31 August 2015


Combo pens; that is, the combination of a fountain pen on one end, and a pencil (or any other writing tool) on the other; are very rare in Japan. They were never that common in the West, but most American companies made some combos at some point in their history.

Lambrou and Sunami only mention one such pen, albeit shown twice using the very same picture, in their book Fountain Pens of Japan. That is a Romeo (the pen brand of Itoya) from 1926. It was made of ebonite and implemented a lever filler system and a 14 K gold nib of size 3.

Today’s pen is probably even more extraordinary—a combo pen made by Pilot in 1932.

A Pilot combo from 1932. The engraving on the barrel reads "PILOT" / USA PAT (Namiki Logo) NO 1600293 / PILOT PEN MFG. CO. LTD.

This Pilot is made of ebonite coated with urushi. Pen-wise, it is a Japanese eyedropper whose shut-off valve is operated by moving the whole pencil unit, as can be seen on the picture. The nib is a size 2 made of 14 K gold, dated on the back as manufactured in May of 1932.

The picture shows a number of features of this combo pen. First, the eraser attached to the pencil unit; second, the shut-off valve in the pen portion; third, the flat feed of the fountain pen, typical in pre-war pens in Japan.

The engraving on the pen reads "PILOT" / U.S.A. PAT. (N logo) NO 1600293 / PILOT PEN MFG. CO. LTD. To the right of the engraving, the two threads of the pen --to releaase the mechanical pencil and access tyhe eraser, and to open the shut-off valve are clearly visible.

The pencil section of the combo. Arrow A points at the opening of the shut-off valve. Arrow B, at the separation between pencil and pen.

The barrel is imprinted with a reference to a US patent, 1600293, already mentioned on these Chronicles. This patent was filed in 1925 by Ryosuke Namiki and is about coatings and working on ebonite surfaces—nothing to do with the pen design or the idea of a combo pen.

The fountain pen part of the combo. The engraving on the nib: 14 KARAT GOLD / "PILOT" / REGISTERED / PATENT OFFICE / -<2>- / POINTED / HARDEST / IRIDIUM.

These are its dimensions:
Length closed: 148 mm
Length open: 135 mm
Length posted: 153 mm
Diameter: 14 mm
Weight (dry): 20.8 g

Indeed a rare pen. Therefore, of little relevance in the history of Japanese pens, but it shows that Japanese companies were paying attention to what was happening in the West.

My thanks to Mr. Takahashi and to Mr. Furuya.

Pilot Custom 823 – Montblanc White Forest

Bruno Taut
Nakano, August 31st, 2015.
etiquetas: Pilot

28 August 2015

Early Pilot Nibs. IV. Size 2

Size 2 nibs are significantly bigger than those of size 1, and reach a total length of about 23 to 24 mm. There seem to be some variations, towards a smaller size, in the dimensions of those units manufactured in the 1950s.

Manufacturing date .Aug 1926. .Sep 1937. .Oct 1953.
Length (mm) 24.4 24.2 22.9
Width (mm) 5.8 6.0 5.8
Feed diameter (mm) 5.0 5.0 4.9
Weight (g) 0.3 0.2 0.3
Dimensions of three Pilot nibs of size 2 made of 14 K gold.

Nib made on November of 1926. Very simple engraving

From September of 1937.

From 1953. Note the JIS mark. The feed of this pen, and of those of the 53R models (1950s) are slightly thinner on the area attached to the section.

As can be seen on the pictures, there are size-2 nibs made of steel. The exact dimensions of these units are not available—the integrity of the pen is still more important that those data.

Steel nib of a nomikomi-shiki pen from around 1940.

A post-war 53R-T model. Note, again, the JIS mark.

The engravings on the nibs, as was the case with other sizes, show a clear evolution along the years of production.

Pilot Justus, 1979 model – Pilot Blue

Bruno Taut
Nakano, August 28th, 2015
etiquetas: Pilot, plumín

14 August 2015


There is a relatively new guy –albeit old as well— in town. Zôhiko is indeed a old company as it was founded in 1661 in Kyoto. Its original business was ivory –the in the name actually means elephant—, but with the second generation of owners the market expanded to include maki-e and related techniques and the ivory section ended up disappearing.

But only recently Zôhiko included fountain pens in its catalog of luxury goods. This happened in 2008 by means of an association with the French craftsman Michel Audiard.

More recently, around 2012, a new series of fountain pens were produced. These pens were the initiative of fountain pen entrepreneur Mr. Katayama and Zôhiko, and involved a group of unique Japanese craftsmen.

Raden, on the front, and maki-e.

Body and feed were made by Mr. Momose Yasuaki—an old, now retired, lathe master well known and respected in the Japanese scene. He was also in charge of the filling system, Japanese eyedropper (i. e. with shut-off valve), which is one of his fields of mastery.

Nibs, made of 18 K gold, carry the monogram KMK (with the first K inverted), meaning Katayama-Makino-Kubo. This is a brand name registered by Mr. Katayama. However, these Zôhiko nibs were manufactured by jeweler Mr. Tsukii Masao.

The 18 K gold nib made by Mr Tsukii Masao. Note the monogram KMK engraved on the nib.

The feed is also imprinted with the initials KMK, the registered brand by Mr Katayama.

The final assembly of the pen was made by nibmeister Kubo Kohei, well know to the readers of these Chronicles.

The maki-e decoration, finally, was commissioned to Mr Yamamoto Munori, a Zôhiko regular “in-house” craftsman.

The results of the good work of Mr. Yamamoto Munori.

The final result is an outstanding collection of maki-e decorated pens. But they do not come cheap or in large numbers. Of the raden-decorated unit, only three were made at a cost of JPY 1.200.000. Of the rest, between 4 and 6 units of each were produced. Their price is JPY 600.000, save for the unit with spiral motifs, whose price is JPY 800.000.

JPY 800.000.

Some of the pieces carry a signature, but it simply says Zôhiko.

Now, are they good pens? How do they write? The fact that a jeweler and not a nibmeister crafted the nibs is an unsettling and worrisome detail… But maybe the question is a different one: would anyone ink any of them?

Pilot Custom 823 – Montblanc White Forest

Bruno Taut
Nakano, August 13-14th, 2015
etiquetas: Zôhiko, nibmeister Kubo Kohei, Momose Yasuaki, maki-e, raden

08 August 2015

Chilton Violet

After having seen a great number of filling systems on Japanese pens, both imported from the West (::1::, ::2::, etc.), and originated (::1::, ::2::, ::3::, to name just a few) in Japan, it will be no surprise to find yet another one.

This time, the pen –by the name of Violet— implements the pneumatic filling system initially created by the Chilton Pen Company in 1925. This Japanese pen, however, was manufactured in the early 1950s.

On the barrel, '"VIOLET" / TRADE MARK / Fountain Pen'. And a very Parker clip.

As for the rest, the nib is made of steel and does not carry any reference to the pen brand, which raises the concern of whether this nib was the original unit of this pen. However, that is not the relevant feature of the Violet.

The nib, made of steel, carries the following inscription: "WARRANTED / EASY / BEST / PEN / 1". This unit could be a replacement.

These are its dimensions:

Length closed: 121 mm
Length open: 105 mm
Length posted: 142 mm
Diameter: 11 mm
Weight (dry): 11.5 g

The barrel extended, the pen ready to be filled.

The hole at the barrel end typical of pneumatic fillers.

This pseudo-Chilton Violet is a rare pen even in Japan, but it illustrates the great variety of filling systems explored by Japanese makers long its more than 100 years of history.

My thanks to Mr. Sunami.

Pilot Bamboo – Nagasawa Bokkô

Bruno Taut
Nakano, August 8th, 2015
etiquetas: Chilton, Violet, soluciones técnicas