the vertical line remains thin.

Only some Chinese companies and Sailor in Japan manufacture this type of nib. The waverly nib Pilot offers does not have these characteristics. Sailor, on its side, makes three cheap pens with these nibs. Two of them have the nibs at an angle of 55 degrees. This one reviewed here has it at 40 deg. This company also produces a golden fude nib for more upscale pens.

1. Appearance and design. (6.5/10)
This pen is made entirely of plastic and does nothing to hide it. It has no clip to attach the pen to a pocket, but a notch on the cap to keep it from rolling. The cap screws to the barrel.

This is a surprisingly long pen. It seems to be made for the purpose of using it on a desk, and not to carry it around.

2. Construction and quality. (8/10)
Despite its cheap price and appearance, this pen seems to be well made. Nothing is loose and everything fits well.

3. Weight and dimensions. (7.5/10)
As I mentioned before, this is a long pen. But made in plastic, it is light and well balanced, especially unposted.

Diameter: 13.0 mm.
Length capped: 169 mm.
Length uncapped: 150 mm.
Length posted: 191 mm.
Weight: 14 g.

This is a big pen and it might be inconvenient to carry it around. However, this is not a usual pen and few people would use it as a daily writer. For that purpose, Sailor makes a smaller torpedo-like fude pen.

4. Nib and writing performance. (9.0/10)
This pen’s nib is, once again, the raison d’être of this pen. It is bended upwards at an angle of 40 degrees to allow the user to write with different line widths—from extra fine to extra coarse. Its purpose is to write Chinese characters with the line variation a brush provides naturally.

The nib is made of stainless steel. Non-tipped, rigid, very wet. And very smooth.

For those of us who do not write Chinese ideograms, this pen is more suitable for drawing and more creative tasks. It is fun to use.

5. Filling system and maintenance. (8.0/10)
A cheap pen, but accepts Sailor cartridges and converters. Its main problem is the limited capacity of those in a very wet pen. I see no major problem in making it an eyedropper, and then the pen would have a huge ink deposit.

Cleaning this pen is very easy. Nib and feed are easily removed from the section by pulling.

6. Cost and value. (9.0/10)
This is a very specialized pen. So, taken it into consideration, the value is excellent. The cost, less than €10 (JPY 1050, taxes included).

7. Conclusion. (48.0/60=80/100)
This pen is fun to use, although it can hardly become a daily writer. It is inexpensive and performs well. The lower scores come in the department of design and appearance—it could certainly be more attractive.

PS (August 9, 2010): Some additional comments on this pen are available on the entry entitled Angle.

(Sailor Fude Pen 40 – Sailor 100717031)

Bruno Taut
(Inagi, August 2-3, 2010)
[labels: Japón, Sailor, plumín, caligrafía]