21 November 2011

Ban-ei, 挽栄

The discussion is out there: does Danitrio make Japanese pens? Regardless of the answer right now, Danitrio did make some Japanese pens some years ago. This is part of the story, following the very limited information available.

Ban-ei (挽栄) was the working name of Sakai Eisuke (酒井栄助) and of the brand of a number of pens manufactured mostly around 1980. Behind this operation there was a team of four people:

Kabutogi Ginjirô (兜木銀次郎), nibmeister.
Sakai Eisuke (酒井栄助), lathe master.

Takahashi Kichitaro (高橋吉太郎), urushi master.

Tsuchida Shuichi (土田修一), in charge of the ebonite feed and the final assembly of the pen.

On a footnote, Kabutogi Ginjirô has already shown up on these chronicles as the nibmeister who created
a fake Pelikan nib certified by the Ministry of Industry of Japan.

Group picture of some Ban-ei pens. Those on the right, in black and in red, would be later replicated on limited releases. Courtesy of Mr. Nikos Syrigonakis.

Interestingly enough, most of these pens were not signed and nowadays are often called Tsuchida pens. Some of the models can be seen on the picture by fellow stylophile Nikos Syrigonakis.

A Danitrio-era Ban-ei pen.

Some time later, in 1997, California-based Danitrio company approached the Ban-ei team and commissioned them the production of some of its models: among them, the torpedo-shaped pens in black and red urushi. But this time the pens were limited releases –200 for the black, and 150 for the red— and would be engraved with the original name of the brand both in Chinese characters (Kanji) and in alphabet (Romaji). And with no sign of the commissioning company Danitrio, although these might be the most Japanese pens this company might have ever produced. That was indeed a very respectful and elegant detail.

The Kanji engraved on the cap ring. It says Ban-ei.

By then, mid 1990s, the team had changed. Kabutogi’s son Toshiya (兜木利弥) had replaced his father as nibmeister, and the urushi master Kitamura Zenichi had substituted Takahashi Kichitaro. None of them was young –Tsuchida, born in 1917, was apparently the youngest of them all, and passed away in 2009, and those changes were perfectly logical.

(NOTE added on June of 2017: Although this information is suggested by Danitrio founder Bernard Lyn, there are some grounds to doubt about whether Kabutogi Toshiya was really in charge of the nibs of the Danitrio-commissioned Ban-ei series of pens. More information on the following text: On Ban-ei Nibs.)

The nib on this Danitrio-era Ban-ei. The looks are exactly the same as those on pens from the 1980s by the Ban-ei team.

One of this limited-released pens I recently found at the Madrid Pen Show. It is the number 33 out of the 200 units made in black urushi. It is an eyedropper with shut-off valve and implements a rigid F point made of 14 k gold. These are its dimensions:

Diameter: 16 mm.
Length closed: 145 mm.

Length open: 130 mm.
Dry weight: 25.9 g.

Ink deposit: 3 ml.

The beautiful hard rubber feed.

Its construction quality is very good. The seam between barrel and culotte is almost unnoticeable. The ebonite feed is nicely finished and elaborated.

Finally, the overall condition of the pen is very good despite having been used.

My deep appreciation and thanks to Mr. Nikos Syrigonakis and to モンゴルさん.

(Pilot Prera Demonstrator, eyedropper – Senator Regent Royal Blue)

Bruno Taut
November 18th, 2011
[labels: Ban-ei, Danitrio, nibmeister Kabutogi]

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