29 October 2011

Japanese Celluloid

Among the big three Japanese pen companies, only Platinum (and its luxury division Nakaya) manufactures pens made of celluloid nowadays. That was not the case in the past, as we have already seen on these Chronicles. Actually, there has been a number of eyedropper pens made of this material, which is certainly strange given the extreme sensitivity of celluloid to color changes due to ink dyes. And in an eyedropper pen, ink is in direct contact with the plastic material of the barrel. However, this practice was not uncommon during the 1920s and 1930s in Japan and overseas.

Pilot made a number of them, and such is the case of the pen here presented today. It is green and black pen, equipped with a shiro nib, fairly flexible, in size 3. The breathing hole, V-shaped, is quite characteristic of flexible steel nibs in Japanese pens.

"Best in the World, Pilot -<3>-", the engraving says.

As mostly any Japanese eyedropper pen, this one implements a shut-off system operated from the culotte. This pen, though, features an unusual detail—the knob thread in the barrel is made in the inner side instead of being lathed on the exterior, as is usually the case.

This Pilot pen dates from the early to mid 1930s. The logo, engraved on the barrel, shows the N, after the company founder Ryosuke Namiki. It was changed in 1938 to show a P instead of the N coinciding with his retirement, which does not seem the best way to honor his legacy.

The pen is in very good condition. It reached my hands in its original case, which included the instruction sheet. Probably, it has never been inked.

These are its dimensions:
Diameter: 13 mm.

Length capped: 132 mm.
Length open: 120 mm.
Length posted: 167 mm.

Weight (dry): 15.8 g.

(Athena Basic Line – Sailor Yama-dori)

Bruno Taut
October 29th, 2011
[labels: Pilot]

21 October 2011

Rising Sun

In the Land of the Rising Sun, such is the usual translation to the more accurate of land where the sun originated (Nippon, 日本), it should came as no surprise that a number of companies use the term asahi, rising sun, in their names. Such is the case of newspaper Asahi Shinbun, the beer company Asahi Breweries, the television company TV Asahi… and even a pen company.

This Asahi Tsubasa Hantsuki Mannenhitsu (旭ッバサ判付萬年筆), such seems to be the model name, is a truly interesting pen and it shows several unusual features.

The box, the pen, the eyedropper, and the ink bottle.

The pen, uncapped, with the shut-off valve and the main thread between section and barrel half open.

It is a grey celluloid eyedropper with a shut off valve, as is the case of most Japanese eyedroppers. The package included a traditional eyedropper, though its rubber bulb is no longer usable, and a small bottle of solid ink to be dissolved in water and ink the pen in the absence of an inkwell.

The solid ink bottle. Its height is four centimeters shy.

The cap looks longer than usual, and it is easy to see that the nib and the section barely occupy two thirds of the space within. The black ring on the cap, apparently an old sticker, is indeed a thread for a shorter cap that hides the stone to carve the seal (hanko, 判子), as was the case on the old Japanese Swan pen I showed some time ago. However, this pen shows some differences—under the seal there is a small deposit for ink that, going through the porous stone, allows printing the seal without the need of an inkpad.

The top of the cap, disassembled. The brown flat piece is the uncarved stone for the seal. It is attached onto a black piece with a thread fitting on the cap, on the far end of the pic, creating a small deposit for the ink. It would go through the porous stone when printing the seal.

Then, the name of the model makes perfect sense: hantsuki (判付) means that this pen is also a seal. And in the instruction sheet it can be read that this pen combines three tools in one—the pen, the seal, and the inkpad!

The instructions for this Asahi Tsubasa Hantsuki Mannenhitsu (旭ッバサ判付萬年筆).

The nib is a size 3 made of steel, and is slightly flexible despite its shape, curved downwards, like a posting nib. It is engraved with the company logo and some Japanese characters, some of which read Asahi Tsubasa, and a more descriptive “IRIDIUM / PEN / -<3>-”.

The steel nib in size 3.

The dimensions of this pen are as follows:
Diameter: 13.0 mm.
Length capped: 130 mm.

Length uncapped: 105 mm.

Length posted: 155 mm.
Dry weight: 15.8 g.

The clip is imprinted with the brand name: Asahi Tsubasa.

All these elements show this was a pen from the war period, which in Asia was a lot longer than in the West. Probably, this pen dates back from the 1930s. The company was based in Arakawa, Tokyo.

(Soennecken 105 – Diamine Evergreen)

Bruno Taut
Yokohama, October 21st, 2011
[labels: Asahi Tsubasa, Japón]

17 October 2011

Young Music

Pen review of the Sailor Young Profit (Somiko in some markets) with music nib.

Feeding my inclination for music nibs I have finally put my hands on this single-slit nib labeled as music by Sailor Company. This is the cheapest music nib among those made in Japan.

1. Appearance and design. (6.0/10)
This is a black pen with golden accents. Even the steel nib is gold plated to match. Therefore, it keeps the classical serious and formal look of many a pen. However, this is not a torpedo pen à la Montblanc despite the model name—Profit pens are the Sailor copies of the German formal pens.

This pen, in a nutshell, is a cartridge-converter, with a snap on cap and a rigid steel nib. All very correct and functional, and nothing really exciting.

2. Construction and quality. (8.0/10)
The materials employed on this pen are correct and show no abnormal wear. Everything seems right. The pen looks durable and ready for years of use.

3. Weight and dimensions. (8.0/10)
Medium weighted pen, which is somehow surprising as it is mostly made of plastic. Fortunately, it is well balanced either posted or unposted.

Diameter: 12.0 mm.

Length capped: 135 mm.
Length uncapped: 123 mm.
Length posted: 145 mm.
Dry weight: 18.1 g (including the converter).

4. Nib and writing performance. (7.5/10)
Once again, this is the key point of the pen. The nib seems to be the only argument in an inexpensive cartridge-converter pen with boring looks.

This music nib is made of steel and is gold plated through a process of physical vapor deposition. Sailor was a pioneer in using it for pen nibs and decided to mark it with the acronym TIGP: Titanium Ion Gold Plated. However, this is still a steel nib with no special geometry. So, it is also quite rigid.

The nicely engraved steel nib. On top, the acronym TIGP describing the plating process. On the side, MS shows this is a music nib.

Performance-wise, this pen shows a nice line variation between the strokes horizontal (parallel to the tines) and vertical (normal to the tines). However, it is quite critical on this nib to write with no inclination between the nib and the paper. Or in other words—both tines have to be in good contact with the paper. Otherwise, the nib becomes dry and easily looses the ink line. The reason for this behavior, annoying most of the time, lies in the width of the tine, wider than usual. Then, small angles between nib and paper create bigger gaps between the slit and the paper thus breaking the ink drop.

This is not the case in three-tine music nibs because the second slit naturally shortens the outer tines thus making the gaps due to pen inclinations less critical to the nib performance. This Sailor music nib is not suitable for those who use oblique nibs.

All this makes me confirm my initial impression of this nib—it is more of a stub than of a music nib. It is, nonetheless, an interesting and upscale alternative to calligraphy (i. e. italic) nibs.

Writing sample of the Sailor Young Profit with music nib.

5. Filling system and maintenance. (6.5/10)
This is, as are most Japanese pens, a cartridge-converter pen. The converter, of 0.7 ml of capacity, is on the small side for the wide line of this nib. Having a replacement cartridge with this pen is a must.

Nib and feed can easily be detached from the barrel by pulling them. Cleaning the pen is very easy.

6. Cost and value. (8.5/10)
For JPY 5000 (plus taxes) you get a smooth and rigid stub that Sailor insists in labeling as music. It is not easy to master and many would never go through the effort of getting use to it. Two are, in my opinion, the alternatives to this pen: One is the more expensive three-tine music nibs by Pilot and Platinum. The other is any of the calligraphy sets by a number of Western companies. Those Japanese music nibs are easier to use, whereas with those italic sets we are bound to encounter similar problems to those we faced with this Sailor music nib.

7. Conclusion. (43.5/60=72.5/100)
Not very high marks for this pen. Its only interesting feature is the nib, but it is not very user friendly, and, compared to other music nibs as Sailor insists with its naming, it is not a real competitor. The rest of the pen is fairly uneventful.

(Sailor Young Profit with music nib – Sailor Tokiwa-matsu)

Bruno Taut
Yokohama, October 17th, 2011
[labels: plumín, Sailor]

13 October 2011

Music Metaphysics

The NK nib by Kubo Kohei I showed some weeks ago raises some metaphysical questions on the essence of music nibs. What is indeed a music nib?

Kubo Kohei´s music nib in steel.

This Japanese nib, let us remember now, barely shows any line variation unless was pushed down against the paper. And at the same time, the second slit does provide the extra ink flow this wider line demands.

Modern three-tined music nibs: one by Platinum (on top) and two by Pilot.

Music shiro nib by Platinum (mid 1950s).

On the other hand, I voluntarily ignored Sailor´s approach to music nibs when I compared those by Pilot and by Platinum a year ago. “Sailor´s”, I said, “lacks the visual appeal and the extra flow of the second slit. Sailor´s is more of a smooth stub than a real music nib.” But it really shows some line variation.

Modern two-tined music nib by Sailor in steel.

So, what is the essence of a music nib? Is it on the line variation? If so, mostly any stub or italic nib —broad vertical stroke and thin horizontal one— could qualify for such.

What about the three tines? Should this be the standard, what do we do with three-tined nibs showing barely any line variation, like that by Kubo Kohei?

Pilot pen from 1970s with a three-tined music nib in 14 K gold.

Some stylophiles claim that a true music nib must show some flexibility, thus dismissing all those modern Japan-made music nibs. But then, does any flexible or semi-flexible nib qualify for this category? Again, the case of Kubo Kohei´s nib comes in handy—it is not really very different from a semi-flex nib in its performance, but regular nibs showing some flexibility are not considered music nibs.

One more note on this regard. One of those wonderful specialty nibs by Sailor´s master Nagahara is named Cross Music. It has not just three tines but four by means of overlapping two nibs. The result is a very juicy point with a wonderful line variation opposite to that of a standard music nib and closer to an Arabic or fude nibs: thin vertical strokes and wide, very wide, horizontal lines.

The Cross Music nib by Sailor´s nibmeister Nagahara.

Reverse view of the Cross Music nib. The four tines are now visible.

At the end, we might conclude that a music nib is any nib the maker wanted to label as such. Just like a novel is any text under whose title the author added the word “novel.”

(Sailor Young Profit with music nib – Sailor Blue)

Bruno Taut
Yokohama, September-October, 2011
[labels: Pilot, Platinum, Sailor, Kubo Kohei, plumín, plumín musical]

09 October 2011

Missing Link

On a previous Chronicle I spoke about the very interesting Pilot Super 500G: the bellows or accordion filler with the very unique faceted nib. I finished that text with the speculation of whether that Super 500G was the predecessor of the Pilot Elite with integrated nib.

The Super 500G on top, and the two Elite on bottom. These two Elite have different filling systems. The most modern shows a CON-50 converter.

Later on have I discovered a missing –for me, that is—link between those two pens. This is the Pilot Elite equipped with a bellows filler. Externally, this pen is very similar, if not identical, to the cartridge-converter Elite. My unit of the later is dated on October 1972 and uses the current gamut of Pilot cartridges and converters save the CON-70 due to the size of the barrel.

The three nibs. The faceted one for the Super 500G, and the more common and well known of the Elite pens. Only one of them, belonging to the cartridge/converter unit is dated: October 1972.

Now, was there another missing link? A Pilot Elite with double spare cartridges could indeed have existed. If so, it might be a quite rare pen given the short life of those cartridges, soon replaced by those we find on most current Pilot models.

Again, a mere speculation, but the search continues.

(Athena Basic Line – Sailor Yama-dori)

Bruno Taut
Yokohama, October 8th, 2011
[label: Pilot, soluciones técnicas, conversor]

06 October 2011

Empty Barrel

On the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the company, Sailor has released two limited edition fountain pens. One of them is the object of this Chronicle: the Shima Kuwa mulberry pen, of which 1000 units were crafted.

The Shima Kuwa mulberry fountain pen.

An anchor on the clip shows this is a Sailor pen. There is also a subtle design on gold powder maki-e on the lower area of the cap.

This pen, with a price in Japan of JPY 150,000 (plus taxes), is made of mulberry wood from the island of Mikurajima, located 200 km offshore of the city of Tôkyô to the South. The pen was treated with urushi lacquers and is subtly decorated with gold powder make-e. The nib, in 21 k gold, is imprinted with a special version of the company logo –an anchor and a draped chain— and a sign showing the 100th anniversary. And this seems to be the extent of this pen’s appeal. The rest is, indeed, rather boring.

The nicely engraved nib. It performs nicely.

But make no mistake--this nib is a hard medium. Against all odds in a commemorative pen like this given the impressive wealth of nibs this company enjoys!

Pen wise, this is a simple cartridge-converter pen equipped with a very uneventful medium nib. Quite the opposite, we must quickly add, of the pen released by Sailor five years ago to celebrate the 95th anniversary. That was the first Realo—a naginata togi nib in a piston filler King of Pen.

The anniversary pen with the converter...

...and with the cartridge. More than half of the barrel is empty.

The contrast between these two anniversary pens is even higher given the very large dimensions of this year’s Sailor: 163 mm long when closed, and 149 mm when open. A diameter of 20.5 mm, and a dry weight of 37 g. The cap cannot be posted. The result is a barrel that is mostly empty. So, what is the purpose of such a long pen? I guess it is only a matter of looks, because at the end, this pens holds exactly the same amount of ink as a regular Sailor Profit/1911 model. And their nibs are not any different, either.

The naginata togi nib on the original Realo from 2006.

It should come as no surprise that we stylophiles miss the 2006 Realo so much. And market prices do show it.

My thanks to Mr. Noguchi.

(Soennecken 105 – Sailor Tokiwa-matsu)

Bruno Taut
Yokohama, October 5th, 2011
[labels: Sailor]

02 October 2011

Certified Fake

Wagner meetings always have interesting pens to admire. Nibmeister Yamada, on top of his wonderful abilities to create innovative nibs, is very knowledgeable about pens. His collections seems to be very interesting and large.

Two apparently common Pelikan.

This time, he brought, among other things, these two Pelikan pens. Apparently, they are two regular 140s, the student model in the 1950s and early 1960s.

On top, the stenographic nib. On bottom... the other.

One of them has the stenographic (ST) nib—a flexible one desired by many. The other pen apparently displays a more normal point. It is engraved with the company name and the purity of the gold. However, Mr. Yamada tells us, despite all these indications, this nib was made in Japan—it is a copy. A copy made in Japan and certified by the Ministry of Industry—this nib was the JIS product number 4622, and was made by Kabutogi Ginjirô, probably as a replacement.

The imprint reads "Pelikan / 585 / 14 KARAT / PEN / PURPLE".

Therefore, here we have a true Pelikan with a Japan-certified fake nib.

My thanks to Mr. Yamada.

(Anonymous black hard rubber eyedropper – Sailor Tokiwa-matsu)
Bruno Taut
October 1st, 2011
[labels: evento, Pelikan, Japón, nibmesiter Kabutogi]