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 of then 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We want exotic and outdated materials for the pen body.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:


I. BEFORE THE PEN SHOW.

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.

II. TIMING.

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.

III. BUYING.

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.

Enjoy!


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

23 July 2018

A Correction

Yes, a correction to a previous mistake.

On a recent Chronicle I mentioned that a pen decorated by Mr. Iwase had its body made by lathe master Yasuaki Momose. Well that is not correct.

As I have mentioned previously, Mr. Iwase perform his trade on two types of pens. On one hand he uses Western pens, mostly Pelikan and Montblanc, as canvases for his decorative overlays.


A Montblanc 149 and a Pelikan M1000 decorated by Mr. Iwase".

The other activity is more complex: Mr. Iwase gets old –and unfinished— pen bodies, finds the right nib and feed for them, and decorates it with raden (shells) and urushi. And most of those old pens had been made by Mr. Momose, the old master now retired.


The body of this pen is the work of Mr. Yasuaki Momose.

But not all of them. The case of the pen described on May 22nd 2018, the pen body belonged to an old batch of unfinished Yotsubishi pens, made by the company Ishi Shoten.


Let the mistake be corrected.


Kubo-Yotsubishi-Iwase – Platinum Black

Bruno Taut
Nakano, July 22nd 2018
etiquetas: Iwase, Yotsubishi, metabitácora, Momose Yasuaki, maki-e

14 July 2018

Nib Sizes, Feed Diameters

Few elements in a pen are really standardized. Each maker created –still creates– many of the components and they only had to match the other parts of the pen without any regard to other manufacturers.

The closes one could get to normalization was in the area of nibs, where at some point there was a consensus about their sizes. In that environment, sizes 6 and 8 were quite big; sizes 10 and 12 were huge, rare, expensive and highly desirable.

And half the world away, Japanese pen makers had their own life to live. Sure Pilot numbered their nibs in a similar fashion --from 0 to 8--, but the consistency in the size was far from exemplary. Sailor, on its side, used some crazy numbers—sizes 30, 80, and 200 for some of the nibs that, in actuality, were rather small.


An old Sailor nib labeled as size 30.

Nowadays, Japanese makers are very consistent in the sizing of their nibs, but the naming is very arbitrary.

Pilot, on its more common line of nibs, calls them as 3, 5, 10, 15, 20, 30, 50. These numbers, however, do not mean much.

Platinum has three basic nibs—the 3776 with two and three tines, and the President. There is no indication of size.

Sailor, finally, has three basic sizes called medium, big and superbig.

And in the West, German nibs –third party nibs—tend to follow a more systematic approach. Bock nibs, albeit having their own number, follow a relevant pattern—the diameter of the feed. And the same happens with JoWo nibs: the feed diameter sets the nib size.

So, the question is how all these nibs –Japanese and German—compare. The following tables show the diameters of the feed of some manufacturers:

Pilot-Namiki

Nib

description

Feed

diameter

(mm)

5 6.0
10 6.2
15 6.4
20 6.5
50 9.0


Pilot and Namiki nibs. From left to right, sizes 5, 10, 15, 20, and 50. Sizes 20 and 50 are implemented currently only on Namiki pens. However, the examples here shown are still Pilot (::1::, ::2::). Missing on the table and on the picture are sizes 3 and 30.

Platinum-Nakaya

Nib

description

Feed

diameter

(mm)

3776 old model

music 2-tined nib

6.0
3776 new model 6.5


Two 3776 nibs. These are the nibs implemented on Nakaya pens, the "alter ego" of Platinum. On the left, the feed and the nib of the old version of the regular nibs. This feed is still used on the music nibs of Platinum and Nakaya. On the right, the modern nib and feed of the 3776 series of pens and of Nakaya pens save for the cases of music nibs. Missing on the table and on the picture, the President nib.

Sailor

Nib

description

Feed

diameter

(mm)

Medium 5.8
Big 6.4


Sailor nibs and feeds of sizes medium (left) and big. Missing on the picture and on the table, the "super big" size of the "King of Pen" models.

Bock

Nib

description

Feed

diameter

(mm)

060, 076, 180 5.0
220, 250 6.0
380 8.0

JoWo

Nib

description

Feed

diameter

(mm)

#5 5.0
#6 6.0
#8 8.0


From left to right: Bock model 250 (6.0 mm in diameter), Bock model 380 (8.0 mm), and JoWo nib of size #6. All the feeds on the picture are made of ebonite.

The following pictures show how some of those nibs compare across brands.


Japanese nibs with similar external sizes. From the top left, clockwise: Sailor nib size big, Platinum 3776 Century (current model), Platinum 3776 (previous model), Pilot size 10.


Assorted pens whose nibs are about the size of a size 6 nib. From bottom left, clockwise: Pelikan M800, Clavijo with a JoWo #6, Senator pen with a Bock 250 (6.0 in diameter), Eboya with a Bock 250, Romillo with a Bock 250, Pilot with a size 20 nib, Pilot with a size 15 nib, and a Montblanc 146.


Assorted pens with nibs of about a size 8. From the bottom, clockwise: Romillo with a Bock 380, Eboya with a Bock 380, Montblanc 149, Pelikan M1000, and Sailor King of Pen.

The conclusion is interesting: Japanese follow their own systems and the actual sizes are very different to those of the German manufacturers.


Montblanc 149 – Platinum Black

Bruno Taut
Nakano, July 13th 2018
etiquetas: plumín, Japón, Alemania, Pilot, Platinum, Sailor, Bock, JoWo

07 July 2018

A Collection?

At first, most of us stylophiles, follow the same pattern. At some point we became attracted to fountain pens and started buying and accumulating as many pens as we possibly could.

And then came the typical question seasoned collectors ask:

‘What do you collect?’

The new aficionado has only one realistic answer:

‘Everything I can afford.’


An accumulation...

The question, needless to say, calls the newcomer in a number of ways: be selective, be wise with your resources, be patient… All those things so difficult to watch at first. Only time and experience teach wiser strategies in the art of collecting. But there is one detail seasoned collectors rarely say or do not really think about:

It is not just one collection you can pursuit, but several of them.


A collection. Just a possible collection. Or just one of them.

The discipline of collecting is learnt in an almost unconscious way by becoming aware of the limited resources at our disposal. And soon afterwards we also see that several arguments –several collections— is a way to keep the joy of collecting alive. After all, a strict limit on our collection might transform our hobby into a nightmare.


However, money counts, and money sets the true limits, and money is mostly everything. And collecting is a class activity.

But there is a collection to every budget. Or, even, more than one.


Sailor pocket pen, WG nib – Tomiya Tomikei Blue

Bruno Taut
Nakano, July 7th 2018
etiquetas: estilofilia

18 June 2018

Pilot 65

The Pilot 65 –or Custom 65 as some called it—is a model I have mentioned a lot on these pages, but I have never described it in detail. Given its relevance to understand modern Pilot pens it is about time to review it.

The 65 was the first (::1::, ::2::, ::3::) of those anniversary pens that later became a regular model, albeit with some minor differences.


The Pilot 65. Standard Pilot ball clip with "PiLOT" engraved on it.

So, in the year 65 of the Pilot era, 1983, Pilot launched a limited edition of 6500 pens –6460 in black, 20 in red and 20 in blue— in the well-known balance shape that many insist in associating to Montblanc. Pilot’s argument is that it follows the style of some Pilot models produced in the 1920s and 1930s, which is undeniably true.


On the cap band, the number 65 and the unit number. This was a limited edition of 6500 units.

The Pilot 65 is made of plastic with a barleycorn finish, with a wide golden cap band with an intricate decoration. The nib is made of 14 K gold and its size is not marked—this was the first of the future Custom models with a whole new set of nibs. But in actual terms, the 65’s nib corresponded to a current size 10.


The 14 K gold nib. The inscription: "PILOT / 14K-585 / < M > / (JIS):, plus the manufacturing date.

What is more interesting on this pen is the filling system—a captive CON-70 converter. Captive, I say, because it is built in the gripping section of the pen. This is, in fact, the first version of what later would become the CON-70 converter.


The captive CON-70 before this converter existed as such.

These are the dimensions of the Pilot 65 together with those of the Custom 67 and Custom 74, the natural evolutions of this anniversary pen:

Pilot 65 Custom 67 Custom 74
Length closed (mm) 140 142 143
Length open (mm) 126 125 126
Lenth posted (mm) 159 160 159
Diameter (mm) 13.5 14.0 14.6
Weight (g) 17.9 18.3 22.5

The Pilot 65, with its 6500 units, is now a well-sought after collectible pen. And that seems to be the fate of anniversary pens.


My thanks to Mr. NK.


Parker 50 – Sailor Tomikei Blue

Bruno Taut
Nakano, May 15th 2018
labels: Pilot, soluciones técnicas, conversor

11 June 2018

Trends 2018

Following the news and the movements in the market of fountain pens I can identify the following trends:

1. The Chinese invasion.

Chinese pens are no longer low quality pens. The proliferation of Chinese copies of the popular Lamy Safari (::1::, ::2::) some years ago was a very interesting sign—Chinese makers were able to compete in quality and in price with Western –and Japanese—entry-level pens.


Later on, those same Chinese companies have created other interesting models with higher price, thus creating an actual competition to many mid-range models.


Chinese pens are no longer cheap. The well made Hero H718. Photo courtesy of Foro de estilográficas member Antolín.

The expansion and reach of all these Chinese pens is severely limited by the lack of distribution networks, which –worth to notice—would increase the actual cost of tehis pens. But, is it worth for, say, Sailor to produce the Sailor Procolor (a cartridge-converter, steel nib, plastic body, JPY 5000) when Penbbs is selling a decent copy for less than JPY 2000?

Pilot, Lamy, Pelikan, Sailor, Platinum… might need to analyze seriously their new positions the market.


A Penbbs 308 (in red) and a Sailor Procolor. Similar pens with similar construction quality. Photo courtesy of Pedro Haddock, author of the blog El pajarete orquidiado.


2. The luxury end.

Western and Japanese companies preserve their position in the high end of the market. However, these luxury pens rely more on the decoration and exotic materials than on the intrinsic quality of the pen as a pen.

This trend, consequently, opens the market to small manufacturers with limited production. Needless to say, this is not new as we all know operations like Edison, Namisu, Eboya, Conid… My contention, though, is that this trend will continue and we might see new small brands not bound by the necessity to mass produce in order to be profitable.


A luxury pen made by a small company: a Hakase made of buffalo horn. My thanks to Inquisitive Quill.


3. Small selection of nib points.

Nibs are becoming boring and predictable. Pens might look different and exciting, but under the cap we mostly find the same type of nib: rigid and with the very trite trio of F, M, and B points. And any variation on this is bound to result in additional costs.

The exception to this simplification are the big three Japanese makers, who offer a might wider selection (see, for instance, Pilot).


4. The ink inflation.

Ink makers have realized that people buy colors —many colors— instead of volume. On these Chronicles I have seen the cases of Sailor and Platinum, but this situation also affects to Caran d’Ache and Montblanc, at least.

Again, this is good news for small companies because these higher prices allow create some room for higher production costs. Now, is there a limit to this inflation of makers, colors and price?


Sailor's Ink Studio inks: inflation in colors and inflation in price. Is there a limit on this trend?


These are my reflections. And I could be very wrong.


Kubo, Momose and Iwase – Sailor Blue Iron

Bruno Taut
Shinjuku, June 6th, 2018
labels: tinta, mercado

30 May 2018

Carving

The title of this Chronicle could be a trite “yet another filling system”, for we have seen how fertile Japan has been on this field. But few truly innovative systems have survived that one model that oh-so-briefly put the system in the market. After all, cartridges and converters are truly handy and user friendly. Consequently, most of those systems are mere anecdotes. At times, though, anecdotes offer some interesting information.


The Carving pen. On the barrel there is an engraving: "CARVING / MADE IN TOKYO".
Dimensions of the pen: length closed: 138 mm; length open: 124 mm; length posted: 154 mm; diameter: 10 mm; weight: 12.6 g.

Nothing do I know about the brand “Carving”. However, the shape of this particular model, and the geometry of the nib point out at the 1960s as the production time.


A gold plated stainless steel nib. The engraving is simple: "CARVING / JIS ". The geometry is similar to some nibs made by Pilot and Sailor during the 1950s and 1960s.


Inside, something that looks like a cartridge. The inscription reads "カービンオーツマン61 / 吸入もできるスペアー" (Carving ôtsuman 61 / inhalation spare).

Its filling system also suggests an intermediate time between the 1950s and 1980s—it is an interesting middle point between two known systems. The first of them is the pulsated piston Pilot named as A-shiki (system A) in the late 1940s. The second, obviously by now, is the CON-70 converter, also by Pilot, currently on production.

On the first system –A-shiki–, the whole pumping action is driven from the tail, and a sliding sheath in the internal rod acts as stopper preventing the ink from going out on the downward movement of the system.


The system A on a Pilot from late 1940s.

The CON-70 acts in a similar fashion. Now the sealing valve is a rubber part that moves quite freely along the metallic rod in the central axis of the converter. And the basic difference with the system A is the spring that retracts the piston automatically. Well, and the fact that the CON-70, as a converter, can be detached from the pen.


A built-in CON-70 in a Pilot Custom (no additional number) from 1985. This filling system was also implemented on the Pilot Custom 65 (1983).

The “Carving” system implemented on the Carving pen works on the same principles: a pumping system and a closing valve. But now the pumping mechanism is a type of a sac, although on this case it is more of a plastic cartridge with some flexibility. The valve, on its side, moves freely inside the bladder, and seals it –partially— when pressing it. Carving called this “inhalation spare” and it makes some sense as the whole mechanism can be detached from the pen and could easily be replaced. I ignore, however, if the company marketed spare filling systems or had designed (and sold) more traditional –nominally disposable— cartridges.


The de-facto converter. The internal stopper is visible through the cracked plastic. The durability of this device is an obvious concern.

The fact that this “Carving” system was trivially detachable is, in itself, very interesting. First, because it shows that the time of the self-filling systems was ending and yielding its way to the disposable cartridge. Second, and more relevant here, because Pilot implemented the early versions of the later called CON-70 as built-in, non-removable filling systems on a couple of models in the early 1980s. In this regard, the Carving pen was well ahead of its time.

But it is also a small anecdote in the history of Japanese pens.

My thanks to Mr. Sugimoto.


Minka Saturn – Diamine China Blue

Bruno Taut
Nakano, May 2018
labels: Pilot, Carving, soluciones técnicas, conversor