Crónicas Estilográficas

03 December 2023

Madrid 2023

During the weekend between November 10th and 12th, the 19th edition of the Madrid Pen Show took place at the Meliá Castilla hotel. And as it is already customary (::1::, ::2::, ::3::, etc.) I will offer my reflections on the event.

This 2023 edition was celebrated one weekend before the usual schedule –the 3rd weekend in November— because of a chronic problem—the difficulties to find a hotel in Madrid in November with a large enough salon (about 700 m2). And on this occasion, the organizers had to settle with what was available—a nice hotel (and known from the 2021 event) with a big enough salon, but at a wrong date.

And the wrong date came with a number of issues. First, it was a long weekend in Madrid and many locals decided to leave the city. Then, an important football match was celebrated on Sunday evening in the neighborhood of the hotel. Finally, a number of political demonstrations –with occasional bouts of violence— took place in Madrid on those days.

The result? About 30-40% lower attendance than in previous editions. And that meant a lower amount of money in circulation.

Photo courtesy of JMBS.

On the positive side, the mere size of the event remained untouched—about 65 traders, including some new faces coming from Ireland, Greece, India, Japan... And the available space was also enough for a pleasant experience. Of course, the lower attendance also helped on this regard. However, one of the two rooms of the event lacked some light, a detail noticed by both dealers and visitors.

I hope the problems experienced on this 2023 edition could be solved in 2024, as I also hope for a long and prosperous life of the Madrid Pen Show. Nevertheless, the average age of visitors is not a good omen, and that is a most fundamental problem.

Jinhao Dadao 9019 – Montblanc Irish Green

Bruno Taut
December 3rd, 2023
etiquetas: evento, Madrid

19 November 2023

Timber! Timber! TIPS 2023

The 2023 Tokyo International Pen Show (TIPS) took place during the first weekend of November 3rd to 5th, and it´s time to reflect on it and on the new trends in the market. Needless to say, what I might write is just my perception and I am sure I am missing many other movements.

First, the pen show in itself. 3 days, 180 tables, five shifts to attend it, most of them sold out. The figures clearly speak of a big success. It might not be what you expect from a pen show, but this East Asian style pen show does work, and, best of all, attracts younger generations of stationery aficionados.

And that because, as I have repeatedly said, TIPS is not a pen show but a stationery fair where many vendors simply display their latest products. More on this later.

The shift system –you pay to enter the show during a limited period of just four hours, morning or afternoon- is one of the unfortunate aftereffects of the pandemic years. What initially was a good idea to limit the number of people at the lounge at once and thus limiting the risk of infection is now an excuse to increase the total number of visitors and the revenue associated to selling tickets. The downside of it is easy to understand—this fair is not a meeting point for aficionados but just a market place where you better rush to see it all and to execute your purchases.

On this occasion, 2023, the large number of vendors –180- pushed the organizers to use two lounges on two different floors in the building. Moving between them could be very easy, but the organizers decided to make it difficult and unpleasant despite giving you a paper bracelet as soon as you entered the fair. It looked like they did not trust their own controlling mechanisms. But do not ask difficult questions...

So, what was on offer at TIPS 2023? More of the same things we saw on previous years: very few second hand and vintage pens, many more new pens, inks, paper, assorted paraphernalia...

Assortted paraphernalia...

However, I could see some new trends:

1. Timber, timber, timber! It seems wood lathes are on sale and the number of people making wooden pens –fountain pens, ball pens, mechanical pencils-- was surprising. But, is the market big enough for so many operations?

Timber! Timber!

2. Emerging markets. TIPS is a success in previous years and so it seems like a good stage where to present new companies and new products. In previous years we saw some European and American traders. This year, we also saw dealers from India, PR China and Turkey.

An Indian trader--Endless.

3. Urushi might be from East Asia, but now it is everywhere. And by urushi I also mean urushi-based decorative techniques. At TIPS 2023 we could see some interesting examples of urushi and raden decorated pens made in India and in Turkey.

Urushi-nuri and raden from Turkey.


– The TIPS model –a stationery fair- works and is here to stay, Its ability to attract younger aficionados is a powerful argument to support this event in the years to come. Pens might not be the argument to attract them, but it does not matter as long as they come.

– New trends come and go. Wooden pens and urushi-decorated pens might be fashionable now, but everything can change overnight.

– Look out for products and companies coming from emerging markets as they will pose a very serious competition to well established companies.

Would I come again? Not sure. I always end up disappointed, but it is a good place to find out what is going on in the world of stationery.

Moonman A2 - Diamine Bilberry

Bruno Taut
November 8th, 2023
etiquetas: mercado, evento, Tokyo, maki-e

06 November 2023

The Four Seasons of Mr. Sato

(You shall excuse my recent silence on these pages. Some personal issues came in my way and had to pay attention to them. Hopefully I will be able to post more often in the following weeks).

In the last years we have seen how urushi-based decorative techniques have been adopted by a number of craftsmen well beyond the traditional locations in East Asia. Now we see urushi-decorated pens in Poland, Spain, Switzerland, USA, Turkey, India... and probably many more, plus some others waiting to be discovered.

In the meantime, the Japanese scene remains relatively calm. Sure some younger figures have made some beautiful noise –such is the brilliant case of Bokumondoh—, but there are some others hidden in their own studios scattered all around Japan. And few of them become known beyond their communities and customers.

Such is the case of Mr. Tateo Sato (佐藤建夫, Sato Tateo in Japanese), an urushi master from the mountains of Miyagi, about 350 km North of Tokyo. Mr. Sato was born in Miyagi in 1951 and has been active since very early age, first learning with masters Sawaguchi Shigeru, Nishiya Kazuo and Yamamoto Hideaki; and since 1981 as the head of his own studio in Narako, Miyagi.

And now, thanks to the initiative of Mr. Uehara Yu-ichi of Ohashido, another fellow from Miyagi, we can see some of the works of the urushi master. Uehara commissioned Sato Tateo with the decoration of some pens. The result, or part of it, is the following set of four pens:

The Four Seasons.

The name of the set is “The Four Seasons”, and the pens are individually named after some evocative Japanese word: tsukushi (土筆) for Spring, hotaru (蛍) for Summer, kagerô (蜻蛉) for Autumn, and tokiwa (常盤) for Winter.

Tsukushi for Spring. Note the signature near the pen end.

Tsukushi is a form of horsetail (equisetum) that grows in Spring. Initially it is yellowish in color.

Fireflies in Summer.

Hotaru is firefly. For this pen, Mr Sato used some subtle raden decoration combined with black urushi.

Dragonflies in Autumn.

Kagerô is an old word for dragonfly, an insect deeply associated with Autumn in Japan.

Evergreen Winter. Or the Tokiwa pine tree.

Tokiwa, finally, means evergreen and refers to a form of pine tree.

All four pens are signed with the kao –stylized signature— of the master.

As for the pen, not much can be said once you know the works of Mr. Uehara. They are regular Ohashido pens made of ebonite with a medium size nib (big in Sailor terms) made of 21 K gold, manufactured by Sailor.

The Sailor nib labeled as Ohashido.

Rare as these pens are, they won't become representative of the works made by Uehara and the Ohashido brand, but sure they will become collectibles sought after by aficionados. And maestro Sato might become better known.

My thanks to Poplicola-san.

Parker 50 “Falcon” – Sailor Yama-dori

Bruno Taut
November 6th, 2023
etiquetas: Ohashido, maki-e

15 September 2023

Oversized Jinhao

The speed at which Chinese pen companies are releasing their new models is no longer a surprise. An obvious side effect of this practice is the practical impossibility to keep track of all the novelties in the market. But now and then a model strikes out and makes some waves.

The Jinhao Dadao 9019. Engravings on the clip ("JINHAO") and on the cap ring ("JINHAO - DADAO No. 9019").

Lately, Jinhao has released an oversized pen with a size 8 nib—the Jinhao Dadao 9019. In essence, this is a torpedo-shape pen, with very clean lines, made of plastic. Its overal shape and proportions ressemble those of some pens made by the Ban-ei group of artisans (and a number of small operations making jumbo pens). The actual dimensions of this pen are as follow:

Length closed: 142.4 mm
Length open: 130.3 mm
Length posted: 171.0 mm
Diameter: 19.1 mm (cap), 16.3 mm (barrel)
Weight: 31,5 g (dry)
Ink deposit: 2.2 ml

The barrel diameter, 16.3 mm, is slightly smaller than that of a 6-bu jumbo pen. However, the proportions seem basically preserved, rendering a very familiar pen... albeit with some interesting additions.

First and foremost, this pen is a cartridge-converter, and accepts short (0.7 ml) and long (1.45 ml) international cartridges, and standard converters. But the pen comes with its own converter that takes benefit of the oversized barrel—a girthier, larger converter holding 2.2 ml of ink.

An oversized converter that holds 2.2 ml of ink.

Not a new idea —Sailor used this same strategy in the 1960s for its model Magna L-, but is seldom seen in the industry.

A second detail, very common in Japanese pens, is the o-ring on the thread coupling the barrel and the section. This rubber gasket secures the connection between those two parts, and some users might feel tempted to eyedropper this pen, but first they should seal the tail hole on the barrel.

On the negative side, the pen lacks an inner cap, and this absence might cause premature drying of the nib, although it does not seem the case during the days I have been using this pen.

The size 8 nib made of steel: "JINHAO / F / X159". And a plastic feed.

The nib, a size 8 made of steel, had the options of EF, F and M nib points. Out of the box, my unit was dry and a bit rough, Some adjustment was done and now it writes smoothly and with an adequate flow. The conclusion is that this nib is correct, but it is not fully finished when leaving the factory.

All in all, the Jinhao Dadao 9019 is a very interesting pen, in particular when the price –about EUR 13, or even less— is taken into account.

On the other hand, the problems we see on it, however, are those common to many (PR) Chinese pens—lack of nib points, mediocre quality control, and limited distribution channels.

PS: At the time of publishing this Chronicle I took the pen from the pouch where I had carried it around for some days. Actually, I had not open the pen for over a week. And much to my surprise, the cap was filled with ink, and the converter was almost empty, and this, given the high capacity of the ink deposit, can be a very dirty issue. None of the other three pens in the pouch had this problem. So, we might need to handle this pen with care. Caution is adviced.

Jinhao Dadao 9019 – Platinum Black

Bruno Taut
September 2nd, 2023
etiquetas: Jinhao, China, mercado

09 August 2023

Hifra Again

Hifra, Joker and Presidente are three brands I have documented on these texts with the help of some friends from a number of countries. These brands, let us remember, were operations that used Platinum pens as their own in the late 1950s in their own countries: Hifra in South Africa, Joker in Greece, and Presidente in Spain.

Among them, Hifra seems to be the better established company, and used more Platinum models –among some others-- and its operation extended beyond those late 1950s. And today, I am showing one more of those pens—a Sheaffer inspired pen.

A Hifra pen. On the barrel, "HIFRA" / TRADE (logo) MARK / REG 85809 / 4415 .

This Hifra is an aerometric filler with a metallic cap and a black body. The nib is an inlaid unit with a close resemblance to some Sheaffer nibs. These are its dimensions:

Length closed: 135 mm
Length open: 118 mm
Length posted: 153 mm
Diameter: 16 mm
Weight: 18.3 g (dry)

The insides. A bladder-type filler.

The nib: HIFRA / SUPERIOR / 105-PEN .

Platinum, could not be otherwise, used these inlaid nibs in several pens during the 1950s.

A similar nib in a President pen, one of the brands historically used by Platinum.

But all in all, the whole pen is very close to some Sheaffer models of the time. On the picture, a Sheaffer Sentinel.

Sheaffer Sentinel.

Moonman T2 with Bock nib – Pilot (Thai) Black

Bruno Taut
August 9th, 2023
etiquetas: Hifra, Platinum, Sheaffer

28 July 2023

Japanese Workhorses in 2023

We have just seen that the Pilot's model Custom 74 has been in the market for over 30 years. But what about the direct competitors in the Japanese market?

The three contenders. From back to front, Platinum 3776 Century, Pilot Custom 74, and Sailor Standard Profit.

Platinum had released the 3776 model in 1978, but this model has gone through a number of modifications over the years, as we had seen in previous texts. The latest iteration, so far, is the 3776 Century initially released in 2012. At the time, the Century's price was JPY 10000, and it had eight nib options, although the model with the music nib was more expensive at JPY 15000. All of them were made of 14 K gold.

Platinum 3776 Century Bourgogne, M nib. This color variation does not convey any overprice. JPY 10000 in 2012, JPY 20000 in 2023.

Sailor had marketed the Profit model in 1983 based on the 70th anniversary pen of 1981. In 2003-04, the current version saw the market—two cap rings, new nib decoration, etc. By 2012, our reference year, the Standard Profit cost JPY 12000 and offered seven nib options. Should you want a 21 K gold nib in the same size, the price was JPY 15000.

Sailor Standard Profit, F nib. JPY 12000 in 2012, JPY 13000 in 2023.

In that same year of 2012, Pilot's Custom 74 with the size 5 nib in 14 K gold had a total of eleven nib options: nine of them for JPY 10000, and two, music (MS) and coarse (C), for JPY 12000.

Pilot Custom 74 with SM -soft medium- nib. JPY 10000 in 2012; JPY 12000 in 2023.

How are these pens in 2023?

The Pilot Custom 74 costs now JPY 2000 more: JPY 12000 for most of the nib points, and JPY 14000 for MS and C nibs.

Platinum has increased the prices a lot more: JPY 20000 for the basic version, and JPY 28000 for the Century with music nib.

Finally, Sailor also increased the prices to JPY 13000, plus an additional hike to JPY 15000 for the zoom and music nibs. (The 21 K option became JPY 22000, and JPY 25000, respectively).

In all three brands, the number of nib options remains untouched, although Pilot did release an new variation—the S, signature—that is not shown in the catalog.

So, after 10 years, these old pens are still the workhorses of their companies, but the changes in their prices have altered their relative positions with respect to each other.

Pilot is now the cheaper option while having the highest number of nib options.

Platinum's Century is now in a higher price range. This pen is now on par with the Pilot Custom 742 (size 10 nib), but the Pilot offers many more nib points in that pen—16.

Platinum 3776 Century with music nib. It went from JPY 15000 to JPY 28000.

Sailor's price hike was, proportionally, lower than those by Platinum and Pilot, but still high enough to become more expensive than the Pilot Custom 74. However, Sailor's problem might be different—the immense number of variations in the form of “shop-original pens” creates a complex scenario where the basic Standard Profit became buried if not invisible.

So, the conclusion is that, in this context, the Pilot Custom 74 becomes even more desirable than 10 years ago.

(All prices quoted without taxes. In Japan, VAT is 10%).

Moonman T2 – Pilot Black (Thai version)

Bruno Taut
July 28th 2023
etiquetas: Pilot, Platinum, Sailor, mercado

19 July 2023

Signature (II)

So, Pilot created a new nib point for its size 10 implemented on the model Custom 742 (and potentially on the rhodium-trimmed Custom Heritage 912). But, only on that size? No, but this other Signature nib came as a limited edition.

Also in 2022, Pilot celebrated the 30th anniversary of its workhorse pen, the Custom 74. And for the occasion, the company released a special edition of the pen.

The boxed set includes three different pen barrels in three transparent colors, a bottle of ink of “Anniversary Blue”, a CON-70N converter, and a booklet summarizing the history of the Custom models since its inception in 1971.

There are some other details that make this pen –or these pens- special and different to the regular Custom 74. The cap ring is engraved with a specific text: “PILOT CUSTOM 74 30th ANNIVERSARY JAPAN”. The nib, rhodiated size 5, also displays an original design and script: some bay leaves –or so Pilot declares- framing the text “PILOT CUSTOM 14K-585”, plus the nib point.

The anniversary nib in Signature point.

Four points are available on this limited edition: F, FM, M and the new S, Signature. And the fact that this S point is now and exclusive to this model makes this option the most desirable among them.

S nibs on sizes 5 and 10. Note how the size 5 nib is not labeled as such.

This new S nib becomes the twelfth nib point available in the size 5 nib by Pilot. Whether this nib became part of the catalog or not remains to be seen, but one more nib option in an affordable workhorse like the Custom 74 would indeed be great.

The price of the Custom 74 30th Anniversary is JPY 28000, plus taxes, for any of the nib points.

Moonman A2 - Diamine Bilberry

Bruno Taut
July 18th, 2023
etiquetas: Pilot, plumín