16 October 2018

Anonymous Music

My latest acquisition is an anonymous pen with a very non-anonymous nib. And this combination make the whole pen all the more intriguing, and, for some, appealing.

The pen, in essence, is a Japanese eyedropper, made of ebonite with a very discreet maki-e decoration –a “kitte” (post stamps) pattern. The clip is of the teardrop shape, just like many Ban-ei pens.

An anonymous pen. Other than the inscriptions on the nib, the only text on it says R14K, and is on the cap ring. The very discreet maki-e --a "kitte" pattern-- is not signed.

And this clip, together with the overall shape of the pen and the shape of the section, and even the geometry of the ebonite feed point out at Ban-ei (Sakai Eisuke) as the master mind behind it. However, this idea is nothing but a guess, although this pen is very likely to have been made in the 1960s at Asakusa area in Tokyo.

A Ban-ei pen (top) and the anonymous pen with an interesting nib. Note the similarities in the shape. The Ban-ei pen is larger in all dimensions.

Feeds and sections of the pens on the previous picture: Ban-ei on top, anonymous on bottom. This geometry of the feed was very common in Japan from the 1960s till well into the 1990s on smaller pen makers.

The comes the nib—a beautiful music nib perfectly identifiable as made by nibmeister Kubo Kohei. In fact, the nib inscription NK stands for Nobel Kubo, where Nobel is one of the brands Mr. Kubo created during his career as nib maker. The nib is likely to be a replaced unit, but it could also show the origin of the pen itself. Then, is this a Nobel pen? Many a Nobel pen were anonymous –no brand name was imprinted on the pen--, but ebonite was not a typical material on that brand as Mr. Kubo doesn’t work with the lathe.

The music nib by Kubo Kohei. It is made of steel and is gold plated. The inscriptions read " STANDARD /NK / (JIS mark) / IRIDIUM / < 3 > / NPK ".

All in all, not much we know for certain about this pen, but the nib, and the unpretentious decoration make it most interesting.

These are the dimensions of the pen:

Length closed: 138 mm
Length open: 119 mm
Length posted: 166 mm
Diameter: 13.7 mm
Weight: 16.7 g (dry)
Ink deposit: 2.3 ml

And the search for information continues…

Twsbi Eco with Kubo music nib – Aurora Black

Bruno Taut
Nakano, October 16th 2018
etiquetas: nibmeister Kubo Kohei, maki-e, Ban-ei, Nobel, marca desconocida, plumín, plumín musical

04 October 2018

The Case of Naginata. I. The Press Release

Sailor has finally spoken out—Naginata Togi nibs and other special nibs will be back in the market on October 5th (2018). But that is the extent of the good news. The rest is not so positive.

An old Cross Music, and an old Naginata Togi.

The price of the Naginata nibs will double—from the former JPY 25000 to JPY 50000. And this price increase propagates through the whole line up of Special nibs:

Naginata Concord: from JPY 30000 to JPY 55000.
Naginata Fude: from JPY 25000 to JPY 55000.
Naginata with emperor: from JPY 35000 to JPY 60000.
Cross nib: from JPY 45000 to JPY 70000.
Cross Music: from JPY 50000 to JPY 75000.

The new design of the Naginata nibs. Photo courtesy of Inktraveler.

The pens implementing these nibs will change their appearance. The nib decoration will be simpler than the old one, as can be seen on the pictures. The pen will carry a wider cap ring with the inscription “SPECIAL NIB”.

New prices, new designs... old nibs. Photo courtesy of Inktraveler.

And, finally, the whole distribution network of this nibs will be dramatically reduced: only 50 dealers worldwide –25 of them in Japan— will handle these pens. And to make matters worse, some rumors say that few of these special nibs will make their way outside of Japan.

Sailor, at this point, has not released any information regarding the plans for the “super big” (“King of Pen”) size Naginata and related nibs.

These special nibs are becoming more special than ever.

Pilot Capless FCN-500R - De Atramentis Jeans Blue

Bruno Taut
Nakano, October 3rd, 2018
etiquetas: Sailor, plumín, mercado

03 October 2018

Tokyo International Pen Show 2018. A Stationery Salon

The first Tokyo International Pen Show (::1::, ::2::) took place this past weekend (September 29th and 30th) in the ward of Taito in Tokyo. And the results were impressive.

The event was celebrated at one of the lounges of the Taito Metropolitan Industrial Center –Taito Kan–: 1400 m2, 60 tables, 50 traders for a total of about 1500 visitors. On the first day –Saturday 29th–, 1100 visitors filled the room, 600 of which arrived within the first hour.

(Photo courtesy of Inktraveler).

The key for this success was, in my opinion, based on two elements: a very eclectic list of traders, and the almost completely absence of vintage pen vendors. The result was a lounge centered on stationeries instead of on pens. In actual terms, there were about half a dozen traders offering used and vintage pens: Pen Land Café (Nagoya), Komehyo (Japan), Mora Stylos (Paris), Erfobay, Hayashi Katsuro,... New pens were displayed by the hand of the creators themselves―Tetzbo, Ohashido, Manu Propria, Eboya, StyloArt Karuizawa, Helico, Taccia, Azonx, Chriselle,... The rest of vendors were focused on dedicated pens (shop-special limited editions), inks, papers and assorted paraphernalia.

These later sectors were responsible for the crowds on the first day. And this public was very young and very female―just the opposite of the usual demographics of pen collectors: male and middle aged.

(Photo courtesy of Inktraveler).

(Photo courtesy of Inktraveler).

In conclusion, the First Tokyo International Pen Show was resounding success, but at the expense of vintage pens and through becoming a stationery fair addressed to the final consumer.

The organizers deserve all the credit of the right decisions to attract 1500 potential buyers. The 2019 edition of the Tokyo International Pen Show will take place on October 5th and 6th of 2019.

Pelikan M800 Kodaishu – Sailor Red Brown

Bruno Taut
Nakano, October 2nd, 2018
etiquetas: Tokyo, evento, papelería

27 September 2018

Nakabayashi Again

The name Nakabayashi is not new on these Chronicles. It is a Japanese company making stationeries and office supplies, and some months ago entered the market of fountain pen inks through a collaboration with Sailor.

Now, Nakabayashi is back on the spotlight with another line of inks—Taccia inks. And these inks deserve some comments.

Taccia inks, by Nakabayashi.

First are the news of Nakabayashi becoming the primary owner of Taccia pens since last April. At that time, Itoya of America handed its share to Nakabayashi.

The second issue if about the actual maker of these new inks. As I said before, the first Nakabayashi inks –those themed after ukiyo-e colors—had been made by Sailor, and being a recent development (June-July of 2018), it was reasonable to assume that the connection between Nakabayashi and Sailor continued.

No news from Sailor on the label.

But that is not the case, and Taccia inks are made by Nakabayashi itself. Then, will there be new batches –new revolutions- in the ukiyo-e line of inks? Who will make them?

13 new colors: kuro, tsuchi, cha, daidai, aka, momo, ebi, murasaki, ao, aoguro, sora, midori, uguisu.

Aoguro. Blue-black.

The Taccia inks are a collection of 13 colors with Japanese names. The inkwells contain 40 ml of ink and cost JPY 1000 (plus taxes). That means JPY 25/ml of ink.

Not an inexpensive ink, but a lot more economical than most Sailor inks, including those made for Nakabayashi.

Is Taccia becoming finally Japanese?

Montblanc 149 – Pelikan Black

Bruno Taut
Nakano, September 27th, 2018
etiquetas: Nakabayashi, Taccia, tinta, Itoya, Sailor, mercado

20 September 2018

1937 Plunger Fillers

Plunger fillers arrived in Japan by the beginning f the 20th century by the hand of Onoto, one of the first brands imported in this country.

The idea of the plunger filler was quickly copied by a number of local companies, as we have already seen on these pages (::1::). Pilot named this filling mechanism as System P (P-shiki), and implemented it in the 1920s.

Two plunger fillers from 1937.

The two pens on display today are a bit more modern. Both are Pilot, implement plunger fillers, and were made in 1937.

The reddish pen is made of ebonite and semitransparent celluloid . The nib is a size 6 made of 14 K gold with no indication of the point. The manufacturing date on the converse side reads 1.37: January of 1937.

Ebonite and celluloid. Size 6 nib.

The second pen is made of black ebonite. Its nib is a size 3, made of 14 K gold, and labeled as “manifold”. The manufacturing date is 4.37: April of 1937. This manifold point is one of the options described on the booklet included in the box. The others described on it are posting, stenographer, coarse, falcon, and oblique.

Classic black torpedo in ebonite.

Size 3 nib, manifold point.

Both pens are very similar in dimensions despite the differences in the nib size. In fact, the size 6 nib is associated to the smaller pen.

Red pen, #6 nib Black pen, #3 nib
Length_closed 133 136
Length_open 117 119
Length_posted 165 168
Diameter 13.6 13.7
Weight (g, dry) 17.9 17.2
Nib size 6 3

Both nibs, side by side. On the left, the size 6 attached to the red pen. The inscription: "WARRANTED / 'PILOT'/ 14 K / MADE IN JAPAN / -< 6 >- / POINTED / HARDEST / IRIDIUM". On the right, the size 3 nib of the black pen: "MANIFOLD / WARRANTED / 'PILOT'/ 14 K / MADE IN JAPAN / -< 3 >- / POINTED / HARDEST / IRIDIUM".

The manufacturing dates as engraved on the nibs: 1.37 and 4.37 (upside down).

On both pens, the tail knobs show the feature Pilot used to identify their plunger fillers―a row of short parallel lines near the base. This detail is, in actual terms, a very safe way to identify this filling system on (early) Pilot pens given the vulnerability of this mechanism. A non-working plunger could be mistaken as a Japanese eyedropper (inki-dome). Both systems are often in need to service, particularly when those pens had been found in the wild (like in a pen show).

The tail knobs of Pilot's plunger fillers carry that line close to the barrel. The inscriptions are the same on both pens: " 'PILOT / THE NAMIKI (N logo) MFG. CO. LTD. / MADE IN JAPAN ".

Finally, it might be worth to remember that from 1938 on, the restrictions on the use of gold in Japan became strict (albeit with some exceptions) . Therefore, these two pens from 1937 with gold nibs are some of the latest such pens from before the War.

Pelikan M800 Kodaishu – Sailor Red Brown

Bruno Taut
Nakano, September 18th, 2018
etiquetas: Pilot

08 September 2018


The newest pen in the Japanese market is the Platinum Procyon, released in July 2018.

Not so long ago I spoke about the latest trends in the pen market. One of them was the Chinese avalanche of interesting pens at very reasonable prices. My contention was then that entry and mid level pen by Western and Japanese makers were at risk should Chinese makers create a reliable distribution network.

The Platinum Procyon could be seen as reaction of the Japanese company to those Chinese moves. It is a well made, no-frills, and sturdy pen.

The Platinum Procyon.

In essence, it is a cartridge-converter pen, with a wingflow nib made of steel with two nib points --F and M. All the threads on the pen are metallic: cap to barrel, and barrel to section. The section is semi-transparent, but no ink is visible through it. The cap implements the “slip and seal” mechanism patented by platinum to keep the ink fresh while the pen is stored without use.

The semi-transparent section and the metallic threads. A well made pen.
On the nib, the inscription is very simple: "(P logo) / F". Or M...

But the selling point of this pen is the ability to ink it –when using a converter— with a much smaller amount of ink than Most other pens. To do so, the Procyon feed has a small hole through which the ink circulates on its way to the converter. This system is not particularly new, but neither it is a common feature.

The wingflow nib, and the feed with a hole for an easier filling.
On the cap lip, two inscriptions. On one side "PROCYON"; on the other, "PLATINUM / MADE IN JAPAN".

These are the dimensions of the Platinum Procyon:

Length closed: 137 mm
Length open: 119 mm
Length posted: 155 mm
Diameter: 13 mm
Weight: 27.9 (inked)
Ink deposit: 1.1 ml (cartridge) / 0.6 ml (converter)

"Slip and seal", easy filling, JPY 5000 (plus tax).

Five different colors; two possible nibs.

All in all, the Procyon is an interesting newcomer to the Japanese pen scene. It might be a reaction of Platinum to the Chinese changes in the pen industry of just another move in the very competitive Japanese market.

Its price in Japan is JPY 5000, plus taxes.

Montblanc 149 – Platinum Black

Bruno Taut
Nakano, September 2018
etiquetas: Platinum, mercado, soluciones técnicas

17 August 2018

Signs of Change? (Ink Market)

On July 25th I wrote about a new line of inks by Sailor commissioned by Nakabayashi, a stationery company. As is often the case with Chronicles on new inks, I expected a big impact resulting in an increase in visits and a number of links point out at these pages.

But that was not the case at all. In fact, the news on these new inks on English-speaking fora barely raised any brow. This is a sharp contrast with the passionate reactions new inks, particularly by Sailor provoked not so long ago.

The "Blue Revolution" did not mobilize the masses.

Are ink aficionados saturated with all these new colors? Or is the market saturated of inks? The ironic detail is that at JPY 54/ml, these Sailor-Nakabayashi inks were not the most expensive Sailor inks in the market

Maybe the reasons are completely different. Maybe the colors of the “Blue Revolution” were not attractive. Maybe 50 ml inkwells were too big… All this is, so far, mere speculation, but I also think that the ink market has grown into a bubble of colors and prices.

And we might be seeing some signs of change.

Pelikan M800 "kodaishu" by Iwase – Sailor Red Brown

Bruno Taut
Nakano, August 17th 2018
etiquetas: Sailor, tinta, mercado, Nakabayashi

09 August 2018

Eclectic or Weak?

I have said this a number of times: fountain pens are obsolete objects, and there is nothing necessary in them. Then, on top of wanting fountain pens, we want them to be in certain way, even though some of those ways might be plain silly.

We want gold nibs. Sure steel nibs can be excellent and more often than not, a blind test would confuse most of us. But gold is gold; and, for some, the more the better.

We want feeders made of ebonite. Japanese makers have proved that plastic feeders work well when properly designed, but the more expensive ebonite is what rocks the boat of stylophiles.

We want self-filling mechanisms. Or, in other words, stylophiles want their fingers stained with ink. Cartridges and converters are too clean, too efficient, too functional. And if not a self-filling mechanism, an eyedropper pen would do it.

We want exotic and outdated materials for the pen body. Many despise current plastics and long for ancient and unstable celluloid like if current acrylic were not colorful enough. Ebonite is also a beloved material despite its propensity to discolor.

Those are, dare I say, the features many –or most— pen aficionados look for on modern pens. And they connect the collector of modern pens with those more fond of vintage fountain pens. In essence, this is the niche market for modern brands like Danitrio, Kanesaki-time Eboya, Gama, Masahiro, Romillo

An old pen by Eboya--ebonite body, ebonite feeder, button filler, gold nib. It belongs to the time when Kanesaki Noritoshi was in charge of the pen production.

And it goes without saying that most contemporary pens don’t fulfill those characteristics. The typical modern pen is made of plastic, implements plastic feeders and uses cartridges and converters. But that is not an obstacle for some of them to become iconic: Pilot Capless, Japanese pocket pens including the Pilot Myu, Lamy Safari

An iconic pen despite its steel nib, its plastic feeder, its filling system, and its material.

So, what do we want? Probably we want old fashioned pens, but we are also happy with almost any pen. Then, the competition in the market selects who wins. And given the available offer, we stylophiles are still too weak in front of the mass of occasional buyers. That or we are too eclectic and in one way or another any pen makes us happy.

Muji Aluminum – Diamine China Blue

Bruno Taut
Nakano, July 21st 2018
etiquetas: mercado, estilofilia

02 August 2018

At a Pen Show

Pen shows are always exciting events for the aficionado. They are also overwhelming and intimidating, but that is part of the appeal, for in a pen show, more is always more--and better.

Then, immersed in that abundance of pens –and with limited resources in the pocket—the aficionado faces a fundamental question:

‘How do I proceed?’

How do I proceed? (Madrid Pen Show 2012).

Some years ago I wrote a short list of tips on how to face a pen show. Then, members of the Spanish pen community through the forum “Foro de Estilográficas” (excuse the overwhelming adds, but it is hosted on a free server) added their insights and comments. This is what came out:


1. Keep focus on what you want. This might be a model, a brand, a category of some sort, etc. Your eyes and your brain will quickly filter the signal from the noise.
However, do not close your eyes totally to those pens not fitting your primary interest. A pen show is an exceptional opportunity to see and to touch extraordinary pens.

2. Do your homework—learn as much as possible about the pens you are specifically interested, check prices,… All that will help you to analyze the pens and to negotiate their prices.

Madrid Pen Show 2015.


3. Try to get a general view of the event before pulling the trigger. A pen show takes time and you cannot rush it. Gauge the right time to buy. On one hand, there are pens that will disappear quickly from the tables (and this is an additional reason why point 1 is important). On the other, at the last minute, vendors are keener on offering discounts.
You must understand and accept that you will not see all the pens on display. That is why point 1 is so important—at least you will see most of the pens you were interested on.

Tokyo Pen Trade 2017.


4. Ask, touch, try… and ask again. Ask for help if you needed it. Don’t be shy and learn from vendors and fellow visitors.

5. Inspect the pen carefully. Cracked nibs and barrels, fading colors, erosions… All that will serve you to negotiate the price and to avoid later disappointments. A magnifier comes in handy.

6. Negotiate and bargain... politely. Think of buying more than one pen for a lower price. Some vendors might accept a pen you want to sell as part of the payment.
If buying, get the data of the vendor for possible follow ups on the purchase. Not all vendors have the same policy.

Madrid Pen Show 2017.

May no one be afraid of a pen show. Everybody, even the more seasoned collector, is overwhelmed.


Montblanc 149 – Platinum Black

Bruno Taut
Nakano, August 2nd 2018
etiquetas: evento

31 July 2018

Tokyo International Pen Show 2018

Despite the active pen community existing in Tokyo, this big city lacks an international pen event. Sure there are small fairs (::1::, ::2::, plus the pen fair in Maruzen-Nihonbashi) in Spring attended by some foreign aficionados, but those fairs are basically Japanese in their scope.

Some initiatives were tried in the past with irregular success. The Sapporo Pen Show in 2013 was a one-time thing. Kobe’s Pen Show is now a regular event in November. And Tokyo never got that lucky despite several attempts.

But now, the Tokyo International Pen Show —TIPS— seems to gain the necessary momentum. Pen maker Eboya and stationer BunguBox are the organizers.

The event will be celebrated on September 29th (from 13:00 to 17:00) and 30th (from 10:00 to 16:00) at the Taito Municipal Industry and Trade Center –Taito Hall— on the seventh floor. The entry fee will be JPY 500 per day.

There exist, right now, a list of traders/exhibitors. Most of them are Japanese, and the international representation lies on just five brave traders from Singapore, Taiwan, Switzerland, and France (2).

May the TIPS be successful, for Tokyo deserves a truly international pen show.

Platinum Preppy – Platinum Blue Black

Bruno Taut
Nakano, July 31st 2018
etiquetas: Tokyo, Japón. mercado, evento

25 July 2018

More Sailor Inks: Nakabayashi

The ink business seems very attractive… even to companies with no interests in the fountain pen world.

Such is the case of Nakabayashi, a Japanese company producing stationeries and office supplies. And the closest to a fountain pen it has is a set of notebooks with a decent paper—and no pen, although there is a link to Taccia pens on its website in Japanese. But ink business might be too good to ignore and Nakabayashi searched the company of Sailor to produce its own line.

The five brand-new inks by Sailor... or by Nakabayashi.

So far, these Nakabayashi-Sailor inks follow a very Japanese argument—colors from ukiyo-e engravings by Hokusai and Hiroshige. The first batch of colors is named “Blue Revolution” and suggest that there might be more revolutions in the future. Well, more colors.

The first revolution was blue. Can we be sure thse colors could not be found in the market before?

The “Blue Revolution” is formed by five colors named as “konjô”, “konpeki”, “ai-iro”, “tetsukon” and “koiai”. They come in 50 ml bottles and the boxes are decorated with reproductions of popular engravings by the above-mention artists.

The ink bottle resembles the new presentation of regular (black, blue and blue-black) Sailor inks, but the aspect ratio is different. Photo courtesy of TinJapan.

The price in JPY 2700 plus tax. This means JPY 54/ml, which is in between the Shikiori line of inks at JPY 50/ml and the Ink Studio series at JPY 60/ml.

Many actors involved in the this operation: Nakabayashi, Sailor, a "stationery sommelier" by the name of Hiroshi Isuzu, and a color supervisor named Hide Matsumoto.

Am interesting feature of these Nakabayashi inks is that they are not associated to a particular shop –with a limited distribution—but to a whole company whose distribution network spans over the whole country and beyond. We might need to wait, though, to see where these inks might become available.

In any event, these moves are showing that the ink market is still attractive. Will it ever become saturated? Only at that time prices will go down.

My thanks to FPN member and friend TinJapan.

Platinum Preppy – Platinum Blue-black

Bruno Taut
Nakano, July 24th 2018
etiquetas: tinta, Sailor, Nakabayashi, mercado