Showing posts with label Taiwan. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Taiwan. Show all posts

31 December 2019

Tokyo Pen Trends 2019

(This review is part of a collective initiative to summarize and analyze the relevant events of 2019 in the pen scene. The other members are Fudefan and Inky.Rocks:
Fudefan's take on 2019:
Inky.Rocks' video: ).

A lot might have happened, pen wise- in this year of 2019, but not everything is equally interesting, and each of us has a different view on those. These are my selection and of the relevant events, and my reflections on them.

1. Pen Scene.
2019 was the year of the 100th anniversary of Platinum. This company managed the celebration a lot better than Pilot, whose centenary was celebrated in 2018, but Platinum quickly lost momentum after a promising start.

In Japan, the only new pen released in 2019 was the Pilot Custom NS (the Procyon, let us remember, was released in 2018). The NS is the first steel nib in the Custom family, and its price is about 20% lower than that the Custom 74 with a gold nib. Is this a correct strategy in the Japanese market?

Other than this Custom NS, there have not been any new pen—all there is are rehashed pens, minor cosmetic changes on well known models. The Prime, the Platinum pen to commemorate its 100th anniversary, is little else than a 3776 in silver costume. Sailor, on its side, is mastering the art of generating original models –this is the name they use— to be sold exclusively at a certain shop. It seems a very successful system to raise the attention of customers by creating a false sense of scarcity.

A sample of Platinum 3776 Centuries. All of them are essentially the same pen.

As this, The Prime, is also a 3776 in disguise. The Prime was the pen Platinum released to celebrate its 100th anniversary.
Anyway, not much new.

(The Capless LS has just been released in Japan and barely speaks about what went on along 2019. However, this is something new in the pen scene in Japan.)

In contrast, Taiwanese and Chinese pens are becoming a lot more active and innovative. They are offering new recreations of old filling systems with new models almost every month in the case of pens from the PR of China. Their distribution is also becoming more open and all those pens are easier to purchase.

This Wing Sung, obviously inspired on the Twsbi Vac700, in an example of the activity of many Chinese brands.

2. Ink Scene.
More colors more expensive. And the inflation continues.

The only positive side effect is the surge of small ink companies—Krishna in India, Trouble Maker in Philippines, Three Oysters in South Korea, Kala in Taiwan... But only time will say whether there is enough room for so many people. Or enough customers for so many colors...

But the radical approach to this would be to return to those old colors in unassuming inkwells for about JPY 400 per 30 ml: good and inexpensive ink.

When initially marketed, Irishizuku's inks were very expensive. Now they are among the most inexpensive in the Japanese market. And even cheaper are the regular Pilot inks (the inkwell on the right): JPY 400 (plus tax) for 30 ml. This is the radical approach to the present inflation in inks and their prices.

3. Paper.
Paper, or good quality paper, is also becoming a luxury good. But the production costs might be at the heart of this phenomenon. The paper industry relies heavily on the economy of scale and a small community like that of fountain pen aficionados is unable to generate a big demand. The result--producing small batches to fulfill the demand of such small group is inherently expensive.

"Fountain Pen Friendly Paper Collection", by Yamamoto Paper. Some of those included on this pad are no longer available because some mills are no longer in business.

The alternative, for the time being, could be to go back to old Japanese scholar notebooks, some of which are made of good quality paper, albeit not labeled or advertised as “fountain pen friendly”. Kokuyo Campus, and regular Tsubame notebooks are two obvious options easily available.

This Tsubame paper is excellent and inexpensive. There are other rulings...

4. Events.
The Tokyo International Pen Show (TIPS) is here to stay after a very successful second edition. Its main feature –from my perspective— was the ability of gather people from far away locations. TIPS acted as the meeting point for aficionados from places as far away as Spain and Australia, and that despite being more of a stationery salon than of a pen show.

Tokyo International Pen Show. Not a pen show, but a meeting point.

In contrast, the active Tokyo pen community seems isolated and detached from the rest of the World.

5. Social Media.
I am new to this environment, and I am therefore very naïve –or simply skeptical- about it. However, it is hard to miss the huge activity on social media, and the personal connections created through them. The result is a much better connected pen community where parochial attitudes –like those of Japanese brands- are bound to fail.

Japanese companies have not understood anything related to social media, and behave following patterns anchored in the twentieth century, with segregated and separated markets. They do not seem to understand online shopping across borders.

On the contrary, Chinese and Taiwanese pen companies have embraced this new world and are taking benefit from their constant presence on them.

I am sure there is a lot more that could be said about this year 2019, but this is what called my attention.

WiPens Toledo – Montblanc Irish Green

Bruno Taut
Nakano, December 8th 2019
etiquetas: Japón, China, Taiwan, mercado, evento, redes sociales, Pilot, Platinum, Sailor, tinta

20 September 2019

Japanese Eyedropper Today (II). Opus 88 Koloro

In 2016, Eboya stopped the production of Japanese eyedropper pens. These pens were always more expensive that the equivalent versions with cartridge/converter or with button filler systems—the Japanese eyedroppers were between JPY 59000 and JPY 83000, plus taxes. But despite these prices, these pens were the cheapest eyedropper in the market. The next step was –still is— the size 50 Namiki Urushi at JPY 148000.

An old Eboya with Japanese Eyedropper.

On this scenario, the Opus 88 Koloro made its appearance in 2017.

The Opus 88 Koloro in its package.

The company Opus 88 –Jin Gi industrial Company— has been in the market since 1977. But from 1988 on its main business  was the production of OEM pens for other companies, Danitrio and Taccia among them. In the local market of Taiwan, Opus 88 sold some over-run of those OEM pens under its own brand.

Then, the Koloro model showed up in the foreign market in 2017. Its combination of an affordable price –in the range of EUR 100-- and an unusual filling system called the attention of many in the West. As I explained in the previous text, it is not that the Japanese eyedropper system was new at all, but its availability was very limited and expensive.

Nowadays, the Koloro is a family of pens that come in two nib sizes—size 5 and size 6, both by JoWo. The nibs are made of steel –no gold option--, and the feeds are made of plastic. The nib size conditions the overall dimensions of the pen. But in all cases, the filling system is the Japanese eyedropper.

Opus 88 Koloro. Made in the Republic of China. German nib (JoWo). Plastic feed.

Opus 88 could make these pens even more attractive by using in-house nibs or, at lest, nibs locally made. The implementation of ebonite feeds –and there are makers producing them-- would also increase the appeal of the pen. However, these two drawbacks are common to many pen companies.

The Koloro with an ebonite feed by Flexible Nib Factory.

These are the dimensions of the Opus 88 Koloro demonstrator of size 6:

Length closed: 148 mm
Length open: 136 mm
Length posted: this pen does not post.
Diamter: 16.4 nn
Weight: 30 g (inked)
Ink deposit: about 3 ml

In conclusion, this pen is an attractive product –well made, affordable, original— that fills a gap in the pen scene. And that is more than most other companies offer nowadays.

Parker 51 (Inky.Rock's) – De Atramentis Beethoven

Bruno Taut
Nakano, September 2019
etiquetas: soluciones técnicas, Eboya, Opus 88, mercado, JoWo, Taiwan

02 April 2018

Red Clip

The Lamy Safari is a well known model to all of us stylophiles. It is indeed a classic pen given the fact that it was launched in 1980—38 years ago. Yet, Lamy keeps on milking it… annually, and then more. On top of the yearly editions in original colors, Lamy is also keen on marketing local editions and to partner with other companies (::1::, ::2::) to generate special versions.

More anxiety... for some.

A local edition is this last Lamy Safari—a white pen with a red clip. This model was released on March 7th (2018), and its distribution is limited to Taiwan, South Korea, and Japan. Or even more limited, as in the case of Japan, this pen is for sale at only three shops: Isetan department store in Shinjuku, Itoya headquarters in Ginza, and Lamy’s shop in Aoyama. All of them in Tokyo.

A new presentation for the not so new pen. Its price is the same as of regular Safari: JPY 4000, plus tax. However, the limited distribution makes it impossible to find it at discount shops.

In itself, the pen is not particularly original. White Lamy Safari with red clip has shown in the market in several occasions: In 2010 in Japan, with a re-edition in 2013; and a similar version in Taiwan also in 2010. However, there is a difference. On these versions from 2010 and 2013, the cap is finished with a very obvious red dot whereas this edition of 2018 carries the traditional cross, in white, on the cap top.

The version of 2013 sold in Japan. Note the red dot on the cap top.

The regular white Safari together with the new version with red clip.

So, more milk from the old cow; more pens to trigger the collector’s anxiety. But the trick works, although this case might have something to do with the proliferation of Chinese copies of the Lamy Safari (::1::, ::2::).

Pelikan M200 Cognac – Diamine Graphite

Bruno Taut
Nakano, March 29th 2018
etiquetas: Lamy, mercado, Japón, Corea del Sur, Taiwan

29 November 2013

F-4 Nibs

Some weeks ago I spoke about the newly arrived Pilot Kaküno, an entry-level pen –JPY 1000, plus taxes— aimed at the school student. That pen, I already said at the time, was not alone in the Japanese market, where the competition among the big three pen companies is intense.

Today I wanted to speak about a similar product made by Sailor—the High-Ace. This particular model is no longer on production, and has been replaced by the High-Ace Neo, which implements a plastic barrel in five different colors. The original High-Ace had cap and barrel made of steel, while the section is made of black plastic.

The all-steel Sailor High-Ace.

The nib, in the original High-Ace, is made of steel, gold plated, and is labeled as F-4. It is tipped, and cut as F. Its performance is correct and reliable, fairly rigid, with no special feature to remark. However, older units of the High-Ace pen carry an additional inscription on the nib: Made in Taiwan.

The Japanese and the Taiwanese nibs of the Sailor High-Ace.

This is not the first time we see a Taiwan-made nib (or pen) by Sailor (see ::1:: and ::2::). We know Sailor started a manufacturing plant in Taiwan in 1973, and it was devoted to cheaper products of the company.

The F-4 nib was also marketed as Sheaffer during the 1970s and 1980s. During those years, Sailor was the importer of Sheaffer in Japan, and was allowed to manufacture and sell as Sheaffer some lower end pens. Now, it is reasonable to wonder whether those “Sheaffer” F-4 nibs were made in Japan or in Taiwan.

The very cheap Sailor Ink-Pen (JPY 1000, plus tax) also implemented the F-4 nib, albeit without any tipping, and devoid of any plating.

The Sailor Ink Pen...

...and its untipped F-4 nib.

These are its dimensions of the original High-Ace:
  • Length closed: 135 mm
  • Length open: 123 mm
  • Length posted: 148 mm
  • Diameter: 11 mm
  • Weight (dry): 21.3 g
  • Ink deposit: 1.2 ml (cartridge), 0.7 ml (converter)

The price of the High-Ace was JPY 1000, plus tax.

Twsbi Diamond 530, Kubo's music nib – Gary’s Red Black iron-gall ink

Bruno Taut
Madrid, November 28th, 2013
etiquetas: Sailor, Sheaffer, Taiwan

06 February 2013

On Candies. Correction

Some months ago I wrote several texts (::1::, ::2::) on the Clear Candy fountain pen Sailor released in 2011. On those texts, I mentioned that the origin of those pens was a previous line called A. S. Manhattaner. Well, that was true, but just in part.

The 2011 Sailor Clear Candy.

Actually, some sources (Masa Sunami and Andreas Lambrou, magazine Shumi no Bungubako –issue 19-- and some websites like ::1::, ::2:: and ::3::, all three checked on January 2013) teach that there was a Candy fountain pen, by Sailor, released in the 1970s. It was, actually, a big success, selling about four million units in two years. The structure of this first Candy was entirely the same as the current model, as can be seen on the pictures. But as commentator and friend Koskas K pointed out, these early Candy pens had their nibs marked as made in Taiwan.

Several ads of the Sailor Candy from 1970s. Picture taken from Sailor's shop website, as shown on the picture's watermark.

A 1970s Sailor Candy. The motiff of the cap jewel has changed along the history of the model since 1976. Picture by Kostas K.

The F-2 nib made in Taiwan. Picture by Kostas K.

Incidentally, I will add that in 1979 there existed the option of a three-tined music nib made of steel on these inexpensive pens. They were called Candy Music and are now a rarity. Let us remember that the current line of music nibs by Sailor has only two tines.

The 2011 Clear Candy pen does not have its nib imprinted with the "MADE IN TAIWAN" sign.

2011 Clear Candy pens at stationery shops in Japan (2011).

To summarize—the true origin of the Sailor Clear Candy line of pens released in 2011 on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the company dates back from 1976, when the first Sailor Candy was released.

My thanks and appreciation to Mr. Kostas K.

Sailor Profit Junior, 14 K music nib – Diamine Graphite

Bruno Taut
Yokohama, January 30th, 2013
etiquetas: Sailor, plumín musical, Shumi no Bungubako, plumín, Taiwan

18 January 2013

Taiwanese Sailor

Records say that Sailor Pen Company opened a manufacturing plant in the Republic of China, aka Taiwan, in the early 1970s. It started operations on October 1973. it remains unclear whether that plan is still active today, but there seems to be no Sailor fountain pen manufactured in Taiwan nowadays. Some claim, though, that some pen parts, like the F-2 nib, are still manufactured in there.

This pocket pen I am showing today came out from that plant, as the engraving on the section clearly implies. It is an inexpensive pen. Contrary to most pocket pen models, there is no central ring keeping section and barrel together. Instead, the section is build with a plastic thread on which the barrel is attached, and a narrow metallic ring separates externally both pieces and limits the movement of the cap when closing the pen and when posting it on the barrel.

On the other side of the barrel, another engraving reads "412", possibly a code number of the model.

However, the most relevant indicator of how inexpensive this model was is the gold-plated steel nib. The problem does not lay on the material –we all know of excellent nibs made of stainless steel— but on the quality of the steel. The gold plating hided some imperfections on the base material—some pores that showed poor manufacturing conditions. The nib is engraved with the company logo and the label F-1. It dates from mid 1970s.

A relevant question is whether Sailor kept the Taiwanese plant for simpler and inexpensive models. Let us remember that around that same time (mid 1970s) Sailor was producing 23 K gold nibs.

The steel nib of the Taiwanese Sailor.

A 23 K gold nib by Sailor. An expensive way to avoid corrosion.

This pen, as was the case on all Sailor pocket pens nowadays, can only be inked with proprietary cartridges (and by refilling them with our ink of choice, of course). These are its dimensions:
Length closed: 112 mm.
Length open: 95 mm.
Length posted: 137 mm.
Diameter: 12 mm.
Dry weight: 9.8 g.

The Push, celluloid lever filler – Diamine Graphite

Bruno Taut
Yokohama, January 18th, 2013
etiquetas: Sailor, Taiwan

23 August 2012

Demonstrators in Japan

Apparently, along the nearly 50 years of history of the Capless family of pens, only the short model marketed in 1965 had a demonstrator version and, as was the case with most transparent pens, was not intended for sale but to show the internal mechanism. These were, in fact, tools in the hands of Pilot’s salespeople to convince retailers of the virtues of the pen. What most demonstrators intended to show was the filling mechanism, which was a primary battlefront in the market of pens. Then, cartridges became the filling system of choice and transparencies lost its ground, although with some exceptions. In Japan, this happened in the early 1960s, after Platinum had launched the Honest Cartridge in 1956.

The rare Capless demonstrator from 1965.

The Pilot Capless belongs to a different breed of pens. Instead of showing the filling system –a regular and uneventful cartridge-converter—it shows the retracting mechanism and the movable nib unit. And that puts on quite a show! Or, at least, an original one that many a user would be willing to buy.

The latest demonstrator by Platinum. It is named after one of the five lakes around Mt. Fuji: Shoji (精進湖). However, there is not much of a mystery inside the barrel.

And no show is provided by most Japanese modern demonstrators. Save a couple of exceptions –Pilot’s Custom Heritage 92 and Custom 823--, all of them are cartridge converter pens with nothing special to reveal. And, after all, cartridge and converters were removable and of easy access to the user.

Three demonstrators. From top to bottom, the cartridge-converter Pilot Custom 74, the piston filler Twsbi Diamond 530, and the piston filler Pilot Custom Heritage 92.

In the meantime, the Taiwanese brand Twsbi shows that it is possible to make affordable demonstrators with self-filling mechanisms. Now, a transparent modern Capless, that would really shake the scene!

My thanks to Mr. Hiroshi Shimizu.

Pilot L pocket pen – Sailor Sei-boku

Bruno Taut
August 20-22th, 2012
etiquetas: Pilot, Capless, Japón, Taiwan, mercado, Twsbi, Platinum

10 March 2011


Evaluación de la pluma Twsbi Diamond 530.

Posiblemente sea hora de hacer una evaluación de una pluma que ya ha aparecido mucho en estas crónicas: la Twsbi Diamond 530. La Twsbi, al contrario de lo que sucede con muchas otras, está perfectamente documentada y es bien conocida y posiblemente poco puedo aportar a lo ya publicado.

La historia es que el propietario de la marca taiwanesa –Chengchang Wang–, después de unos veinte años de producir plumas para otros decidió crear su propio producto. Y además decidió contar con la opinion de usuarios y entusiastas. Recurrió a uno de los foros de estilófilos más activos: el Fountain Pen Network, donde el Sr. Wang participa con el nombre de “Speedy”. La respuesta fue entusiasta y éste es el resultado de esas aportaciones y de las correspondientes decisiones empresariales.

Un camello es un caballo diseñado por un comité, dice el viejo adagio. Y esta pluma podría ser ese camello. Pero a diferencia de muchos productos e informes diseñados por comités absurdos, esta vez el resultado es muy interesante. Tal vez la razón de este éxito estribe en que al frente de la empresa había una cabeza pensante –Chengchang Wang— que tomaba las decisiones y arriesgaba sus recursos para hacer realidad este proyecto.

La pluma en cuestión, pero con un plumín ajeno.

La Diamond 530 es una pluma transparente –una demonstrator— sin contrapartida opaca. Las plumas de demostración surgieron como instrumento de ventas para enseñar el funcionamiento interno de las innovaciones técnicas de aquellos nuevos productos. Y las plumas que de verdad estaban a la venta eran las opacas.

Pocas innovaciones técnicas hay hoy en el campo de las estilográficas, pero las plumas de demostración no han perdido su atractivo, tal y como demuestran los varios modelos transparentes de Pelikan, Pilot, Sailor… y la propia pluma que nos ocupa.

1. Aspecto y diseño. (8.5/10)
Es esta una pluma grande, comparable a una Pelikan M800. Los detalles decorativos son cromados. El cuerpo de la pluma no es liso sino que tiene unas facetas romboidales que impiden que la pluma ruede libremente.

El capuchón lleva el llamativo logotipo de la marca en su extremo. Este detalle ha sido causa de muchas críticas: es ciertamente una nota discordante en una pluma que no es especialmente llamativa.

La Diamond 530 con un plumín Sailor de 21 quilates, con el logotipo de la marca en el capuchón.

Esta pluma ha sido diseñada de modo que pueda ser desmontada con facilidad. De hecho, la caja de presentación incluye una llave para desmontar el pistón de llenado del depósito de tinta. Asimismo, la página web de Twsbi incluye varios videos explicativos de cómo desensamblar la pluma completamente.

2. Calidad general. (9.5/10)
Cuentan las crónicas que las primeras unidades de esta pluma tenían defectos en las juntas con problemas de fugas de tinta. Twsbi reaccionó con el envío de nuevas piezas a todos los afectados por estos problemas.

La pluma está bien construida. Todos sus elementos están bien ajustados y no presentan holgura alguna a pesar de mi interés por experimentar con ella.

El material plástico no muestra arañazos a pesar de su uso.

3. Peso, dimensiones. (8.0/10)
A pesar de sus dimensiones generosas es una pluma manejable y equilibrada, sobre todo si el capuchón no es encajado en la parte trasera para escribir.

Longitud cerrada: 142 mm.
Longitud abierta: 130 mm.
Longitud con el capuchón atrás: 177 mm.
Diámetro: 14 mm.
Peso: 26 g.

Estas dimensiones son muy similares a las de la Pilot Custom Heritage 92 y a las de la Pelikan M800. Esta última destaca por un depósito de tinta muy generoso, de 2.0 ml frente a los 1.5 ml de la Pilot y de la Twsbi.

Tres plumas de demostración. De arriba a abojo, Pilot Custom 74, Twsbi Diamond 530 y Pilot Custom Heritage 92. En la Twsbi se pueden ver las facetas en el cuerpo que impiden que ruede libremente.

4. Plumín y calidad de escritura. (7.5/10)
Éste es en mi opinión el aspecto menos logrado de la Twsbi Diamond 530. Probablemente por motivos económicos, el plumín de esta pluma procede de la empresa alemana Schmidt que, a su vez, los compra a Bock o a JoWo. El problema no es la calidad del mismo sino la parca variedad de puntos: EF, F y M. El punto más grueso B, anuncia la compañía, estará disponible en breve.

El plumín Schmidt original, con la marca Twsbi grabada en él.

Estos plumines están hechos en acero inoxidable y son bastante rígidos. El flujo de tinta es agradablemente generoso, lo que favorece la suavidad en la escritura. En principio, nada que objetar.

Ahora bien, en una pluma tan desmontable como esta la idea de explorar otras posibilidades es lógica. Mis experimentos, de momento, se limitan a intercambiar plumines entre las estilográficas que tengo a mi alrededor. Los resultados son los siguientes:

-- Los plumines Pilot número 5, en oro de 14 quilates, funcionan bien. Hay once puntos disponibles, desde EF hasta BB (llamado coarse por Pilot) con los añadidos de plumines ligeramente flexibles (SF, SFM, SM) y de un musical. Hay versiones rodiadas de nueve de ellos.

-- Los plumines junior de Sailor también funcionan bien. Son bastante rígidos, lo que no genera demandas grandes de tinta.

Plumín musical de Pilot. Prueba de escritura.

Por otro lado, en la red (FPN) hay reseñas de otras combinaciones: plumines Pelikan (de las series 200, 400 y 600), plumines Bock, etc.

La conclusión es sencilla y muy general, extrapolable a cualquier pluma: cualquier plumín que se ajuste al alimentador y entre en la boquilla vale mientras la demanda de tinta no sea muy alta.

Finalmente, el plumín Schmidt de esta Twsbi Diamond 530 es correcto y el mayor problema es el de tener pocas opciones de trazo.

La versión posiblemente más exótica: con plumín musical. Lástima que este plumín no esté disponible en versión rodiada.

5. Sistema de llenado. Mantenimiento. (9.0/10)
Éste es el gran argumento de esta pluma: un sistema de autollenado por pistón de vacío. Este pistón, según el propio Sr. Wang en el Fountain Pen Network, procede de Schmidt que, si bien no produce sus propios plumines sí tiene capacidad de fabricar pistones para estilográficas.

Con una capacidad de 1.5 ml, su depósito es mayor que cualquier cartucho o conversor de tinta, pero se queda corto respecto a la capacidad de otras plumas similares.

La gran virtud de este sistema de pistón es que no es inconveniente para las tareas de mantenimiento. Como ya señalé, esta pluma es fácilmente desmontable y su limpieza y la sustitución de elementos dañados o desgastados es sencilla. A decir de algunos usuarios, la casa matriz es muy diligente en el envío de repuestos.

Plumín medio (M) de Pilot. Prueba de escritura.

6. Precio y valor de la compra. (9.5/10)
Esta pluma es muy barata: US$ 40. Por ese precio recibimos un producto de buena calidad con un diseño atractivo. Es, posiblemente, la pluma más barata del mercado con llenado por pistón.

El elemento menos satisfactorio podría ser el plumín, si bien cumple su función perfectamente.

Tal vez el problema sea que el aspecto y calida de esta pluma sean muy superiores a lo que su precio indica. El plumín es perfectamente acorde con el precio pagado, pero posiblemente no esté a la altura del resto de los elementos.

Plumín original de Twsbi, por Schmidt. Prueba de escritura.

7. Conclusión. (52/60 = 87/100)
Gran producto, y no únicamente por el precio. Es una pluma de calidad y con mucho interés para el aficionado. El elemento menos satisfactorio es el plumín, si bien cumple su función con suavidad y corrección. El depósito de tinta podría ser apreciablemente más grande si atendemos a plumas de diseño parecido.

Plumín Sailor fino-medio (MF) de 21 quilates. Prueba de escritura.

Mi agradecimiento al Sr. Yamada, nibmeister japonés.

(Twsbi Diamond 530 con varios plumines – Diamine Amazing Amethyst)

Bruno Taut
8 de marzo de 2011
[labels: Twsbi, Pelikan, Sailor, Taiwan, Pilot, fora]