25 August 2020

The Father, the Son, and the Anonymous Ghost

The father was, obviously, Nobuyoshi Nagahara. He created the Naginata Togi nib—a variable nib with longer tines. And he also set the basis for a number of successful experiments.


Nobuyoshi Nagahara, the father. (Chuo, Tokyo; October 2011).


An old Naginata Togi by Nobuyoshi Nagahara.

Nobuyoshi Nagahara retired in 2012, but his legacy was preserved in the hands of the son, Yukio Nagahara, and well inside the walls of Sailor. Therefore, the production of Naginata Togi nibs remained basically untouched.


The son, Yukio Nagahara. (Chuo, Tokyo; March 2013).


Naginata Togi nibs by Yukio Nagahara.

Nevertheless, the distribution of said nibs was interrupted in Winter of 2016. The reason, as explained by Sailor, was to meet the increasing demand and to train new hands to manufacture them. And, in fact, Yukio Nagahara formed a couple (at least) of apprentices during that time.

The general distribution resumed in October of 2018 together with the unpleasant detail of a dramatic price hike. But despite that this new generation of Naginata Togi nibs seems to be a market success.

Then, Yukio Nagahara left Sailor in February of 2020, and the current Naginata nibs simply cannot be made by him but by some anonymous nibmeisters in Kure.


The last generation of Naginata Togi nibs by anonymous ghosts.

Consequently, we have three generations of Naginata nibs. Those made by Nobuyoshi Nagahara, the father, enjoy a recent boom in demand and in price, much to the joy of those willing to part with them.

I wonder, then, whether the son, Yukio Nagahara, might reach a similar status at any moment as he no longer makes those special nibs.

And all we really have in the market are those made by some anonymous ghosts working for Sailor.


Sailor Mini, 18 K – Noodler's Beaver

Bruno Taut
Nakano, August 24th 2020
Etiquetas: Sailor, plumín, nibmeister Nobuyoshi Nagahara, nibmeister Yukio Nagahara

17 August 2020

Platinum 25G

We have seen how Pilot's strategy re anniversary pens has often been an experimental model that later became part of the general catalog. Some significant examples were the Pilot 65, the Pilot 75, and the Pilot Shijin (80th anniversary).

On its side, Platinum seems focused on releasing the model 3776 over and over again, including those made for celebratory occasions. That was the case in 2019 and the pen named “The Prime”. It is a Sterling silver pen under which find a 3776 Century.


Platinum's The Prime. Platinum's 10th anniversary pen.
.
In 2009, Platinum reached its 90th anniversary and released the pen “25G” to celebrate it.


The Platinum 25G.

The 25G was a limited edition of 1000 numbered units. The body is made of aluminum and carbon fiber (manufactured by Toray Industries) and aluminum. The result, according to Platinum, is a light pen at 25 grams. On the unit I am presenting today those theoretical 25 grams become 28.3 g including a dry converter. In the same conditions, the regular 3776 is 22.3 g; the modern 3776 Century, 24.6 g; and the Platinum President, 25.3 g.


The 25G and the 3776 of the time. Paradoxically, the regular 3776 is lighter than the carbon fiber model.

The most unusual feature of the 25G is, however, its shape. I does depart from most pen designs in the market making it quite unique.

The filling system of this pen is through cartridges and converters, as is customary in all modern Platinum pens. The nib is a pre-Century 3776 unit made of 18 K gold. It came with three different nib points—F, M, and B. The nib engraving is special for the occasion—two circles, one of which is a recreation of the old globe logo of the company; and on the other we can read “PLATINUM 90”.


The nib is the same as in the 3776 model of the time, but in 18 K Au.


The insides of the 25G.

The old logo is also imprinted on the cap finial together with the text “The 90th Anniversary”. The barrel end, also metallic, carries the inscription “JAPAN” and the pen number within the limited edition.


The pen ends.


These are the dimensions of the pen:

Length closed: 146 mm
Length open: 125 mm
Length posted: 156 mm
Diameter: 16.2 mm
Weight: 28.3 g (with converter, dry)
Ink deposit: 1.1 ml (cartridge) / 0.6 ml (converter)

The selling price was originally JPY 100,000, plus tax. It seems it was not particularly popular at the time, and remained in the shelves of stationers for quite some time. Lately,a number of unused units have shown up at some second hand shops in Tokyo (at least) for much less than that original price.

All in all, an interesting pen even though it might be little else that an overpriced 3776 in a fancy costume.


Omas 556 – Kobe Ginza Gold Sepia

Bruno Taut
Nakano, August 16th 2020
etiquetas: Platinum

13 August 2020

Sailor Mini

The Japanese idea of pocket pen –also known as long-short in the West- was invented by Sailor in 1963.


Three Sailor Mini manufactured in 1963.

This type of pen, let us remember, is short when closed, but the unusually long cap posts securely and transforms the short pen into a regular-sized unit. What is key on this transformation is that the cap posts very securely onto the barrel to allow for a comfortable use.

The idea of pocket pens became very successful in Japan and most brands in this country created their own models. Sailor, in particular, marketed many different interpretations, combining many different types of nibs.

In the 1980s, this idea slowly vanished from the market. Pilot kept a variation of it until well in to the 2010s –the Pilot Vortex—, and since 2013, the Elite 95S, kept the idea alive.

Sailor, on its side, revived the name Mini.

That started as shortened versions of the ProGear. On the Mini, the barrel end has some threads there the cap screws in for secure posting. Two versions were initially available—the Mini and the Slim Mini. The first is based on the ProGear with Large nib (21 K Au), and the Slim Mini is based on the ProGear Slim with Medium sized nib in 14 K gold. Needless to say, the model names are different in foreign markets, following the very Japanese tradition of adding confusion to their own products.


ProGear Slim Mini.

At least in Japan, these Mini models were always elusive despite being in the catalog. But years later, the Slim Mini has become a common canvas for special editions made for a number of stationers in Japan. Finally, in 2019 a regular edition of Slim Mini was released in Japan.


Sailor ProGear Slim Mini in "Mozart Blue" for a shop in Osaka.


A series of ProGear Slim Mini widely available in Japan... but only in Japan. At least, nominally.

There is an additional Mini model called Profit Slim Mini. This one, however, never made to the Sailor catalog.


The mysterious Profit Slim Mini.

So, the Mini is still alive almost 60 years after its initial release, although in a very different fashion.


Sailor Mini (black, 18K Au nib) – Noodler's Beaver

Bruno Taut
Nakano, August 13th 2018
labels: Sailor, mercado

07 August 2020

Pilot Signing

In a recent Chronicle I published the following picture:


Three Pilot pens, three ways of signing them.

On it we can see three different Pilot pens with some forms of maki-e and raden decoration. And those pens also show the three different ways of stating the authorship of the decoration used by Pilot.

1. The Raden Toki pen (90th anniversary pen), decorated mostly with raden (mother of pearl), is not signed at all save for the obvious Pilot marking on clip and nib.


The Raden Toki of the 90th anniversary of Pilot (2008).

2. The Niô pen (Pilot's 88th anniversary pen) is signed by the “Kokkokai”, the guild of maki-e artisans working for Pilot.



The Niô pen from 2006 is signed collectively by the 国光會, Kokkokai.

The Kokkokai (国光會, the “Group Light of the Nation” in Japanese) was founded in 1931 by Gonroku Matsuda –the father of Pilot's maki-e-- with the support of Pilot's founder Ryosuke Namiki. Since then, about 140 craftsmen have formed part of the group, including about 20 currently active members.

3. Finally, any of those craftsmen could sign a pen individually together with the ideograms of Kokkokai.

That is the case of the Heisei pen of 1989. The author of the maki-e decoration was Yoshida Kyûsai, (久齋, 吉田久夫) as we can see on the pen barrel.



The Heisei pen (1989) is signed by Kyûsai (久齋) and the Kokkokai.

As I already said, the Kokkokai was founded in 1931, but it is not until after the Second World War that the name appeared on pens and other maki-e-decorated objects made by Pilot. Before the War, those same objects were labeled as “Namiki Kan” (並木监, Produced by Namiki) together with the name of the craftsman. As is the case today, there were also cases of collective authorship signed by the whole group (Namiki Kan) without the name of any particular artisan.


This pre-War pen (ca. 1938) is signed by Shisen (紫川; real name, 佐藤 紫川, Ei Sato) and produced by Namiki (Namiki Kan, 並木监). Picture by TM.

This difference is an excellent sign to determine a basic dating element of a Pilot pen: if 並木监 (Namiki Kan), pre-War. If 国光會 (Kokkokai), post-War.


My thanks to TM, whose picture is greatly appreciated.


Platinum Curidas – Private Reserve Dakota Red

Bruno Taut
Nakano, August 5th 2020
etiquetas: Pilot, maki-e

04 August 2020

Safari in Japan

The well-known Lamy Safari is a popular pen in Japan. And that despite the high price this pen commands—JPY 4000, plus tax, at this moment. Yes, you can find it for less at discount shops, but the starting point is about twice the price in Europe.

The popularity in Japan can be seen on the large number of editions made exclusively for this market and for specific shops. The last example of this is the following Vista model (transparent Safari) with the brand name imprinted on the barrel both in alphabet and in the Japanese syllabary katakana (ラミー).


The Lamy Vista Katakana.

This pen is for sale at just one shop in Japan, and its price is higher than usual: JPY 4500, plus tax.

As I said, this is just the last example of a special edition focused on the Japanese market. The following picture shows some of them:


From front to back,

1. 2005. Griso edition made for the magazine Shumi-no Bungubako.

2. 2008. Vista made for Shumi-no Bungubako. 100 units.

3. 2010. White with red clip and red dot. Re-issued in 2013. Edition for Japan.

4. 2011. Black with yellow clip and red tassie. 150 years of friendship between Japan and Germany.

5. 2018. White with red clip and grey cross tasie. Edition for Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan.

6. 2019. White with black clip. For Japan.

7. 2020. Vista with Lamy in katakana on the barrel. Exclusive for a shop in Japan.


For more information on special editions of the Safari in East Asia you can check KMPN's blog. However, it seems that a comprehensive list of editions and variations of the Lamy Safari has not yet been compiled.

And the rehashing continues...


Pilot Capless LS – Pilot Iroshizuku Yama-budo

Bruno Taut
Nakano, August 3rd 2020
etiquetas: Lamy, Japón, mercado, Shumi no Bungubako

31 July 2020

After the Pilot 65

The pen Pilot released on the occasion of its 65th anniversary --the Pilot 65-- has been mentioned on these Chronicles more than once. It is indeed a relevant pen in the recent history of the company because it was a first in several features now quite common on Pilot pens.


The Pilot 65.

As we know, in 1983 Pilot celebrated its 65th anniversary with a balance (torpedo) model reminiscent of the old pre-war pens of the brand. This pen was a limited edition of 6500 units whose price was JPY 38000 at the time.

The plastic body was chased with a barleycorn pattern and included several rings. The one closer to the cap lip is particularly wide and is engraved with some ornaments (called nintômon), the number 65, and the serial number within the limited edition. This type of decoration would appear on the anniversary pen of 1988 (Pilot 70), and on the Custom 72, among others.


The Pilot 65 (top), and the Pilot 70.


The Pilot 65 (left) together with some of its successors: a maki-e version, the Custom 67, the Custom 74, and the Custom 742.

One model particularly inspired on the 65 was simply called “Custom” (FKF-2000R). It is a balance model made of chased plastic (barleycorn pattern) whose parts are interchangeable with those of the 65. Its cap rings are, however, thinner.


The two pens in the middle are a Pilot 65, and a "Custom" from some years later.

The nib of the 65, a 14 K gold unit, started the style we see today on Custom models, with sizes between 3 and 30. On the Pilot 65, the nib is a size 10, but it is not yet labeled as such.


Two size 10 nibs, but only one labeled as such.

The filling system on the pen is an evolution of the system A (A-shiki), of the 1950s that later on would become the converter CON-70. Looking at it in 2020, it looks like a captive CON-70 attached to the section, although in 1983 the CON-70 did not exist. This system holds over 1.2 ml of ink.


The proto CON-70, with an ink capacity of over 1.2 ml.

Therefore this pen, the Pilot 65, is a first in a number of features to be seen on future pens: open nibs, a filling system that would become the converter CON-70, a chased body that would show up on several models to come...


Platinum Curidas – Private Reserve Dakota Red

Bruno Taut
Nakano, July 31st 2020
etiquetas: Pilot

26 July 2020

Pilot Flat-Tops

On a previous Chronicle we saw how the Pilot 70 “Vest Type” pen had its successor on the short lived Custom 72—a flat-top pen with a size 10 nib.


Pilot 70 (on top) and Pilot Custom 72.

But even thought the Custom 72 was short lived, the flat-top style has survived over the years as a canvas for special and commemorative editions and high end series of pens. On the picture we can see three commemorative pens—the Heisei pen of 1989, the Niô (or Nioh) pen of the 88th anniversary of Pilot (2006), and the Toki pen of the 90th anniversary (2008).


From top to bottom, Pilot Heisei (1989), Pilot Niô (2006), and Pilot Toki (2008).

This type of pen seems reserved for urushi and related fomrs of decoration in th catalog of Pilot (Ishime, Hannya Shingyô, Zodiac series), and of Namiki (Chinkin #10 series), plus some oroginal pens in very short editions made for Maruzen in 2017 and 2018. As long as I know, all these pens sport 18 K gold nibs.

In 2009, Pilot created a new line of flat-tops. They were generically named Custom Heritage, with models 91, 912, and 92. Of those, only the Custom Heritage 912 implemented a size 10 nib (14 K). There was a precedent to these pens in the model Pilot had made for Maruzen around 2004—the Athena Basic Line.


From top to bottom on both pictures, Pilot Custom Heritage 912, Athena Basic Line, and Custom Heritage 92.

These flat-top pens have different structure when compared to the Pilot 70 and close relatives. Custom Heritage pens are closer to regular torpedo-shape Custom pen. They are torpedoes with flat ends instead of domes.


Pilot Capless LS – Pilot Iroshizuku Yama-budo

Bruno Taut
Nakano, July 26th, 2020
etiquetas: Pilot

23 July 2020

Thanks

Dear friends,

I have changed on a previous post the name of the virus for the scientific name SARS-CoV-2. These are the reasons behind the change.

It all started at the time of writing a text on pens, as I do not write about politics or religion or sports. Typing the draft on the computer I thought the ending would be better with a third reference to the current situation in a way that matched the title. So I added those two words now corrected.

Everything happened very quickly afterwards. I first received some comments demanding the change in the wording. My family background on journalism interpreted that as a form of censorship I could not tolerate. Then someone said I was a racist. Some screenshots of my comments were posted online inciting to keep on commenting. The messages went from demanding to punitive, and the name calling continued—racist and Asian hater. Really? I chose Tokyo as my home, and have been here for almost half my life!

I stopped replying to the comments and that would have been it. However, the situation became even more difficult. A big number of insulting messages from people I do not know arrived on my inbox as a result of the instigation on some platforms. And the campaign was reaching some friends I admire and love, pushing them to cut all contact with me. My efforts to explain my words and my situation had the opposite effect.

The following days were very hard. Is this what Social Media are about? That is not so different to an Inquisitorial process in the 1400s, with the additional element that everybody on Social Media can participate without any repercussion on themselves. Difficult and sleepless days these are.

I am changing those words for two reasons: For the sake of some people who are receiving an unjustifiable pressure because they have not cut ties with me; and to clarify that I never had any intention of slandering or blaming anybody, or hurting anyone’s feelings.

Finally, I want to express my wish that anybody who might be going through a similar experience on Social Media was as lucky as I am. A group of friends and family members have always been by my side. Their support was key to go through the situation. Thanks.



Bruno Taut
Nakano, July 23 2020
etiquetas: metabitácora

18 July 2020

Pilot Custom 72

In 1988, Pilot became 70 years old and released the corresponding anniversary pen—the Pilot 70, a limited edition of 7000 units (some say 7777 units) described as “Vest Type Fountain Pen". This pen, already reviewed on these pages, was the template of a regular edition pen, the Custom 72, marketed initially in 1990.


From top, the Pilot 70, Custom 72 fountain pen, and Custom 72 mechanical pencil.

The Custom 72 is, therefore, a flat-top pen with identical measured dimensions to the Pilot 70, and with very similar decoration.

.Pilot Custom 72.

Length closed (mm) 141
Length open (mm) 129
Length posted (mm) 164
Diameter (mm) 13.6
Weight, dry (g) 15.9
Ink deposit (*) (ml) 1.0 / 0.9

(*): Capacities of the converter CON-70 and of the regular Pilot cartridge.

On the Custom 72, the plastic body shows a subtle gilloché together with some vertical lines of plain plastic. What separates this model from the limited edition is the presence of two cap bands, one of them much wider than the other, and with a triangular decoration. On the flat ends we can see two golden rings. All those details resemble the limited edition pen of the 65th anniversary.


The cap bands. The gilloché decoration of the body is also visible. Note the engraving of the model "CUSTOM 72" on the cap lip. On the opposite side it reads "JAPAN".

The clip is the well known Pilot ball seen on many other models of the brand.


Inside, the nib is a size 10 decorated as most modern Custom nibs. What is more unusual is the nib point, labeled as HF, hard fine, and there were also HM and HB nib. This particular HF point is more rigid that a regular F nib of size 10.


An HF nib. Hard fine. Hidden are the manufacturing date (1990) and the JIS mark.

As for the rest, the components are what we usually see on modern Pilots—typical plastic feed with an internal core, and the CON-70 converter. Of course, this pen can also use cartridges.

The paradox is that this pen, appealing as it is, is also relatively rare. And there is little information on it—A. Lambrou and M. Sunami, for instance, do not mention it at all on their Fountain Pens of Japan (2012). We know there were matching mechanical pencil and ball pen, and we can venture that this pen is likely to be on production for about two years—until the Custom 74 and related pens were released and took over the niche used by the 72. The price is likely to have been JPY 20000. The mechanical pencil was sold for JPY 10000.


Custom 72 mechanical pencil.

What Pilot did instead was to use this flat-top structure as the base for a number of commemorative pens in limited editions. But that should be the topic of another Chronicle.


Pilot Capless LS – Pilot Iroshizuku Yama-budo

Bruno Taut
Nakano, July 18th, 2020
etiquetas: Pilot