31 March 2015

Fountain Pens of the World Festival (I)

Fountain pen events in Tokyo there are many. From the quasi-monthly meetings of the Wagner group to single-brand promotions at some department store, the gamut is wide. And some of them really stand out in the calendar.

One such example is the Fountain Pens of the World Festival organized by Mitsukoshi department store. This annual event is celebrated usually in March at the Nihonbashi branch in Tokyo.

General view of the Festival. Pilot's stand on the front, Sailor's and Eboya's to the right, Platinum-Nakaya's and Ohashido's on the back.

More brands: Kuretake, Parker, Waterman, Cross, Dupont, Conway-Stewart...

Eboya on the front, Pilot on the back.

This week-long festival congregates most of the pen makers and pen importers to be found in Japan. Therefore, it is an interesting opportunity to check what was going on in the market. but there is more to it: there are some special editions of pens and inks, some brands promote their new goods, and there are pen masters of every brand to service pens, new and old.

Mr. Yoshida, of Nakaya, on duty.

Ohashido's lathe... and Ohashido's pen master.

Nibmeister Yukio Nagahara.

Sailor's ink mixer, Mr. Ishimaru.

Pelikan's nibmeister.

Pilot's pen doctor at work.

Calligraphy lessons courtesy of Pilot. Any better way to promote Pilot's Parallel Pens?

Most Italian brands, plus some others like Monteverde and Dupont, shared the same pen master. Here he was adjusting a Delta Dolce Vita.

Mitsukoshi’s event, might be worth to insist, is not the only one of its kind, but it is the one congregating more brands and more visitors. Event like this are a powerful do bring pens to the public and potential new user. Consequently, it should be no surprise that the Japanese pen scene was so active nowadays.

On another text I will report on the special edition pens released at this event. There are already too many pictures on this Chronicle.

Platinum 3776 (1984), B nib – Parker Quink Blue

Bruno Taut
Nakano, March 30th, 2015
etiquetas: evento, mercado

28 March 2015

Sailor 1963

In essence, this text is summarized in one sentence and one picture:

A Sailor ad from 1963.

The first pocket pen released in Japan, the ad says, was the Sailor Mini, that was the name of the model, in 1963. “A little pen is born. The name is Sailor Mini”—such is the main line in the ad. Then it continues to say the pen was only 9 cm long (open), and that it fitted perfectly in a shirt’s pocket. The original price was JPY 1000, and six ink cartridges were JPY 30.

But we can say a bit more. The pen in the ad corresponds to that of the following picture, a pen already reviewed on these Chronicles (and that review included some mistakes). The pen implements a semi-hooded, springy nib, made of 14 K gold.

The Sailor Mini (1963) of the previous ad. This unit is dated in April 1963.

Some other variations in the Mini concept showed up on that same year of 1963. The following example is engraved with the same date code as the previous unit --April 1963--, but shows an inlaid nib:

Another Sailor Mini from 1963. This time, with an inlaid nib.

All this information certifies that the Sailor Mini (pocket pen) was released before Platinum launched its own model in 1964, as this company declares in its own website (checked on March 2015).

(And now I need to add correcting notes to several of these Chronicles).

Romillo Essential Black – Parker Quink Blue

Bruno Taut
Nakano, March 28th, 2015
etiquetas: Sailor, Platinum

23 March 2015


Prototype pens, proofs of concept, are some of the holy grails of collecting almost anything. The reasons are clear: they are rare –very few units were indeed made-, and they were not supposed to be sold. So, rarity, the added value of any collectable, speaks loudly through prototypes.

Last week, at the annual Mitsukoshi “Fountain Pens of the World” Festival, nibmeister Nagahara Yukio was on duty fixing pens despite the very sad family news. And he had his personal pen case with him.

Nibmeister Yukio Nagahara's pen case.

Few of the pens in there were standard—one of them was the following cross nib.

An unusual cross nib.

Cross nibs, in the Nagahara tradition, are two-fold nibs based on a Naginata Togi. Over it, then, a second set of tines are welded. That is called an “over-cross” nib. This prototype is, on the contrary, an “under-cross” nib. The noble side, engraved, is a flat regular nib, and the crossing half-nib is nested between that one and the feed.

The clean-looking upper side of the "under-cross" nib. Note the two-fold tip of the nib.

The result is a cleaner looking nib, although it does not really ad that much to the well-known over-cross unit. So, this might only be a prototype... or maybe a test for a future change in the geometry of Sailor’s cross nibs. In any event, this nib shows that Sailor has ideas under development. Experiments are indeed needed, and nibmeister Nagahara Yukio is alive and well.

Clear enough--Yukio Nagahara's personal pen. But many would be happy to own such a signed experiment.

And this under-cross pen would be a most valuable possession for mostly any collector.

Pilot Ladypearl – Parker Quink Blue

Bruno Taut
Nakano ward, March 12th, 2015
etiquetas: Sailor, soluciones técnicas, evento, nibmeister Nagahara Yukio, plumín

17 March 2015

Four New Pens

Chinkin technique consists, basically, in sprinkling some gold powder on an lacquered surface, previously carved with the pattern to be revealed after the whole process was completed. Chinkin is not considered as maki-e—chinkin is not so much painted as it is carved.

A number of pen makers offer this decorative technique on their pens, and those pens are always expensive. A case in point is the Namiki Chinkin Series—a collection of five pens with nibs in sizes 20 and 50, and pen shapes balance and vest (flat ends). Their prices range from JPY 300000 to JPY 700000.

This past January, Pilot –again under the luxury brand Namiki— has made a more affordable series of chinkin-decorated pens. These new four units are flat tops, cartridge-converters and implement size 10 nibs made of 18 K gold. In actual terms, these pens are like those of the Yukari Collection, but with a different body shape. They are not signed with any name in particular, but as made by the “kokkokai”, the guild of maki-e and chinkin craftsmen of Pilot founded by the much respected figure of Gonroku Matsuda.

The four new chinkin pens by Pilot, branded as Namiki.

This is not the signature of any artist. It just says "kokkokai", the group of maki-e and chinkin artisans working for Pilot.

The price of these new arrivals is JPY 100000, plus tax—one third of the cheaper of the older Chinkin Series sized as the Yukari Royale Collection (size 20 nibs). Affordable? Only in relative terms.

One of the pens, uncapped. The length of these pens, when capped, is about 138 mm.

In the meantime, I am writing with a very similar nib (size 10, albeit in 14 K gold) for less than one-fifth of those “affordable” and beautiful chinkin Namiki. The Custom Heritage 912 and the Custom 942 implement 14 K, size 10 nib with 15 different points—a stark contrast with the just three available points of the Namiki Chinkin shown today: F, M and B. In fact, this might simply mean that these overly decorated pen are mostly a jewel with a nib.

A newly-released Namiki Chinkin on the left, together with two other maki-e decorated pen that will be covered on another Chronicle.

Pilot Custom Heritage 912, music nib – Sailor Yama-dori

Bruno Taut
Chuo ward, February 27th, 2015
etiquetas: Pilot, maki-e, mercado, chinkin

12 March 2015

Nagahara Nobuyoshi (1932-2015)

Nibmeister Nobuyoshi Nagahara (長原宣義) passed away yesterday in Kure. He was 82.

Nibmeister Nagahara in 2011 in Tokyo.

He will be missed. His legacy, though, is safe in the hands of his son Yukio, who spent the whole day tuning pens at the Mitsukoshi Festival of Fountain Pens.

Nibmeister Yukio Nagahara at work yesterday at the Fountain Pen Festival in Mitsukoshi Nihonbashi.

Sit tibi terra levis.

Written, of course, with a Naginata Togi nib.

Bruno Taut
Nakano, March 12th 2015
etiquetas: nibmeister Nagahara

06 March 2015

15 points

Sometimes the blog acts as public service. But I will also add a personal consideration.

Years ago I published a text on the size 10 series of nibs by Pilot. Now, some thread in the Fountain Pen Network has made that Chronicle popular again, and I thought that a writing sample of all fifteen nib points was in order.

Writing samples of the 15 nib options of a Cutom 742 (size 10 nib). The previously unreliable falcon (FA) nib seems to work fine now.

Fifteen different nib points ready available in two different models –Custom 742 and Custom Heritage 912— make Pilot stand apart from any other brand in the pen scene today. And the once faulty “falcon” unit seem to be working fine now.

The fifteen different options for the Custom Heritage 912 on the counter of a stationery store in Tokyo. Ready for anyone to try. From left to right, EF, F, SF (soft fine), FM, SFM, M, SM, B, BB, C (coarse, sort of BBB), MS (music, three tines), PO (posting, very rigid, pointing down, extreme F line), FA (falcon, flexible, cut shoulders), WA (waverly, pointing up, F line), and SU (stub).

The world of nibs is a lot richer than the very trite triad F, M and B. But we, stylophiles, are just too few and too weak in economic terms to justify a broad variety of nib points… Save in the case of Pilot, it seems.

Pilot Custom Heritage 912 - Sailor Yama-dori

Bruno Taut
Chuo, February 27th, 2015
etiquetas: plumín, mercado, Pilot

03 March 2015

Hina Ningyo

March 3rd is, in Japan, Girl’s Day. People celebrate it with altars –the hina ningyo, 雛人形-- showing male and female dolls –the emperor and the empress— dressed in Heian period (794-1185 aD) costumes, and, space permits, a number of attendants and musicians.

The emperors in a Japanese home.

Pen people have an alternative, money permits, according to Pilot.

The hina ningyo I would like to have.

Pilot’s luxury brand Namiki has released a pair of maki-e decorated pens –two Yukari Royale-- with maki-e decoration, made by master Wakabayashi. The price, JPY 700000 (both pens, taxes not included).

Details of the main decorative themes.

These pens, in case you cared, are cartridge-converters (Pilot proprietary) and implement 18 K gold nibs in size 20.

Sailor Profit Naginata togi – Pilot Blue

Bruno Taut
Chuo, February 27th, 2015
etiquetas: Japan, Pilot, maki-e

02 March 2015

Storia Inks

Sailor seems very active lately in the ink department. Last year, let us remember, Sailor changed the ongoing selection of Jentle (regular, dye based) colors for a selection of eight of the previously released as limited editions in the series of seasonal inks (2009-2010). (Incidentally, some sources have reported that the actual change was merely in the names, and that the colors remained the same).

For 2015, Sailor’s strategy is based on the area of pigmented (permanent) inks.

On top of the well known Kiwaguro and Seiboku, Sailor has announced eight new pigmented inks in apparently very bright colors. Their generic name is “Storia”.

The colors of the Storia series of permanent inks are red, pink, blue, purple, yellow green, green, yellow, and light brown. The inkwells hold 30 ml of ink and will cost JPY 1500, plus tax, which makes JPY 50/ml. For comparison, Kiwaguro and Seiboku cost JPY 40/ml. (Picture taken from the 2015 Sailor Catalog).

Initially, the launching of these inks was intended for this month of March, but it has been postponed to April. However, given the number of pen events in Tokyo in March, I would not be surprised if these inks showed up, even if in limited amounts, earlier.

There might be a niche for colorful pigmented inks in the market, but I wonder how much bigger the ink market might become.

Athena Basic Line – Sailor Yama-dori

Bruno Taut
Nakano, March 1st 2015
etiquetas: tinta, Sailor, mercado