29 November 2013

F-4 Nibs

Some weeks ago I spoke about the newly arrived Pilot Kaküno, an entry-level pen –JPY 1000, plus taxes— aimed at the school student. That pen, I already said at the time, was not alone in the Japanese market, where the competition among the big three pen companies is intense.

Today I wanted to speak about a similar product made by Sailor—the High-Ace. This particular model is no longer on production, and has been replaced by the High-Ace Neo, which implements a plastic barrel in five different colors. The original High-Ace had cap and barrel made of steel, while the section is made of black plastic.

The all-steel Sailor High-Ace.

The nib, in the original High-Ace, is made of steel, gold plated, and is labeled as F-4. It is tipped, and cut as F. Its performance is correct and reliable, fairly rigid, with no special feature to remark. However, older units of the High-Ace pen carry an additional inscription on the nib: Made in Taiwan.

The Japanese and the Taiwanese nibs of the Sailor High-Ace.

This is not the first time we see a Taiwan-made nib (or pen) by Sailor (see ::1:: and ::2::). We know Sailor started a manufacturing plant in Taiwan in 1973, and it was devoted to cheaper products of the company.

The F-4 nib was also marketed as Sheaffer during the 1970s and 1980s. During those years, Sailor was the importer of Sheaffer in Japan, and was allowed to manufacture and sell as Sheaffer some lower end pens. Now, it is reasonable to wonder whether those “Sheaffer” F-4 nibs were made in Japan or in Taiwan.

The very cheap Sailor Ink-Pen (JPY 1000, plus tax) also implemented the F-4 nib, albeit without any tipping, and devoid of any plating.

The Sailor Ink Pen...

...and its untipped F-4 nib.

These are its dimensions of the original High-Ace:
  • Length closed: 135 mm
  • Length open: 123 mm
  • Length posted: 148 mm
  • Diameter: 11 mm
  • Weight (dry): 21.3 g
  • Ink deposit: 1.2 ml (cartridge), 0.7 ml (converter)

The price of the High-Ace was JPY 1000, plus tax.

Twsbi Diamond 530, Kubo's music nib – Gary’s Red Black iron-gall ink

Bruno Taut
Madrid, November 28th, 2013
etiquetas: Sailor, Sheaffer, Taiwan

25 November 2013

Madrid Pen Show 2013

The Tenth Madrid Pen Show was celebrated about a week ago (November 15th to 17th). It was an exciting event with thousands of pens, and hundreds of visitors and tens of traders…

For the first time in its 10-year history, the number of visitors surpassed the figure of 1000. The number of pen traders, though, was smaller than on year 2012 with just over 40 of them, coming from Croatia, Denmark, France, Germany, Israel, Italy, UK, USA, Switzerland, and Spain. But those figures are enough to make this event one of the leading pen shows in Europe.

That about the commercial aspect of the show. The social part was very active too. After all, the pen show is the big party of pen stylophiles in Spain, and meeting all those brothers in pens becomes as important as finding and buying that rare tool. But the vast majority of visitors were Spanish –the exceptions being German, Japanese, Mexican and Portuguese— and attracting foreign customers might be the next challenge for organizers in the years to come.

The third leg of any event like this should be the didactic one. A pen show is a great opportunity to organize workshops and seminars on all things fountain pen—from history notes to calligraphy training to fixing procedures. Attracting younger generations –potential users and collectors— is also an investment for the future. However, these activities are totally ignored during this pen show. I should add, however, that some traders in Madrid organize a monthly encounter –the Tertulias of Amigos de las Estilográficas (their website is far from being updated, although the events are celebrated)— where the didactic side of pen collecting is covered. The paradox is that the November meeting was not celebrated because of the Pen Show.

But the best summary of the Madrid Pen Show might be the following video. The author, José Riofrío, has captured the pleasant atmosphere of both the commercial and the social dimensions of the show, including the dinner of a large group of stylophiles.

These events are easily overwhelming, but also very pleasant.

My thanks to Mr. José Riofrío.

Pilot FCN-500R-B – Pilot Iroshizuku Tsuyu-Kusa

Bruno Taut
Madrid, November 24th, 2013
etiquetas: evento, estilofilia, mercado

21 November 2013

Family Portrait (VI)

I will be a bit narcissistic today and will show my collection of music nibs. All of them are Japanese.

Clock-wise from the top, these are the pens:

At 12 o’clock: Pilot Super 200 made in 1962. Hose filling (quarter-switch) system. 14 K gold nib.

Pilot Super 250, E model, made in 1967. Hose filling (quarter switch) system. 14 K gold nib.

Pilot Custom Grandee made in 1982. Cartridge-converter. 14 K gold nib.

Pilot Custom 74 made in 2010. Cartridge-converter. 14 K gold nib.

Twsbi Diamond 530, red, with a Kubo Kohei’s nib in size 2. Piston filler. Steel nib. This is a “frankenpen”. Twsbi does not sell music nibs for its pens. The best we can get are italic nibs.

Platinum P-300 made in 1969. Cartridge-converter. 18 K gold nib.

Platinum pocket with wingflow nib, made in 1978. Cartridge. 14 K gold nib.

Platinum 3776 in celluloid (calico pattern) made in 2009. Cartridge-converter. 14 K gold nib.

Platinum 3776 Century, made in 2012. Cartridge-converter. 14 K gold nib.

For this list, I have purposely ignored the music nibs currently made by Sailor in 14 K gold and steel. Those have failed in attracting my attention and their writing was never very pleasant. But Sailor, nonetheless, had manufactured three-tined music nibs in the past. The current Cross-music nib, by nibmeister Nagahara, is a totally different animal.

All these nibs, save for those currently on production, are rare finds in the second hand market. Rare, however, only means that it takes longer to find. Collecting has a lot to do with being patient.

Parker 51, octanium nib – Pilot Blue

Bruno Taut
In flight over Europe, November 13th, 2013
etiquetas: Pilot, Platinum, nibmeister Kubo Kohei, plumín, plumín musical, Sailor, estilofilia, Twsbi

13 November 2013

On Kawakubo

Kawakubo is a Japanese nibmeister working in Tokyo. His main activity is as a repair man, but he is also well known among stylophiles and now and then we run into some of his creations. At the last meeting of the Wagner group in Tokyo I could check the following pen.

But there is catch—the pen is not entirely Kawakubo’s. The base is an old Japanese pen (I guess from around 1955); eyedropper with shut-off valve, in ebonite, and with a 14 K gold nib. And then –and only then— the work of Mr. Kawabuko's started.

First, fixing the issues most old pens have. In particular, fixing the seal of the shut-off valve, a typical problem found in Japanese eyedroppers.

Second, polishing the gold nib to remove all previous engravings.

Third, retipping the nib and cutting it to a variable point (what Sailor calls a “zoom” nib).

Fourth, creating a maki-e decoration on cap and barrel. The pattern of this pen is called tanzaku, which are poem cards and strips used in a number of Japanese rituals.

These are the dimensions of the pen:
  • Length closed: 129 mm
  • Length open: 113 mm
  • Length posted: 159 mm
  • Diameter: 12 mm
  • Weight: 16.0 g (dry)

The result is truly interesting and makes a very nice writer. Now, is this a form of pen making or just a form of tunning a pen? Anonymizing it by polishing the nib to a blank slate, so to speak, makes me uncomfortable. Was that really needed?

My thanks to Mr. Sekinen.

Pilot Vpen, M nib – Pilot Blue (refilled)

Bruno Taut
In transit, November 13th, 2013
etiquetas: evento, nibmeister Kawakubo

08 November 2013


Most of what could be said about today’s pen was already said. But yet, it triggers some reflections on pens and their roles nowadays.

Maki-e does not make the pen, I have often heard in Japan. Or any other decoration, I am quick to add. A pen, in essence, is a system to control the dynamics of the ink in its way between an ink deposit and the nib tip through the feed. And the rest is accessory. Beautiful at times, but accessory. And maybe we should state the obvious—the decoration does not make the pen to write any better.

Therefore, decorative techniques, even if used on pens, do not truly belong to books on pens. Maki-e and lacquer techniques, to name just two handy examples, were developed well before they were applied to fountain pens in the twentieth century.

And so this pen was described in the past. Summarily said, it is an eyedropper with shut-off valve; implements a size-50 nib of 14 K gold; and was made by Pilot in the late 1980s.

This decoration is a form of Tsugaru-nuri--maki-e from Aomori (part of the old Tsugaru province). Its particular form is called kara-nuri, ao-age. Ao-age means that green color is the main dye used in this pattern.

The engraving on the nib reads "14 KARAT GOLD / "PILOT" / REGISTERED / PATENT OFFICE / -(50)-".

And only now we can speak about the decoration. It is a form of urushi-e called kara-nuri, originally from Aomori, the northernmost province in the biggest of the Japanese islands. This technique consists in applying several layers of different-colored lacquer with an uneven spatula. The thickness of those layers is not constant and when the surface is polished, after a long drying time, the different colors show up in this capricious pattern. Additionally, the pen shows some small pieces of shells pasted in the lacquer (raden technique).

The feed is also lacquered.

The final result is fairly psychedelic, albeit not unpleasant to the eye. The pen is imposing due mostly to its sheer size and this abstract decoration does not distract our attention as more figurative decoration would.

This pen was made in the late 1980s or early 1990s. It is still labeled as Pilot instead of Namiki. The nib is engraved with the brand name and an indication of the gold purity.

These are its dimensions:

Length closed: 173 mm
Length open: 158 mm
Length posted: 213 mm
Diameter: 20 mm
Weight (dry): 49.3 g
Ink deposit: 4.5 ml

Sailor pocket pen, 18 K nib – Daiso Red (cartridge)

Bruno Taut
Yokohama, November 6th, 2013
etiquetas: Pilot, urushi-e, raden

06 November 2013


Pilot has just released a new entry-level fountain pen—the Kaküno (カクノ). It aims, as we can see on the promotional leaflet, at the school-student market, like if Japan were Germany or France and children had to learn to write with these tools.

The pen comes in six different colors (orange, red, pink, light green, blue and grey), limited to the cap, and two different nib points: F and M. The nib is very well known as it is the same implemented on the Prera, Cocoon/Metropolitan/Urban and 78G models (at least!). The only difference is the engraving on it—a face to attract all those young users.

The filling system is the obvious, clean, and convenient cartridge-converter (Pilot proprietary).

The cap snaps on the body and does not have any clip. Its hexagonal shape plus a notch prevents it from rolling on the table uncontrollably.

The name Kaküno is related to the verb "to write" in Japanese: kakimasu (書きます). And most likely, the dots on the u are just two eyes on the smiling u --as on the nib-- instead of any reference to a German umlaut.

These are its dimensions:
  • Length closed: 130 mm
  • Length open: 128 mm
  • Length posted: 159 mm
  • Diameter: 12.5 mm
  • Weight: 11.3 g (dry, no converter)

The official price is JPY 1000, plus taxes. The natural competitors to this pen are the Sailor Clear Candy, and the Platinum Plaisir. The German armada of Lamy ABC, Pelikan Pelikano Jr and Staedtler Learner’s are significantly more expensive in Japan.

My thanks to Mr. Nakai.

Pilot Capless CS-200RW – Platinum Black

Bruno Taut
Yokohama, November 6th, 2013
etiquetas: Pilot, mercado