Showing posts with label Pilot. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Pilot. Show all posts

23 December 2020

More Custom 74

In essence, the Pilot Custom 74 is a torpedo-shaped pen, with golden accents, and a 14 karat gold nib. Its current price is JPY 12000 (JPY 14000 for two of its nibs), and that makes it to become the basic gold-nib pen of the brand.

But here were some variations on that model. As I described some time ago, in 1993 Pilot issued a special edition of a flat-top Custom 74 for the share holders of Pilot Corporation. That edition implemented a coarse (a BB or BBB) point in the usual size 5 nib.

At the time of publishing that text some commentators mentioned that there had been some other editions of flat-top Custom 74 with other nibs, but not many details were finally offered.

The pen I am showing today belongs to one such edition. In this occasion, the pen sports a three-tined music nib (size 5). Its manufacturing date is December of 1992. The pen came also with a label stating the nib point and the price—JPY 15000.

A flat-top Custom 74 with a music nib.

These data make the pen all the more interesting. First, the manufacturing date is very close to that of the share-holder edition (February of 1993), Therefore, both pens were manufactured with different purposes in similar dates.

Two flat tops; one for sale, another for share holders.

Two Custom 74 with music nibs, both available at the shops at some point.

Second, the label shows that this pen was for sale. Its price –JPY 15000- was higher than that of the torpedo version with music nib--JPY 12000 at the time.

So, all these pens raise more questions than they answer. Was this flat-top with music nib part of a limited edition? Was it ever included in the regular catalog? What other nib points were available?

And the search continues.

Parker 61 — Unknown blue-black

Bruno Taut
December 22th 2020
etiquetas: Pilot, plumín, plumín musical

07 August 2020

Pilot Signing

In a recent Chronicle I published the following picture:

Three Pilot pens, three ways of signing them.

On it we can see three different Pilot pens with some forms of maki-e and raden decoration. And those pens also show the three different ways of stating the authorship of the decoration used by Pilot.

1. The Raden Toki pen (90th anniversary pen), decorated mostly with raden (mother of pearl), is not signed at all save for the obvious Pilot marking on clip and nib.

The Raden Toki of the 90th anniversary of Pilot (2008).

2. The Niô pen (Pilot's 88th anniversary pen) is signed by the “Kokkokai”, the guild of maki-e artisans working for Pilot.

The Niô pen from 2006 is signed collectively by the 国光會, Kokkokai.

The Kokkokai (国光會, the “Group Light of the Nation” in Japanese) was founded in 1931 by Gonroku Matsuda –the father of Pilot's maki-e-- with the support of Pilot's founder Ryosuke Namiki. Since then, about 140 craftsmen have formed part of the group, including about 20 currently active members.

3. Finally, any of those craftsmen could sign a pen individually together with the ideograms of Kokkokai.

That is the case of the Heisei pen of 1989. The author of the maki-e decoration was Yoshida Kyûsai, (久齋, 吉田久夫) as we can see on the pen barrel.

The Heisei pen (1989) is signed by Kyûsai (久齋) and the Kokkokai.

As I already said, the Kokkokai was founded in 1931, but it is not until after the Second World War that the name appeared on pens and other maki-e-decorated objects made by Pilot. Before the War, those same objects were labeled as “Namiki Kan” (並木监, Produced by Namiki) together with the name of the craftsman. As is the case today, there were also cases of collective authorship signed by the whole group (Namiki Kan) without the name of any particular artisan.

This pre-War pen (ca. 1938) is signed by Shisen (紫川; real name, 佐藤 紫川, Ei Sato) and produced by Namiki (Namiki Kan, 並木监). Picture by TM.

This difference is an excellent sign to determine a basic dating element of a Pilot pen: if 並木监 (Namiki Kan), pre-War. If 国光會 (Kokkokai), post-War.

My thanks to TM, whose picture is greatly appreciated.

Platinum Curidas – Private Reserve Dakota Red

Bruno Taut
Nakano, August 5th 2020
etiquetas: Pilot, maki-e

31 July 2020

After the Pilot 65

The pen Pilot released on the occasion of its 65th anniversary --the Pilot 65-- has been mentioned on these Chronicles more than once. It is indeed a relevant pen in the recent history of the company because it was a first in several features now quite common on Pilot pens.

The Pilot 65.

As we know, in 1983 Pilot celebrated its 65th anniversary with a balance (torpedo) model reminiscent of the old pre-war pens of the brand. This pen was a limited edition of 6500 units whose price was JPY 38000 at the time.

The plastic body was chased with a barleycorn pattern and included several rings. The one closer to the cap lip is particularly wide and is engraved with some ornaments (called nintômon), the number 65, and the serial number within the limited edition. This type of decoration would appear on the anniversary pen of 1988 (Pilot 70), and on the Custom 72, among others.

The Pilot 65 (top), and the Pilot 70.

The Pilot 65 (left) together with some of its successors: a maki-e version, the Custom 67, the Custom 74, and the Custom 742.

One model particularly inspired on the 65 was simply called “Custom” (FKF-2000R). It is a balance model made of chased plastic (barleycorn pattern) whose parts are interchangeable with those of the 65. Its cap rings are, however, thinner.

The two pens in the middle are a Pilot 65, and a "Custom" from some years later.

The nib of the 65, a 14 K gold unit, started the style we see today on Custom models, with sizes between 3 and 30. On the Pilot 65, the nib is a size 10, but it is not yet labeled as such.

Two size 10 nibs, but only one labeled as such.

The filling system on the pen is an evolution of the system A (A-shiki), of the 1950s that later on would become the converter CON-70. Looking at it in 2020, it looks like a captive CON-70 attached to the section, although in 1983 the CON-70 did not exist. This system holds over 1.2 ml of ink.

The proto CON-70, with an ink capacity of over 1.2 ml.

Therefore this pen, the Pilot 65, is a first in a number of features to be seen on future pens: open nibs, a filling system that would become the converter CON-70, a chased body that would show up on several models to come...

Platinum Curidas – Private Reserve Dakota Red

Bruno Taut
Nakano, July 31st 2020
etiquetas: Pilot

26 July 2020

Pilot Flat-Tops

On a previous Chronicle we saw how the Pilot 70 “Vest Type” pen had its successor on the short lived Custom 72—a flat-top pen with a size 10 nib.

Pilot 70 (on top) and Pilot Custom 72.

But even thought the Custom 72 was short lived, the flat-top style has survived over the years as a canvas for special and commemorative editions and high end series of pens. On the picture we can see three commemorative pens—the Heisei pen of 1989, the Niô (or Nioh) pen of the 88th anniversary of Pilot (2006), and the Toki pen of the 90th anniversary (2008).

From top to bottom, Pilot Heisei (1989), Pilot Niô (2006), and Pilot Toki (2008).

This type of pen seems reserved for urushi and related fomrs of decoration in th catalog of Pilot (Ishime, Hannya Shingyô, Zodiac series), and of Namiki (Chinkin #10 series), plus some oroginal pens in very short editions made for Maruzen in 2017 and 2018. As long as I know, all these pens sport 18 K gold nibs.

In 2009, Pilot created a new line of flat-tops. They were generically named Custom Heritage, with models 91, 912, and 92. Of those, only the Custom Heritage 912 implemented a size 10 nib (14 K). There was a precedent to these pens in the model Pilot had made for Maruzen around 2004—the Athena Basic Line.

From top to bottom on both pictures, Pilot Custom Heritage 912, Athena Basic Line, and Custom Heritage 92.

These flat-top pens have different structure when compared to the Pilot 70 and close relatives. Custom Heritage pens are closer to regular torpedo-shape Custom pen. They are torpedoes with flat ends instead of domes.

Pilot Capless LS – Pilot Iroshizuku Yama-budo

Bruno Taut
Nakano, July 26th, 2020
etiquetas: Pilot

18 July 2020

Pilot Custom 72

In 1988, Pilot became 70 years old and released the corresponding anniversary pen—the Pilot 70, a limited edition of 7000 units (some say 7777 units) described as “Vest Type Fountain Pen". This pen, already reviewed on these pages, was the template of a regular edition pen, the Custom 72, marketed initially in 1990.

From top, the Pilot 70, Custom 72 fountain pen, and Custom 72 mechanical pencil.

The Custom 72 is, therefore, a flat-top pen with identical measured dimensions to the Pilot 70, and with very similar decoration.

.Pilot Custom 72.

Length closed (mm) 141
Length open (mm) 129
Length posted (mm) 164
Diameter (mm) 13.6
Weight, dry (g) 15.9
Ink deposit (*) (ml) 1.0 / 0.9

(*): Capacities of the converter CON-70 and of the regular Pilot cartridge.

On the Custom 72, the plastic body shows a subtle gilloché together with some vertical lines of plain plastic. What separates this model from the limited edition is the presence of two cap bands, one of them much wider than the other, and with a triangular decoration. On the flat ends we can see two golden rings. All those details resemble the limited edition pen of the 65th anniversary.

The cap bands. The gilloché decoration of the body is also visible. Note the engraving of the model "CUSTOM 72" on the cap lip. On the opposite side it reads "JAPAN".

The clip is the well known Pilot ball seen on many other models of the brand.

Inside, the nib is a size 10 decorated as most modern Custom nibs. What is more unusual is the nib point, labeled as HF, hard fine, and there were also HM and HB nib. This particular HF point is more rigid that a regular F nib of size 10.

An HF nib. Hard fine. Hidden are the manufacturing date (1990) and the JIS mark.

As for the rest, the components are what we usually see on modern Pilots—typical plastic feed with an internal core, and the CON-70 converter. Of course, this pen can also use cartridges.

The paradox is that this pen, appealing as it is, is also relatively rare. And there is little information on it—A. Lambrou and M. Sunami, for instance, do not mention it at all on their Fountain Pens of Japan (2012). We know there were matching mechanical pencil and ball pen, and we can venture that this pen is likely to be on production for about two years—until the Custom 74 and related pens were released and took over the niche used by the 72. The price is likely to have been JPY 20000. The mechanical pencil was sold for JPY 10000.

Custom 72 mechanical pencil.

What Pilot did instead was to use this flat-top structure as the base for a number of commemorative pens in limited editions. But that should be the topic of another Chronicle.

Pilot Capless LS – Pilot Iroshizuku Yama-budo

Bruno Taut
Nakano, July 18th, 2020
etiquetas: Pilot

03 July 2020


Once a pen brand has a successful model, changing colors or external materials are easy and inexpensive strategies to update and revamp it. Platinum, for instance, has consistently done that with the 3776 Century model for about ten years. And Pilot has also done that with a number of models.

Among them, the Capless has seen a large number of cosmetic variations, particularly on the regular Capless model marketed initially in 1998. This model has come with rhodium, gold and black trims; with plastic, urushi, metal, wood finishes; in plain color or with some patterns...

Gold trim, black trim, rhodium trim; plastic, urushi; plain colors, lines, raden... but all of them are, in essence, the same pen.

In 2000, Pilot marketed a mini series of Capless with plaid decoration. The basic reference for this series was FC-17SR, which indicates that the price in Japan was JPY 17000 (plus tax, 5% at that time). There were four different colors: grey, blue, green, and red. The available nibs points were F, FM, M, and B. Nibs were made of 18 K gold.

The four plaid Capless (FC-17SR) from 2000.

These pens were in the Pilot catalog for several years, until around 2007, but I cannot pinpoint the exact date of the production end. Any information on the matter will be greatly appreciated.

Platinum Curidas – Private Reserve Dakota Red

Bruno Taut
Nakano, July 3rd, 2020
etiquetas: capless, Pilot

24 June 2020

Reliable Information.

Some years ago I wrote about a nominally Spanish pen brand by the name of Presidente. Then, a fellow stylophile in Greece contacted me apropos of a similar pen sold in the Greek market under the name Joker.

A fruitful conversation ensued, and we reached to a couple of tentative conclusions:
– Joker was presumably a Greek company, or based in Greece, as opposed to being Italian, as its advertisement in Greece had suggested.
Hifra, another brand marketing similar pens, was likely to be South African.

From top to bottom, a Joker, a Hifra, and a Presidente. But all of them are, actually, Platinum.

Now, how sure can we be of those conclusions? We can safely say that Presidente was Spanish because there are records fo such a brand registered in Madrid, Spain, in 1959; but we do not know of similar registries in Greece or in South Africa.

However, we have other information—Joker as a brand seems unknown outside Greece and, interestingly enough, in Italy, while there was some Joker ink in Greece as well. Hifra, on its side, seemed like a domestic name in some South African texts. Therefore, in absence of contradicting information I feel that those conclusions were reasonable.

Joker ink, in Greece. Photo by Kostas K.

The problem here is to decide which sources are reliable. And that in a field where most of us are aficionados with no pay, with other obligations, and with not many resources to do any research.

So, who is reliable and who is not?

We are not living in an academic environment and we do not have peer-reviewed journals to publish our findings. Consequently we must rely on the good or bad name each of us created along the years through our contributions to the community. And the rest is up to the receiver.

Some weeks ago, my friend Inky.Rocks published a video on the ink Pilot Blue-black, about which I had spoken on these pages. Inky.Rocks pointed out that this ink is water resistant by reacting with the cellulose in the paper. This claim was challenged on Reddit, and that was good. The problem was that the challenger did not offer any alternative to the behavior of the Pilot ink, nor any reason why Noodler's should be the only maker with cellulose-reacting inks.

What vintage do you prefer for your Blue-black?

Pilot Blue-black ink is water resistant. That I can prove. The sample was one full minute under running water. Some dyes were removed from the iron-gall inks. The modern formulation, cellulose reacting, is remarkably resistant to water.

At the end of the day, the facts are that Pilot Blue-black is a water resistant ink without being iron-gall or pigmented. And that a former Pilot worker, well respected in the Japanese pen community, explained the change in the formulation of the Pilot Blue-black ink in the 1990s to whoever wanted to listen.

Are those arguments conclusive? Certainly not. But they are better than nothing.

And that is why critical sense is so important.

Pilot Capless LS – Pilot Iroshizuku Yama-budo

Bruno Taut
Nakano, June 23rd, 2020
etiquetas: tinta, Presidente, Pilot, Joker, Hifra, Pilot, metabitácora, Platinum

17 June 2020

Strange Times

The following picture displays two different inks by two different makers—Pilot and Tono & Lims.

Are these two inks so different?

Both inks are remarkably similar in color but their prices are a factor of 2 apart. The Pilot Iroshizuku costs JPY 30/ml (50 ml inkwell) or JPY 47/ml (3-15 ml inkwells), whereas the Tono & Lims costs JPY 60/ml (30 ml inkswell).

Are they so different? Is there any reason for this disparity?

Needless to say, companies have all the right to market whatever the color they consider fit for whatever the price they decide; and that regardless of what the fellow competitors might make. That is certainly not the problem.

The problem, as I see it, it is on the side of the user and how we spend our resources, always limited. Inflation on inks (::1::, ::2::) –some of them redundant-- and on their price (::3::, ::4::) is hardly beneficial to the customer.

Ink and price inflation on one single picture.

The paradox nowadays is that the ferocious competition on the ink market is not translated into a competition on lowering the prices. Much the opposite, actually, as inkwells become smaller and smaller and prices are on the hike.

Strange times.

Ohashido – Sailor Blue

Bruno Taut
Nakano, June 16th, 2020
etiquetas: tinta, Tono & Lims, mercado, Pilot

05 June 2020

Luxury and Silent. II. Analysis

So, how does this new Capless perform?

In summary, we can describe the Capless LS as a new box for an old pen. The new box is bigger and heavier. And comes with a new release system.

The raison d'être is this new Capless is the silent mechanism to release and retract the nib. The first operation is done by pressing the end button. And to retract the nib you must rotate a conical knob below the push button. An internal spring –like in the Fermo-- helps to retract the nib once the know is rotated a small angle. Fermo and LS (and Hermes Nautilus) share this feature with the sole difference of how fast or slow the return spring acts.

The LS, as I said, is bigger and heavier than any other Capless. On the table we can see the dimensions and prices of all four current models.


.Décimo. .Fermo. .Capless LS.
Length closed (mm) 141 140 141 146
Length open (mm) 138 137 149 139
Barrel diameter (mm) 13.3 12.0 12.3 13.5
Weight, dry (g) 30.9 20.4 33.9 40.6
Center of mass to nib point (mm) 69 65 80 80
Price in Japan (JPY) 10000 - 15000 15000 20000 35000

Prices before taxes in Japan for the basic models. The JPY 10000 Capless implements steel nibs, whereas the JPY 15000 version uses 18 K gold nibs. There are more expensive models of some of these pens.

Despite the bigger dimensions of the LS, the pushing knob is thinner than those on the Capless and on the Décimo, and it looks a bit out of proportion and even weak. The nose is now conical and, contrary to that on the Capless, is totally detached from the clip. On this detail, the LS is closer to the Fermo. But whether the clip is intrusive or not is up to each user.

The nose and the clip. And the nib too.

The rotating knob used to retract the nib is not perfectly conical. It sticks out on one side to allow for operating the pen with just one hand. In fact, both pushing the knob and retracting the nib can be done with the thumb. This is the selling point of the LS over the also silent Fermo.

The push button, and the rotating knob.

The extra weight and the new mechanism affect the writing comfort—the pen is not only heavier than the Fermo, but also pushes up the center of mass to a similar point as in that model, which is higher than in the two other Capless models. But again, it is up to the user to decide whether this detail is cumbersome or not.

Aesthetically, the LS does not depart much from the regular Capless. However, there are some minor details that might displease some—the shiny central ring (on three of the colors), the thicker aspect ratio, the additional knob below the push button...

Written sample. Capless LS (M nib) with Iroshizuku's Yama-budo.

In conclusion, the Capless LS –Luxury and Silent-- is an expensive version of the Capless family. It is bigger than any other model. The mechanism works well and delivers the silent performance the name of the pen suggests. Whether this pen is luxurious is a different matter.

Pilot Capless LS - Pilot Iroshizuku Yama-budo

Bruno Taut
Nakano, June 4th, 2020
etiquetas: Pilot, capless

04 June 2020

Luxury and Silent. I. Context

The year 2019 ended with the release of a new version of the Pilot Capless and the rumor of a new capless pen by Platinum. Platinum soon confirmed the new model while starting a careful campaign on the Internet. On the other hand, Pilot's strategy was almost non-existant, and six months later little has been written about that new model.

Pilot Capless LS.

The new Capless LS –Capless Luxury and Silent-- is a new variation of the well-known Capless family of pens. The selling point is the new mechanism to release and retract the nib. On this pen there is still a push button to release the nib, but the retraction is done through a rotating knob located just below the push button. In actual terms, this mechanism is a combination of the knock system of the regular Capless and Décimo, and of the rotating known of the Fermo. The result is a silent acting pen –even more silent than the Fermo— with a hefty price tag: JPY 35000 (plus tax).

This price puts the LS as the most expensive –and more luxurious?-- model of the Capless line by a large margin. The Fermo costs JPY 20000; the Décimo, JPY 15000; and the Capless, JPY 15000 with gold nib, and JPY 10000 with steel nib (see link ::1::).

Current lineup --save changes on color and trims-- of the Capless family of pens.

LS stands for “luxury and silent”, and the luxury part seems associated solely to the price decided by Pilot. It indeed changed the field on which this pen plays in the market, and makes the LS compete with more upscale pens –I am thinking mostly of the Lamy Dialog 3--, although in essence this pen is little else than a regular Capless or Fermo.

Capless on top, LS on bottom. Two different models, a factor 2 on price differences. Same nib units. Newer nib units, though, have a lower content of gold by making the nib neck narrower, as can be seen on this photo.

And that might be the actual hurdle for the LS to overcome—same nib unit as the Fermo or Capless but JPY 15000 or JPY 20000 more expensive for a silent mechanism that can be operated with just one hand. This sounds a tad too expensive.

The Capless LS on Pilot's website. These are the four colors currently available.

The Capless LS comes in four colors. In Japan only two nib points are available: F and M.

Pilot Custom 74, Yamada Seisakusho nib – Sailor Blue-black

Bruno Taut
Nakano, June 3rd, 2020
etiquetas: capless, mercado, Pilot