17 September 2010


Pen review: Pilot Custom 74 with music nib.

Living in Tokyo, running into a music nib is very easy. Pilot’s overwhelming presence in department stores and stationery shops is often shown with a tray with eleven Custom 74 pens on it—each of them with a different nib. And the last one on the right hand side is the music nib. So, there is no need to ask anybody for an inkwell and a piece of paper. The pen is inked and the paper is right there.

Some weeks ago, I wrote a chronicle ("Ongaku") on music nibs, and I used a Platinum 3776 and a Pilot Custom 742 as the testing subjects. The later has the size 10 Pilot nib. The ubiquitous Custom 74 has the smaller size 5 nibs. Then, is there any difference between them? That is the point of this review.

1. Appearance and design. (7.25/10)
The Custom 74 is, once again, a black torpedo à la Mont Blanc. It is slightly shorter than the 742 model and looks less balanced in its proportions. Material-wise, this one is made with the same plastic —or is it a precious resin?— as its bigger relative.

2. Construction and quality. (9.0/10)
Solid. Good quality. No flaws.

3. Weight and dimensions. (7.75/10)
It is a well balanced pen when unposted. Being this pen shorter than the 742, this pen feels closer in the hand to the nicer balance of the Platinum.

Diameter: 13 mm.
Length capped: 143 mm.
Length uncapped: 125 mm.
Length posted: 160 mm.
Weight: 22 g.

4. Nib and performance. (7.75/10)
The nib is a 14 karat gold one with two slits. The feed is conventional with only one ink groove. There are occasional loses in the ink flow.

This nib—with the testing ink, Sailor Red Brown—shows some feedback, without becoming uncomfortable.

This is, in fact, a very interesting point. At the shops where I tested this pen so many times, this nib felt quite smooth. The ink in its cartridges —at the shop— was almost invariably Pilot Black. But for the purpose of this reviews I wanted to use a non biased ink; not Pilot, not Platinum—a Sailor ink. We certainly know that no pen works well with absolutely every ink, nor any ink works well in every single pen out there.

All in all, I feel this nib to be a tad smoother than its close relative in the Custom 742.

5. Filling system and maintenance. (7.5/10)
Everything I said about the Custom 742 applies here: easy to clean pen, easy to extract nib and feed from the section, excellent converter (CON-70).

The only drawback is that, in this case, the converter is not included with the pen and needs to be purchased separately.

6. Cost and value. (8.25/10)
This pen is significantly cheaper that the Custom 742 and it gives a similar if not better writing experience. So, I think this pen is a better value than the 742.

Now, compared to the Platinum 3776, this pen’s nib is not up to the challenge—the Platinum music nib is much better.

7. Conclusion. (47.5/60=79/100)
Given its price, this pen is a very interesting option for those wanting a music nib. It is certainly no match —nib wise— to the Platinum 3776, but the Custom 74 offers other features: better quality materials and a much better converter with bigger ink capacity.

The final score is a middle point between the Custom 742 and the 3776 analyzed previously on these Chronicles.

(Pilot Custom 74 with music nib – Sailor Red Brown)

Bruno Taut
(Inagi, September 13, 2010)
[labels: Pilot, plumín, Platinum]

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