28 December 2022

Moonman vs. Pilot

Over a year ago, Chinese pen maker Moonman released the model A1, also marketed as Majohn A1. In actual terms, this is a capless pen remarkably similar –being polite-- to the Pilot Capless. So, how do they compare? Or, more precisely, how does the A1 compare to the older original by Pilot?

Size-wise, their dimensions are very close. The Chinese capless is slightly longer and thinner, and is a couple of grams heavier.

Pilot vs. Moonman. A1 vs. Capless.

Externally, the main difference between them is the central ring—almost flat on the Moonman, two toroidal bands on the Pilot. In fact, this flat central ring in the Chinese pen explains its thinner girth.

These are the dimensions of these pens:

.Moonman A1.

.Pilot Capless.
Length closed (mm) 142 141
Length open (mm) 139 137
Max diameter (mm) 12.9 13.2
Weight, dry (g) 33.7 30.0
Ink deposit (ml) 0.9 (cart)
0.4 (conv)
0.9 (cart)
0.5 (CON-40)

The flat central ring in the Moonman A1.

Regarding the nibs, the Moonman comes only with a silver-color, stainless steel unit in EF. The Pilot, let us remember, can implement both steel and 18 K gold nibs with up to six different points –from EF to B, plus a stub— and three different finishes —golden, silver, and black— depending on the specific model. However, the most interesting feature is that Moonman made its nib units entirely compatible with those by Pilot: cartridges and converters are interchangeable between brands, and Moonman nibs can be used in Pilot pens, and the other way around.

The Moonman nib.

And all that at a fraction of the cost of the Pilot Capless. About EUR 30 for the Moonman, and between EUR 80 and EUR 140 for the Pilot. (Japan prices. EUR 140 is approximately the price of the matte black model (FC-18SR-BM). There are more expensive variations in the Pilot catalog).

Then, the question is whether the Moonman A1 is a copy of the Pilot Capless. I think it is, and the fact that the brand Moonman was clearly written on the nib and on the body does not really change anything. After all, nothing truly original can we see on this Chinese pen.

Now, is Moonman legitimized to manufacture this pen? Moonman is not the first company doing so. In Japan, about 100 years ago, Nobuo Ito's Swan was copying UK's Swan pens under the protection of Japanese laws and courts. After all, every industrial revolution –save the British- was made copying other's products. And then the idea of fairness depends on the side of the border we stand on.

The problem, then, is a different one. The current technological environment is very different from that at the heyday of fountain pens. In other words, fountain pens are no longer the essential tool they once were, and their market is not so driven by the necessity as by the craving. Not by the regular user but by the aficionado. And the Moonman A1 does not offer anything the Pilot didn't several years before... save an excellent price.

Is that enough? Regardless of the answer, Pilot –and others– should pay close attention to whatever might come out of China.

NOTE (Dec 30th): An anonymous commenter pointed out a detail I had overseen--there is a clipless version of the Moonman A1, and that caters the claims of a number of users of the Pilot model. This shows the attention Moonman --and other Chinese makers-- pay to the Net and what users and aficionados say in there. I reckon this Chinese clipless capless variation does offer something new, as Platinum did with the removable clip on its Curidas, and it can be an argument for some older users of the Pilot to choose it.

Thanks, anonymous commenter.

Moonman A1 - Montblanc Burgundy Red

Bruno Taut
December 28th, 2022
etiquetas: Moonman, Pilot, capless, mercado

16 December 2022

Namiki Size 30

Well, Pilot finally did it―they took the newest fountain pen in their catalog –the Custom Urushi― and upgraded it with a maki-e decoration and the Namiki brand. That is, in essence, the new Aya series of Namiki pens.

It is composed of four different pens –named Gale, Daybreak, Limpid Stream, and Evergreen― decorated with the technique togidashi maki-e. The price, in Japan, is JPY 300,000, plus taxes.

The Namiki Aya.
Picture taken from https://www.pilot-namiki.com/en/collection/aya/.

Size-wise, these pens are placed between the Yukari Royale (size 20 nibs) and the Emperor (size 50). However, this togidashi maki-e decoration is a lot less ellaborated than those sported on the previous models (save for the urushi models 20 and 50), and it is signed collectivelly by the Kokkokai without the name of any particular craftsman.

Will this pen become a regular in the Namiki catalog? Only time and sales will tell. It might be worth to remember that the size 15 nib of Pilot´s is not part of the Namiki catalog; and that despite the existance of the urushi-coated model Custom 845. However, there was a very limited edition of size-15 pens with urushi-based decoration commissioned by Mitsukoshi department stores in 2004-05. They were branded as Pilot―Pilot Shun.

The Pilot Shun.

My thanks to Mr. AMB.

Parker 51, music nib – Waterman´s Serenity Blue

Bruno Taut
December 15th 2022
Etiquetas: Pilot, maki-e, mercado

11 December 2022

From Sakai to Pilot

In the 1980s Pilot renovated the fountain pen lineup. It all started with the Pilot 65 in 1983—the first modern balance Pilot, save the Art Silvern pens of the 1960s.

Pilot 65, and its insides.

Those new balance pens were modeled after some pre-war models, thus predating some alleged master pieces. In fact, Pilot commissioned lathe master Sakai Eisuke (酒井栄助), of Ban-ei fame, to create some prototypes.

Such is the case of the following unit—a balance Pilot made of ebonite, coated with urushi. Its filling system is a Japanese eyedropper. It was made in 1983 according to the date on the nib.

A Pilot pen by Sakai Eisuke.

The engraving on the body follows the pattern seen on pen in the 1938-1944 time window:


Its dimensions are slightly bigger than the later-produced Custom models with size 5 and 10 nibs. One such example of them is the following pen with the maki-e decoration in the form of East Asian phoenix (Hôô, 鳳凰), signed collectively by the Kokkokai, the Pilot guild of maki-e artisans. Its nib is dated October of 1988, and the filling system is a pulsated piston, an early version of what later would become the converter CON-70 (some additional information on my chronicle "Carving").

Pilot Hôô. A maki-e decorated size 10 pen.

.Sakai´s pen.

.Pilot´s Hôô.
Length closed (mm) 146 142
Length open (mm) 124 127
Length posted (mm) 176 165
Max diameter (mm) 15.0 14.0
Weight, dry (g) 18.6 20.3
Ink deposit (ml) 2.5 1.4

This model set the structure of contemporary maki-e decorated pen we still see today—balance models with nibs 5 and 10 (Pilot numbering).

But at the same time, in those late 1980s, Pilot made a number of urushi-e decorated pens. Masa Sunami, on his book Fountain Pens of Japan (2012), speaks about them as “museum pieces”. These were very limited runs –between 5 and 20 units— of pens decorated with Tsugaru-nuri decoration in sizes 10 and 50. They are indeed rarities worth of some special attention, and of a Chronicle.

Museum pieces. Picture courtesy of Ottomarkiv.

My thanks to Ottomarkiv and to Masa Sunami.

Moonman A1 – Montblanc Burgundy Red

Bruno Taut
December 8th, 2022
labels: Pilot, Ban-ei, maki-e

02 December 2022

Madrid 2022

After the pen show of hope in 2021, the 2022 edition of the Madrid Pen Show had to be the show to return to some form of normalcy. And it seems this was achieved.

Photo courtesy of Mr. JMBS.

The odds were not in favor, though. New hotel with last minute problems, a sense of uncertainty regarding the coronavirus, some passivity in the local community, conflicts with a couple of dealers...

But 70 dealers and about 1800 visitors –official figures provided by the organization— prove it was a good event.

There was a mild renovation in the list of dealers with respect to pre-pandemic editions. Some retired, some were not willing to travel. But there are others willing to fill in. A minor side effect of this renovation was a higher presence of inks in the Madrid Pen Show.

Photo courtesy of Mr. Conde de Carrión.

Re visitors, the Spanish pen community had shown a remarkable lack of enthusiasm in online fora. Lack of reliable information about the event was at the heart of it, but it was corrected in time and aficionados did attend the event. And not only the domestic community came, but visitors from other European countries and even from the US.

Photos courtesy of Mr. Conde de Carrión.

The Madrid Pen Show is a free-entry show—the costs are covered by the table fees (about EUR 300/table this year). That makes it a very welcoming event for casual observers and for families, and encourages the social aspect of it. After all, a pen show is the perfect excuse to meet like-minded people even if you did not want to buy anything.

Photo courtesy of Mr. Conde de Carrión.

So this was the Madrid Pen Show in 2022, The test posed by the coronavirus pandemic seems passed, and now the challenge is dealing with the economic crisis ahead of us. But that will be in 2023,

Video courtesy of José Riofrío.

My thanks to Mr. JMBS and to Conde de Carrión for the pictures, and to Mr. José Riofrío for the video.

Hongdian N6 – Montblanc Black

Bruno Taut
November 28th, 2022
etiquetas: evento, Madrid

29 November 2022

Spanish Yatate

Yatate pens are that style of pens popular in Japan til around 1920, when they ran out of popular appeal. Nowadays, the Taccia Covenant is the only of the very few pens (vid note at the end) vindicating that particular geometry. So, could we make a new yatate pen taking benefit of the lathe skills of those independent craftsmen whose pens are becoming so popular?

An old yatate pen. Foto courtesy of Mr. Ariel Zúñiga.
A new yatate pen. Taccia Covenant.

The chosen artisan was Miguel Ángel García, of Antigua´s. And the designing team was formed by my fellow stylophile Papish and myself.

Miguel Ángel García at the Madrid Pen Show in 2019. Photo courtesy of Mr. JMBS.

The starting conditions were very simple; the pen had to implement a size 6 nib, and the barrel should fit a standard converter. And then there was a decision to make: should it post or not?

The already reviewed Taccia Covenant could be posted —the cap, in actual terms, screws onto the barrel. The price to pay is aesthetic as we need the barrel to stick out of the cap to open and close the pen.

The Taccia Covenant. Note how the barrel tail sticks out of the cap. This is needed to open and close the pen.
The Taccia Covenant, posted. Secured, but bulky. Does anyone use this pen in this configuration?

The other option is to finish the barrel with a flat end disk aligned with the cap. This was the chosen solution.

As a consequence, the pen is just an ebonite rod when closed. An ebonite blank with a mystery inside.

A rod.

These are the dimensions of the Antigua´s Yatate:

Length closed: 135 mm
Length open: 127 mm
Diameter: 16 mm
Weight: 25,0 g (full pen), 13,5 g (open without cap)
Ink deposit: between 0,7 y 1,45 ml, depending on the cartridge or converter installed.

The pen is made of German ebonite, and the original nib was a steel JoWo unit. This prototype has no markings.

A pen.
The insides.

Whether Antigua´s would upgrade this prototype to a regular model in its lineup depends solely on Miguel Ángel, the artisan behind those pens. But so far, I am very happy with this pen and with the skills shown by the artisan.

NOTE added on Dec 1st 2022: A kind reader pointed out the existance of the Franklin-Christoph Abditus model, another yatate-style pen, currently on the catalog as a "special edution only". So, on production... now and then.

My thanks to Papish and to Miguel Ángel. And to Yuan Niu for the information on the F-C Abditus. Pictures by Ariel Zúñiga and JMBS are greatly appreciated.

Antigua´s Yatate – Diamine Bilberry

Bruno Taut
November 26th, 2022
labels: Antigua´s, España, Japón

26 November 2022

Chinese Naginata

After speaking about a naginata-like nib made in Germany, it might be worth to mention the Chinese versions of such a nib.

After all, it is only natural that Chinese companies created their own nibs specialized in writing Chinese ideograms. And that is the declared purpose of the Naginata Togi nib by nibmeister Nobuyoshi Nagahara.

One such example is the "Long Knife" (長刀) nib made by Hongdian, and implemented, among other pens, on the N6 model. But the N6 is such an interesting pen that the variable stroke nib is almost a secondary detail.

The "Long Knife" (長刀) nib by Hongdian. Note the similarities with the Naginata Togi (長刀研ぎ): the first two ideograms are the same.
The Hongdian nib is engraved with 刀F.

The N6 has the rare virtue of clicking the boxes of the requirements of many a pen aficionado:

A self-filling mechanism--a piston. An ebonite feed with a generous yet controlled ink flow. And ink window. A decent ink capacity (about 1.4 ml). An attractive matte-black look (one of the versions). And a variable nib.

The Hongdian N6 in matte black, with a ¨Long Knife" variable nib.

It could have been a gold nib, but then the price of the pen --about EUR 35-- would have been a lot higher. And the performance of this unit is very nice--smooth and very resistant to drying up when not in use. It indeed writes on contact.

However, there are two weak points in this unit. First is the lack of options--only EF, F, and variable F. Therefore this might not be your pen should you be looking for a broad point.

The second is the very limited line variation offered by this nib point. There is some, as can be seen on the picture, but is not much. Of course it is a variable F, but given this performance some might consider purchasing the lower-priced EF or F points.

Written sample of the "Long Knife" nib. There is some line variation by changing the angle between pen and paper, but not an extreme one. The paper square is 5x5 mm^2.

The pen as whole is a bit heavy --32 grams-- but it is well balanced if unposted: center of gravity at 66 mm from the nib end; at 90 mm when posted.

These are the dimensions of the pen:

Length closed: 137 mm
Length open: 123 mm
Length posted: 152 mm
Diameter: 15.0
Weight: 32 g (without cap, 20 g); inked
Ink deposit: ca. 1.4 ml

All in all, this pen is an excellent alternative to almost any other pen unless you wanted the ease of use and the cleanliness of a cartridge-converter or a broad nib. But this one costs only about EUR 35.

The main obstacle for the popularization of this and other Chinese pens is the distribution, limited to online channels. However, this also is changing as there are several of those mechanisms competing with each other. And Western and Japanese brands should pay a closer look to what is coming from China.

My thanks to "el abuelo Tobías".

Hongdian N6 – Montblanc Black

Bruno Taut
November 25th, 2022
etiquetas: China, mercado, Hongdian, plumín

04 November 2022

The Lamy Naginata?

Not much new can be said about the Lamy Safari—a 1980 design by Wolfgang Fabian endlessly reissued and copied. And Lamy regularly uses it for yearly limited editions and regional variations.

In 2022, Lamy has released the Lamy Kanji in East Asia. But this edition, developed by Lamy Hong Kong, is more more than just a variation of colors, as is the case of those special editions above mentioned. On this occasion, Lamy came with an original nib—the Kanji nib.

Interestingly enough, the explanations on the specifics of the nib come in Chinese, English and Thai.

The variations with respect to the regular Safari nib –the Z50 nib- are easy to spot: longer and narrower tines, and a specific nib point akin to a fine architect.

The selling argument is that this nib is more suitable for writing Chinese ideograms... Well, just like Sailor claimed re the Nagahara's Naginata.

The Kanji nib offers some line variation on the angle between pen and paper. Not extreme, but noticeable.

So, is this the Lamy version of the Sailor Naginata Togi nib?

The price of the Safari Kanji is JPY 6000, plus taxes, which is 50% more expensive than a regular, non-Kanji, Safari.

Lamy Safari Kanji – Franklin Christoph Urushi Red.

Bruno Taut
November 3rd, 2022
etiquetas: Lamy, plumín, mercado

02 November 2022

Western Paradise. Madrid Pen Show 2022

Comes November and the Spanish pen community get ready for the big party, for the “fiesta mayor”, the Madrid Pen Show. And it also happens to be the biggest pen show in Europe.

This year there is a new venue—Hotel VP El Madrono—and the party will take place between Friday 18th and Sunday 20th of November.

After the full-of-hope event of last year's, this one promises to be more normal, more free, and more populated. And with many pens!

Madrid Pen Show 2021.

So, go West, paradise is there.

See you in Madrid!

Lamy Safari Kanji - Franklin-Christoph Urushi Red

Bruno Taut
November 2nd 2022
labels: evento, Madrid

31 October 2022

Eboya tan-pen

Very often, speaking about Eboya implies some element of frustration—that of Eboya pens being exclusively cartridge-converters. And when not —the nominally eyedropper model Yuzen—, they still are cartridge-converters.

So, the Eboya market policy seems limited to release new models and new ebonite colors as long as the filling system did not change. And such is the case of the newer model, the tan-pen (in lower case).

The Eboya tan-pen. Only 97 mm long.

Its originality comes from its size: very small, very short; just 97 mm in length closed. And the well-known Eboya construction quality does the rest: the cap posts very securely onto the barrel. The result is a regular sized pen, even if on the shorter side. The price to pay is that it can only be inked with short cartridges (or as eyedropper).

Very secure posting. 133 mm long.

A size 5 nib by Bock. Note the new logo of the brand on the cap.

The tan-pen is certainly attractive and original, and represents a new approach to pens in the Eboya catalog. My only complain is that the company does not make it in black—you can choose almost any color but black. A black tan-pen, though, is available at sale events as a demonstration pen for potential customers, but is not for sale.

Any color but black.

These are the dimensions of the tan-pen:

Length closed: 97 mm
Length open: 91 mm
Length posted: 133 mm
Diameter: 12.2 mm
Weight: 11.7 g (dry)
Ink deposit: 0.8 ml (short standard cartridge)

The price, JPY 31200, plus taxes.

Lamy Accent – Franklin Christoph Urushi Red.

Bruno Taut
October 31st, 2022
etiquetas: Eboya, mercado

21 October 2022

Ohashido (IV)

Different craftsman, different quality. That is what we saw on the previous Chronicle Ôhashidô (III). But was it just that?

A tray of Ohashido pens by Yuichi Uehara (Maruzen Nihonbashi, Tokyo, 2019).

The current production of Ôhashidô pens, made by Yuichi Uehara, is anything but structured. What you see on his table at sale events is what you get. There are no model names, no documents attached, no warranty card... At most we have some features that show up on a number of his pens, but not always. Current Ôhashidô pens can be very simple or very “giboshi”; in plain ebonite or with some form of urushi coating; black or colorful;… And in the end, each of them is unique.

The Eichi Uehara's Ôhashidô pen.

On the contrary, Eichi Uehara attached a lot more information on his pens. One of the documents, in fact, describes the three models of Ôhashidô pens available at the time:

Pro I (プロI): The luxury pen, recommended for long writing sessions. It implements two movable rings, one of them made of 18 K gold, to adjust the balance of the pen.

Pro II (プロII): For regular use. Three rings, two close to the nib and one on the cap.

Pro III (プロIII): The entry level pen. Two rings.

The revealing text. The diagram corresponds to a Pro I pen.

So there was a structure in the production of pens under the direction of Eichi Uehara! And chances are that his son Yuichi chose a different route for Ôhashidô; the current route of unique pens.

My thanks to Poplicola-san.

Lamy Accent – Franklin Christoph Urushi Red.

Bruno Taut
October 21st, 2022
etiquetas: Ôhashidô