Showing posts with label Ferme. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Ferme. Show all posts

16 June 2017

On Ban-ei Nibs

On this text, some more notes on Ban-ei (挽栄) pens, including some corrections to my own words.

These pens made by Sakai Eisuke (酒井栄助) and coworkers (Kabutogi, Takahashi, Tsuchida, Kitamura, Nakamura) are difficult to follow. They are, for the most part, unmarked with any brand name, and as a result they are invisible to many aficionados.

Ebonite bodies, often lacquered, occasional maki-e and urushi-e motifs, mostly gold nibs, Japanese eyedropper filling system (albeit with exceptions), teardrop clips… All these are some usual features of Ban-ei pens, but in no case are they exclusive to them.

The only element in Ban-ei pens that carried some sort of marking were the nibs, although not always. Many of these pens implemented nibs made by Kabutogi Ginjiro (兜木銀次郎), and these were more often than not labeled in one way or another—either through some JIS number (3233, 4622, 4922), some of the brands owned by this nibmeister or, more often, through the initials GK.

On this case, the nib is labeled with the brand name "Steady", one of the brands registered by the nibmeister Kabutogi Ginjiro. Its JIS number was 3233, but it is not engraved on this particular nib.

A balance model with the wrongly named "Kamakura bori" decoration.

The nib is marked with the JIS no. 4622, associated to the factory Kabutogi Seisakusho Tabata and to the brand name Seilon.

However, Ban-ei pens also implemented a number of other nibs, and many were simply not signed at all. In particular, Ban-ei used Platinum and Sailor nibs. On both cases, the engraving was the same: “WARRANTED / 585 / 14 KARAT / PEN / IRIDIOSUMIN”, but their geometries are different, as can be seen on the picture.

Two Ban-ei pens with very different nibs--Sailor on the left, Platinum on the right. The later belongs to the Danitrio-commissioned series.

Close up of the nibs. Sailor on the left, Platinum on the right. The engraved text is the same --“WARRANTED / 585 / 14 KARAT / PEN / IRIDIOSUMIN”--, but not so is the size of the fonts. The Platinum nib is flatter than the Sailor.

In the mid 1990s, as we have already seen on these Chronicles, the company Danitrio commissioned some pens to the old troupe of artisans. On this occasion, the pens were properly labeled as “Ban-ei - 挽栄” on the cap lip, thus eliminating the anonymity of the previous works. Regarding the nibs of these pens, there is some conflicting information. For the most part, the nibs of the Danitrio Ban-ei pens are Platinum, but there is also a small batch of nibs carrying a special engraving: 復刻手造万年筆 (fukkoku tezukuri mannenhitsu), reissue hand-made fountain pen. The geometry of these nibs differs greatly from those made by Platinum. It is, in fact, very close to the geometry of the nibs signed with the initials GK.

Danitrio founder Bernard Lyn suggests on this book Maki-e, an Art for the Soul (Dani International Corporation, 2003) that it was Kabutogi’s son, by the name of Toshiya, the new nibmeister of the Ban-ei team after his father (Gingiro) had passed away. And I reproduced this idea on these same pages. However, further investigations in Tokyo pointed out that Kabutogi Toshiya was not a nibmeister and could not be the artisan behind those nibs. Sure enough, he had good contacts in Tokyo and probably access to old spare parts. The consequence of all this, then, is that we might need to add a pinch of salt to the claim that those nibs had been made by Kabutogi’s son.

Four Ban-ei pens. Clockwise from the red urushi pen: Danitrio Ban-ei with the special engraving (復刻手造万年筆) nib, balance model with "nashiji" decoration and GK nib, Danitrio Ban-ei with "nashiji" decoration and Platinum nib, and balance model with maki-e decoration (rabbit and moon motif) and Sailor nib.

Close up of the previous pens. Note the similar geometry of the two nibs on the back--the one with the special engraving and the GK nib. Both are very cylindrical and have heart-shaped breathing holes.

In fact, Mr. Eizo Fujii never mentions the figure of Kabutogi Toshiya on his article “The fountain pens of Sakai Eisuke” (Shumi-no Bungubaku, 34, p. 120-124). On it, Mr Fujii mentions Kabutogi Ginjiro and Platinum as the sources for the nibs of the Danitrio Ban-ei pens.

Lambrou and Sunami, on their side, speak of early Ban-ei pens equipped with nibs manufactured by Ishikawa Kinpen Seisakusho (JIS no. 3231), from Tokyo. This company provided nibs to a number of makers, including Ferme.

A Ban-ei with a Henckel nib made of steel.

A Henckel nib (JIS no. 3417). There are no records of any collaboration between Henckel and Sakai Eisuke, but there are a number of Ban-ei pens out there with this same nib.

Finally, there are some Ban-ei pens sporting exotic nibs. Certainly, many of them are the result of absurd combinations often driven by necessity. But some others are not so easy to diagnose. A case in point is a group of Ban-ei pens implementing steel nibs manufactured by Henckel (JIS no. 3417). There are no records, apparently, of such collaboration, but it is also unusual to see a number of pens with the very same nib. Some aficionados have suggested that these Henckel nibs were attached to remaining Ban-en bodies that were never put to sale.

The obvious conclusion is the variety of sources to the nibs implemented by Sakai Eisuke and collaborators. Those made by nibmeister Kabutogi Ginjiro are indeed relevant and even common, but by no means are those GK nibs the only ones; not to mention that this nibmeister was very prolific and worked for a number of brands.

In any event, what matters here is that Ban-ei pens are still a mystery. But that might be the fate a small and artisanal operation with few written records. And some people indeed feel the strong appeal of these almost anonymous pens.

Bernard LYN. Maki-e, an Art for the Soul. Dani International Corporation, 2003.
Eizo FUJII. “酒井栄助の万年筆” (Sakai Eisuke no mannenhitsu; The fountain pens of Sakai Eisuke). Shumi-no Bungubaku, 34, p. 120-124 (2015).
A. LAMBROU & M. SUNAMI. Fountain Pens of Japan. Andreas Lambrou Publishers Ltd., 2012.

Sheaffer 1250 – Pilot Iroshizuku Ku-jaku

Bruno Taut
Nakano, June 14th, 2017
etiquetas: Ban-ei, Platinum, Sailor, plumín, Sakai Eisuke, nibmeister Kabutogi Ginjiro, Danitrio, Ishikawa Kinpen Seisakusho, Ferme, Henckel

14 August 2014

Matching (XIV)

Which one is the original and which one is the copy?

It is well known that the big three Japanese pen companies keep a close eye on each other, and we can see startling similarities on some of their current products. That, in fact, is not new. The original idea of the pocket pen, for instance, is disputed between Sailor and Platinum —Pilot’s first pocket pen came later, in 1968—, but the final result was by the end of 1960s all three of them –and even some other smaller brands— had their own version of a black and formal looking pocket pen well suited for the Japanese salary man.

From left to right, a Ferme, a Pilot, a Platinum (with damascene decoration, zogan in Japanese, on the section), and a Sailor. All pocket pens in black with golden accents. All four nibs of these pens are made of 18 K gold.

But not only that model was copied. Years later, by the mid 1970s, all big three offered pocket pens made of stainless steel—all clean and lean. Only one of them, however, dared to make an all-steel pen with integrated nib.

From top to bottom, Platinum, Sailor and Pilot pens. The Platinum unit uses a Pt-alloy nib. In other words, a white gold nib. Pilot and Sailor nibs are made of 14 K gold.

Which one is the original and which ones are the copies? Among the three examples shown today, the Platinum is probably the earliest of the lot given its Pt-alloy nib.

Inoxcom 77, steel nib – Platinum Black

Bruno Taut
Nakano, August 12th 2014
etiquetas: Japón, mercado, Platinum, Pilot, Sailor, Ferme

26 February 2014

Undercover Sailor

Last week I described the case of the nibs made by the company Ishikawa-Kinpen Seisakushô for Ferme and how those nibs were labeled with the JIS registration number (3231) of the nib maker and the name of the pen company, Ferme. Not much information on the nib maker, but enough to track down the actual origin despite being sold by a different company. And in the way of writing that text, I found another interesting example of anonymous –or not so anonymous— nib.

Nibmeister Kato Kiyoshi is a sort of a mythical figure in the Japanese pen scene. His story of travels and business in the Middle East and in Europe made him a man of action whose novel has not yet been written. He finally settled in Osaka and in the 1990s he started marketing his pens also in Japan. These Kato pens –Kato Seisakushô pens— were made of celluloid and were not labeled with any brand name. The pen box had a very generic and uninformative “Celluloid Pen / Hand Crafted / Made in Japan” sign, and nothing else.

Kato Seisakushô's model 800F. A piston filler with a gold nib.

Neither very helpful were the nibs. Those made of steel, usually associated to cartridge-converter pens, were Schmidt. Those in 14 K gold, often in piston fillers, were more obscure. Their engraving was, again, very uninformative: “SUPERIOR / 14K / LIFETIME / GRATIFY / JAPAN”. However, it seems that those gold nibs are likely to be Sailor’s. Masamichi Sunami says so on his Fountain Pens of Japan, and it seems to be generally accepted among the Japanese stylophiles.

A Sailor's medium nib in 21 K gold, and the unbranded 14 K gold nib of the Kato Seisakushô's pen.

On my side, I can only add that the size and shape of this “Superior” nib is the same as that of Sailor’s nibs in medium size, made of both 14 K and 21 K gold. In fact, they are interchangeable, as can be seen on the pictures of this Chronicle. Of course, this proves nothing, and the title of this Chronicles should have an additional question mark: Undercover Sailor?

A Kato Seisakushô Profit (top) and a Sailor Realo in celluloid (bottom)? Their nibs are perfectly interchangeable.

In any event, in the case of these gold nibs –Sailor’s or not—, Kato Seisakusho’s pens belong to the group of companies that hide the origin of their nibs, like Hakase and Ohashido. Maybe we could find out where they came from, but it is not obvious.

My thanks to Mr. Murase.

Platinum pocket pen (1967), manifold nib – Platinum Violet

Bruno Taut
Yokohama, February 25th, 2014
etiquetas: Ferme, Ishikawa-Kinpen Seisakushô, Kato Seisakushô, Sailor, plumín, Hakase, Ohashido, Schmidt

18 February 2014

Ferme (II)

When writing the Chronicle on the actual origins of the nibs of many pen manufacturers, my intention was only to provide an introduction for the following pen. But the text became long enough to be an independent blog entry, and in the meantime new pens and new information got in the way to add more value to it. For today, though, we will only speak of this pocket-size Ferme pen.

Japanese pocket pens are well known to the usual readers of these texts, and little else could be added. This Ferme, in particular, is a formal looking pen in black with golden accents—just as many others. Its originality lays on its brand –Ferme pens are hard to find— and on the authorship of the nib.

The engraving on the nib clearly reads Ferme, but there is also a number—3231. It corresponds to the Japan Industrial Standards registry of the company Ishikawa-Kinpen Seisakushô, lead by nibmeister Ishikawa Masatoshi. In this regard, Ferme belongs to the group of pen companies that declared the origin of its nibs, even if in a veiled manner. After all, few people might know about those numbers and their meaning.

This nib by Ishikawa-Kinpen is made of 18 K gold, and contrary to what Sunami and Lambrou say on Fountain Pens of Japan --“feather-like flexible nibs”--, this is fairly rigid. The feed, made of plastic, covers perfectly the modest demands of the nib, and the overall result is very pleasant.

As was the case of many Japanese pens in the 1960s and later on, this Ferme pen uses Platinum cartridges. No current converter fits in the barrel.

These are the dimensions of this pocket pen:
  • Length closed: 120 mm
  • Length open: 10.5 mm
  • Length posted: 147 mm
  • Diameter: 12 mm
  • Weight (dry): 12.0 g
  • Ink deposit: 1.1 ml (standard Platinum cartridge)

This pen was manufactured in the early 1970s.

My thanks to Mr. Furuya and Mr. Dorado.

Ferme pocket pen, Ishikawa-Kinpen 18 K nib – Sailor Yama-dori (山鳥)

Bruno Taut
Yokohama, Ferbruary 1st, 2014
etiquetas: Ferme, Ishikawa-Kinpen Seisakusho, Platinum, metabitácora

22 January 2014

Ferme (I)

Ferme was a minor brand of fountain pens and other writing tools about which not much is known. Andreas Lambrou and Masamichi Sunami, on their Fountain Pens of Japan (2012), simply say that this company had been founded in 1928 in Tokyo, made some good quality pens, collaborated with the company Ishikawa Kinpen Seisakushô, struggled with a small production of pens by the late 1960s and 1970s, and went out of business around 1985.

This W was the logo of the brand Ferme.

On the graphic part, Mr Sunami (who was the actual author of most of the book) shows a Ferme pocket pen with a beautiful three-tined music nib among half a dozen examples of this brand, all of them dating from 1969 on. All of them are cartridge-converter fillers.

The Ferme 59.

The JIS engraved nib. It is probably made of steel, but I have not been able to disassemble it from the section.

But it is possible to find older Ferme pens, although there are never common finds. The following is a Ferme 59, a regular size, aerometric filler. It uses a (presumably) gold plated nib imprinted with the Japan Industrial Standards (JIS) logo. The size and the general structure of this pen is half way between the Parker 51 and some Pilot Super models of the late 1950s.

The filling system is aerometric. The pressing plate is engraved with the brand name.

These are the dimensions of the Ferme 59:
  • Length closed: 134 mm
  • Length open: 124 mm
  • Length posted: 144 mm
  • Diameter: 11 mm
  • Weight (dry): 16.0 g
  • Ink deposit: 0.7 ml

Pilot Custom 742, falcon nib – Sailor 土用 (Doyô)

Bruno Taut
Yokohama, January 21st, 2014
etiquetas: Ferme