30 April 2013

Super 1970s

The Pilot Super line of fountain pens is well known among the readers of these Chronicles. It was, let us remember, the family of pens that formed the core of the Pilot catalog in the late 1950s. The basic characteristics were a nail-shaped nib with a totally hidden feed and a sac-based filling system. More often than not, it was the hose system (some people call it quarter-switch filler). Later evolutions, already in the 1960, changed the shape of the cap and created the cartridge filling Super V series (Super 200V, for instance), overlapping the E series and followed, later, by the Elite models. It is interesting to note that the nail-type nib and the hidden feed scheme remained basically the same –save changes in sizes— until well into the 1980s.

A Pilot Super 300 from late 1950s (with maki-e seirei-nuri decoration) and a cartridge-converter Super from the early 1970s. Note the different design of the section.

In the early 1970s, Pilot launched a nostalgic reissue of the original Super model with a large nib. The basic modification in this newer pen was the use of ink cartridges and converters. The section was also re-designed –in line with some of the Elite models—and now the cap was perfectly aligned with the barrel when closed.

Two units of these Pilot Super pens made in the early 1970s. They implement very different nibs, as will be shown on other pictures.

The insides of one of the newer Pilot Super pens.

The wide golden ring of the cap, so characteristic of the original Super pens (although not all of the variations carried it) was now plated with 22 K gold. The engraving on the ring says 22 AKG, but nobody seemed to really know what it stood for. As for the nib, some inscriptions on them seemed to recreate an old Pilot logo –that with a stylized L underlining the O—and some others use a more modern script for the company name.

A script and a soft nib. Note the different geometry of both--the soft nib has longer and thinner tines. The imprinted logos are also different.

Several nib points were available including some unusual ones. Here I am showing a very stiff and quite fine script, and a semi-flexible one labeled as “soft”. This nib can provide a significant line variation while being quite soft—little pressure you had to apply to create that effect. Manifold nibs were also available on these modern Super pens.

Writing samples --excuse my poor hand-- with the previously shown nibs. The paper squares are 2 mm wide.

These are the measurements of these cartridge-converter Super pens:
Length closed: 136 mm
Length open: 121 mm
Length posted: 149 mm
Diameter: 12 mm
Weight: 21.2 g (dry)
Ink deposit: 0.9 ml (cartridge), 0.8 (CON-20), 0.6 ml (CON-50)

Both units shown in here were manufactured at the Tokyo plant in 1973.

Pilot Super (cartridge-converter), soft nib – Pelikan 4001 Brilliant Brown

Bruno Taut
Yokohama, April 8th, 2013
etiquetas: Pilot

25 April 2013

First Piston by Sailor

After speaking about an old self-filler by Sailor, it might be time to speak about the origins of the new, contemporary, self-filling fountain pens of this company. Between the old bulb-fillers from the 1950s and the first Sailor Realo (2006), about 50 years of boring and clean and efficient cartridges and converters have passed.

Then, to celebrate the 95th anniversary of the company in 2006, Sailor marketed a big piston filler based on the King of Pen line in the Profit (1911 in some markets) style of balance pens. And this was the first piston ever made by Sailor.

500 units were made for Japan, and 100 more for overseas markets. Most of them were black, but there seems to have been a small number units in maroon, and an even smaller number with maki-e decoration for Singapore (as reported by A. Lambrou and M. Sunami; Fountain Pens of Japan. Andreas Lambrou Publishers 2012. ISBN: 978-0-9571230-0-2). Speaking for myself, I have only seen black units.

The inkwell shown on the picture is not the original one. It had the Sailor logo on the lid.

The package includes a pen pouch made of deerskin leather coated with urushi, a traditional craft from Yamanashi prefecture. But should we remember that is only an accessory.

The second element of interest in this pen, after the filling system, is the nib. It is a Naginata Togi in M partially rhodiated. This is exceptional because Naginata nibs come usually in the big size (in Sailor terms, opposed to medium and super big sizes), and this meant that Sailor made a special casting of this nib for the commemorative pen.

The cap is subtlely engraved: "REALO 2006 / (serial number)/500". This pen is one of the 500 units made for Japan. Those for overseas markets were numbered over 100.

The final result is a pen with two elements many stylophiles love—an exciting nib and a non-trivial filling system—making this one of the most interesting commemorative pens ever made by Sailor. Should it have been more exotic with the looks, it would have been almost perfect. And that might be the case of those Sailor Realo with maki-e made for the Singaporean market. However, cheap might be not, and that in the case you found one.

The super big, in Sailor terms, nib made of 21 K gold. It is a Naginata Togi nib in M.

This first and original Realo is indeed big and could easily compete with classic oversized pens as the Montblanc 149 and the Pelikan M1000. These are their dimensions:

.Sailor Realo 95.

.Montblanc 149. .Pelikan M1000.
Length closed (mm) 153 148 146
Length open (mm) 130 132 135
Length posted (mm) 167 169 173
Barrel Diameter (mm) 16.0 15.0 14.5
Ink deposit (ml) 1.6 1.9 1.6
Weight, dry (g) 31.9 31.0 32.9

The original price of the Sailor Realo in Japan was JPY 80000, plus tax.

The wide cap ring carries the following inscription: "SAILOR JAPAN 95th ANNIVERSARY".

Detail of the decorative ring between the barrel and the culotte.

But this was a limited edition and only 600 units went into the market. Sailor, however, followed up in 2009 with a more affordable, and smaller, piston filler based on senior size of both the balance Profit/1911 and of the flat top Professional Gear models. The basic price of these smaller Realos is JPY 30000, plus tax, and that implies sticking to the usual triad of points—F, M and B. Upgrades to more complex nibs are available during Sailor sale events and at some Sailor Friendly Shops. They are not cheap.

The picture shows the original Realo from 2006, on top, and the regular model, not limited, from 2009, on bottom. The later is a much smaller pen, based on the senior size of the Profit/1911 or the Professional Gear series of pens.

Platinum 3776 (1978) – Platinum Blue-black

Bruno Taut
Shinjuku, April 17th, 2013
etiquetas: Sailor, plumín, Singapur, Montblanc, Pelikan

23 April 2013

50 Years

On this year of 2013, the Pilot Capless, the most popular fountain pen made by Pilot, will become 50 years old. Or at least, the concept of such pen as understood by Pilot, for the Capless has not been just one model but a family of them, as we have already seen on these Chronicles. In any event, the first Capless (or Vanishing Point) was initially marketed by the end of 1963.

That first pen was an expensive luxury. It cost JPY 6000, which was the monthly income of many workers in Japan at the time. And what did Pilot give in return? Today’s pictures show the whole rather elaborated package of the first Pilot Capless.

First, a cardboard box.

And inside, the pen box, quite sturdy, and two packages of 12 double-spare cartridges.

When displayed at the Pen Trading event of the Pen Collectors of Japan this past weekend, many showed their admiration, and I wonder that admiration was just the product of these fifty years of history. It is true that modern Capless come is less fancy boxes (in Japan, at least), as it is also true that the modern version of it is a lot more affordable and less luxurious that they were in 1963.

Twelve double-spare cartridges fit in each box.

The short clip on the lower side of the section/body of the pen. The white dot on the side of the pen shows this was the second variation. The first model had it colored in gold. This particular unit was manufactured in Hiratsuka, Kanagawa, in December of 1963.

The overengineered nib. Note the use of gold (14 K) to attach the nib to the steel cylinder.

Anyway, this was the way the pen was released in 1963, fifty years ago, thus starting the saga of Pilot/Namiki Capless/Vanishing Point (all combinations allowed). And knowing the mechanisms of marketing, it is safe to say that Pilot will celebrate this anniversary appropriately; that is, with a special, in some way, Capless pen. But nobody knows anything. No information has leaked out of Pilot’s offices and we can only speculate—or be patient.

On my side, I hope the 50th anniversary pen was not just another fancy colored Capless, and I look forward to seeing something more daring, more radical.

My thanks to Mr. Shiomi.

Pilot Super 100s in red – Pilot Blue-black

Bruno Taut
April 21st-22nd, 2013
etiquetas: Pilot, Capless, evento, mercado

19 April 2013

No Risk

My admired Ira Glass –I am a die-hard fan of the Chicago Public Media show This American Lifeonce wrote that he had had a nightmare involving Howard Stern. The whole issue was how much harder Stern’s life in the waves was if compared to his own, Ira Glass’s, conducting his more serious, apparently, program.

I am nowhere close to Ira Glass. I only write, and poorly for that matter, about fountain pens, and that is easy. I do not challenge any restrictive law; I do not deal with religious matters… So, all is fine. But that is not the case for many. Writing about politics, about religion, or even about Science when it is about Evolution might trigger some bitter reactions that might not be limited to just hate-mail.

This is not about declaring here and now my adhesion to this or that cause. This is just to acknowledge and honor the work of those who actively defend the right of free speech and who suffer the consequences. And I thank them—for the right of free speech is not to be taken for granted. Neither offline or online.

Pilot Belage, steel nib – Wagner ink 2008

Bruno Taut
Shinjuku, April 17th, 2013
etiquetas: metabitácora

16 April 2013

Sailor's Celluloid

Out of the big three Japanese pen companies, Sailor is both the oldest and the smallest. Chronicles say that it became successful quickly after its foundation in 1911 in Kure, Hiroshima. However, that does not mean Sailor became big and, most likely, this company remained in a second tier until the 1960s. In fact, finding old Sailor pens is very hard, and it seems like the popularity of the brand matched the implementation of ink cartridges in its pens along that decade.

Therefore, this Sailor pen made of celluloid, albeit not really old (like this size 80 eyedropper indeed was), is interesting because its filling system—a bulb filler. Its nib, made of steel, is imprinted with the brand name/logo and with what could be a date: 211. It could mean November of 1952, thus explaining the absence of the JIS mark. In any event, Sailor manufactured celluloid pens with this structure and this filling system by the early 1950s.

The barrel is imprinted with the logo of the company –clearly saying Sailor— together with an obvious “fountain pens”. The cap carries a more subtle and cryptic one, right above the gold-coated cap band: AS24*. The clip is also engraved with the name of the company.

The imprint on the nib reads "HIGHEST GRADE / Sailor logo / NON CORROSION / PEN / -2-", and the figures 211 in perpendicular, usually hidden in the gripping section.

The feed has an interesting structure--apparently there are not continuous channels connecting the ink deposit with the nib tip. Actually, the channels are hidden under the cylindrical section with perpendicular grooves.

These are the dimensions of the pen:
Length closed: 116 mm
Length open: 105 mm
Length posted: 139 mm
Diameter: 12 mm
Weight (dry): 11.3 g
Ink capacity: 1.0 ml

Sailor pocket pen, white, 14 K gold nib (108) – Pelikan 4001 Brilliant brown

Bruno Taut
Yokohama, April 16th, 2013
etiquetas: Sailor

14 April 2013

PCJ-Wagner Pen Show 2013

The yearly Spring trading event organized by the Pen Collectors of Japan and the Wagner group is coming. It will be held on the weekend of April 20th and 21st at the KFH Hall (KFC Rooms, 11th floor, room 115). The opening times will be from 10:00 to 17:00 on Saturday (entry fee JPY 2000) and from 9:30 to 16:30 on Sunday (entry fee JPY 1000).

The table fee for traders is JPY 10000 and there seems to be no problem with the available space, just like on year 2012 show. So, to participate as trader you only need to show up on Saturday at 8:50 at the venue.

Pen trading in Japan keeps being a domestic issue, but that might change soon. This coming September, the first international pen show in Japan will take place in Sapporo, in the northernmost island of Hokkaido.

More information (in Japanese): http://blog.livedoor.jp/aurora_88/archives/51937289.html

Platinum Belage – Wagner 2008 ink

Bruno Taut
Yokohama, April 12th, 2013
etiquetas: Tokyo, Japón, evento

10 April 2013


Nebotek is one of the small operations—that is, other than the big three—producing pens in Japan. Its mother company is Nikko Ebonite, established in 1952 as manufacturer of ebonite (vulcanized hard rubber), a material with a number of applications. Nikko Ebonite is also the supplier of this material for all Japanese fountain pen manufacturers with the sole exception of Hakase. So, creating their own pen brand was only natural, and that happened in 2009.

Assorted Nobotek pens at a sale event in a department store in Tokyo.

Nebotek pens are created by Mr. Kanesaki Noritoshi (金崎徳稔), disciple of the well know (well, in Japan) nibmeister Kubo Kohei (久保幸平), now almost completely retired. Mr. Kanesaki lathes the in-house ebonite to make fountain pens and ball-pens. Fountain pens come in three different filling systems: (international) cartridge-converter, button filler, and eyedropper with shut-off valve. Nibs and feeds are provided by Peter Bock, in Germany, and are available in four points: F, FM, M, and B. They can also be made soft (springy).

Currently, the pens carry no inscription naming the maker or the model. They look anonymous save for the nib, imprinted with the Bock logo. So, the unknowing user might take this pen as a no-brand pen or as a German pen made by Bock itself.

The Nebotek Onoto-type.

The following pen is one of the Nebotek models. It is called Onoto-type, and it indeed resembles the old Onotos that arrived in Japan at the break of the twentieth century. This pen is an eyedropper with shut-off valve manned from the tail. It is medium sized out of the three possibilities (S, M, L). The nib is a size 220 (in the Bock catalog) made of 14 K gold. These are the pen dimensions:

Length closed: 141 mm
Length open: 134 mm
Length posted: 175 mm
Diameter: 15 mm
Weight (dry): 23.4 g

The Bock nib, engraved with the Bock logo.

Nobotek pens are indeed good and interesting products, but its poor marketing makes them almost unknown. And anonymous.

P. S: Around January 2014, Nebotek pens changed its name to Eboya.

Pilot Super (cartridge-converter), soft nib – Pelikan 4001 Brilliant Brown

Bruno Taut
April 5th, 2013
etiquetas: Nebotek, Bock, Eboya, Kanesaki Noritoshi

09 April 2013

Sixties Music

Music nibs are not a Japanese invention, but it seems that it is only in this country where they have found the favor of pen companies on these days (see ::1:: and ::2::). As about pen aficionados, that is not the case given the popularity of these nibs in other markets.

Music nibs have been produced in Japan since, at least, 1950s, as we have already seen on these Chronicles by courtesy of nibmeister Yamada, and of some others. However, they are not easy to find –and I try hard--, and any success is always a source of joy.

The following Platinum pen is one such example. Simply put, this is a cartridge-converter pen made of plastic with a metallic cap, black with golden decorative elements. And the nib is a three-tined beauty made of 18 K gold. It is smooth and juicy, and shows a nice line variation.

The inside of this pen. The nib and feed can be taken out of the section upon disassembling the central ring. The converter on the picture in an old model.

These are the dimensions of the pen:
Length closed: 142 mm
Length open: 124 mm
Length posted: 153 mm
Diameter: 12 mm
Weight (dry): 10.8 g
Ink capacity: 1.2 ml (Platinum cartridge) and 0.53 ml (Platinum converter) (data taken form Platinum's catalog)

Writing sample with this music nib by Platinum. The small square is 2 mm wide. The ink is a Sailor Jentle in a color ordered by the Wagner group of pen collectors.

This pen is very nicely balanced and is perfectly usable as a regular pen. Some users, though, might consider this nib to be too broad, but that did not bother me at the time of writing this text.

Masa Sunami reported on a similar pen on the book The 101 Pen’s Collection of M. Sunami (M. SUNAMI and S. NAKAJIMA. Hankyu Communications Ltd. 2006. ISBN: 978-4-484-06221-1) and dates it from 1966.

NOTE added on May 31st, 2013: This pen was made in 1969. Please, check the Chronicle Transitional.

Platinum P-300, music nib – Platinum Black

Bruno Taut
Shinjuku, April 5th, 2013
etiquetas: Platinum, plumín, plumín musical

04 April 2013


In this world of fast-evolving technology and mass-produced goods there seems to be room for nostalgia and romanticism… But are those for real or mere illusions?

There are a number of pen companies claiming to have their products handmade or crafted by traditional artisans following ancient recipes. But what do all those words really mean? What is really handmade and what is machine-made?

What tools can an artisan –whatever this might mean— use while preserving the label and aura of “handmade”? Is the lathe an acceptable tool? And if that lathe was numerically-controlled? Should the lathe be made by the artisan himself to keep the purity of the handmade process? Or, is electricity an acceptable source of energy?

Nakaya. Japanese handmade fountain pens, we read on its website. But what does that really mean?

It is very difficult –if at all possible— to draw that red line delimiting the realm of the craftsmanship and the realm of the mass-production. Craftsmanship is, after all, only an older technology, but a technology that still uses tools made by others.

Two are the reasons for a new technology to gain favor. First is the economic argument—does this new machine makes the final product for less? Second is the quality—is the product newly made better than the one produced with the previous technologies? The final adoption of the new procedures depends on a delicate balance between those two arguments. Cheaper but lower quality is not a good strategy to keep business going, but it is certainly tempting.

At the end, the consumer decides, and it is my contention that the final decision should only be taken based on the quality of the good and not on the marketing labels attached to it to increase the price. After all, we do not judge a novel based on which instrument was used to write it.

Handmade, artisanal, hand-crafted,… Mumbo-jumbo, I am afraid.

Pilot Super (cartridge-converter), soft nib – Pelikan 4001 Brilliant Brown

Bruno Taut
April 3rd, 2013
etiquetas: mercado, estilofilia