31 January 2017

Family Portrait (VIII). Myu-25 at al.

The last family picture was about integrated nibs. Among them, the Pilot Myu 701 holds a special place. It is arguably one of the few Japanese fountain pen icons, and its popularity is boosting up a bubble in the market, although some might say this is just the way supply-and-demand works. As this bubble affects to some other models more or less related to the all steel Myu 701.

Today’s family portrait shows some of these close relatives. The common element to all of these pens is the inlaid steel nib, save for one exception whose similarities with the rest of the set are clear.

Myu-701 (top) and Myu-25 (bottom), side by side.

There are clear differences on the clips of these pens, but those of the Myu-701 (second from the left) and of the Myu-25 (center) are identical.

Most of the pens on the family picture are examples of the model Myu-25 in different colors, and with transparent bodies. These last two seem to be demonstration products and were not for sale.

The family portrait.

From top to bottom, these are the pens, and their manufacturing date:
1.- Unknown model. 18 K Au nib. January 1975.
2.- Myu-25 matte black. January 1975.
3.- Myu-25 green. May 1975.
4.- Myu-25 pink. August 1975.
5.- Myu-25 transparent, black cap. December 1974.
6.- Myu-25 transparent, aluminum cap. April 1975.
7.- Unknown model, shiny black, gold trim. September 1980.
8.- Volex. January 1988.

As can be seen, most of them were made in 1975 and the two remaining pens, with very different clips, are more recent in production: 1980 and 1988.

All the pens on this family picture have fine (F) nibs. Medium (M) nibs also existed.

Paidi Century 5 – Bril Turquoise Blue

Bruno Taut
Nakano, January 30th 2017
etiquetas: Pilot

28 January 2017

From Wajima

This situation I am about to describe is not new and, at the same time, is bound to happen again.

I already mentioned the phenomenonmaki-e decorated pens are different from other types of pens. And those fond of maki-e pens are, as well, different from most other stylophiles. Therefore, when maki-e becomes the name of the game, why not cater that specific market? Why should the production of maki-e pens be limited to the big pen makers? In fact, it is not, and it was not the case in the past.

Maki-e craftsmen have the decorative power, so to speak, and they use almost any object as the canvas for their creations. Then, why not explore these cylindrical tools?

Wajima, in the prefecture of Ishikawa in the coast of the Sea of Japan, is a well established center of maki-e creators. In fact, some Nakaya pens are decorated in that city, and we have already seen a Sailor pen with that origin. The next step, then, was for those craftsmen to get a fuller control of the product.

And that is what the company Wajimaya Zen-ni is doing now. This bicentenary company, founded in 1813, decorates a number of objects with an array of maki-e techniques, and now, they signed a small collection of fountain pens.

A beautiful collection of maki-e decorated goods.

Well, those objects implement nibs.

These are cartridge-converter pens with nib and feed made by German manufacturer JoWo. The heavy body is made of steel by Shimada Seisakusho, according to the information provided by Wajimaya Zen-ni. But this detail might not be that important, after all. The quality of the maki-e is very good, and the prices are accordingly high— JPY 250000, plus tax, the cheaper of them.

The writing part, nib and feed, is made by JoWo. The feed is made of ebonite. The nib is a size 6 made of 14 K gold.

The decoration is certainly of very high quality. And the prices show that.

But, what is the potential customer buying, a maki-e decorated good from Wajima or a German pen?

Is Wajimaya Zen-ni making pens or just dressing them in expensive costumes? It might not matter that much. What matters now, is that another company asks for a spot in the realm of maki-e fountain pens, and it does not really make any fountain pen.

Oaso “Safari” – Pilot Iroshizuku Yama-budo

Bruno Taut
Toshima, January 28th 2017
etiquetas: maki-e, Wajimaya Zen-ni, JoWo, mercado

24 January 2017

Rhodiated in France

The pen on the picture is well known by now. The Pilot Justus 95 was marketed in March of 2013, the year 95 in Pilot’s era. Its main feature is the adjustable nib that Pilot had developed in the 1980s.

The Pilot Justus 95.

But not the Justus 95 you knew.

But this time, the Justus 95 shows an interesting difference—nib and decorative accents are now rhodiated instead of golden in color. This Justus 95 is, in actual terms, a special version commissioned by the French importer of Pilot, and it I not available in Japan… unless ordered from some overseas retailer.

The purity of the gold of the nib has not changed--14 K.

An interesting question is whether this pen would become available outside France. After all, one of the basic policies of the European Union is free movement of goods within the external borders. Therefore, it should be very easy for anyone in Europe to buy this pen directly from a French retailer. And from outside too, albeit some additional taxes might be applied.

But then what is the actual role nowadays of national importers within the European Union?

My thanks to Mr. Sunami.

Platinum 3776 (1978) – Platinum Black

Bruno Taut
Nakano, January 23rd 2017
etiquetas: Pilot, mercado, Francia, Europa

20 January 2017

Matching (XXII). Lily 910

The Pilot Capless is one of the modern icons in the world of fountain pens. We know there is over 50 years of history behind that particular brand, and that there are a number of other pens with a similar structure: Lamy, Stipula, Visconti… Some, of course, are better made than others.

I have already shown a Chinese capless pen of acceptable quality named Dagong 56. It has a number of flaws, but it does its job.

The Lily 910.

The Lily 910 is another such example of Chinese capless. At first sight, this is an attractive pen of very clear lines. The steel body is well polished, the connection between body and gripping section smooth and beautiful, the clip is sturdy and flexible, the release mechanism is smooth and reliable… However, a closer inspection reveals an interesting feature that could compromise the actual functionality of the pen.

The filling system is aerometric.

This capless pen has no shutter whatsoever. There is no internal lid on the nose of the pen. The nib, therefore, is constantly exposed to the external environment; it is never confined inside the pen. Two are the consequences, of this simplification of the design. First, in case of an ink leak on the nib, there is no barrier and the stain on the shirt or on the carrying bag is almost certain.

Steel nib, gold plated.

The second issue is that an uncovered nib will be prone to becoming dry and to having very slow starts after some time unused. But, is this the case?

To my surprise, this nib is very resistant to dryness, and when dry, it does not take much to re-start it. This is in fact a very reliable nib, and a very reliable pen.

These are the dimensions of this pen:

Length closed: 144 mm
Length open: 151 mm
Diameter: 12.0 mm
Weight: 28.5 g
Ink deposit: around 1 ml

The writing quality is more than acceptable. Some might say that the nib is too rough, or that it has a lot of feedback. That is always a personal appreciation, and I find it very usable if not pleasant. That lack of smoothness might be the price to pay for a nib to be very resistant to drying.

Writing sample of the Lily 910. Sailor ink, copy paper.

This Lily 910 is one of the better known Chinese capless pens, but there is very little information about its maker. The absence of documentation about Chinese pens in startling and we are bound to rely on the small bit of anecdotal information that now and then arrived in the Net.

Lily 910 and Pilot Capless C-400SS (1971).

Apparently, this pen was made in the city of Hefei, in the province of Anhui in PR of China. But based on this city there are at least two companies producing stationery products: Heifei Wentai Hexagon Co. Ltd. and Hefei Reiz Stationery Co. Ltd. Nothing have I found, though, on the production period of this pen, although some sources mention year 1992. (My best guess is that it belongs to the 1970s or early 1980s.)

On top, the Pilot Capless from 1971; then, the Lily 910; nib unit of the Pilot; nib unit of the Lily.

The noses of both pens. The Pilot pen implements an internal shutter to keep the nib wet when not in use.

If compared to the gamut of Pilot Capless models. this Lily 910 strongly reminds of the Capless model of 1971 (C-400SS).

The conclusion is that the Lily 910 is an interesting and reliable, despite its obvious flaws. However, it cannot really compete with the current more inexpensive versions of the Pilot Capless. Pilot’s is a lot more refined and their prices are quite similar around JPY 10000. The availability of the Chinese model is, on the other hand, quite erratic.

Lily 910 – Wagner’s 2008 ink (by Sailor)

Bruno Taut
Nakano, January 2017
etiquetas: Lily, capless, Pilot

16 January 2017

"Made Abroad"

The use of several brand names for, in essence, the same product is a common strategy of manufacturers. We have already seen how Platinum used names as Piiton or 555 or President for some products, particularly outside Japan. Nowadays, Nakaya could be seen as the luxury division of Platinum, much as Namiki with respect to Pilot.

Sailor also used this strategy in the past. Roxy and Seaman were two of those brands.

In the 1930s, one of those secondary brands was “Roxy”, and apparently was used for non-Japanese markets. The pen on display today is a remarkable example.

The barrel clearly say where it was not made: "MADE ABROAD".

The brand name is written on the nib and on the barrel, and on both cases it is followed by a curious lemma: “made abroad”. For the rest, this is a simple eyedropper pen, with no shut-off valve. It is built in the fashion of the popular Duofold models so often copied in Japan at the time, but the “Roxy” has the added appeal of being urushi coated.

The inscription reads "14 CRT GOLD / ROXY / BEST QUALITY / MADE / ABROAD". The nib is not dated.

These are its dimensions:
Length closed: 117 mm
Length open: 107 mm
Length posted: 146 mm
Diameter: 11 mm
Weight: 11.0 g (dry)

A ball clip engraved with the brand name: "ROXY".

“Made abroad” instead of “made in Japan”. And this poses an obvious question—abroad, but with respect to where? Where were Japanese companies selling their goods in the pre-war and war years? Was this inscription intended to hide its Japanese origin? Some other pen at the time did not bother hiding that information.

My thanks to Mr. Sugimoto.

Sailor Kan-reki – PGary’s Red Black

Bruno Taut
Nakano, January 16th 2017
etiquetas: Sailor, Roxy, mercado

11 January 2017


NOTE: On January 13th (2017) I have made some minor additions to this text following the indications of some commentators.

Pilot has often used the anniversary pens as a mean to test the market and introduce new models and styles into their pen catalog. On these Chronicles we have already seen some examples. The Custom 65 (1983, 65th anniversary of Pilot) started the path for balance Custom such as 67, 74, etc. The flat top model of 1988, 70th anniversary, gave rise to the short lived Custom 72 and to a number of pens made for somehow special occasions. The urushi coated model of the 75th anniversary (1993) was the forerunner of the vest type (in Pilot jargon) Custom 845.

For its 80th anniversary, Pilot launched several pens. On the most luxurious side there was a trio of flat tops lavishly decorated with maki-e. That was the “Miyabi” set, with a price of JPY 800,000 each pen. More affordable –a lot more— was the set of pens of this Chronicle.

The two Shijin pens.

These pens are a balance model of intermediate size between the Custom series (nib sizes 3, 5, 10, 15) and the Emperor size (nib size 50) jumbo pen. This anniversary pen introduced a new nib that was later labeled as 20. It is about the same size as the 15, but with a different geometry. Its filling system is by cartridges and converters.

The nibs are, in actual terms, of size 20 (Pilot/Namiki system), made of 18 K gold. On the top left corner, the decorated cap band of the black pen.

Inside, a converter (on the pic) or a cartridge. On this case, the converter CON-70 is painted in black. Despite the rumor, it is not lacquered. On the pen body, the collective signature of the group of maki-e artisans of Pilot or kokkokai. Right under it, not visible on the pic, the unit number of this pen is engraved. This is, after all, a limited edition.

Externally, these 80th anniversary pens are coated with urushi and a decorative band on the cap made with the technique of “togidashi maki-e“. This band depicts four mythological animals gods (Shijin, 四神) of the Chinese tradition, also common in Japan.

Two colors were available –red (shu urushi, 朱) and black (ro-iro urushi, 呂色). 1918 numbered units of both combined, black pens numbered first. They are signed collectively by the “kokkokai” (國光會), the guild of maki-e craftsmen of Pilot instead of by any of them in particular. 1918, let us remember, is the year when Pilot started its business.

These two anniversary pens were the prototypes of the Yukari Royale series branded as Namiki. The first Yukari Royale would show up in the market in February of 2003, while the urushi lacquered versions were only available in Sept of 2007. The Yukari Royale, with a size 20 nib, is the other quintessential Namiki pen together with the size 50 jumbo. The other nib sizes used by Namiki, 5 and 10, are also implemented on Pilot models.

The basic Yukari Royale pens are decorated in plain black and red urushi, and in fact Pilot/Namiki does not call them “Yukari Royale” but “Urushi Collection No. 20”. The differences between these are the old Pilot Shijin pens are purely cosmetic: the Namiki carry no decorative band on the cap, the nib simply says Namiki, and the clip is gold plated instead of lacquered.

On top, the old Shijin pen from 1998. On bottom, the currently produced Namiki Urushi No. 20. In essence, these two pens are identical--same brass-made pen with urushi decoration.

The nibs of the pens of the previous picture are engraved differently. After all, one is a Pilot; the other, a Namiki. In both cases, the feeds are made of plastic (like in any other Pilot/Namiki pen currently on production).

These are the dimensions of the Shijin pens:
Length closed: 149 mm
Length open: 134 mm
Length posted: 174 mm
Diameter: 17 mm
Weight: 45 g (black unit, dry, with converter)
Ink deposit: 0.9 ml (cartridge), 1.0 ml (CON-70 converter).

The original price of this limited edition was JPY 80,000 (plus tax, 5% at the time). The current price of the “Namiki Urushi Collection No. 20” is JPY 128,000 (plus 8% of taxes).

The red Shijin pen was on display at the Pilot Museum in Tokyo, the defunct and sadly missed Pen Station. The reference of the Shijin pen is the FF-8MR (plus -BM for the black pen, or -RM for the red), and its price was JPY 80,000. The second reference corresponds to the Miyabi pens, whose price was JPY 800,000.

Pilot 80th anniversary in shu urushiPGary’s Red Black

Bruno Taut
Nakano, January 9th 2017
etiquetas: Pilot, maki-e, urushi

05 January 2017

A Non-Pilot Pilot

This text is the result of a collaborative effort: my friend Antolin2.0 found the pen and started asking questions and finding some answers. My contribution was limited to answering a couple of them and writing this text.

The pen Antolin2.0 found is the following—an inexpensive Pilot Super with an inscription in Bulgarian: балканкар България, Balkancar Bulgaria. The seller, from Leipzig, had said that he had got the pen at an industrial fair in the times of the German Democratic Republic. Balkancar was a public company dedicated to the production of heavy machinery, and it is still active.

The Bulgarian-Japanese-German pen.

On its side, the pen is clearly signed as Pilot. It is in all aspects one of the inexpensive Super models, albeit the nib geometry does not really match that of the early models.

So the first question is served: how could these two worlds –a Socialist company and a Capitalist pen— come together?

Historian Evgeni Kandilarov explains it in his book Bulgaria and Japan: From the Cold War to the Twenty-first Century (Sofia, 2009). In the 1960s, Kandilarov explains, the need to open markets for the fast growing Japanese economy matched the search for new technology of some Socialist countries outside the Socialist bloc. Contacts between Japan and Bulgaria started in 1959 (resumption of diplomatic relations), and by the mid 1960s companies Balkancar and Fujitsu Ltd. signed an agreement according to which the Bulgarian party would produce electronic devices and distribute them in the COMECON market. And that was just the beginning—some joint ventures followed soon afterwards and the economic ties between the two countries became very stable.

Evgeni Kandilarov's book Bulgaria and Japan: From the Cold War to the Twenty-first Century (Sofia, 2009). (http://www.tokyofoundation.org/en/articles/2013/bulgaria-and-japan-from-the-cold-war-to-the-twenty-first-century).

Therefore, the Bulgarian connection of this pen is easy to understand. But the pen, surprisingly, not so much.

New questions arise when the pen is disassembled. The nib is engraved with some elements apparently contradictory. On one hand, it is made in Japan, and the logo of the Japan Industrial Standards really supports this idea. But on the other hand, the manufacturing date includes an F: F467.

Letter F was understood to be associated to nibs made outside Japan, at any of the facilities Pilot had in India, Burma, Brazil… The manufacturing date –April of 1967—is also puzzling for a Super model. The same can be said about the logo, which corresponds to the 1950s and early 1960s.

The nib, at first sight, is a collection of contradictions.

Finally, Pilot pens of that time --1967—were engraved on the barrel with a manufacturing date code. On this pen, however, that inscription only says “PILOT / MADE IN / JAPAN”. And there is no hint of the model number—Super pens, might be worth remember, were numbered between 50 and 500.

So, this pen shows a number of contradicting and anachronistic elements.

Further questioning of the usual suspects revealed a surprising fact—this pen was not made by Pilot.

The story goes that once the early Super model was phased out, in the early 1960s, Pilot passed the machinery to a company named Fuji, also in Hiratsuka, where the main Pilot plant lies. Fuji, in return, manufactured pens only for export. The F in the manufacturing date is presumed to mean Fuji. Consequently, this pen was made in Japan.

So, all in all, what we have here is a Pilot Super pen, made by a company named Fuji in 1967 in Hiratsuka, Japan. The pen was likely to be exported to Bulgaria, and was chosen by the state company Balkancar as promotional advertisement gift.

More pictures are available on the following link to the Spanish forum "Foro de Estilográficas": http://estilograficas.mforos.com/1218373/12842260-una-pilot-super-50-de-la-rda-la-conexion-bulgara/

Lamy Safari – Lamy Blue

Antolin2.0 & Bruno Taut
Madrid & Nakano, Fall of 2016
etiquetas: Pilot, Bulgaria, Japón, Fuji