29 June 2011


Mr. Asashirô Hosonuma’s jewelry company Kinkôsha started in the pen business by producing high quality nibs for other companies around 1911. Some years later, the company was renamed as Hosonuma Shokai and included pens in its catalog under the brand SSS, San-essu, "three S" in Japanese.

This brand became one of the top three in Japan before the Second World War, together with the Japanese Swan and the well-known Pilot-Namiki. But the company disappeared in the 1950s unable to compete in the post-war Japanese market, overflown with pen companies.

This hard rubber pen is a nice example of a 1930s pen by SSS. It uses a shut-off system to seal the eyedropper ink deposit—all very Japanese.

Inside the barrel, the conical seal of the shut-off valve.

The nib is made of steel due to the war restrictions (the Sino Japanese war had started in 1931) in the use of gold. This led to the creation of the so called shiro nibs (shiro means "white" in Japanese). As many of them, this one is fairly flexible and has a very fine point.

The engraved clip.

The flexible shiro nib in size 4.

The brand name is engraved on both the nib and on the barrel. The clip sports the company logo.

The pen dimensions:
Diameter: 13 mm.
Length capped: 132 mm.
Length uncapped: 116 mm.
Length posted: 160 mm.
Weight: 16.8 g (empty).
Cap weight: 6.1 g.

It is not difficult to find SSS pens in the second hand market in Japan.

(Pilot Capless, 14 K gold F nib – Montblanc Irish Green)

Bruno Taut
June 27, 2011
[labels: Japón, SSS]

PS: I am having serious troubles uploading images to this blog server. Blogger is certainly NOT what any blogger expected.

26 June 2011

The Otaku Syndrome

Para Ningyo-chan y Kendo-san en Sampaka.

I guess we all otaku are bound to experience this syndrome… Otaku, almost by definition, are obsessed with their pens and related objects –or whatever the object of their dreams might be—and we easily become very knowledgeable about them. More so than most professionals. But these professionals are in charge of catering our dreams when we enter their shops.

That has been my experience in most shops I have visited—mostly in Madrid and in Tokyo. Very soon you learned that there is a very shallow knowledge of the product they are selling in the person attending you. The logical exception to this rule is the second hand shop, but only when the owner is also the person in charge.

Sales people seem to have a hard time following Sailor's ink policy in the last years.

I wonder then, if those clerks were aware of the fact that some of their customers knew a lot more than themselves, and that those customers would be very pleased with a more knowledgeable attention.

I guess, finally, that suffering from this otaku syndrome is, more often than not, unavoidable… But I wished different.

(Kaweco Sport as eyedropper, 1.1i nib – Senator Regent Royal Blue)

Bruno Taut
June 23, 2011
[labels: estilofilia, mercado]

23 June 2011

Safari Japonés

La Lamy Safari es una pluma bien conocida. Es uno de los diseños más característicos de Lamy, que es una marca que se caracteriza por sus diseños innovadores desde que a principios de los 60 Manfred Lamy se hizo cargo de la empresa. El modelo Safari en particular fue diseñado por Wolfgang Fabian y Bernt Spiegel y salió al mercado en 1980. Desde entonces, esta pluma ha pasado por varias modificaciones –hasta cuatro— sin que apenas afectaran al aspecto externo.

El material básico de esta pluma es plástico inyectado. Por tanto, la creación de una gran variedad de colores es fácil y está presente en el catálogo de la marca desde el comienzo del modelo. A principios de los 90, con la tercera generación de la Safari, Lamy lanza al mercado la versión transparente, que muchos consideran la primera edición limitada de esta pluma. Posteriormente, con el nombre de Lamy Vista se incorporó al catálogo como un modelo más. Desde entonces, los cambios de color y las ediciones limitadas han sido una constante en este modelo. Después de todo, estas tiradas reducidas alimentan la demanda del producto e incrementan el negocio. La última de estas ediciones especiales, la del año 2011, está hecha en color azul: es la Safari Aguamarina (Aquamarine).

La portada del último ejemplar hasta el momento de la revista Shumi no Bungubako. Las pluma de la portada es la Sailor del centésimo aniversario. También merecen mención especial la Safari Aguamarina.

Y la pluma que aquí presento es otra de ellas. Se trata de una edición hecha para la revista japonesa Shumi-no Bungubako (趣味の文具箱). En estos momentos, esta revista cuatrimestral es la referencia de obligada consulta en el mundo de la estilográfica japonesa.

Por cierto, la Safari es muy popular en Japón.

(Pilot Vpen – Diamnie Teal)

Bruno Taut
22 de junio de 2011
[labels: Lamy, Shumi no Bungubako]

17 June 2011

Kaweco Sport Eyedropper

I know I have advocated in favor of small deposits in fountain pens. And I do agree with the wise comment of Sven Opitz—not refilling a pen for a month makes it a boring month.

But I am also a tinkerer, and I enjoy experimenting. So, I tried to use a small Kaweco Sport Demonstrator as eyedropper pen.

That is a particularly well-suited pen for this transformation: a cartridge/converter of reduced size, all plastic made, and transparent. Then, I proceeded to fill the whole barrel with ink. I did not apply any grease nor added any gasket to the thread. And it does not leak at all. The nib I chose is a 1.1 mm italic from the Kaweco Calligraphy set.

Two sets of threads can be seen on the demonstrator pen. The one on the left is for the cap. The one on the far right is to attach barrel and section. This thread seals the barrel tightly--no ink leak after days of carrying the pen around in my pocket.

The result is a very well behaved pen—a generous flow, a big ink deposit (about 2.5 ml of ink, versus 0.7 ml in a short international cartridge), and an interesting nib. The drawback, of course, is being bound to use this royal blue ink for quite some time.

(Kaweco Sport, 1.1 mm italic nib – Senator Regent Royal Blue)

Bruno Taut
June 16th, 2011
[labels: Kaweco, soluciones técnicas]

14 June 2011

Parallel Converters

Pilot’s Parallel pens have already been described on these chronicles. Arguably, they are the best italic nibs in the market. But their ink demands –these are wet writers— are not matched with equally generous ink deposits.

The official position of the company can be summarized as follows:

1. Pilot’s Parallel Pens use a dedicated ink—more fluid than most standard fountain pen inks. And all of those dedicated inks are mixable among them.

2. The cartridges containing that ink are the same as the regular Pilot cartridges. However, inside them there is a metallic ball.

3. The converter included in the package is only for cleaning purposes.

A disassembled Parallel Pen.

My experience, as can be seen on the video, is different:

1. Pilot’s Parallel Pen inks are indeed more fluid than other inks, but I have used some other inks –by Sailor, for instance—with no mayor problem. Slowing the writing pace avoids any problem associated to the thicker texture of those inks. And we all know that most inks are mixable—Sailor’s, in particular, are well behaved.

2. The cleaning converter can be used as regular converter on these and on other Pilot pens.

From left to right, standard (empty) Pilot cartridge, and converters CON-20, CON-50, CON-70, and CON-W. The CON-W cannot be used in the Parallel Pens.

3. Standard CON-20 and CON-50 converters can be used on these Parallel Pens. The CON-70, with bigger ink capacity, does not fit inside the barrel.

4. There is no problem in using these pens as eyedroppers, thus enlarging their ink capacity a great deal.

The 6 mm-Parallel Pen nib unit.

In my opinion, the only point of those warnings, as stated by Pilot, is to protect its market of dedicated ink and cartridges.

(Pilot Vpen, F nib – Diamine Teal)

Bruno Taut
June 5th, 2011
[labels: Pilot, soluciones técnicas, papelería, conversores]

08 June 2011

Low Cost in Spain

The already described Zande-Phondex’s copy of the Sheaffer’s No Nonsense pen is not the only inexpensive pen in the Spanish market.

From left to right, Zande-Phondex "Pluma estilográfica", STYB "Compact", and Auchan. All of them below €5.

Their nibsunmarked that of the Zande-Phondex.

French supermarket chain Chain offers its own brand of pens. The company does not declare which company actually manufactures them. This Auchan pen uses short international cartridges and could easily be transformed into an eyedropper. Actually, its translucent body makes it especially suitable for the transformation. The rigid steel nib –engraved with the company logo— is iridium tipped and performs admirably.

The Auchan's pen in green. Other colors available.

STYB is one of the few examples of pen companies in Spain. It is the successor of the historical brand Jabalina, founded in 1948 in Albacete (Spain) by Juan Sánchez Navarro. Several fountain pens can be found on its catalog, the cheaper of which is the model Compact.

Auchan's pen nib, engraved with the company logo.

Quite similar to the Auchan pen, its construction quality is clearly cheaper. A major difference is the nib—the STYB’s is just folded and uses no iridium. As a result, this pen’s feeling is rougher than the competitor. Both pens have similar prices—slightly below €3.

STYB's folded nib.

STYB Compact pen presentation.

Therefore, the Zande-Phondex remains as a much better deal than the rest—much lower in price while performing very well.

Zande-Phondex's version of the Sheaffer's No Nonsense.

The market of inexpensive pens —say, below €5— is very reduced in Spain. The distribution of these products seems to be quite erratic, which is very different with the usual presence of cheap Japanese pens in supermarkets and stationery shops in Japan.

(Aurora 88K – Diamine Evergreen)

Bruno Taut
June 6th, 2011
[labels: STYB, Auchan, Zande-Phondex, España, mercado]

01 June 2011


Pen review of the Pilot Vpen disposable fountain pen.

One of the points to argue in favor of fountain pens is re-usability. Fountain pens, some say, are cheaper than ball pens in the long run because you can refill them. Additionally, this practice generates less waste than the use of the ubiquitous disposable ball pen.

Then, how do we deal with disposable fountain pens? Are they worth the noble name of fountain pen?

I know of only two brands of those: the English-American Berol Fontaine, although the pen is made in Japan, and the very well-known Pilot Vpen or Varsity. None of them is truly attractive and most of us, stylophiles, would not pay much attention to them. But the Pilot Vpen performs so well that is hard to ignore.

Pilot Vpen and Berol Fontaine, side by side.

1. Appearance and design. (5.0/10)
The Pilot Vpen looks cheap indeed. Save for the obvious nib, the whole pen is made in some slightly flexible plastic—including the clip. However, it is a functional and reliable tool.

2. Construction and quality. (9.0/10)
Despite the looks, it does not break. The cap fits perfectly –capped and posted— after months of careless use. Inexpensive but well made.

3. Weight and dimensions. (9.5/10)
This is a medium sized and very light pen. It is also well balance posted or unposted. It feels comfortable in the hand. Just right for long writing periods.

Diameter: 12 mm.
Length capped: 132 mm.
Length uncapped: 115 mm.
Length posted: 150 mm.
Total weight: 10.2 g (full).
Weight uncapped: 7.0 g (full).
Ink deposit: 1.7 ml.

4. Nib and writing performance. (8.0/10)
Pilot Vpens come with two possible points: F and M. Both are wet, smooth and reliable. The steel nib is the same as the one implemented on the already reviewed Pilot Petit 1, albeit the latter is only available in F. Needless to say, this is a rigid nib.

A Vpen disassembled together with a Pilot Petit 1 nib and feed (the green one).

5. Filling system and maintenance. (7.0/10)
This is probably the key point of this pen. The ink deposit is sealed and, in principle, cannot be refilled. Therefore, the idea of maintenance is very simple—dispose when empty.

The trick to re-use this pen is simple: extract the nib and feed set by pulling them out of the section; clean all the parts; pour some new ink inside the body; reattach the nib and feed; and, voilà, the pen is ready for the action.

So, this pen could be seen as an uncomfortable-to-fill eyedropper, but a refillable pen nonetheless.

Pilot markets this pen in this colors at the time of writing this chronicle: black, blue and red. In the past, however, some other colors were available—in front of me I have a light blue/turquoise one with an F nib. And after emptying the pen, it is up to you to choose the ink color!

6. Cost and value. (7.5/10)
This is an inexpensive pen –JPY 200 in Japan, and less than € 3.00 in Spain. In exchange, the pen works well for a long time, and does not break. But for the same price you can get several fully refillable pens—the Platinum Preppy and Riviere, the Zande-Phondex copy of the Sheaffer’s No Nonsense, the Sailor Ink Pen… The cartridge only Pilot Petit 1 is JPY 300.

Then, is the Vpen a cheap or an expensive pen? Hard to say. Its handling and performance are, in my opinion, better than any of those pens, and that is a basic point in a cheap pen like this. On the other hand, the hack to refill, even if easy and straight-forward, is far from being user-friendly.

7. Conclusion. (46.0/60=76.5/100)
Unappealing but very reliable pen. Nominally disposable but easy to refill.

My thanks to Fountain Pen Network member Sailor Kenshin.

(Pilot Vpen, M nib – Pilot Black)

Bruno Taut
May 31st, 2011
[labels: Pilot, Berol, soluciones técnicas]