29 March 2011

Kato's Pens

Not much information is available about Kato Seisakushô pen company, but it attracts a lot of expectation among pen enthusiasts. Possibly, its rarity makes it all the more appealing.

These pens have a very irregular distribution. The main sources are two websites –Pen House and Pen Meister. Lately, Kato Seisakushô pens could be seen at a only couple of shops in Tokyo, which is the only Japanese city I truly know, and in the catalog of an eBay vendor. Most of the information come from those websites and is written in Japanese. However, some translations can be found in some fora. And that is basically it.

The scarce literature on the Net is a mixture of facts and myths. Mr. Kiyoshi Kato founded his workshop in Osaka after –they claim— fathering fountain pens in Arabia and creating some pen factories in Egypt. All in the years of the Second World War… Mr. Kato was also responsible for some pens of the Italian brand Visconti.

This company’s selling point is that the pens are hand crafted in celluloid: “Celluloid Pen / Hand Crafted / Made in Japan”, that is all we can read on the cardboard boxes. On the pen, the only written sign is on the nib: they are either Schmidt –those in steel— or just “made in Japan” for those in 14 K gold. Again, that is all the information we can get from the pen itself.

Now, how interesting are these pens? Yes, they are made in celluloid. Other than that, most of them employ the international cartridge/converter system and implement steel nibs. Higher grade pens use 14 K gold nibs, ebonite feeds and integrated piston self-filling systems. Such is mine—a 800F model about which I should write a full review.

(Katoseisakusho 800F – Sailor Hiroko’s Green)

Bruno Taut
March 28, 2011
[labels: Japón, Katoseisakusho]

26 March 2011


Pen review: Pilot Vortex.

The pen under review today is a cheap one. One of the cheapest made by Pilot but, still, a very reliable tool and, therefore, worth to look at.

1. Appearance and design. (7.5/10)
The Pilot Vortex is probably the last pocket pen still on production—other than the German equivalent the Kaweco Sport, that is. The Pilot M90, should we remember, was a limited edition no longer marketed.

So, this is a short pen with a long cap. But this time, contrary to the standard trend of pocket pens, it has a cheap plastic look. It is indeed a very informal looking pen, probably aiming at a young user.

The transparent cap screws in the barrel, and the pen, as a whole, is on the thick side. Both features make this pen unique among pocket pens. Posted, the cap secures itself tightly to the barrel with a clear sound. The section is made of rugged plastic with a soft feeling to it, making a pleasant grip, albeit not a nice look.

The Pilot Vortex is available in five different colors and two nib points.

Personally, I do not like the looks of this pen, but I reckon that its design works very well and is matched with a good construction quality.

In summary, it is an ugly pen with a good design

2. Construction and quality. (9.5/10)
Everything fits perfectly in this pen, and no clear signs of wear can be seen despite the regular handling of a pen that is never attractive enough to inspire any special care.

The thread for the cap, and the groove to secure it when posted. On the right hand side, the rugged section.

When posted, the cap leaves the thread uncovered.

3. Weight and dimensions. (9.0/10)
A compact pen, albeit bigger that it really looks—the long cap makes it look shorter than it really is. A Parker 21, for instance, is one centimeter longer.

It is also fairly thick, easing the grip for extensive writing. The balance is very correct either posted or unposted, although in this second case it might be a bit too short for some hands.

Length capped: 125 mm.
Length open: 115 mm.
Length posted: 150 mm.
Diameter: 15.5 mm
Weight: 16.0 g.

4. Nib and writing performance. (8.5/10)
Only two very rigid steel nibs are available on this pen: F and M. But both are very smooth and provide a slightly wet flow.

In conclusion, a very correct set of nibs for an inexpensive pen.

M nib (top) and F nib (bottom).

5. Filling system and maintenance. (9.0/10)
Pilot-proprietary cartridges and converters (CON-20 and CON-50) are the way to ink this pen. Nothing fancy, but the right solution for a daily workhorse, for a pen to carry around at all times in a pocket or a purse.

The Vortex on the top was inked refilling a Pilot cartridge. The one on the bottom sports a CON-20 converter.

However, this pen could easily be transformed into an eyedropper. It even has windows on the barrel and section to check the remaining ink.

Maintenance-wise, this pen shows no problem other than the difficulty to remove the nib and feed set, which not many users attempt to do in any pen. Flushing the section with water is the standard procedure in any cartridge/converter pen.

6. Cost and value. (7.5/10)
This pen costs, in Japan, JPY 1500, plus tax. And you get a loud pen that never fails to write and seems almost unbreakable, with a very smooth nib. It is not a fancy jewel, but a reliable and pleasant writing tool.

Some points are deducted, though, due to the unappealing look.

7. Conclusion. (51/60=85/100)
The only weak point of this pen is the appearance. The rest is outstanding given its price. Many more expensive pens do not perform this well.

(Pilot Vortex, M nib – Sailor Red Brown)

Bruno Taut
March 24, 2011
[labels: Pilot]

22 March 2011

In Defense of Small Deposits.

A common complaint among stylophiles is about how most modern pens do not implement self-filling mechanisms and, regardless of the price, manufacturers opt for the simple and cheap cartridge/converter solution. The criticism continues along the lines of the small size of those ink cartridges and converters. That was one of the reasons behind my chronicles on their ink capacity for Japanese brands Pilot, Platinum and Sailor. The data showed that they range between 0.6 and 1.2 ml (for unmodified deposits). Now, is that small?

Regular Sailor cartridges can hold up to 1.2 ml of ink.

The relevant question, however, might be different: How do we stylophiles enjoy our pens? “Writing” might be the immediate answer, but most of us, collectors and accumulators, enjoy ourselves by trying new pens and new inks, filling that new arrival and cleaning that old one. And often, we look forward to finishing the ink load of that pen to ink that one we bought a couple of days ago with that new ink. Sure enough, we can always ink another pen, but there is also a limit on how many inked pens we can have at any given time.

The very small Platinum converterjust 0.6 ml of ink fit inside.

The argument of needing big ink capacity to avoid running out of ink does not apply either since most of us carry several pens with us—that is the extent of our fetishism.

Therefore, in view of these attitudes towards our objects of desire, I wonder what the actual reasons were to demand big ink reservoirs. As a user and accumulator I am not so sure of wanting them. A small deposit would push me to try pens and inks more often.

And on another chronicle I will argue in favor of traditional self-filling systems.

(Pilot Vortex – Sailor Red Brown)

Bruno Taut
March 20-21, 2011
[labels: conversor, soluciones técnicas, estilofilia]

16 March 2011

Pilot Converters

NOTE added on February 2017: A newer, updated review of the Pilot's cartridges and converters can be found on the Chronicle Pilot Cartridges and Converters 2017.

Pilot is the only big pen company in Japan supporting the use of its old products. Pilot, I already said on these chronicles, still manufactures the CON-W converter to use pens from the early 1960s —those with “double spare” cartridges— despite the fact this system was short lived.

This Pilot pen needs the CON-W converter.

Pilot also produces the small squeezer converter –CON-20— to fit in all of its wide range of pocket pens. This, we have already seen, is not the case of Platinum or Sailor.

From left to right: CON-20, CON-50, CON-70, and CON-W.

And finally, two other converters are available for pens with longer or wider barrels—the small piston CON-50, and the very unique CON-70.

A cartridge for a Petit-1 pen, and the regular Pilot cartridge.

These are the capacities, as measured by myself, of these converters and of the regular cartridge.

Capacities and prices (in JPY, sale tax not included) of Pilot converters and of the current cartridges. The small cartridge can be used in any Pilot cartrdige/converter pen, but the regular cartridge cannot be used in the Petit-1 line of pens.

(Katoseisakusho 800F – Sailor “Hiroko’s green”)

Bruno Taut
March 13, 2011
[labels: Pilot, conversor]

12 March 2011


To my friends of the Wagner Association of Pen Collectors in Japan.

Diamond Point was the name of a small American company of fountain pens, founded by the turn of the twentieth century in New York City. Initially, this brand manufactured eyedropper pens, and only around 1920 the production of lever-fillers started.

The Diamond Point on the front, compared to a modern Kaweco Sport.

By the mid 1920s, a change in ownership changed the company name to “New Diamond Point”. This brand ceased its activities in the mid 1950s after years of struggling.

Both pens, now posted.

Today’s pen is a very small lever-filler made. It in made in black hard rubber with no engraving on the barrel other than the brand name: “DIAMOND POINT / NEW YORK”. Therefore, this pen is likely to have been made in the early 1920s.

The pen, away from any reference, is remarkably balanced. The wooden stand, however, is 55 mm. long. Note the mildly discolored cap and barrel.

This pen is indeed tinyl: just 82 mm long (capped) and weights only 5 grams (without ink). Compared to mostly any pen, it is easily dwarfed.

The Diamond Point's nib compared to that of a Pilot Capless/Vanishing Point.

The nib is a 14 K gold warranted; surprisingly flexible given its very small size.

The hard rubber is discolored, showing some green hue, but otherwise is ready to be inked and ready to write.

(Twsbi Diamond 530 with a Pelikan nib – Diamine Amazing Amethyst)

Bruno Taut
March 11, 2011
[labels: Diamond Point]

10 March 2011


Evaluación de la pluma Twsbi Diamond 530.

Posiblemente sea hora de hacer una evaluación de una pluma que ya ha aparecido mucho en estas crónicas: la Twsbi Diamond 530. La Twsbi, al contrario de lo que sucede con muchas otras, está perfectamente documentada y es bien conocida y posiblemente poco puedo aportar a lo ya publicado.

La historia es que el propietario de la marca taiwanesa –Chengchang Wang–, después de unos veinte años de producir plumas para otros decidió crear su propio producto. Y además decidió contar con la opinion de usuarios y entusiastas. Recurrió a uno de los foros de estilófilos más activos: el Fountain Pen Network, donde el Sr. Wang participa con el nombre de “Speedy”. La respuesta fue entusiasta y éste es el resultado de esas aportaciones y de las correspondientes decisiones empresariales.

Un camello es un caballo diseñado por un comité, dice el viejo adagio. Y esta pluma podría ser ese camello. Pero a diferencia de muchos productos e informes diseñados por comités absurdos, esta vez el resultado es muy interesante. Tal vez la razón de este éxito estribe en que al frente de la empresa había una cabeza pensante –Chengchang Wang— que tomaba las decisiones y arriesgaba sus recursos para hacer realidad este proyecto.

La pluma en cuestión, pero con un plumín ajeno.

La Diamond 530 es una pluma transparente –una demonstrator— sin contrapartida opaca. Las plumas de demostración surgieron como instrumento de ventas para enseñar el funcionamiento interno de las innovaciones técnicas de aquellos nuevos productos. Y las plumas que de verdad estaban a la venta eran las opacas.

Pocas innovaciones técnicas hay hoy en el campo de las estilográficas, pero las plumas de demostración no han perdido su atractivo, tal y como demuestran los varios modelos transparentes de Pelikan, Pilot, Sailor… y la propia pluma que nos ocupa.

1. Aspecto y diseño. (8.5/10)
Es esta una pluma grande, comparable a una Pelikan M800. Los detalles decorativos son cromados. El cuerpo de la pluma no es liso sino que tiene unas facetas romboidales que impiden que la pluma ruede libremente.

El capuchón lleva el llamativo logotipo de la marca en su extremo. Este detalle ha sido causa de muchas críticas: es ciertamente una nota discordante en una pluma que no es especialmente llamativa.

La Diamond 530 con un plumín Sailor de 21 quilates, con el logotipo de la marca en el capuchón.

Esta pluma ha sido diseñada de modo que pueda ser desmontada con facilidad. De hecho, la caja de presentación incluye una llave para desmontar el pistón de llenado del depósito de tinta. Asimismo, la página web de Twsbi incluye varios videos explicativos de cómo desensamblar la pluma completamente.

2. Calidad general. (9.5/10)
Cuentan las crónicas que las primeras unidades de esta pluma tenían defectos en las juntas con problemas de fugas de tinta. Twsbi reaccionó con el envío de nuevas piezas a todos los afectados por estos problemas.

La pluma está bien construida. Todos sus elementos están bien ajustados y no presentan holgura alguna a pesar de mi interés por experimentar con ella.

El material plástico no muestra arañazos a pesar de su uso.

3. Peso, dimensiones. (8.0/10)
A pesar de sus dimensiones generosas es una pluma manejable y equilibrada, sobre todo si el capuchón no es encajado en la parte trasera para escribir.

Longitud cerrada: 142 mm.
Longitud abierta: 130 mm.
Longitud con el capuchón atrás: 177 mm.
Diámetro: 14 mm.
Peso: 26 g.

Estas dimensiones son muy similares a las de la Pilot Custom Heritage 92 y a las de la Pelikan M800. Esta última destaca por un depósito de tinta muy generoso, de 2.0 ml frente a los 1.5 ml de la Pilot y de la Twsbi.

Tres plumas de demostración. De arriba a abojo, Pilot Custom 74, Twsbi Diamond 530 y Pilot Custom Heritage 92. En la Twsbi se pueden ver las facetas en el cuerpo que impiden que ruede libremente.

4. Plumín y calidad de escritura. (7.5/10)
Éste es en mi opinión el aspecto menos logrado de la Twsbi Diamond 530. Probablemente por motivos económicos, el plumín de esta pluma procede de la empresa alemana Schmidt que, a su vez, los compra a Bock o a JoWo. El problema no es la calidad del mismo sino la parca variedad de puntos: EF, F y M. El punto más grueso B, anuncia la compañía, estará disponible en breve.

El plumín Schmidt original, con la marca Twsbi grabada en él.

Estos plumines están hechos en acero inoxidable y son bastante rígidos. El flujo de tinta es agradablemente generoso, lo que favorece la suavidad en la escritura. En principio, nada que objetar.

Ahora bien, en una pluma tan desmontable como esta la idea de explorar otras posibilidades es lógica. Mis experimentos, de momento, se limitan a intercambiar plumines entre las estilográficas que tengo a mi alrededor. Los resultados son los siguientes:

-- Los plumines Pilot número 5, en oro de 14 quilates, funcionan bien. Hay once puntos disponibles, desde EF hasta BB (llamado coarse por Pilot) con los añadidos de plumines ligeramente flexibles (SF, SFM, SM) y de un musical. Hay versiones rodiadas de nueve de ellos.

-- Los plumines junior de Sailor también funcionan bien. Son bastante rígidos, lo que no genera demandas grandes de tinta.

Plumín musical de Pilot. Prueba de escritura.

Por otro lado, en la red (FPN) hay reseñas de otras combinaciones: plumines Pelikan (de las series 200, 400 y 600), plumines Bock, etc.

La conclusión es sencilla y muy general, extrapolable a cualquier pluma: cualquier plumín que se ajuste al alimentador y entre en la boquilla vale mientras la demanda de tinta no sea muy alta.

Finalmente, el plumín Schmidt de esta Twsbi Diamond 530 es correcto y el mayor problema es el de tener pocas opciones de trazo.

La versión posiblemente más exótica: con plumín musical. Lástima que este plumín no esté disponible en versión rodiada.

5. Sistema de llenado. Mantenimiento. (9.0/10)
Éste es el gran argumento de esta pluma: un sistema de autollenado por pistón de vacío. Este pistón, según el propio Sr. Wang en el Fountain Pen Network, procede de Schmidt que, si bien no produce sus propios plumines sí tiene capacidad de fabricar pistones para estilográficas.

Con una capacidad de 1.5 ml, su depósito es mayor que cualquier cartucho o conversor de tinta, pero se queda corto respecto a la capacidad de otras plumas similares.

La gran virtud de este sistema de pistón es que no es inconveniente para las tareas de mantenimiento. Como ya señalé, esta pluma es fácilmente desmontable y su limpieza y la sustitución de elementos dañados o desgastados es sencilla. A decir de algunos usuarios, la casa matriz es muy diligente en el envío de repuestos.

Plumín medio (M) de Pilot. Prueba de escritura.

6. Precio y valor de la compra. (9.5/10)
Esta pluma es muy barata: US$ 40. Por ese precio recibimos un producto de buena calidad con un diseño atractivo. Es, posiblemente, la pluma más barata del mercado con llenado por pistón.

El elemento menos satisfactorio podría ser el plumín, si bien cumple su función perfectamente.

Tal vez el problema sea que el aspecto y calida de esta pluma sean muy superiores a lo que su precio indica. El plumín es perfectamente acorde con el precio pagado, pero posiblemente no esté a la altura del resto de los elementos.

Plumín original de Twsbi, por Schmidt. Prueba de escritura.

7. Conclusión. (52/60 = 87/100)
Gran producto, y no únicamente por el precio. Es una pluma de calidad y con mucho interés para el aficionado. El elemento menos satisfactorio es el plumín, si bien cumple su función con suavidad y corrección. El depósito de tinta podría ser apreciablemente más grande si atendemos a plumas de diseño parecido.

Plumín Sailor fino-medio (MF) de 21 quilates. Prueba de escritura.

Mi agradecimiento al Sr. Yamada, nibmeister japonés.

(Twsbi Diamond 530 con varios plumines – Diamine Amazing Amethyst)

Bruno Taut
8 de marzo de 2011
[labels: Twsbi, Pelikan, Sailor, Taiwan, Pilot, fora]

07 March 2011

Sailor Converters

The Sailor Pen Company is arguably one of the most interesting pen manufacturers nowadays. The craftsmanship tradition –so keen to Japan— is alive and well in the company through the hands and expertise of Mr. Nobuyoshi Nagahara. His specialty nibs are –dare I say— the most interesting, and one of the few truly innovative, features in the world of fountain pens today.

The Cross nib by Nagahara for Sailor.

However, those nibs –many of which are voracious ink guzzlers— are rarely matched with equally generous ink deposits. Actually, Sailor’s policy regarding ink storage relies in small converters and cartridges, with the single exception of the Realo line of piston-filler pens. This is very unsatisfactory for many users.

That beautiful nib is accompanied by this sad converter... This pen is called “Mannenhitsu Doraku” (万年筆楽).

And the pain of this limitation goes further as there is a great variety of behaviors within the brand. We could categorize Sailor pens in one of the following groups:

-- Pens that use very specific cartridges and converters—the ultra slim Chalana series. I will not speak about these pens on this chronicle.

-- Pens that use regular Sailor-proprietary cartridges –and only cartridges.

-- Pens that use proprietary cartridges and converters, but the later need to be modified in some way.

-- Pens that use cartridge and converters without any modification.

--Finally, some pens –the already mentioned Realo series— have their self-filling mechanism.

All these five Sailor can use cartridges, but only some of them can use converters, and in different ways.

The pens, from the previous picture showing their insides. From left to right: the first pen can only use cartridges; the second can use modified converters without the central ring; the third can use shortened converters; the fourth can use unmodified converters without the central ring; and the fifth can use untouched regular converters.

From left to right: a Sailor proprietary regular cartridge; a shortened converter without the central ring; a shortened converter with the central ring; an unmodified converter without the central ring; and finally the untouched regular converter.

Costs and capacities of Sailor cartridge and converters. Chalana cartridges and converters are not included.

All these categories might not be so unusual was it not because of the number of different modifications the converter needs to fit. And that shows some lack of consistency in the pen design:

-- Some pocket pens are so short that there is no room for the present converter to fit in no matter how short we might make it. Some sources say that an old converter existed for these pocket pens, but I have never seen it.

-- Another group of pocket pens have their section's bore too narrow for the converter’s metallic ring. Therefore, they need to have the converter shortened in the same way Platinum converters had to be modified to fit inside Platinum pocket pens, and the central converter's ring removed.

-- A third group of pocket pens need a shortened converter, but there is no need to remove the metallic ring.

-- Some full size pens have their barrels too thin for the converter’s ring. Again, the only option —other than the cartridge, that is— is to remove the converter’s ring.

-- And of course, there are some pens in which the converter fits without any modification.

All in all, Sailor shows a great interest in creating the most exciting nibs in the market and forgets about how to keep the ink inside the pen. The unbalance between those outstanding nibs and this poor looking converter is too shocking to oversee. Truly disappointing.

(Pilot Volex demonstrator H475 – Diamine Evergreen)

Bruno Taut
(March 3rd, 2011)
[labels: Sailor, conversor, soluciones técnicas]

04 March 2011

Stars (III)

Today’s pen is a black ebonite eyedropper with hoshiawase shut-off system by Pilot.

The section with the concentric cylinders of the shut-off system indicates that this pen was manufactured during the last years of existence of this shut-off system. It is more elaborate than in earlier pens. My sources from Pilot company say it comes back from early 1928, despite the fact that some others claim the hoshiawase system was phased out in 1926.

Modern, more elaborate, hoshiawase system, from 1926-1928.

Hoshiawase cylinders from around 1920.

This particular pen only shows the band name on the barrel and no other ornament.

It is a small pen—just 98 mm long capped and 8 grams.

The Pilot nib.

The nib is a flexible 14 K gold in size 1.

(Pilot Volex Black – Montegrappa Turquoise)

Bruno Taut
In exile, March 4, 2011
[labels: Pilot, soluciones técnicas]