31 December 2020

Spurious Arguments

The last significant iteration of the Platinum 3776 came out in 2011 with the model 3776 Century. This version came with a shorter nib (save in the case of music nibs) and with the slip-and-seal mechanism to prevent the nib from drying up when not in use.

This model has since then been a useful canvas for the all-too-common creation of limited and special editions—the Fuji Lakes, the Nice pens, the Star Wars, the Fuji Seasonal Views...

Variations on a theme.

In 2012, Platinum marketed the pen called Jin-Shin, a limited edition of 300 units,150 for Japan, 150 for the rest of the World; both numbered over 150. As a pen, it is a variation of the 3776 Century, albeit without the slip-and-seal mechanism.

The Jin-Shin of 2012.

The main point of this pen is its maki-e decoration. Its technique is called “sumikoage taka maki-e” and it uses charcoal powder ("sumi") to form a raised surface. This technique has later been used by Platinum in a couple of pens of the Izumo series. The motif depicted on the Jin-Shin is a dragon—“Black Dragon in the Dark”.

Sexy underwear.

To justify this special edition, Platinum tries to make an argument invoking the Chinese astrology and the symbolism associated to the number 29... All in all, poorly explained mumbo jumbo, but repeated almost verbatim by retailers all around the World. However, it does not matter much—any argument is good to create yet another limited edition.

And this pen is beautiful.

Ohashido plain ebonite - Kobe Ginza, Sepia Gold (Sailor)

Bruno Taut
December 31st 2020
etiquetas: Platinum, maki-e

23 December 2020

More Custom 74

In essence, the Pilot Custom 74 is a torpedo-shaped pen, with golden accents, and a 14 karat gold nib. Its current price is JPY 12000 (JPY 14000 for two of its nibs), and that makes it to become the basic gold-nib pen of the brand.

But here were some variations on that model. As I described some time ago, in 1993 Pilot issued a special edition of a flat-top Custom 74 for the share holders of Pilot Corporation. That edition implemented a coarse (a BB or BBB) point in the usual size 5 nib.

At the time of publishing that text some commentators mentioned that there had been some other editions of flat-top Custom 74 with other nibs, but not many details were finally offered.

The pen I am showing today belongs to one such edition. In this occasion, the pen sports a three-tined music nib (size 5). Its manufacturing date is December of 1992. The pen came also with a label stating the nib point and the price—JPY 15000.

A flat-top Custom 74 with a music nib.

These data make the pen all the more interesting. First, the manufacturing date is very close to that of the share-holder edition (February of 1993), Therefore, both pens were manufactured with different purposes in similar dates.

Two flat tops; one for sale, another for share holders.

Two Custom 74 with music nibs, both available at the shops at some point.

Second, the label shows that this pen was for sale. Its price –JPY 15000- was higher than that of the torpedo version with music nib--JPY 12000 at the time.

So, all these pens raise more questions than they answer. Was this flat-top with music nib part of a limited edition? Was it ever included in the regular catalog? What other nib points were available?

And the search continues.

Parker 61 — Unknown blue-black

Bruno Taut
December 22th 2020
etiquetas: Pilot, plumín, plumín musical

19 November 2020

TIPS 2020

The third edition of the Tokyo International Pen Show –TIPS 2020— was celebrated on the weekend of November 6th to 8th. This alone, in these times of virus and infections, is just remarkable. Now, how was it?

Basic prophylaxis set the limits and conditions of such a potential massive event –remember that in 2019 there were about 2000 visitors. This year's event was organized in two-hour slots –seven of them— with 100 people in each of them. And that set a limit of 700 attendees. In contrast, the number of tables was barely smaller: 60 vs. 70 in 2019.

So, there were the boundary conditions on which those 700 visitors went in search of pens... or other objects. What we found was not any different to what we had seen in 2019—a stationery salon.

By that I mean a space where shops and makers show and present their new products as opposed to a place where collectors search for that rarity, and where there is some actual trading. So, the bulk of the pen show was dedicated to new products—pens, inks, paper, accessories; and only a handful of tables displayed vintage and second hand pens. Of them, only one –shared by two well-known traders— had those pens as its basic argument.

New stuff.

Vintage stuff.

One interesting element on this event is that it acts as an exhibit of a number of small pen makers whose products are not distributed through the usual distribution channels and are not present at the traditional stationers in town. Such is the case of Ohashido, StyloArt Karuizawa, Eboya, Takayuki, Matsuda Maki-e, Laurett's, Chriselle, Tetzbo, Hirai Woodturner...

Some of those small makers with very limited distribution.

I have said in the past that the East-Asia concept of a pen show is different from those in the West, but it is a successful idea. And giving the harsh times we are facing, it is excellent news TIPS 2020 came to exist.

Super Gold Line JIS 3232 — Diamine Graphite

Bruno Taut
November 19th 2020
etiquetas: Tokyo, evento

18 November 2020

JIS 3232

After showing a luxurious pocket pen, a Yotsubishi with urushi-e decoration, it might be worth to describe a plain and functional workhorse with the same structure.

This particular pen carries a non descriptive name on the cap —”SUPER GOLD LINE”— which might be the brand name or not. The nib, however, is more informative as it is imprinted with the JIS number 3232. It corresponds to the operation of Haruo Kawakami, which, according to Masa Sunami, made parts to order. Therefore this might very well be a nib unit made for a pen produced and manufactured by some unknown company.

A Super Gold Line, according to the inscription on the cap.

Two details strike out as different on this pen if compared to most pocket pens. The first one is that the barrel and the section do not separate on the central ring —now almost just decorative—, but well down in the section. This geometry, though, is not unique—some pocket pens by Morison share this feature.

Two unusual pocket pens--Morison on top, Super Gold Line on bottom.

The other unusual element is a space in the barrel for a seal stone. Again, this is not unique to this pen. In fact, we had seen this in a Swan pen from the 1910s and in a wartime Asahi Tsubasa.

Under the blind cap of the barrel there should be a stone on which to engrave a seal.

Pen-wise we have a stainless steel nib associated to a cartridge filler. Trial and error attaching cartridges led to the old double-spare cartridge by Pilot. However, it is very possible this pen had some dedicated cartridge that could fit inside the barrel.

These are its dimensions:

Length closed: 119 mm
Length open:97 mm
Length posted: 145 mm
Diameter: 12.0 mm
Weight: 11.6 g

The steel nib with the JIS number 3232 registered by Kawakami Haruo. Under the name it reads "S63".

So all in all here we have a workhorse pen with some unusual features in pocket pens. And this pen also informs us of the ways of Haruo Kawakami in the 1960s or early 1970s.

Opus 88 Koloro — Pilot Iroshizuku Ku-jaku

Bruno Taut
Nakano, November 16th 2020
etiquetas: Kawakami Haruo, Morison

13 November 2020

Pocket Yotsubishi

Yet another pocket pen?

Pocket pens were not necessarily inexpensive pens despite its reduce size. In fact, as we have seen, these pens sported some unusual and exotic nibs, like those made of high purity gold in the early 1970s.

Ishi Shoten (or Ishi & Company, or Ishii Seisakusho, or Ishi Shoten Yotsubishi) was founded in 1925 by Yoshinosuke Ishii. From very early on, this company aimed at the market of maki-e and urushi-e decorated pens. After the War, this company made some of the most delicate decorated pens made in Japan. Ishi Shoten pens are usually labeled with the brand Yotsubishi (Yotubishi in an alternative transliteration).

The Ishi Shoten pen I am showing today is a pocket pen decorated with the urushi-e technique of “kanshitsu-ishime”. This is no ordinary pocket pen. As is often the case on maki-e and urushi-e pens, the decoration becomes its primary argument.

As a pen, this is a typical pocket pen. However, the decoration –the think layer of urushi— keeps it from posting fully; that is, with the cap reaching the central ring (this problem is not shown on the pictures).

A Yotsubishi pocket pen.

The dimensions are as follows:
Length closed: 119 mm
Length open: 101 mm
Length posted: 148 mm
Diameter: 13 mm
Weight: 12.3 g

The pen, in the basic disassembled state. An unusual feature of this pen is that the bottom end of the section, together with the nib and the feed, can be unscrewed from the rest. This can be useful for a thorough cleaning of the pen.

This pen uses Platinum cartridges.

The nib is made of 18 K gold and it is engraved with the four-diamond logo of Yotsubishi. This style of nib was present in other pens of the brand in the early 1960s. However, the first pocket pens, made by Sailor, were marketed in 1963.

The engraving on the nib simply says "18 K" together with the company logo on both sides.

Yotsubishi pens are hard to find and and very valued by the connoisseur. And expensive.

My thanks to Mr. Furuya.

Pilot Grandee, Sterling silver – Pilot Light Green cartridge

Bruno Taut
Nakano, November 12th 2020
etiquetas: Yotsubishi, urushi-e

28 October 2020

Le charme discret

What's the difference between the following pens?

A Platinum Izumo (top) and a President.

In essence, they are the same pen—a Platinum President with the very characteristic 18 K gold nib. The difference, beyond the factor 3 in price, is the outer layer, the decoration—plastic versus ebonite and urushi.

It is the same case of these other pens—a Platinum 3776 and a Nakaya.

A Nakaya Portable (top) and a Platinum (pre-Century) 3776.

Again, these pens share the essential parts of a pen—nib, feed, filling system. Their prices, however, are a factor 5 apart due solely to the decoration. And to marketing, of course.

Is urushi and its labor that expensive? In any event, we live in a free market and the price is marked by the seller and decided by the buyer. At least on commodities like pens.

Still life with natsume (棗).

And urushi has a subtle but undeniable charm. Paraphrasing maestro Buñuel, le charme discret de l'urushi.

Parker 61 Flighter – Unknown blue-black.

Bruno Taut
Nakano, October 28th, 2020
etiquetas: Platinum, mercado

30 September 2020

From Kamakura to Choshitsu

The fountain pen jargon is not always accurate. At times, words acquire a new meaning to fit an old concept—that was the case of kimono as a pen wrap that I explained on these pages months ago. On other occasions, a new concept requires a new description, but the chosen words are not always adequate.

The case of Kamakura bori is, however, different.

As a maki-e/urushi-e technique, the Kamakura bori is performed by carving the substrate –usually wood— which is then lacquered and polished. Kamakura bori, in actual terms, means “Kamakura carving”, and this technique dates back to the 13th century.

Two pens with carved urushi on a tray carved in the Kamakura style.

The pens are a Ban-ei (top), and possibly an Ishi Shoten (Yotsubishi), although not signed.
Both nibs are by Kabutogi Ginjiro.

On the contrary, on the so-called Kamakura bori pens, the procedure consists first in applying several layers of urushi in different colors that are afterwads carved to expose that stack of colors.

In actual terms, this technique is a form of choshitsu or “engraving of urushi”. However, what we tend to call choshitsu usually display figurative motifs instead of the regular patterns we see on those non-Kamakura-bori pens. These complex choshitsu pens are rare and expensive.

A very traditional choshitsu pen with floral motifs.
Photo by Mr. N. Syrigonakis.

I, for one, think we should rename those non-Kamakura-bori pens as choshitsu pens.

My thanks to Mr. N. Syrigonakis.

Omas 556 – Kobe Ginza Gold Sepia

Bruno Taut
Nakano, September 30th, 2020
etiquetas: Ban-ei, urushi-e, nibmeister Kabutogi Ginjiro, Yotsubishi

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. It 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 than 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