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