31 December 2012

Double Flow

I often wonder how special the Japanese fountain pen market was. There were, in this market, a large number of unique technical solutions—hoshiawase, shut-off valve, hose filler, A filler (A-shiki), easy drink filler… Japan seems, at times, a large laboratory for new solutions, although most of them never left the country.

The very rare Double Flow Fountain Pen.

Such is the case of today’s pen—a Double Flow Fountain Pen. Apparently, it is just a BCHR pen in the very traditional shape of Japanese eyedroppers, often called Onoto shape. Usually, the tail operated the shut-off valve. But that is not the case of this pen.

The engraved marks on the section are similar to those of a hoshiawase pen.

The pen has two concentric ink deposits--the innermost is attached to the section on the picture. The ourtermost is the barrel (on the background), as is the case on all eyedropper pens.

On this picture, both deposits are dettached from the section.

This pen is still an eyedropper, but it lacks any shut-off valve. In exchange, it has two concentric ink deposits inside the barrel, and the section has separate channels for each deposit. On the outside, the gripping section has some engraved marks—similar to those in a hoshiawase pen—to select the deposit from which the ink would feed the nib. Three are the options: outer, inner, and a mixture of both. Needless to say, the inks used with this pen had to be compatible; that is, mixable as the mixture would take place directly in the feed.

This picture shows the back of the section. The wider thread attaches the barrel; the smaller, the inner deposit for the second ink. Two feeding holes are visible--the central for the innermost deposit, and the lateral one for the outer reservoir.

The Double Flow Fountain Pen together with a copy of the instruction sheet.

In summary, this Double Flow Fountain Pen, such was its name, is a dual eyedropper with an ink selecting mechanism. Very few units of it are known, and on the one here shown, the nib is a later replacement. There exist, however, some instruction sheets. On it, the manufacturer explains that this dual flow system had been patented in Japan (patent number 36005), and that applications had been filed for patent in Britain, USA, France, and Italy. It dates back from the mid 1920s.

Indeed another original solution of the Japanese laboratory.

My thanks to Mr. Sugimoto.

Platinum 18K full size pen (ca. 1970) – Pelikan 4001 Royal Blue

Bruno Taut
Yokohama, December 31st, 2012
labels: soluciones técnicas, Japón, Double Flow, tinta

26 December 2012


Ban-ei (挽栄) pens have shown up on these chronicles several times and their double history –as mostly anonymous and as limited edition pens commissioned by the American company Danitrio—is well known. But how do those pens from different times and different initiatives compare?

The differences are indeed minor, as we can check on the following pictures. The first example is a pair of pens made of black urushi. There are some small differences on the dimensions but, the main one lies on the nib. The original Ban-ei’s nib is signed by Kabutogi Ginjirô’s (兜木銀次郎) initials (GK). This was, in actual terms, the only reference to the authorship in the whole pen.

On top on both pictures, the Danitrio-commissioned pen. On bottom, the previous, unsigned (save for the nib) unit. The most obvious difference is the engraving on the cap band of the later model.

The second pair is decorated with a subtle urushi-e pattern. In this case, there is a very obvious difference—the cap ring present on the Danitrio-commissioned unit where the brand Ban-ei and the serial number were engraved. And as was the case with the black urushi pens, only the old Ban-ei nib is engraved with the initials of the nibmeister.

The pre-Danitrio pen does not have any band on the cap, and its nib has a heart-shaped breathing hole. This nib is also engraved with the initials GK of Kabutogi Ginjirô just below the JIS mark.

As it is known, Danitrio-era Ban-ei pens were limited editions of less than 500 units. However, the old pens, made in the seventies and eighties, are in my experience harder to find in the market. These older pens are also known as Tsuchida pens, after Tsuchida Shuichi (土田修一), who was in charge of the final assembly of the pen.

My thanks to Mr. Shimizu.

Platinum sterling silver pen, 14 K nib – Platinum Brown

Bruno Taut
Madrid, December 25th, 2012
etiquetas: Ban-ei, Danitrio, nibmeister Kabotogi Ginjirô, urushi, urushi-e

22 December 2012


Pen company Ripet is one of those dark horses in the world of writing tools. Not many people might know about it or about pens from the now extinct country of Czechoslovakia. Actually, about a dozen pen brands existed before the Second World War. The Communist regime of 1948 reduced this number to just three —Centropen, Hardtmuth and Bohemia Works, all under the umbrella of Koh-i-Noor L. & C. Hardtmuth National Company— by the late 1940s by grouping together the facilities and designs of the previous brands. The great paradox was that many of those  —Ripet among them, plus some others like Barclay and Penco— lived a golden time in sales and profits right after the war, between 1945 and 1948. Bohemia, the Westernmost Czechoslovakian region, did not suffer so heavy bombings as was the case in Germany. Consequently, these companies could go back to producing good quality pens much faster then their German competitors.

The creation of the Communist State after the coup d’état of February 1948 brought a centrally planned economy. As a result, the pen company Ripet, founded in 1919 in the city of České Budějovice, became part of the already mentioned public enterprise Centropen (founded in 1941 by Mr. Stejskal and Mr. Novotný and nationalized in this same year of 1948).

A Ripet Popular 90D from the time when Centropen already existed.

The instruction sheet includes the names of several pen brands: Ripet, and Centropen; and Koh-i-Noor/Hardtmuth as the mother company. The coexistence of these three names shows this pen belonged to the 1948-1950 period in which the brand Ripet was kept alive within the Centropen operation.

The name Ripet was preserved for just a couple of years. By 1950 all traces of it had disappeared from Centropen. But between 1948 and 1949 both names coexisted on catalogs and other related documents.

Such was the case of the Ripet Popular 90D. The instruction sheet carries the name of several pen brands: Ripet, and Centropen; and Koh-i-Noor/Hardtmuth as the mother company. The coexistence of these three names shows this pen belonged to the 1948-1950 period in which the brand Ripet was kept alive within the Centropen operation. The pen, on its side, is a very interesting piston filler, as the letter D indicated. It is made of celluloid from the UMA plant (within the Synthesia national company) in Pardubice, also in Bohemia.

This factory, created in 1942, had been spared from the bombings and its state-of-the art machinery could produce high-quality celluloid, among other plastics, for both domestic and foreign markets. Aurora and Montegrappa used this Czechoslovakian celluloid on some of their models. The UMA plant was destroyed by an explosion in 1984. It was reconstructed afterwards, but that event marked the end of the fountain pen industry in Czechoslovakia. On its side, this country disappeared on January 1st, 1993.

The barrel is engraved: "RIPET POPULAR / 90D / CZECHOSLOVAKIA".

The steel nib is also engraved, but it is not legible beyond the obvious "WARRANTED".

These are the dimensions of this Ripet Popular 90D:
Length closed: 119 mm
Length open: 110 mm (this pen does not post)
Diameter: 12.5 mm
Weight (dry): 13.9 g.
Ink deposit: 1.1 ml.

This text was elaborated with information provided by Fountain Pen Network member Khufu.

My thanks to Mr. Álvaro Romillo.

Montblanc 221 – Pelikan 4001 Royal blue

Bruno Taut
Madrid, December 18th, 2012
etiquetas: Checoslovaquia, Ripet, Centropen, Koh-i-Noor - Hardtmuth, Aurora, Montegrappa

17 December 2012

Platinum Platinum

Cartridges and converters, retractable nibs, pocket pens, generalization of gold nibs,… All these elements saw the light or became normal at some point during the 1960s in Japan. These years were a time of strong competition between Pilot and Platinum, struggling to increase their share in the market.

Different views of two Platinum Platinum pens of full and pocket sizes. There existed a smaller third pen for ladies.

As part of its strategy, Platinum released in 1967 a line of luxury pens made of sterling silver. And the marketing argument was that they implemented unique nibs made of some platinum alloy. And the pens were called “Platinum Platinum”.

Two full-size Platinum pens. The one on top implements a Pt-alloy nib whereas the other uses a more common 14K white gold nib. It is questionable whether the compositions were any different.

Actually, these nibs were made of white gold whose non-gold content included platinum. There are discussions of whether these Pt-alloy nibs were made of 14 or 18 K gold. In fact, years later, they were replaced by both 14 and 18 karat white gold nibs labeled as such. In 1976, a special edition of the full size silver pen was release on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of Emperor Hiro-hito. It was equipped with a 14 K white gold nib, and displayed the 16-petal chrysanthemum seal (菊紋, kikumon) on the cap.

Platinum sterling silver pen, 14 K WG nib – Platinum Brown

Bruno Taut
Madrid, December 17th, 2012
labels: Platinum, Japón

11 December 2012

Nomikomi-shiki (吞込式)

This is not the first, nor will it be the last, time I must correct myself. A blog is a work in progress and there is no end to what we learn. Therefore, mistakes are part of the game. Sometimes, though, they are sweet, and this is one of them.

The main character of the chronicle "Hybrid". Note the long feed inside the orange ink deposit.

Some months ago, I wrote a chronicle about a strange pen. A Pilot pen, actually, from 1938. Its most striking feature was a strangely long feed that entered well into the ink deposit for no apparent reason. This deposit, on its side, was screwed to the section. It really looked like a re-usable cartridge. But at the same time, it was also a sort of eyedropper pen with a reduced ink reservoir. That is why I named that chronicle as “Hybrid”.

Was I mistaken! Reality was a lot more exciting. And that is why my mistake was so sweet.

A short version of the previous pen, together with the nomikomi-shiki inkwell. These inkwells are really difficult to find nowadays.

This family of pens was released with an ad-hoc inkwell that allowed a very special and original filling procedure. This inkwell had a hole with a neck in the cap, inside which there are four sealing-rubber lips. To ink the pen, the user had to introduce it, uncapped, nib down, in the inkwell. Then, flip the inkwell and the pen upside down (crossing fingers for the rubber seal to work well, thus avoiding a massive ink spillage). Gravity and the capillarity of the extra-long feed worked together to fill the ink deposit very efficiently. This procedure, named nomikomi-shiki (呑込式) or, in English, easy-drink filler, can be seen on the following videoclip.

Pen and inkwell in the moment of filling the deposit.

The pen used on this demonstration is a small version of the one I showed on my original, and mistaken, text. Both are made of celluloid, and have a window on the barrel to check the appropriate filling of the pen as well as the remaining ink. These are the dimensions of the short version of the nomikomi-shiki pen:

Closed: 103 mm.
Open: 94 mm.
Posted: 130 mm.
Diameter: 13 mm.

The insides of the short nomikomi-shiki pen.

The long feed.

Indeed a sweet mistake as the reality proved to be a lot more interesting and original that mi initial guess.

Advertisement of the filling system as shown at the Pilot Museum, Pen Station, in Tokyo.

My thanks to Mr. Niikura.

Platinum Celluloid, music nib – Sailor Kiwa-guro, 極黒

Bruno Taut
Madrid, December 11th, 2012
etiquetas: Pilot, soluciones técnicas

06 December 2012

Matching (XII)

The controversy is always there: Is that pen original or a copy of another? Which company did father that idea? Sometimes, the answers are clear…

Platinum’s “10-years” nibs are not new on these chronicles. Those were, let us remember, steel nibs manufactured in the 1950s, at the time of the implementation of the Japan Industrial Standards (JIS) norm by the Ministry of Industry. This norm aimed at providing some reliability on the claims made by manufacturing companies about their own products. In the case of fountain pens, the problems were mostly related to the nib material.

The de-luxe "10-years" pen, as the engraving on the barrel says. The cap is gold filled and displays the sign "NK14 PLATINUM".

“10-years” pens; that is, equipped with these steel nibs; came in a number of sized and shapes. The most popular was the Honest model, already mentioned on these texts.

Parker 51 (top) and Platinum "10-Years" (bottom), side to side.

Both pens, disassembled. The section of the Platinum pen is faceted, and that is the major external difference between these pens.

Another example is this copy of the very popular Parker 51 model. This Platinum was a de luxe model given its gold filled cap, in contrast with the steel nib. The filling system is a very reliable aerometric, just like the most popular version of the American original.

Nib and feed of the Parker on top. The Platinum pen uses a different structure to hold them together. Platinum used a hollow cylinder made of plastic. The following photographs shows these parts disassembled.

The similarities with the Parker 51 are not just on the looks. Not only the nib is hooded, but also the structure of the platinum pen is very close to that of the aerometric 51—the whole pen is held together by a central ring to which both the feed and the filling system are attached. The nib, however, does not have the cylindrical shape of the American model and is kept in place with respect to the feed by means of a plastic cylinder.

The Platinum "10-Years" almost fully disassembled. The nib-feed system can be seen at the bottom of the picture.

These are the dimensions of this Platinum 10-Years and of the Parker 51 (aerometric):
Length closed: .......140 mm. ................. 139.5 mm
Length open: .........127.5 mm. ............... 128.0 mm.
Diameter: ..............12.5 mm. ................. 12.5 mm.
Dry weight: .............17.4 g. ...................... 21.5 g.

This pen, with eventual very minor differences, was marketed outside Japan under the name of some local brands. Such was the case of Italy or Greece, using the brand name of Joker, and of South Africa, branded as Hifra. But this should be the topic of a different text.

Pilot Bamboo – unknown blue ink

Bruno Taut
Madrid, December 5th, 2012
etiquetas: Parker, Platinum, Hifra, Joker, Japón

01 December 2012

On Line Channels

Fellow stylophiles Dan and Eric of FPGeeks have reported the final release of a maki-e Pelikan pen based on the Souverän M1000 model. Well, Eric and Dan reported on the release in the US market as this pen had been in the Japanese market since October. But there are more differences other than the release date. The price in Japan is JPY 210000, tax included, whereas in the US it is about USD 1000 more—USD 3638 (MSRP).

The Japanese brochure of the Pelikan Sunlight in raden costume.

The maki-e Pelikan on display at a stationery shop in Kawasaki, Japan. The picture was taken on November 10th (2012).

It is very hard to understand these variations. It really looks like some –if not all— pen brands had not understood the idea of globalization or, even worse, they wanted a globalized world in just one direction—for them to sell their good anywhere without obstacles but not for the buyer to choose the most convenient conditions.

The medium nib is the only one available on this pen. 300 units were released worldwide. This unit is number 284.

On line mechanisms allow for a quick transmission of information away from the official channels as well as for electronic commerce. Is this so hard to understand?

Pilot Bamboo – Unknown blue ink

Bruno Taut
Madrid, November 30th, 2012
etiquetas: Japón, Estados Unidos, Mercado, Pelikan, metabitácora

30 November 2012


A pen show is always an overwhelming experience. There are too many pens on display and too little money. On top of that, a pen show is a meeting point where a number of stylophiles congregate. It is easy -and convenient too!- to talk and to exchange information and experiences. Those are, in fact, the basic elements of a pen show—the commercial and the social.

However, not all pen shows cater the social aspect in the same way. The raison d’être of a any such event is obviously the commercial, and its success is based upon the arithmetic of the trade. The social aspect is, therefore, too often overseen by the organizers.

Vymars's table.

The De Leo and Gargioulo's tables.

Such is the case, in my opinion, of the Madrid Pen Show. This year, the change in the venue roughly doubled the available space, but it seems that only traders could benefit from this. Most of them could display more pens, and they were more comfortable behind their tables. But we visitors felt there was not much more space to move around than on previous years. On Saturday, the big day of the event, the lounge was truly crowded. I should also note that this year there were more cafes and restaurants around the hotel, but many of us thought they were too far away.

Sarj Minhas's table.

Toys from the Attic.

It is my contention that the social networking associated to these events does generate economic benefits that would cover for the cost of devoting some specific space to this more relaxed activity.

This year, the bare figures of the Madrid Pen Show –on its ninth edition— matched almost exactly those of the past year45 traders from eight different countries, and about 800 visitors. Given the condition of the Spanish economy, the Madrid Pen Show was a big success.

Pilot Elite, pocket pen, posting nib – Pilot Blue

Bruno Taut
Madrid, November 29th, 2012
labels: evento, Madrid, mercado

25 November 2012


I have already spoken about Ban-ei pens and the team of four experienced craftsmen –Sakai Eisuke (酒井栄助), Kabutogi Ginjirô (兜木銀次郎), Takahashi Kichitaro (高橋吉太郎), and Tsuchida Shuichi (土田修一)—who silently manufactured them in the 1970s and 1980s. Silently, I said, because they did not sign their pens. The story continued in the mid 1990s when Danitrio commissioned these old artisans and their successors to recreate their old works. This time, though, under less anonymous conditions.

復刻手造万年筆, reissued hand-made fountain pen. A 14 K gold nib by Kabutogi Toshiya.

These new pens –the Danitrio Ban-ei series of pens— had some minor variations with respect to the original models. The most obvious are the signs stating the serial number and the name of the leader. On his side, the new nibmeister –Kabutogi Toshiya (兜木利弥), son of the venerable Kabutogi Ginjirô—made clear that this pen was a reissue of the original. That is, in fact, what can be read on the nib: 復刻手造万年筆 (fukkoku tezuku(ri) mannenhitsu), reissued hand-made fountain pen. Other Danitrio Ban-ei pens do not carry this engraving.

The eyedropper balance pen in red urushi. The brand Ban-ei (挽栄) is engraved on the central ring.

This nib corresponds to a balance pen in red urushi. It is an eyedropper pen with shut-off valve. Danitrio produced 150 units of this pen. These are its dimensions:

Diameter: 16 mm.
Length closed: 145 mm.
Length open: 126 mm.
Dry weight: 21.4 g.
Ink deposit: ~ 2.5 ml.

Pilot Custom Heritage 91, SFM nib – Diamine Teal

Bruno Taut
Madrid, November 24th, 2012
etiquetas: Ban-ei, Danitrio, nibmeister Kabutogi