30 May 2012


Blogs and fora and other Internet media are now re-broadcasting the news originally released by the BBC on the increasing popularity of fountain pens. Sure enough, we stylophiles should be happy about it: more sales would certainly turn into more attention on the side of the companies and more models in the market. All in all, more excitement for us.

Another of Yamada's creations.

However, what is the business model for most of those companies? BBC quoted the views of Gordon Scott, vice-president for office products at Parker pens in Europe, the Middle East and Asia. He claims that buyers of new fountain pens, for whom they are more an accessory than a tool, look for a traditional element on them: "People want the memory of a fountain pen in a contemporary pen." This might explain, incidentally, why Parker launched the moral fraud of a felt-tip pen by the name of Ingenuity with all the fanfare.

But in this context of the pen as a retro-looking accessory –I spoke in terms of status symbol for the paradigmatic case of Montblanc— the nib is an even more secondary accessory. And few demands would be placed on them other than being made of gold, I am afraid.

Yamada and Nagahara, face to face.

So, innovations like those by the Nagahara family or nibmeister Yamada, give us some more solid hopes for an interesting future in the world of fountain pens. Otherwise, most of the well-established companies would engage in an endless and empty exercise of style, in a mannerist activity, in an inane recreation of archaic tools.

Charles R. Mackintosh said it with elegant words: “There is hope in honest error. None in the icy perfections of the mere stylist”.

Sailor black pocket pen with inlaid nib – Wagner red-black

Bruno Taut
May 29th, 2012
etiquetas: estética, mercado, soluciones técnicas, Yamada, Sailor

27 May 2012

Innovation (I)

Sailor’s specialty nibs, I have said on these chronicles, are arguably the most interesting innovation in fountain pens in recent years. The idea of overlapping two and three nibs is both elegant and efficient.

And on these texts, I have also mentioned the amazing creations of nibmeister Yamada. Among them, his version of a two-fold nib, based on a Pelikan M800, caught the attention of many of us.

Then, what’s next? Are there more possibilities in our understanding of nibs and pens? Mr. Yamada is indeed creative and daring. And so his question was more concrete, more advanced: What if instead of overlapping the nibs we opposed them?

A Senator (top) and a Pelikan 800 with opposed nibs.

Senator (left) and Pelikan (right) nibs. Their geometry are different.

Here we have a couple of average looking pens: a Senator and a Pelikan (M800). Their nibs, though, have been heavily modified and now are unique and radical. Mr. Yamada did really oppose two nibs, and to do so he had to make special feeds to provide ink to both of them.

These nib sets have the wonderful property of allowing a big number of different strokes, which in turn depend on the geometry and configuration. Needless to say, now there are many more possibilities. Today, I will only speak about the asymmetric configuration.

On the Senator pen, the lower nib, on the right in the picture, is made of steel. Its bending is quite progressive.

The Senator pen in the hands of its creator, Mr. Yamada. Please, note the variety of lines.

On it, one of the nibs is mostly untouched and the other is bended about 45 degrees in a quite sharp angle. The result is a wet fine point —fed by two slits— when writing with the tip. At more shallow angles, though, the whole lower nib draws a very thick line.

The Pelikan set is formed by two 18 K Pelikan nibs. The lower nib is bended at a much sharper angle than that of the Senator pen.

The nib set, as in any Pelikan pen, can easily be detached from the section. On the paper, some writing samples of the Pelikan nib. Note the possibility of drawing both thin and very broad lines.

Indeed a versatile nib with lines ranging from very fine to inordinately broad.

On another chronicle I will describe other possibilities.

Hats off to Mr. Yamada!

Pilot Capless 1998 – Sailor Sei-boku

Bruno Taut
May 23-26, 2012
etiquetas: Yamada, plumín, evento, soluciones técnicas, Pelikan, Senator.

23 May 2012

F-2 Nib

NOTE added on February 6th, 2013. The  actual origin of the Sailor Clear Candy is the Sailor Candy released in 1976. More information on the chronicle "On Candies. Correction".

Pen review: Sailor Clear Candy (2011).

This pen, with its 16 different decorations, was marketed on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the company Sailor. However, these pens are, in actual terms, variations on the former A. S. Manhattaner line of pens, as No Pen Intended blog author pointed out some weeks ago.

The reviewed unit is transparent with white and brown accents.

1. Appearance and design. (7.0/10)
Informal looking pen in any of the decorations. It is made of plastic and has no frills save for the screw to attach cap and barrel—an unusual feature on inexpensive pens.

Basically, this is a cartridge-converter pen with a rigid steel nib. Despite its appearance, it cannot easily be transformed into an eyedropper pen.

2. Construction and quality. (7.5/10)
As is often the case with Japanese pens, the construction quality is very good and all the elements fit well. The only negative aspect might be the cheap looking materials of the body. Despite that, though, there are no abnormal marks or scratches due to the regular use of the pen.

The cap of this model (demonstrator with brown and white accents) is decorated with this retro-looking Sailor logo.

3. Weight and dimensions. (9.0/10)
Nothing in the size and weight or in the shape of this pen is a problem for a good performance. As an all plastic pen, it is very light and the balance —either posted or unposted— is always correct.

These are the dimensions:
Diameter: 12.5 mm.
Length closed: 135 mm.
Length open: 121 mm.
Length posted: 153 mm.
Weight: 11.2 g (dry).
Ink deposit: 1.1 ml (cartridge)/0.7 ml (converter).

4. Nib and writing performance. (8.5/10)
Only one nib is available for the whole line of pens. It is a rigid F point made of steel, tipped, labeled as F-2 by Sailor. It is simple and reliable. Not prone to dry out, and not particularly wet or dry. Just as expected on an inexpensive pen.

The F-2 nib is common to a number of inexpensive Sailor pens.

5. Filling system and maintenance. (8.0/10)
As is the case with most cartridge-converter pens, there is no real problem in cleaning it. Nib and feed are attached to the section by friction, and it is very easy to remove them.

The only problem in some markets —certainly not in Japan— might be the difficulty to find Sailor proprietary cartridges and converters. The later is not provided with the pen (JPY 525).

The transformation into an eyedropper is not straight forward. The bottom jewel is a half-spherical piece that is not really sealed into the barrel. As a result, any liquid inside would leak out through it.

The Sailor Clear Candy equipped with a Sailor converter.

6. Cost and value. (6.0/10)
In Japan, this pens costs JPY 1050, which seems a bit expensive for what it actually offers. This is just a correct pen, reliable; whose only selling points are the not-so-exciting decoration and a screw-on cap.

Two alternatives to this Sailor pen are the Platinum Plaisir –a Platinum Preppy with aluminum body and two nib point options (JPY 1050)--, and the Pilot Vortex—screw-on cap and two nib points (JPY 1575).

7. Conclusion. (46/60=77/100)
Good performing pen, but there are similarly priced pens in the Japanese market with more attractive looks and more nib options.

Sailor Clear Candy – Sailor Jentle 土用, Doyô

Bruno Taut
May 16th, 2012
Etiquetas: Sailor

19 May 2012


In my personal experience, out of the three ink converters Pilot produces for the current line of pens, the piston CON-50 was the least satisfactory. Too often, the ink’s surface tension prevented it from reaching the feed, thus causing a lack of ink supply on the nib. Shaking the pen was the obvious solution, but there is always some risk of releasing an uncontrolled drop of ink. Needless to say, Murphy’s Law does apply here.

New, on top, and old, on bottom, CON-50 converters by Pilot.

Detail of the ink deposit with the metallic piece inside. The double lip of the piston is also visible.

More modern (that is, included on the 2012 catalog) CON-50 come now with a variation with respect to the older model: there is now a metallic piece inside the converter. The idea behind it is similar to that of the ball inside some ink cartridges—to break any possible ink drop on the converter or cartridge walls. The cost of this solution is a small reduction in the ink capacity: from 0.7 ml to 0.6 ml, according to my own measurements. The price of the new CON-50, however, has not changed: JPY 525 (5% tax included).

Sailor Clear CandySailor Jentle 土用 - Doyô

Bruno Taut
May 16th, 2012
etiquetas: conversor, Pilot

14 May 2012

10 Years

War restrictions in Japan in the 1930s and 1940s severely reduced the availability of some metals for the pen industry. As a result, most (if not all) nibs at the time were made of steel. These are the shiro” nibs that have already shown up on these chronicles.

After the war, the availability of gold was slowly increasing and some luxury pens were equipped with nibs made of this noble metal. However, many a company played the trick of confusion between gold plated and actual solid gold nibs. The official response came from the almighty Ministry of Industry (actually, the Ministry of International Trade and Industry, MITI): The Industrial Standardization Law was enacted in 1949 and by 1954 the Japan Industrial Standards, JIS, logo imprinted on nibs guaranteed the material out of which they were made.

Platinum (Platinum Sangyo Co. Ltd. at the time), on its side, created the 10 year guaranteed nib in 1953 after perfecting the manufacturing process. Let us remember now that the main argument for the use of gold over steel is the much higher resistance to corrosion of the noble metal.

Platinum Honest 60, on the left, and Presidente pens, on the right, disassembled.

On the left, the Platinum Honest 60 nib. On the right, that of the Presidente. Both are identical "10 Years" nibs save for the obvious gold plating of the later.

On these chronicles, paradoxically, the first encounter with a 10 year nib by the hand of
the nominally Spanish pen Presidente. Of course, we now know that it was a variation of the Platinum Honest, whose nib, we could also see, was also engraved with the "10 years" sign. But these are not the only examples. 10-year nibs were made in a number of shapes and sizes, and these are some examples.

These nibs belong to an aerometric Honest (left), to a copy of the Parker 51 (center) and to an oversized luxury lever filler (right).

From left to right on the previous picture:
--Nail shaped nib for an aerometric Honest pen.
--Hooded nib. The pen is basically a copy of the Parker 51.
--Big size 20 open nib. It belongs to a luxury lever-filler pen.

These are the pens of the previous nibs. From top to bottom, the oversizez lever filler with the size 20 nib, the copy of the Parker 51, and the aerometric Honest pen.

Platinum 10 Years, copy of Parker 51 – Sailor Sei-boku

Bruno Taut
May 13th, 2012
etiquetas: Platinum, Presidente, Japón, plumín

09 May 2012


I have already reflected on these chronicles on the appeal of self-filling and other arcane systems among stylophiles (see, for instance, chronicles Sailor´s Piston, and Romanticism). Cartridges and converters are often frown upon non very clear basis other than a diffuse and romantic idea of what a fountain pen should be.

Now, what would happen if we attached a converter permanently to the section of the pen? Would stylophiles value that creation as a pen loyal to the essence of a pen? Would that be a real self-filling pen?

Pilot Custom from 1985.

This Pilot Custom from 1985 illustrates this idea. From outside, it really looks like a self-filling pen—few cartridge-converter (C-C) pens implement an ink window despite the fact it could be very useful in combination with some metallic converters. Then, opening the barrel, we see that it indeed is a self-filling pen. And the (transparent) filling system is truly original.

Pilot Custom, from 1985. The ink window is clearly visible, although is hidden by the cap when the pen is closed.

Or is it?

It is a pulsated piston, and it is also a built-in CON-70 converter.

The filling system, exposed.

As for the rest of the pen, it is made of black plastic with golden trim. The nib, in 14 K gold, is equivalent to the current size 5 available on several Custom models. Not a fancy pen save for the filling system. But is it enough for stylophiles to appreciate it as a real self-filling pen?

The nib, in 14 K gold, is similar, if not identical, to the currently produced size 5.

Detail of how the filling system is integrated in the section.

What if we glued a converter to the section of any C-C pen?

All this shows, once again, that cartridges and converters were a natural evolution in fountain pens. But of course we are romantics, and as such we are not very prone to rational arguments.

(Platinum pocket pen in stripped steel – Platinum brown, cartridge)

Bruno Taut
May 8th, 2012
[labels: Pilot, soluciones técnicas]

05 May 2012


We encountered the Platinum Honest 60 pen at the time of understanding the Japanese origins of two apparently European brands: the Italian Joker 60 and the Spanish Presidente. The Platinum Honest 60, let us remember now, was the first cartridge-converter (C-C) pen ever marketed in Japan. That was in 1956. In previous years, some sources said, there existed some self-filling Honest pen models.

The Platinum Honest. The sticker says, in katakana, "puratina (Platinum) / Y400 / onesutopen (Honest Pen)". The barrel is engraved with a similar script, but in alphabet: "PLATINUM / (Platinum logo) / HONEST PEN".

Such is the pen on display today—a Platinum Honest (no figure) with an aerometric filling system. This pen is remarkably similar to the first Presidente pen described on these Chronicles. Same grey color for the body, same gold plated steel nib, same barrel and section. The basic difference is on the cap jewel—on the Presidente, the jewel had the old Platinum logo engraved; on this Honest the logo is engraved on the clip, just by the black top jewel.

The Platinum logo, on this pen, is not engraved on the jewel but on the clip.

The nib is a "10 year" made of steel. These nibs will be the topic of another Chronicle.

Close up of the nib. The inscription reads "PLATINUM / 10 YEARS / (Platinum logo) / (JIS logo) - 5". The Presidente's nib inscription was the same save for the last number: a 11.

These are the dimensions of the Platinum Honest and of the first Presidente:

.................................Honest Pen............Presidente
Length closed:............. 132 mm..............134 mm.
Length open:.................118 mm..............123 mm.
Length posted:..............145 mm..............150 mm.
Diameter:.........................10 mm................10 mm.
Weight (dry):.....................14.0 g.................14.5 g.

The Honest pen, disassembled.

The instructions to fill the pen are in English: "PLATINUM HONEST PEN / TO FILL INK. PRESS SPRING BAR / FIVE TIMES. USE PLATINUM INK".

This Honest pen, with no numbers, is an earlier model than the cartridge-converter Honest 60, and it is obvious origin of the European pens Joker and Presidente (and eventually a German Senator following the same pattern, if my information is correct). The Presidente brand was registered in Madrid in 1959, years later than the launching of the Honest 60 in 1956. What we still do not know is whether these aerometric fillers were phased out in Japan because they were considered obsolete after the C-C version had been released. If so, those European Platinum were a good way to get rid of those old pens.

(Pilot Super, accordion fillerSailor Jentle 土用, Doyô)

Bruno Taut
May 1-5th, 2012
[labels: Platinum, Presidente, Joker, Senator]