16 December 2014

On Maki-e Pens

I think we should face it—maki-e decorated pens are a class on their own, apart from any other. The reason lays on the fact that these pens attract the attention of people more interested on the decoration itself than on the pen. Consequently, details as the nib or the filling system or the quality as writing tool become almost --if not completely-- irrelevant. The pen, then, becomes a jewel with a nib, a cylindrical canvas for the maki-e artisan.

A small cup with maki-e decoration.

So, when the decoration is more important, the whole set of rules under which a stylophile analyzed a pen is turned upside down. Stylophiles greatly value the originality of all the components of the pen—nib and feed must correspond to that particular model, the clip could also have been replaced… And somehow the pen should be known to have existed (this might be tricky at times, but can be applied to the vast majority of pens).

But for the maki-e buff, all that is secondary. The quality of the decoration is paramount. Therefore, is there such a thing as a fake maki-e decorated pen? No, dare I say, as long as the maki-e is there (of course, there exist some maki-e-like decoration using some other less elaborated techniques that hold a lot less value, but they are not maki-e). In fact, this scenario favors the creation of one-of-a-kind pens based on almost any pre-existing model. There are, nowadays as in the past, maki-e artisans who decorated pens on demand, with no knowledge, of course, of the manufacturer.

Two unique maki-e decorated pens. In actual terms, they are Pilot Custom 67.

An obvious side effect of this phenomenon is the proliferation of organized customizations—Pelikan, Parker, Danitrio, Loiminchay… and, of course, the big three, Pilot-Namiki, Platinum-Nakaya, and Sailor. Indeed, this is an easy and safe way to add value to any given pen. As well as a convenient costume to pass as Japanese, which seems another way to add value.

A maki-e decorated Pelikan M1000.

Maybe we all –stylophiles and those fond of maki-e pens-- should remember that maki-e is an old decorative technique that long predates fountain pens. And narrow cylindrical shapes are rarely the most convenient canvas for any purpose.

A bowl for miso soup.

On my side, and this is just a personal option, I insist in thinking that a pen is a pen—and is a pen! And no decoration makes it any better, or any worse, as a pen. Some people, though, do not think like me.

Romillo Essential Black – Pilot Iroshizuku Kon-peki

Bruno Taut
Madrid, December 14th 2014
labels: mercado, Japón, estilofilia, maki-e

03 December 2014

War Time

War-time German pens are well-known. That might be due to the current importance of some German brands and to their ability to create iconic models. On the contrary, Japanese pens from the same period are mostly unknown. Maybe rightly so, but they are not without interest.

The war period in Japan is a lot longer than in Europe and in America, and in fact dating its starting point is difficult and controversial. Regarding pens, on the years 1932 and 1938 –well before the beginning of the war in Europe— some restrictions were imposed on the production of consumer goods.

On 1932, the first restrictions on the use of gold were enacted. Gold nibs became rarer in the domestic market and pen companies manufactured gold nibs with lower-grade gold.

A 12 K gold nib by Pilot.

1938 meant the total embargo in the use of the noble metal and no gold nibs were manufactured until well after the end of the war. This is the golden era of the so-called “shiro nibs” (white nibs) made of stainless steel.

The following unit is an interesting example of a war-time pen in Japan. It is a Pilot with a size 2 nib made, of course, of stainless steel. The filling system is a lever filler. The pen is made of hard rubber.

The brand name is written on three different places—the clip, the nib, and the barrel. The later is partially hidden by the original sticker, where the price –JPY 3.48— is marked. The brand logo, though, is visible and shows the N (after Namiki) encircled by the lifebuoy, but the company name, as engraved, is “Pilot Pen Mfg. Co.”, thus certifying this pen had been manufactured after 1938.

The construction quality is not great, as could be expected in a product made during those hard times.

JPY 3.48 for this pen. Out of context, that does not mean much--was it expensive around 1940?

A steel nib --a "shiro" nib-- in size 2. The breathing hole points out at a certain flexibility.

These are its dimensions:
  • Length closed: 123 mm
  • Length open: 114 mm
  • Length posted: 156 mm
  • Diameter: 12 mm
  • Weight (dry): 12.7 g

That was a war time pen, just like some Pelikan 100—but a lot less known.

A war time Pelikan 100. Note the absence of any ring on the cap, and the steel nib. Photo courtesy of Foro de Estilográficas member Antolín.

My thanks to Mr. Sunami and to Foro de Estilográficas member Antolín.

Romillo Nervión – Pilot Blue

Bruno Taut
Madrid, December 2nd 2014
labels: Pilot, Pelikan, plumín

29 November 2014

The Pen Addict

Some weeks ago, Brad Dowdy of The Pen Addict contacted me to participate on his series “Three Questions with…” Needless to say, I was delighted and tried to reply as soon as possible despite my impending trip to Spain. And that shows on my poorly elaborated answers.

They were published on November 22nd. But you might also want to explore Dowdy’s immense blog full of interesting information.

Thanks, Brad!

Romillo Nervión Terracota – Pilot Blue

Bruno Taut
Madrid, November 26th 2014
etiquetas: metabitácora

27 November 2014

Madrid Pen Show 2014

The 11th edition of the Madrid Pen Show was celebrated on the weekend of November 14th to 16th, and I am bound to report on it. But that is no easy task, as mostly all that there is to say had already been written on these Chronicles.

Year after year, the pen show is the big celebration of stylophiles in Spain, and even more than that, as some foreign residents also attended the event. Therefore, this is a major social gathering for many of us, a meeting point for people you only know by name or by alias on a number of pen fora or through email. And then, face to face, a lot more information is actually exchanged.

The conversation often moves onto the dining table, where pens and paper are spread our easily.

Sarj Minhas is well known in Madrid.

The commercial aspect is obviously important, but a pen show is rarely the place to find unexpected bargains. Pen traders do know their job and what they are selling, and they are also aware of the typical customer at those events—we are there because we value pens, and we would pay a lot more that the average person on the street. In fact, we know we are quite foolish when we pay more than, say, EUR 10 for a writing tool. And that is a common mistake among newcomers to a pen show—“pens are not cheap”, they say. Of course not, albeit there might be exceptions buried in the myriad of pens on display.

The space in between tables was scarce at times. That seems to be solved for the 2015 edition, when over 500 sq. meters will be available.

Gary Lehrer, David Nishimura and Carlos Sánchez-Álamo. Among others, of course.

A visitor and a trader. Rick Propas and Jim Marshall. Photo courtesy of Foro de Estilográficas member Antolín.

A third leg in a pen show is the didactic one. Some events do this very well by organizing seminars and workshops. Madrid Pen Show fails at that, but by no means the learning aspect is absent. Both traders and visitors are often well versed on pens and they are willing to share their knowledge. That comes very easily, and it is indeed a pity not to take benefit of this well-informed crowd.

Jonathan Steinberg, Darek Sot, David Nishimura--all of them trading pens.

Luiz Leite and Rick Propas.

Pens, pens, pens...

Figure-wise, the Madrid Pen Show congregated about 1200 visitors and 67 traders over thee days. For the next edition (November 13 to 15, 2015) there will be a maximum of 72 traders on a larger lounge of over 500 square meters. The Madrid Pen Show is now the largest event of its kind in Europe.

Jim Marshall attending some customers. Photo courtesy of Antolín.

My thanks to Foro de Estilograficas member and friend Antolin.

Romillo Nervión Terracota – Pilot Blue

Bruno Taut
Madrid, November 25th 2014
etiquetas: Madrid, mercado, evento, estilofilia

25 November 2014

Changes in Madrid

Some interesting changes in the pen scene in Madrid have taken place recently.

Álvaro Romillo’s brick and mortar shop, “Club de Estilográficas de España”, is now closed. However, his plethora of online business related to pens remain active. That includes the manufacture and distribution of his brand RomilloPens.

On the other hand, two other shops have open in the past months:

-- IguanaSell, a well-known online business, is now also a physical shop at Madrid’s Barrio de Salamanca. It is devoted to watches and pens, and it only sells new goods. IguanaSell, might be worth to note, is the sole distributor of Nakaya in Spain. Its address is as follows:

C. Núñez de Balboa 90
28006 Madrid
Phone: 914 415 041

Open Monday to Saturday, 11:00-14:00 and 17:00-20:00

-- Miestilografica.com is the most recent arrival. New pens, and a good selection of inks. This is its address:

C. Bretón de los Herreros 52
28003 Madrid
Phone: 913 995 670

Open Monday to Friday, 10:00-14:00 and 17:00-20:00. Saturday, 10:00-14:00.

This information is now included on the page of Madrid pen shops.

Platinum Pocket Pen, music nib – Nakajim Sumire-iro

Bruno Taut
Madrid, November 23rd, 2014. Corrected on December 3rd, 2014.
labels: Madrid, mercado

11 November 2014

Kilot 53R

At the time of speaking of Kilot pens I left aside the detailed description of one of the examples of this brand. Nothing else, though, can I add about the pen operation behind it and my only source of information is the pen itself.

This red Kilot pen is an obvious copy of the well-known Pilot 53R—a very classic look, plastic parts, golden-looking nib… However, for the filling system, the Kilot opted for the easier aerometric over the lever filler or the eyedropper chosen by Pilot.

The Kilot in between two Pilot 53R.

The Kilot nib is made of steel, but is gold plated. It does not show the JIS mark, although it is engraved with its own logo, remarkably similar to that of Pilot.

The Kilot nib --on the red pen-- compared to a "manifold" nib of a Pilot 53R-T. The Pilot nib is, on this case, made of 14 K gold. Other than that, these two nibs are very similar. The engraving on the Kilot pen reads "KILOT / MADE IN JAPAN / HARDGILT / -<3>-".

The “kikuza” clip, also engraved with the brand name, is another point in common with the pilot original, albeit this clip design was also used by some other brands, and not only by Pilot.

The "kikuza" (chrysanthemum) clip.

The barrel is also signed: “KILOT / THE KILOT PEN (K logo) MFG. CO. LTD. / MADE IN JAPAN”. That inscription is again a copy of the Pilot inscription in many a pen of the time—just change the K for a P, and everything would look like the original pen.

Again, the Kilot pen is in between two Pilot 53R models. The inscriptions on all three of them are basically the same, with a K instead of a P for the Kilot. The logo of the Kilot is a K encircled by a hexagon.

In view of all this, we can conclude this pen was a very intentional copy of one of the successful pens of the time, by the end of 1950s. But despite being a copy, this is a correct pen, and keeps on being perfectly usable after all these years. All the parts fit well and do not show any obvious problem.

These are its dimensions:
  • Length closed: 122 mm
  • Length open: 108 mm
  • Lendth posted: 142 mm
  • Diameter: 13 mm
  • Weight: 13.1 g (dry)
  • Ink deposit: 0.8 ml

This Kilot pen poses an interesting question (once again)--is it a dishonest copy or the K, of Kilot, instead of the P, Pilot, is enough to redeem it?

Platinum pocket pen, Pt alloy nib – Platinum Black

Bruno Taut
Nakano, October 3rd, 2014
etiquetas: Pilot, Kilot

31 October 2014

Swan's Big Red

Japanese Swan pens –those made by Nobuo Ito— are already known on these Chronicles. This company based its success in Japan on coping the Mabie Todd’s Swan catalog for the domestic market. Well, Nobuo Ito also had the support of Japanese courts of Justice. The domestic success was big, and the Japanese Swan became the biggest pen company in Japan around 1915.

But despite this success and the presumably large number of Swan pens produced, they are not common finds in the market. So, any find, especially if in good condition, is of interest.

This Swan pen is a copycat of the well known Parker Duofold Big Red from the 1920s. but this a Japanese pen, as the filling system shows—this is an eyedropper pen with a shut-off valve operated from the tail. The pen is labeled on the barrel as “SWAN PEN / MY PRESENT”, together with the company logo, all too similar to that of the Anglo-American company.

The pen is made of ebonite. The nib, of 14 K gold. The production date is about 1930. These are its dimensions:
  • Length closed: 132 mm
  • Length open: 126 mm
  • Length posted: 170 mm
  • Diameter: 15.5 mm
  • Weight: 28.4 g (dry)

The imprint on the nib reads "SWAN / IDEAL / PEN / 14 K".

"SWAN PEN / MY PRESENT". My present?

It is interesting to note that this pen has no indication about having been made in Japan, contrary to some other examples of this brand. Nonetheless, the filling system does show, as mentioned before, this as a Japanese fountain pen.

My thanks to Mr. Furuya.

Waterman Crusader – Platinum Black

Bruno Taut
Nakano, October 30th 2014
etiquetas: Swan Japan, Parker, Mabie Todd Swan

29 October 2014


Nowadays, Japanese pen companies are probably those offering the widest selection of nib points in their catalogs. Aside of the specialty nibs by Sailor –custom made and not always readily available—, the most brilliant case is Pilot. For size 10 nibs, Pilot offers up to 15 different points. And yet, there are no oblique nibs among them. In fact, oblique nibs are a rarity in Japanese pens, but that does not mean there had not been any.

Here I am showing an example—a Pilot Custom 67 implementing an oblique broad nib.

A full collection of Pilot Custom 67. All the colors, all the nibs.

The Custom 67 with OB nib.

As was explained before on these Chronicles, the 65th anniversary of Pilot was commemorated with the release of the first balance model in modern times. It followed the style of some pre-war Pilots, and was named the Custom 65. This was a limited edition, but was soon followed –in 1985— by the non-limited Custom 67.

On this case, the nib is marked with its size, 5. That was not the case of the music nib previously presented. This nib was manufactured on August of 1992 at the Hiratsuka plant.

The feed, as was the case on the music nib, does not implement the internal core that can be seen on current models.

Nib-wise, this model came with a wide variety of nibs—up to nine of them, as can be seen on the first picture of this Chronicle. Among them, the music nib preciously described, and an oblique broad. Put to work, this OB nib is more of a medium or fine medium than a broad.

Written sample of the OB nib (save the text in violet).

The remaining characteristics of this pen were already described: it is a cartridge-converter pen with a 14 K gold nib, screw in cap, made of plastic.

My thanks to Mr. Fukuyo.

Platinum pocket pen, music nib – Nakajima Sumire-iro

Bruno Taut
Nakano, October 28th 2014
etiquetas: Pilot, plumín

23 October 2014

Madrid Pen Show 2014

November is the month of the Madrid Pen Show. This year, it reaches its 11th edition and has become one of the greatest pen events in Europe. Indeed a remarkable feat given the lack of manufacturing tradition (of pens, that is) in this city, and the mostly domestic-market-oriented pen industry in Spain in general.

The Madrid Pen Show will be celebrated during three days –from Friday 14th to Sunday 16th— in November at the hotel NH Eurobuilding. The admission fee is EUR 3 per day or EUR 5 for the whole show. Free invitations are available courtesy of the sponsor IguanaSell: visit their shop in Madrid or asked for those via the submission form.

So far there are 68 traders who have confirmed their assistance. They come mostly from Europe, but there are usually traders from the US as well. Some of them are well known in the pen scene in general, and active participants in the pen-show world tour (not that it officially exists as such, but sure there are pen shows every weekend somewhere in Europe or America).

If you happen to attend this pen show feel free to say hello.

Pilot Jumbo size 50 maki-e – Pilot Blue

Bruno Taut
Nakano, October 22nd 2014
etiquetas: Madrid, España, evento

11 October 2014

A Word of Thanks

I owe an explanation and a word of thanks to the readers of these texts and, more in particular, to those who took the effort to comment on my text entitled “Question”.

These are the reasons that triggered that text: I was going to be away from home and I wanted some Chronicles ready to be published easily. Then, it also happened that that “Question” text was my 400th Chronicle and the self-reflection on this effort was –still is— unavoidable. Finally, I discovered myself browsing over some blogs, including my own, without really reading any text in depth.

Therefore, once again, are these texts appreciated?

Thanks to those commenting I see now I have some actual readers, and I feel relieved. But the question was relevant—there are a number of people in the cyberspace trying to provide some relevant information on –re our context— fountain pens. And yet, too often, it is hard to avoid the feeling that no real impact they make. The information is out there, but many ignore it and do not make any effort to look for it. The impression –might be wrong, of course— is that little improvement is achieved on the general pen literacy. And then, the same questions arise once and again in fora and similar spaces. Never before information was more widespread and easy to find, but few seem ready to make the effort of finding it.

And if so, why bother writing anything?

Your comments meant a lot. This blog receives very few comments and therefore they are most valued.


Platinum pocket pen, music nib – B-Stock-Nakajima Sumire (Sailor)

Bruno Taut
Shinjuku, October 13rd 2014
etiquetas: metabitácora, fora

06 October 2014


It is well know that post-war years in Japan were very difficult. In the pen business that was reflected with a proliferation of pen operations--over 2500 family business, Masamichi Sunami says on Fountain Pens of Japan (2012), written in collaboration with A. Lambrou. This came to an end when in 1952 the Ministry of Industry implemented the JIS mark policy in pen nibs. It was not mandatory for companies to adopt it, but within the first year, 38 of them registered before the ministry, thus rendering as second class or of dubious quality those that did not register.

A collection of Pilot R pens from different times. On this picture, all of them are made of celluloid, but there are R models made of ebonite.

Pilot’s model of the time was the 53R. In actual terms, it was an evolution of the R model from 1938. But on the newer models, gold nibs were implemented soon after the end of the embargo in the use of this noble metal. Some luxury units had gold plated and even, according to Sunami, solid gold caps. There also exist some maki-e decorated units.

A Pilot 53R-T. A lever-filler with a 14 K gold nib.

Re filling systems, older R models were mostly eyedroppers (with shut-off valve) and lever fillers. However, in 1938, the nomikomi-shiki was also released on some R models, but this system does not seem to be very common. Later on, other systems as the pulsated piston (A-shiki) were added. The 53R were mostly, if not all, lever fillers (the 53R-T, where T stands for teko, lever), and eyedroppers. This model was, in fact, the last eyedropper made by Pilot until the recreation of the old jumbo pens carried out in 1985.

Another 53R-T. This time with a steel nib marked with the JIS logo.

The steel nib of the previous Pilot 53R-T.

The model that put the R to rest was the Super series from 1955 (a general overview of these years in the history of Pilot pens can be seen on the text entitled "Pilot. Super Ultra 500". Please, note it was written in Spanish). These implemented sac-based filling systems (aerometric, hose-system, bellow-type sac) and, already in the 1960s, ink cartridges. An approximated chronology of this evolution is exposed on the Chronicle "Pilot Filling Systems in the 1960s".

Pilot 53R models are not hard to find, probably indicating that a large number of them were made. However, their condition is very variable.

Pilot black pocket pen 1970, Elite – Platinum Black

Bruno Taut
Nakano, October 3rd, 2014
etiquetas: Pilot