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

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 30000. 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

15 July 2020

Chinese Fillings

A common complaint among stylophiles in the last years was the lack of interesting filling systems among Western (and Japanese) companies. The situation changed a bit in the last years mostly through a handful of new and small producers (Conid, Masahiro, Edison, to name just a few).

Now, paradoxically, it is the Chinese --the People's Republic of China's-- industry the one rocking the boat offering more pens with self-filling systems. It looks like the Chinese industry –or at least part of it-- had really paid attention to the requests and complaints of the Western pen community.

The results vary. Some of those filling systems are copies of other previously developed and some are entirely original. Some work, some don't.

Here I am showing a very limited selection of these (relatively) new pens, but they show five different filling systems.

Five Chinese pens with five different filling systems.

Wing Sung 3013.

The Wing Sung 3013 is clearly inspired in the Twsbi Vac 700. The filling system is a plunger—that system invented by Onoto in the beginning of the 20th century, although nowadays might be better known in the hands of Twsbi (the above-mentioned Vac 700), and Pilot (Custom 823). Its capacity is 2.0 ml when optimized.

The Wing Sung nib can be replaced with a Pilot nib. The writing experience improves.

The nib of the Wing Sung copies the geometry of some inexpensive Pilot pens (Prera, Kakuno, Cocoon, ...), and in fact it can be replaced by a Japanese unit. The detail makes the Wing Sung more attractive.

PenBBS 492. Too often you need some additional tools to make the piston move along the barrel. Not a reliable system.

The PenBBS 492 (2020 edition) uses a magnet (a Neodymium magnet) to move the piston up and down along the barrel. This system is clearly not mature for its commercial use. The magnet will lose strength with time (and heat) to the point of not being able to to drag the piston to fill the pen. Sure enough, the pen can always be filled as eyedropper, but then the whole magnet system becomes irrelevant. The ink capacity of this pen is 2.6 ml.

PenBBS 355. This second version does work, not like the first release, whose rod would have problems disengaging the piston.

The PenBBS 355 is the Chinese version of the Conid Bulkfiller system at a fraction of the price. In essence, this is a piston filler in which the manning bar goes through the seal when not in use. The result is a very large ink capacity –2.7 ml on this case-- due to the very limited volume used by the filling system.

PenBBS 500.

PenBBS 500 or Twsbi meets Conid (thanks, Fudefan!). This pen's filling system seems to be original, although it truly resembles the system used by the maker Astra in the 1940s. It is a piston filler operated by a collapsible bar with the help of an integrated spring. The result, 2.0 ml of ink capacity.

The filling system works, but there are some rough edges. The rod end could offer more grip to be able to release it with just a finger. Now it is too smooth and you might need some rubber band or similar to ink the pen.

PenBBS offers very few variations on its nib points.

The nibs on all these three PenBBS pens are the same save cosmetic changes—made of steel, very rigid, limited inkflow...

Moonman T2. This pen is remarkably similar to the Stipula Tocco Ferro, but with a different filling system. The Moonman uses the so-called “Elastic piston”--a syringe operated with the help of a spring. This system is bulkier of than those previously described, although it reaches the very respectable volume of 1.5 ml.

Moonman T2. More than 50g...

The main inconvenient of this pen is, however, its weight of over 50 g. Its nib and feed, though, are compatible with those by Bock, and that makes this pen more interesting.

From my point of view, the first weak point of these pens is the nibs. On most cases, they are just correct and boring, and the brands do not offer any variation save that of a bent/fude nib (“calligraphic nib” is the name used by Chinese brands). The result is that most pens –particularly if of a single brand-- write almost the same, without any special flavor.

Japanese companies were blamed for making very good nibs in many different points that were implemented in boring pens with very unimaginative filling systems, mostly cartridge/converters. Now, the Chinese industry is doing the opposite—exciting filling systems and terribly boring nibs.

However, some of these filling systems are clearly immature for the market. Either they are insufficiently tested or in need of further developments; and some of the pens are almost prototypes with problems to be solved. But they show an interesting path to explore in the difficult task to keep fountain pens alive in this world of computers, tactile screens, and Chinese virus.

Sailor Mini, 18 K (M) – Noodler's Beaver

Bruno Taut
Nakano, July 13th, 2020
etiquetas: China, mercado, PenBBS, Moonman, Wing Sung

03 July 2020


Once a pen brand has a successful model, changing colors or external materials are easy and inexpensive strategies to update and revamp it. Platinum, for instance, has consistently done that with the 3776 Century model for about ten years. And Pilot has also done that with a number of models.

Among them, the Capless has seen a large number of cosmetic variations, particularly on the regular Capless model marketed initially in 1998. This model has come with rhodium, gold and black trims; with plastic, urushi, metal, wood finishes; in plain color or with some patterns...

Gold trim, black trim, rhodium trim; plastic, urushi; plain colors, lines, raden... but all of them are, in essence, the same pen.

In 2000, Pilot marketed a mini series of Capless with plaid decoration. The basic reference for this series was FC-17SR, which indicates that the price in Japan was JPY 17000 (plus tax, 5% at that time). There were four different colors: grey, blue, green, and red. The available nibs points were F, FM, M, and B. Nibs were made of 18 K gold.

The four plaid Capless (FC-17SR) from 2000.

These pens were in the Pilot catalog for several years, until around 2007, but I cannot pinpoint the exact date of the production end. Any information on the matter will be greatly appreciated.

Platinum Curidas – Private Reserve Dakota Red

Bruno Taut
Nakano, July 3rd, 2020
etiquetas: capless, Pilot