31 May 2013


Some weeks ago, I wrote about a Platinum pen from the 1960s that sported a beautiful music nib. Following a couple of indicators I guessed that it had been made by the mid 1960s. One of those was the old globe logo of Platinum engraved on the nib and on the cap. This old globe, let us remember, had been officially replaced in 1968 by the current logo showing a P.

The P-300 Platinum.

The nib in detail--the old Platinum logo together with the manufacturing date--544, May 1969.

A more careful inspection of nib revealed the imprint of a date—544, or May of Showa year 44, corresponding to 1969. And that on the same side of the nib stamped with the pre-1968 logo.

A newer Platinum music nib with the post-1968 logo--save transitional units. This newer nib was cast in 1973.

This nib, thus, shows that the transition between logos took some time. “Sounds very Platinum”, a stylophile friend told me in Tokyo. “They often take decisions before having the money to implement them.”

And the Platinum P-300 I showed was manufactured later than I had assumed. The nib was stamped in 1969.

Platinum 3776 (1978) – Platinum Blue-Black

Bruno Taut
Machida, May 7th 2013
etiquetas: Platinum, plumín musical, plumín

28 May 2013

Kokuyo Ink

Kokuyo stationery products are ubiquitous in Japan. Nothing seems to be easier than buying any of its notebooks or erasers or filing folders... However, for the fountain pen aficionado, Kokuyo did not seem to have much to offer save a collection of notebooks with very good quality paper.

But that was not the case at some point. And that makes a lot of sense as the company now named Kokuyo S&T Co. had been founded in Osaka in 1905. Along its more than 100 years of history, the fountain pen has been a primary tool for a very good part of it. So, catering that marker was only natural.

The picture shows one such example—a bottle of Kokuyo kk55 ink for fountain pen. According to the price, JPY 24.00, it should have been in the marker in the 1950s.

The Campus notebook shown together with the bottle is one of the most poular products of Kokuyo. It was first marketed in 1965 as spiral-wire bound notebooks, and in 1975 there changed to adhesive bound, as we know them today. The paper of these notebooks works very well with fountain pens, regardless of their inkflow, for a very affordable price. But very fancy they are not.

コクヨkk55インキ. Kokuyo kk55 Ink.

In 2011, Kokuyo S&T Co. acquired 51% of the share of the Indian company Camlin, since then renamed as Kokuyo Camlin Ltd. This Indian company does produce fountain pens and fountain pen inks, under the brand name Camel.

NOTE added on May 30th, 2013: More pictures of Kokuyo ink on the blog by Kamisama-samama (aka Paper): http://ameblo.jp/kamisama-samasama/entry-11541093085.html

Sailor Ballerie pocket pen – Platinum Black

Bruno Taut
Yokohama, May 27th, 2013
etiquetas: Kokuyo, tinta, India, Camlin, papelería

24 May 2013


I have already spoken about fora and their problems on these Chronicles. Fora, I concluded, were not free. They do belong to some people who at the end of the day must pay for a number of items: hosting the information, the bandwidth to provide a reliable connection, maintenance, … And all that money should be generated by the forum itself, or, alternatively, someone should continuously cover those expenses.

Therefore, the whole operation could be summarized as follows: we, forum users, provide both the contents and the audience, and some third party cashes the benefits—if they existed, of course. However, those cashing the money do not need to provide any content but just the infrastructure for the information to flow among forum members.

Evaluating the quality of the contents is not an easy task. Fora are not scientific journals whose publishers, well aware of the size of their business, keep track of the citations each and every article received. At the end, this citation-based system, not free from controversy, works because scientific journal authors do need to raise funds for continuing their research and to keep on publishing. Fora are different--forum participants do it for free, not receiving anything in return save an eventual ego boost when some other member praised that entry. In fact, this scheme is not very different from most blogs.

But these two forms of communication in the Internet do differ: On fora, people ask questions and answer some others. On blogs, authors provide information. Of course, blog authors can also ask questions, but the audience of a blog can hardly compete with that of a forum, even if small.

Then, the success of a blog lies on the quality and on the interest of its entries. The success of a forum, on the other hand, lies on the sheer number of participants. Blogs are about the signal; fora, about the noise.

This might be schematic and oversimplifying, but it explains an obvious fact, the big turnover on forum participants. There are always many new members, but there are also many members who silently stop participating. The first are always voiced out, welcome and encouraged to participate. The second group is ignored, save for the very few occasions when they were missed.

The result is a feedback loop that enforces the mediocrity of most fora: The same questions are repeated over and over, and it is difficult to find well-researched texts because those who had learned through all those posts became bored and stopped participating. And the economy of fora favors this—the quantity is more important than the quality. The noise over the signal.

I detect, although I might be wrong, a decadence on fountain pen fora lately. Some of them are trying to cash down the benefits after years of hiding the economic interests of the managers. Other fora, in the meantime, seem stagnated—-not collapsing as they are initially cheap to maintain, but neither growing. The fact that there are more active fora, even if the activity were small, also shows some element of failure on those previously existing. The Spanish case is a clear example—a small community with four different fora. Maybe the old English sentence of “two Spaniards, three opinions” really applied in here, and the final result would be a couple of fora per each Spanish-speaking pen aficionado.

Is this the end of pen fora? Certainly not. Fora have its always changing cohorts of followers, and those with economic incentives on them will fight hard for their survival. But the time in which that relevant piece of information was to be found on fora is probably over.

The Internet, however, is long and wide, and new forms of interaction might be found any day soon. I will be patient.

Finally, and if only to say that I am not alone on my thoughts, I wanted to add a couple of links to texts by fellow bloggers reflecting on these same issues:
Peaceable Writer: Thoughts about Pen Forums,
and Goodwriterspen's Blog: Something is Rotten in the State of Denmark.

Pilot Custom Grandee, music nib – Gary’s yellow-black (iron-gall)

Bruno Taut
April 27th , 2013
etiquetas: fora, metabitácora

18 May 2013

Pilot's Safety

This is not the first time we see a safety pen on these Chronicles. During the early days of Namiki Mfg. Co. five filling systems were implemented in Pilot pens—the O-shiki (O-式, eyedropper filler with shut-off valve), the T-shiki (T-式, lever-filler), the N-shiki (N-式, hoshiawase), P-shiki (P-式, plunger filler) and the L-shiki, (L-式) the retractable-nib safety system shown today.

The hoshiawase system is the only original innovation by Pilot at the time, The rest of systems were copied from Western products (plunger filler, lever filler and safety), or from other Japanese companies –Maruzen had marketed and manufactured eyedroppers with shut—off valve derived from Onoto’s plunger fillers around 1910, and on these Chronicles I already showed a Japanese Swan with that same system from ca. 1915.

Other Japanese companies made safety pens—Sailor, Platinum, SSS, Itoya…—, but they are hard to find nowadays, and that makes these finds all the more valuable. This safety pen in particular is in immaculate condition—most likely, it was never inked. The decoration and imprints on the black ebonite barrel look like fresh out of the production line.

The pen sports a replacement nib. It is a very flexible unit, made in 1930, of size 3 in 14 K gold labeled as steno (for shorthand writing). It is perfectly identified as made by Pilot, as has always been the case with Pilot and Namiki nibs. The barrel, on its side, carries the brand and the company names: “PILOT / NAMIKI MFG: CO. / MADE IN JAPAN”. The production date is around 1925.

The imprint on the nib reads as follows: "STENO / 14 KARAT GOLD / PILOT / REGISTERED / -3-".

These are its dimensions.
Length capped: 118 mm
Length open (nib extended): 124 mm
Length posted (nib extended): 151 mm
Diameter: 12 mm
Weight (dry): 13.7 g

My thanks to Mr. Sugimoto.

Platinum 3776 Century, music nib – Platinum Pigmented Blue

Bruno Taut
Shinjuku, May 16th, 2013
etiquetas: Pilot, soluciones técnicas, Japón

NOTE ADDED ON MAY 22nd: The nib is not original. The replacement nib shown on the pictures was made in 1930. My thanks, once again, to Mr. Sugimoto.

14 May 2013

More GK

GK stands for Ginjirô Kabutogi. Or, Kabutogi Ginjirô (兜木銀次郎) in Japanese—family name first. We saw those letters imprinted on a couple of Ban-ei pen nibs, and those letters were, in fact, the only real identification of those pens.

On this things were different. For one, the pen is labeled with the name DIA on the clip and on the nib. In this case, two other signs showed that nibmeister Kabutogi was involved—the brand Steady and the number 3233, which was the Japan Industrial Standard associated to pen operations Steady and Ideal, owned by Kabutogi.

The pen clip. Rolled 14 K gold, and labeled as DIA.

The inscription on the nib reads "Steady / DIA / LIFETIME / 14K / JIS logo / 3233".

Lambrou and Sunami describe Diamond as a family business founded in 1948 in Ôsaka by Shibata Tetsuo. The production of fountain pens, under brand names Diamond and DIA, was greatly improved in 1957, when Nishikawa Noburu, skilled craftsman and pen maker, joined the company. However, the pen production ceased by mid 1960s.

Most Diamond pens were made of celluloid or of lacquered ebonite. Today’s pen belongs to the second group, and it is decorated with a urushi-e technique called togidashimon. On it, different colored layers are applied to the surface, and are later cut or polished to reveal a colorful pattern in oval shape.

The barrel shows the colors of the different layers of lacquer applied on the pen. This maki-e technique technique is called togidashimon.

These are the pen dimensions:
Length capped: 144 mm
Length open: 128 mm
Length posted: 172 mm
Diameter: 14 mm
Weight (dry): 21.6 g

The pen, in this case, is an eyedropper filler with shut-off valve. Lambrou and Sunami, in their book Fountain Pens of Japan (2012, ISBN: 978-0-9571230-0), show a very similar pen, albeit with a different filling system—a lever filler. They date it in 1957.

My thanks to Mr. Chen and to Mr. Furuya.

Pilot Custom Grandee, music nib – Gary’s yellow-black iron-gall ink

Bruno Taut
Yokohama, May 14th 2013
etiquetas: Diamond, nibmeister Kabutogi, Steady, urushi-e

11 May 2013

November 1st

The mystery, apparently, has been solved—the pen to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Pilot Capless will be a modern Capless pen (1998 model) made of maple wood with golden trim. This will be a limited and numbered edition, and the release date will be November 1st. The news source is KeatsPhD, of the Fountain Pen Network (FPN), and he cites John Lane, the National Sales Manager of Pilot-Namiki for the US, as the origin of it.

It is interesting to note that Pilot had released this information in the US and not in Japan. Fellow blogger Bromfield, in Japan, pointed out that this is not the first time that soon after a “no plans for Japan” statement by Pilot news have arrived from across the Pacific Ocean. So, it is hard to think of all this as not planned by Pilot.

In fact, this strategy might be easy to explain. There are more stylophiles in the US than in Japan, and pen fora –FPN and others— and blogs in English reach much farther away than those in Japanese.

And, once again, we active users and collectors became tools of advertisement in the hands of some few companies.

Morison 18 K pocket pen – Sailor Black

Bruno Taut
Yokohama, May 11th 2013
etiquetas: Pilot, mercado, fora, metabitácora

10 May 2013

Ultra (IV)

Kabutogi Ginjirô (兜木銀次郎) is no alien to these Chronicles. His presence in the pen industry in Japan seemed to be more of a reliable supporting actor than playing a leading role. His nibs were either inconspicuous, almost anonymous, or passed as copies of some other designs.

The following inlaid nib belongs to the second category:

The pen carries no name other that a very generic “Super De Luxe” imprinted on the cap lip. But it certainly follows the style of the Pilot Super Ultra 500 of Shigeki Chiba, and does it beautifully. This time, contrary to most non-Pilot Ultra models, the nib is truly inlaid and extends itself along the section and fully around it.

The imprint on the nib read "Steady / K14 / JIS logo / 4622". 4622 is the JIS registry number of Kabutogi's pen operation Seilon.

It is engraved with one of the pen brands associated to Kabutogi –Steady— together with the JIS registry number 4622. This belonged, as well, to Kabutogi Ginjirô, but in connection to another pen brand: Seilon.

The pen uses Platinum-proprietary cartridges which were a de-facto standard in Japan by the late 1950s and 1960s (see the Chronicle on Mitaka). Platinum, may we remember, had been the first Japanese company to produce ink cartridges.

Some units of this pen were manufactured for the department store Daimaru.

These are the dimensions of this pen:
Length capped: 145 mm
Length open: 131 mm
Length posted: 164 mm
Diameter: 11 mm
Weight (dry): 13.7 g

My thanks to Mr. Furuya.

Platinum 3776 (1978 model) – Platinum Blue-black

Bruno Taut
Machida, May 17th, 2013
etiquetas: Steady, Seilon, nibmeister Kabutogi Ginjirô, Platinum, Pilot, marca desconocida, plumín

07 May 2013

More Center

Japanese pens are a lot more than maki-e and urushi, and a lot more than Pilot, Platinum and Sailor. Hundreds of pen operations struggled in the domestic market during the post-war years. Then, two political decisions changed the landscape—the first was the implementation of the Japan Industrial Standards (JIS). Although it was not obligatory for the brands to adopt those norms, the JIS mark became visible on the nibs of the major companies. That mark ensured that the nib material was as declared, thus preventing the easy fraud of passing as solid gold those nibs that were just gold plated.

The second measure was the liberalization of the Japanese market to foreign–made pens in 1964. And according to Lambrou and Sunami (Fountain Pens of Japan. 2012. ISBN: 978-0-9571230-0), several hundreds of million of Chinese-made pens were sold in Japan on the following years, which seem like an awful lot of pens given the population of Japan: between 90 and 100 million people along the 1960s.

In any event, this foreign competition drove many Japanese pen operations out of the business and focused their activity in other products. That was the case, for instance, of the Sanwa Kôgyô Co. Ltd., owner of the brand Center. The company, based in Nara, is still active and on its website it mentions year 1964 and the endpoint to its pen production, started in 1932, due to the liberalization of the Japanese pen market.

Therefore, the model Center 61 was certainly produced before that year of 1964.

Sailor white pocket pen, 14 K gold nib – Pelikan 4001 Brilliant Brown

谷村あいる & Bruno Taut
March-April, 2013
etiquetas: Japón, mercado, Center

04 May 2013

Bokujû (墨汁)

This is an interesting ink. A puzzling one.

The label does say this ink is for fountain pens, but should it not be clear enough, there is also an obvious figure of a fountain pen. A Pilot, of course. The metal ring attached to the string is a common feature among old Japanese inkwells, but I confess my ignorance about its purpose.

We, pen aficionados, are very aware of the dangers of using inks not specifically designed for fountain pens. India ink, for instance, contains shellac –a bioadhesive that would easily clog the ink feed of any fountain pen.

In East Asia the basic reference of ink is different. Sumi ink (墨) is traditionally made of vegetable soot and animal glue. It is presented in the form of sticks, and to make the actual ink these sticks have to be ground against a stone (suzuri, 硯) in combination with water. The ink, now called bokujû (墨汁), is formed by the suspension of the powder removed from the ink stick in the water. This is the ink used in traditional calligraphy, shodô (書道) in Japanese, whose basic instrument is the brush instead of the stylus.

The inscription on the lid reads Special ink Pilot 特製墨汁パイロット. On the center, the company logo.

Nothing can I say about whether the use of this ink was a long time goal of Japanese pen companies. As of today, Platinum’s Carbon ink and Sailor’s Kiwa-guro simulate the idea of bokujû—particles in suspension in water. Pilot´s approach is just limited to the name of one the inks of the Iroshizuku line: Take-sumi (竹炭), although in this case, sumi is written as 炭, meaning coal, instead of 墨, ink. Both ideograms can be read in the same way—sumi (すみ).

Then, what about this old inkwell? The label clearly (well, sort of) says it contained bokujû—that is, the already prepared ink after grinding the ink stick—and that it is for fountain pens. On the back, the manufacturer, Namiki Seisakusho, explains that only after developing some procedures, which involved filtration, it was safe to use bokujû in fountain pens.

The explanations to justify the uniqueness of the ink.

Was it? Hard to say. However, a more relevant question is whether this was a real carbon ink, a precedent of the modern nanopigmented inks made by Sailor and Platinum. Interestingly enough, Pilot does not produce any such ink right now.

This ink dates back from the 1920s, and chemical analysis are in order. But few people might really care.

My thanks to Mr. Yamada, who also wrote on this ink for his blog, including a couple of samples on paper.

Pilot Capless, stub nib (Shimizu Seisakusho) – Waterman Mysterious Blue

Bruno Taut
Yokohama, May 4th, 2013
etiquetas: tinta, Pilot, Sailor, Platinum, Japón, caligrafía, pincel