30 June 2012

Brick in the Wall

Consumerism is indeed a brick in the wall of the economic system now collapsing. A system both unfair and corrupted.

In a nutshell, that is the essence of my reluctance to consider myself as a collector. Now, the stakes are higher—people are evicted everyday, people in Greece and in Portugal and in Spain are being humiliated by being forced to give up on hardly gained rights…

Is there any room to speak about such superfluous tools as fountain pens? Are pens and stylophiles just bricks in the wall?

Sailor pocket pen, inlaid nib – Wagner red-black ink

Bruno Taut
June 11th, 2012
etiquetas: mercado, metabitácora

19 June 2012

Transitional or Else

ADDENDUM (July 14th, 2012)

There are several corrections to be made to this text:

1. This pen is not a frankenpen. Save the logo on the barrel –the N encircled by the lifebuoy— everything matches the date engraved on the nib—1950. That is especially correct for the filling system.

2. This pen is not an eyedropper, as I mistakenly said. It implements the A-shiki (A-式), a pulsated plunger filler, system developed by Pilot in the late 1940s.

More information on the chronicle entitled A-shiki (A-式) of July 14th, 2012.

1938 was the year in which Namiki Manufacturing Company Ltd. changed its name to Pilot Fountain Pen Company Ltd., and, at the time, the letter N of the logo –the N encircled by the lifebuoy— was replaced by a P. So, this detail was an easy element to date a Pilot pen. Or so the theory went. But there are also anomalies.

The pen, capped. Note the modern looking clip.

Today’s pen is a Pilot made of green celluloid. The filling system is eyedropper with a sealing valve manned by a metallic knurled tail knob. As was the case for a previously described Pilot, the knob thread is cut on the inner side of the barrel.

LinkThe pen, open. The engraving on the barrel reads as follows: "PILOT / THE PILOT PEN (N logo) MFG. CO. / MADE IN JAPAN". That on the nib says "STANDARD / PILOT / -<3>- / MADE IN / JAPAN". The date stamp is engraved on the reverse.

Another interesting feature is the structure of the sealing device. This time rod connected to the tail knob has a plastic sheath that actually seals the ink deposit to the section. This sheath can be removed from the rod when the barrel is detached from the section, as can be seen on the pictures.

On the left hand side, the metallic knob shows its thread. It screws on the barrel by means of a thread cut on the inner wall. On the right hand side, the sheath that actually seals the ink deposit.

The sheath, in yellowish plastic, connected to the section.

The pen, according to the sticker, cost JPY 150, and it shows that the pen belonged to some time after the Second World War. But the engraving on the barrel shows an N in the lifebuoy as the logo. The pen clip also shows some more modern design, similar to that in the Pilor Super series from the late 1950s, that departs from the usual clips in pre-war pens. The nib, finally, provides key information: it was manufactured on April 1950 (450).

The pen, disassembled.

The, what do we have here? Some would say that this is a frankenpen made up of different parts from different times. But the only anachronic sign is the logo on the barrel. The rest –price, nib, sheath in the sealing valve, clip, metallic knob— are consistent with the nib date of 1950. A frankenpen is no longer such is that was the way it went out of the assembly line, and in making this pen Pilot might have used old parts —the barrel— still available at those times of scarcity.

All this is mostly speculation, and no certain answer can we now conclude other than dating the nib, just the nib, in 1950.

These are the dimensions of this pen:

Diameter: 13 mm.
Length closed: 131 mm.
Length open: 120 mm.
Length posted: 157 mm.
Weight (dry): 16.5 g.

Pilot Custom Heritage 91 – Wagner red-black ink

Bruno Taut
June 16th, 2012
etiquetas: Pilot

15 June 2012

Innovation (III). Analysis

We recently saw how nibmeister Yamada managed to turn the screw of the nib a little bit more. Opposing two nibs does indeed surprise whoever saw them, as has been reflected on some fora. What is the point of such an experiment, many ask.

Actually, two nibs, four tines, two feeds offer a huge field for experiments, and the final performance depends on the configuration of all those elements. Beyond my first approach –asymmetric vs. symmetric nib sets— there is room for a more careful analysis.

A basic feature of these nibs is their capability to change the line width. In some cases, in a very drastic way —either a fine line or a wide-as-a-brush line; in some other, the change can be more progressive and it depends mostly on the angle between pen and paper. But there is a lot more.

The different curvatures in the nib sets allow for different line widths. On the Senator, top pen, the change between a thin and a very thick lines is more progressive than on the Pelikan on the bottom.

Asymmetric sets, with one of the nibs basically untouched, preserve the possible flexibility of the upper nib. Then, the effect of pressing the pen on the paper is more complex: lifting the upper tip uncovers that of the second, lower, nib, and this one provides its own supply of ink. So, the thicker line does not rely on just one feed but on both of them, and the whole set is less prone to ink starvation.

On more symmetric structures, with both nibs bended, the whole set becomes fairly rigid. This was in fact the purpose of one of Mr. Yamada’s creations—a fountain pen for a user who tended to push the pen down a lot when writing. In a sense, this idea is not new, and nibs under the name of script or manifold or posting were successful to provide a rigid tool to be used with carbon paper.

A very rigid nib set.

On these symmetric sets, the final configuration of the nib points can also favor the use of the pen at non-conventional angles. Or, at least, with the nib rotated about 90 degrees with respect to the natural position. At this angle there are two half-spheres of iridium, belonging to two different nibs, and both with ink ready. At this writing angle, the set is very rigid. This characteristic, though, is not limited to symmetric nibs and asymmetric units can also write at non-conventional angles.

A nib set suitable to be used at unconventional angles. Note the symmetric tip.

Symmetric sets allow for writing with the tip, of course, and with both slits. The later lays fairly broad lines.

An asymmetric nib, in a Senator pen, writing sidewise.

Conclusion: In the aim of creating nibs with several line widths, the Mr. Yamada’s idea of opposing two nibs offers new variables and degrees of freedom. The whole nib has now two feeds and two slits, and each nib-feed set works very independently from the other until the point in which both tips come together.

My thanks to Mrs. Arai and to Mr. Yamada.

Pilot Capless 1998 model, 18 K gold F nibSailor Sei-boku 青墨

Bruno Taut
May 31th, 2012
etiquetas: soluciones técnicas, plumín, Yamada

09 June 2012

The Nib and the Click

Review of the Pilot Capless model from 1998.

Although I have written several chronicles on the Pilot Capless model (1964, 1965, 1968, 1971, Sesenta/Décimo), I had never thought of making a review of the current model. I had, however, spoken about the differences among the nib sets (Capless Nibs I, and Capless Nibs II) available for this family of pens, but a pen is not just a nib.

Just recently I inked a regular Capless pen (1998 model) equipped with an 18 K gold nib in F. The ink, Sailor Sei-boku (青墨)—a permanent nanopigmented blue black. The combination is wonderful, and writing this review was a real pleasure. I hope, however, I kept some critical view on this pen.

1. Appearance and design. (8/10)
This is the current Capless model, originally released in 1998. More in detail, this unit is gold plated (push button, rings, clip and nose cone), and the body enamel is green with some black details resembling the pattern of some Scottish kilt.

This pen is now so well known that all its unusual look might have vanished into the custom of seeing it on a regular basis, at least by nuts like us, stylophiles. But this is indeed a strange looking pen—a big push button, an apparently misplaced clip, how the pen opens and how the nib unit is removed… It really looks like a ball pen, save for the fundamental difference that the nib can –and must— be refilled with water-based ink. But it can also be fairly said that the essence of a Capless is an empty box.

However similar in looks to a ball pen, the clip is located close to the nib instead of to the push button. The reason lies on the need to keep the nib in upright position when the pen is clipped to a shirt. Some users complain that this position was intrusive to their way of grabbing the pen. Indeed, nothing that a proper grip could not solve.

At the end, the design works well, and the looks are attractive.

2. Construction and quality. (9/10)
As is the case with most modern Japanese pens, the construction quality is very good. The Capless model is particularly critical on this given its moving parts: the pushing mechanism not only moves the nib unit (nib and feed and ink deposit) back and forth, but also a small hinged door on the nose cone. This door closes the pen when not in use to prevent the nib from drying. The mechanism is precise and reliable. The loud click –for some— is also reassuring.

The pen is screwed together at its center. Both threads are metallic and there seems to be no reliability problem. Opening the pen and removing the nib is a fundamental part of the filling process.

3. Weight and dimensions. (7/10)
The weight of the pen –not so the size— often conceits criticism from its users who, in turn, look at the thinner and lighter Pilot Decimo. Some others might prefer a heavier tool. I think that for a long period of writing this pen might be a tad too heavy.

The regular Capless is well balanced, with its center of mass at 68 mm. from the extended tip. It fits well into the tripod of the orthodox grip.

These are its dimensions:
Diameter: 12 mm.
Length closed: 140 mm.
Length open: 138 mm.
Weight: 31 g.
Center of mass at 68 mm from the extended tip.
Ink deposit: 0.9 ml (cartridge) / 0.8 ml (CON-20 converter) / 0.6-0.7 ml. (CON-50 converter).

4. Nib and writing performance. (9.5/10)
Come for the click, stay for the nib.

Capless nibs are widely praised for their smoothness and reliability, and I have no objection to that conclusion. However, for the Japanese market, there are two nib units made of stainless steel (gold plated) whose performance is slightly less satisfactory. Following I include the list of Capless nibs currently available:

The unit under review uses an 18 K gold F nib, non rhodiated; production date of February 2008. It is smooth, nicely wet, very reliable… Event though these nibs are not new to me, I was gladly surprised when I inked this pen again. Maybe, I reckon, it has something to do with the ink—Sailor Sei-boku.

Having expressed my satisfaction, I should also add that there is nothing fancy on these nibs. They are boring symmetric points –some nibmeisters out there customize them--, and they offer no line variation. But there is something very pleasant on them, and that brings another metaphysical question—what are the elements that make a pen enjoyable? But that should be the topic of another text. Suffice to say now that this F nib is always ready for the action, and that it performs admirably.

5. Cleaning and Maintenance. (7.5/10)
This is a cartridge converter pen, and that makes its cleaning simple. Disassembling nib and feed from the nib unit requires some special tool.

To ink the pen out of an inkwell –that is, with a converter attached— it is necessary to take the nib out of the housing. Otherwise, the nose area, including the hinged door mechanism, would become filled with ink and prone to stain any document or shirt or pen case. Some ink, though, might remain in that area, and soaking the section in water now and then would be useful too keep the pen clean. I suffered of no stains coming from this pen.

The nib-retracting mechanism needs no maintenance. I have never had any problem with a Capless pen.

About cartridges and converters suitable for the modern Capless, three are the options: Pilot proprietary cartridges, new or refilled (0.9 ml); bladder type CON-20 converter (0.8 ml); and piston-type CON-50 converter (0.7 ml). In some markets –not in Japan— the converter CON-50 comes with the pen. This is the least satisfactory solution in terms of ink capacity and of the problems generated by the converter. This last issue seems to have been solved with the implementation of a metallic piece inside the converter. This new version of the converter has an ink capacity of 0.6 ml.

My favorite option is to refill empty cartridges with a syringe—optimum ink capacity and the possibility to check the remaining ink in the pen.

6. Cost and value. (9/10)
In Japan, a Capless pen with a gold nib costs (MSRP) JPY 15000, plus tax. In the US market it can be found for USD 100. Cheap or expensive is at anybody’s appreciation. I think it is a good value given the originality of the design and the quality of the nib.

7. Conclusion. (50/60, 83/100)
It took me some time to get use to the idea of this pen, but once I put my hands on one I quickly learned to love it. As I said before, I got it for the click and kept it for the nib.

Of course, this is not a perfect pen, but it works very well and it provides some advantages over regular, capped pens.

Pilot Capless 1998 model, 18 K gold F nib – Sailor Sei-boku 青墨

Bruno Taut
June 6th, 2012
etiquetas: Pilot, Capless

05 June 2012

Innovation (II)

The obvious alternative to the asymmetric configuration of the opposed nibs is bending both nibs in a similar fashion. However simple this might look, the devil –as usual— is in the details. How do both tips interact? But that will be the topic of another chronicle.

Three Pelikan pens with symmetrically opposed nibs. Note the differences in the feeds.

Asymmetric vs. symmetric.

Suffice to say now that this configuration tends to make more rigid nibs. A perfect example if this is this Pelikan M200, albeit equipped with two Chinese-made nibs.

The very rigid creation by Mr. Yamada.

The goal was to create a very rigid and very resistant nib for a user who applied a lot of pressure when writing. The owner was truly happy with the final result of Yamada’s inventive mind.

The tip of the nib, we can see on this picture, is not symmetric. There is an upper nib and a lower nib, marked with the yellow sticker, as could be seen on the previous picture.

My thanks to Mrs. Arai and to Mr. Yamada.

Pilot Capless 1998 – Sailor Sei-boku

Bruno Taut
June 2nd, 2012
etiquetas: Yamada, plumín, evento, soluciones técnicas, Pelikan