31 October 2021

Anonymous 6-bu

The problem with anonymous pens is that not much you can say about them. You can describe it, guess its age,... and not much more.

An anonymous 6-bu.

So, this is an oversize balance pen made of ebonite and coated with urushi. The nib is made of gold plated steel. It is a generic nib and is not imprinted with any recognizable brand name: “WARRANTED / SPECIAL / IRIDIUM / PEN”. 

The anonymous nib.

The filling system is the Japanese eyedropper.

These are its dimensions:

Length closed: 151 mm
Length open: 135 mm
Length posted: 185 mm
Cap diameter : 21 mm
Barrel diameter: 18 mm
Weight: 40.0 (dry)
Ink deposit: 5.2 ml

The barrel diameter –18 mm-- characterizes this pen as a 6-bu (6-分), where bu is a Japanese traditional unit of length equivalent to 3 mm. (In previous texts I kept saying that this was a 5-bu pen. I have corrected those mistakes. 5-bu pens do exist though, but this is not one of them).

This type of pens –jumbos between 12-bu (36 mm) and 5-bu (15 mm)- are relatively common in Japan, where you can find them in flea markets and antique fairs. Most of the times they are anonymous, as is the case now.

Four balance pens in the same fashion as the anonymous one I am describing today. These, however, are less anonymous --they are Ban-ei-- although you might need to know how to look at them to find out who made them.

A 12-bu pen together with a very normal Pilot Super from late 1950s.

And not much else can I say. Its construction quality and some of its elements –clip, feed-- point at a pen made in the 1950s or early 1960s. Its quality is certainly better than what we can find the myriad of pens made in the early post-war years, which are also common finds in flea markets.

The pen condition, however, was far from perfect—some rust on the nib, some scratches, a faulty back seal... But replacing that seal was enough to discover a very pleasant writer... for a ridiculous price.

The Piiton, unknown model – Unknown blue-black ink

Bruno Taut
Nakano, October 2021
etiquetas: Japón, marca desconocida

14 October 2021


I wrote about the Pilot Short many years ago, at the beginning of these Chronicles, and it might be worth to back to this pen with more information.

Sailor released the Mini model –Sailor's idea of a pocket pen— in 1963, and Platinum followed, or copied, the idea soon afterwards. Pilot, on its side, waited til the end of 1968 to join the ranks, but in the meantime an original approach to a compact and expandable pen was attempted—the Pilot Short.

That was in 1966, and the idea was a telescopic pen—a pen whose body could become longer for the comfort of the user. To accomplish that idea, the lower end of the barrel, made of plastic, slides inside the metallic overlay of the pen. And to complete the trick, the barrel tail has the right diameter for a secure posting of the cap, thus making the pen even longer and easing a comfortable grip.

The telescopic mechanism makes the pen 15 mm longer.

As for the rest, these pens sport semi-hooded nibs made of 14 K gold, although some on variations the gold grade is hidden inside the section. The nib point is not stated on the nib engraving. The filing system is by cartridges (standard “simple spare”) and converters (CON-20, CON-40, CON-50).

Nib and feed. On this example, the gold grade is not shown when the nib is in place in the pen.

The variations of these pens were mostly related to the external appearance: plain or checkered steel, checkered gold plated, and an aluminum alloy named Alumite by Pilot. Most of them are flat-tops –”vest” style in Pilot vocabulary--, but there is a couple of rounded-end models—balance. Prices ranged between JPY 1500 and JPY 4000.

Chronologically, the last model of the Short model was, paradoxically, non extendable. It shared the external dimensions of the balance model (SB-200SS) when closed, but when open nothing would slide in or out of the barrel. This model –SB-100MS— was cheaper: JPY 1000.

SB-200SS (top), and SB-100MS (bottom). The later does not become longer.

The Pilot Short was discontinued in 1968, and soon afterwards the first Pilot pocket hit the market.

It is hard to asses whether the Pilot Short was a success or not. The short time in the market says it was not. However, this pen is easy to find in flea markets and in pen events, which points at it being a popular pen with many units produced and sold.

Anonymous 6-bu jumbo pen – Kobe Ginza Sepia Gold

Bruno Taut
October 13th, 2021
etiquetas: Pilot

06 October 2021

Haikara Ink

Yet a new ink in the market...

The company Teranishi Chemical Industry has released a line of four inks under the name ハイカラ, Haikara in Romaji, which could in turn be either “high color” or “high collar”, a term with some history in Japan.

The advertisement brochure. Four inks: Gentle Green, Melancholic Blue, Modern Red, and Salon de Violet. Note also the ideograms 大正浪漫, Taishô Roman, on top of the katakana ハイカラ.

ハイカラ / Haikara, as derived from “high collar”, is a word coined in Japan in the Meiji era (1868-1912) to describe with scorn the mostly male fashion of dressing with Western clothes. The term, however, became more neutral once Western clothes became less of a novelty, and is used even nowadays to describe something nostalgically trendy. In the packaging of these inks we can also see the inscription 大正浪漫, Taishô Roman (Taishô Romance): a term use nowadays for a romantisized view of the Taishô period (1912-1926).

Anyway, these inks come in 40 ml inkwells at a price of JPY 1500, plus taxes. This means JPY 37.5 / ml, which is more expensive than Pilot's Iroshizuku inks (JPY 30 / ml for the 50 ml inkwells) but a lot less than Sailor's Ink Studio (JPY 60 / ml) and Shikiori (JPY 50 / ml) inks.

Two of the inks: Modern Red and Melancholic Blue.

So, is this just another company trying to cash in on the ink bubble with some more attractive prices?

The low tech and the low cost involved in making inks is indeed an incentive to enter this activity as we have seen in recent years. And the company Teranishi Chemical Industry comes with good credentials.

Teranishi Chemical Industry was founded in 1919 in Osaka. In 1931 it started making fountain pen ink that eventually carried the brand name “Guitar” or “Guitar Mark”. However, the main product of the company is the oil-based marker “Magic Ink”, very popular in Japan, and the fountain pen ink disappeared from the Teranishi catalog at some point after the War.

The Magic Ink marker.

Then, in 2021 Teranishi Chemical Industry has made this new ink named generically ハイカラ or Haikara, which could be “High Color” or “High Collar”, while mentioning the old in-house brand “Guitar” and speaking of "Taishô Roman"...

Can this ink be a success with so many names?

Anonymous 6-bu jumbo pen – Kobe Ginza Gold Sepia

Bruno Taut
September-October 2021
labels: tinta, Japón, mercado, Haikara