Showing posts with label estilofilia. Show all posts
Showing posts with label estilofilia. Show all posts

19 February 2019

The Namiki Effect

Stylophiles are a special bunch. Driven by our anachronistic passion we often crave for certain features: gold nibs, self-filling mechanisms (as opposed to cartridges and converters), ebonite feeds, some specific materials like celluloid or ebonite,… And we demand those features for pens over certain price. Or, in other words, we might despise pens over certain price if they didn't offer some of them.

But the market might be telling us that we are mistaken. Just a quick look at today's catalogs shows how many luxury brands offer nothing but cartridge-converter pens with plastic feeds. Materials and gold nibs are less of a problem, though.

An expensive Pilot. Cartridge-converter and plastic feed.

Luxury pens of Platinum-Nakaya and Sailor are cartridge-converters. Pilot-Namiki does offer Japanese eyedroppers, but only for the biggest nib size. All the others, with nibs sizes 5, 10, and 20, are cartridge-converters despite how expensive they are.

An expensive Hakase.

Then, small makers like Eboya, Hakase, Ohashido, Stylo-Art Karuizawa, all focussed on higher-end pens only offer cartridge-converter pens. The only exception to this trend might be Masahiro and the newly-arrived Iwase Seisakusho.

Now, are these two brands –Masahiro and Iwase Seisakusho— on the right path or the success of all the other brands shows the opposite? How important are those details like ebonite feed and self-filling mechanisms in the final price –and in the final value-- of the pen?

A Masahiro pen. Expensive, but it implements an ebonite feed, a self-filling mechanism, an ebonite body, and a gold nib.

The market might be telling us that we stylophiles are still a minority in the business. Or it might only be that I am very mistaken about what we demand, and cartridge and converters and plastic feeds are perfectly all right even on very expensive pens.

Or it might be that we are very easy targets. After all, every pen has its charm, and all those cravings are not so important.

And that is the Namiki effect--expensive pens can be, in essence, very simple. Namiki has proven it through years in the market.

Iwase Seisakusho prototype – Takeda Jimuki Hisoku

Bruno Taut
Bunkyo, February 9th 2019
etiquetas: estilofilia, mercado, makie, Eboya, Hakase, StyloArt Karuizawa, Masahiro, Sailor, Ohashido, Iwase Seisakusho, Pilot, Platinum

10 January 2019

Pen Obsessions

Once again, I encountered one of those pens that show the essential conflict between the collector and the historian, or between the the rarity and the icon. I am well aware that most collectors would not hesitate to choose the exception over the norm despite the fact that very little do these rarities offer to the understanding of the history of pens.

Today's pen is a prototype.

In 2001, on the occasion of its 90th anniversary, Sailor created the corresponding anniversary pen. This was called “Mannenhitsu Dôraku”, something like “pen obsession". That was a limited edition of 900 units, made of dark or clear briarwood. This was –dare I say-- one of the most interesting limited editions made by Sailor due to its two-fold nib—a cross nib in the Sailor way of naming its specialty nibs.

The final version of the 90th anniversary pen of Sailor's. 900 units in dark or clear briarwood.

The prototype also implements a double nib, but a more complex one: a King Cobra with an overfeed (called “emperor”) to ensure the ink supply.

The prototype.

This was, apparently, a proof of concept for the final anniversary pen. I can only guess that the actual cost of this combination, King Cobra nib plus overfeed, was finally too costly and was rejected.

A King Cobra nib with overfeed.

The very characteristic point of the King Cobra.

These are the dimensions of the prototype:

Length closed: 150 mm
Length open: 132 mm
Length posted: 175 mm
Diameter: 15 mm
Weight: 41.0 g (inked)

In actual terms there is nothing unique to this pen... save the combination of elements. And stylophiles love it.

My thanks to Mr. Sekine.

Iwase Seisakusho prototype – Pelikan 4001 Royal Blue

Bruno Taut
Nakano, January 8th 2019
labels: Sailor, estilofilia, plumín

09 August 2018

Eclectic or Weak?

I have said this a number of times: fountain pens are obsolete objects, and there is nothing necessary in them. Then, on top of wanting fountain pens, we want them to be in certain way, even though some of those ways might be plain silly.

We want gold nibs. Sure steel nibs can be excellent and more often than not, a blind test would confuse most of us. But gold is gold; and, for some, the more the better.

We want feeders made of ebonite. Japanese makers have proved that plastic feeders work well when properly designed, but the more expensive ebonite is what rocks the boat of stylophiles.

We want self-filling mechanisms. Or, in other words, stylophiles want their fingers stained with ink. Cartridges and converters are too clean, too efficient, too functional. And if not a self-filling mechanism, an eyedropper pen would do it.

We want exotic and outdated materials for the pen body. Many despise current plastics and long for ancient and unstable celluloid like if current acrylic were not colorful enough. Ebonite is also a beloved material despite its propensity to discolor.

Those are, dare I say, the features many –or most— pen aficionados look for on modern pens. And they connect the collector of modern pens with those more fond of vintage fountain pens. In essence, this is the niche market for modern brands like Danitrio, Kanesaki-time Eboya, Gama, Masahiro, Romillo

An old pen by Eboya--ebonite body, ebonite feeder, button filler, gold nib. It belongs to the time when Kanesaki Noritoshi was in charge of the pen production.

And it goes without saying that most contemporary pens don’t fulfill those characteristics. The typical modern pen is made of plastic, implements plastic feeders and uses cartridges and converters. But that is not an obstacle for some of them to become iconic: Pilot Capless, Japanese pocket pens including the Pilot Myu, Lamy Safari

An iconic pen despite its steel nib, its plastic feeder, its filling system, and its material.

So, what do we want? Probably we want old fashioned pens, but we are also happy with almost any pen. Then, the competition in the market selects who wins. And given the available offer, we stylophiles are still too weak in front of the mass of occasional buyers. That or we are too eclectic and in one way or another any pen makes us happy.

Muji Aluminum – Diamine China Blue

Bruno Taut
Nakano, July 21st 2018
etiquetas: mercado, estilofilia

07 July 2018

A Collection?

At first, most of us stylophiles, follow the same pattern. At some point we became attracted to fountain pens and started buying and accumulating as many pens as we possibly could.

And then came the typical question seasoned collectors ask:

‘What do you collect?’

The new aficionado has only one realistic answer:

‘Everything I can afford.’

An accumulation...

The question, needless to say, calls the newcomer in a number of ways: be selective, be wise with your resources, be patient… All those things so difficult to watch at first. Only time and experience teach wiser strategies in the art of collecting. But there is one detail seasoned collectors rarely say or do not really think about:

It is not just one collection you can pursuit, but several of them.

A collection. Just a possible collection. Or just one of them.

The discipline of collecting is learnt in an almost unconscious way by becoming aware of the limited resources at our disposal. And soon afterwards we also see that several arguments –several collections— is a way to keep the joy of collecting alive. After all, a strict limit on our collection might transform our hobby into a nightmare.

However, money counts, and money sets the true limits, and money is mostly everything. And collecting is a class activity.

But there is a collection to every budget. Or, even, more than one.

Sailor pocket pen, WG nib – Tomiya Tomikei Blue

Bruno Taut
Nakano, July 7th 2018
etiquetas: estilofilia

20 April 2017

Friend and Foe

Now and then I need to rant. Or reflect aloud.

Members of the stylophile community like to brag about how wonderful we are, about how we are willing to share information and resources. And there is some truth to it. However, it does not take much thinking to realize that your friend in the community is also a potential competitor in the market. And then the attitude changes—information then becomes precious and treasured, and even rationed. Few people reveal where they found their exotic pens, almost nobody speak of prices paid… All these gestures are rarely disruptive—a smile can do wonders when refusing to reveal those secrets. But the competition is real and can reach the point of plain rudeness when spotting an interesting pen—the basic politeness of “you saw it first” is not always honored.

Then, are we friends or are we foes? And what is the value of all the information the community as a whole continuously publish online? Sheldon Cooper quoted (The Big Bang Theory 3.15 The Large Hadron Collision) economist Fred Hirsch to explain the concept of “neener-neener”—a pen is valued by some because it is not possessed by others, and therefore the need to display it. That exposure does not come without consequences, both positive and negative: that display can trigger some additional interest in the market and generate some inflation. It can also appreciate the displayed pen when reselling was the goal.

And at the end, the guy with the thicker wallet wins.

Sailor Profit, Naginata Togi – Tomikei Blue

Bruno Taut
Nakano, April 18 2017
etiquetas: metabitácora, mercado, estilofilia

02 August 2016


To speak about fetishism in the world of fountain pens is essentially redundant. Collecting is a form of fetishism—to favor the tool for itself instead of for the work it does or for its actual performance. Now, fetishism can go a lot farther…

As of lately, and these Chronicles might share part of the responsibility for that, some “craftsman” pens, made with old technology and in low production batches have gained some name among stylophiles. Brands like Eboya (formerly Nebotek), Hakase, Ohashido, StyloArt Karuizawa, fit in this category nowadays. But some time ago there was another master who by now holds a quasi-mythical dimension—Sakai Eisuke (酒井栄助) the leading figure behind Ban-ei pens and creator of the prototype of modern Pilot-Namiki with size 50 nibs.

Three pens made by Sakai Eisuke.

Sakai Eisuke was a master of the rokuro, the traditional pedal-operated Japanese lathe, and here I am showing one of the rokuro he used. Now, it belongs to Nikko Ebonite, and is, in actual terms, one of the two traditional lathes in service to make Eboya pens.

Ex-Sakai Eisuke rokuro.

Does this detail add any value to the pens made with it? Most likely not, but that depends on your personal obsessions re fountain pens. I, for one, was very happy to see and even touch a tool used by a great master.

The current location of the old rokuro: the building of Nikko Ebonite.

My thanks to Mr. Noritoshi Kanesaki

Oaso “Safari” – Diamine Graphite

Bruno Taut
Nakano, August 1st, 2016
etiquetas: estilofilia, Eboya, Pilot, Ban-ei

21 April 2016

Pens at an Exhibition

The National Museum of Japanese History, in the city of Sakura (Chiba prefecture), hosts these days –March 8th to May 8th 2016—an exhibition on fountain pens: “Fountain Pens: Their History ad Art in Japan”. That is the official English title. However, the original in Japanese is more along the lines of “Lifestyle and Fountain Pens. The Modernization of Writing”.

Finally I had the chance to attend it and these are my recollections:

Sakura is a small town (population around 180000) in the prefecture of Chiba, about 60 minutes away from Tokyo Station by train. The Museum is connected to the train station by a bus route that takes 15 min. The admission fee to the exhibition is JPY 830. No pictures are allowed.

This is the outline:

Lifestyle and Fountain Pens. The Modernization of Writing.
0. Introduction. Literature and writing in Japan.
1. Fountain pens in Japan and their craftsmanship.
1.1 History of fountain pens in Japan.
1.2 Craftsmanship.
-- Lathe masters.
-- Maki-e.
2. Fountain pens and contemporary Japan.
2.1 The time of fountain pens.
2.2 Fountain pens and the modern organization.
2.3 Fountain pens and daily life.
3. Epilogue. Writing revisited.

The starting point of the exhibition is the role fountain pens played around 1900 in Japan. Fountain pens –that is, a reliable writing tool with an integrated ink deposit—were a much better writing device in a highly literate society whose writing system was based on handwriting. This starting point, somehow, defines the whole exhibition whose focus is on the social influence of pens and not on the historical development of them.

In fact, as could be seen on the outline, the part dedicated to the history of pen in Japan is limited to the first section (1.1). It is, however, rather limited and is organized by brands, with the big three companies taking most of the available space. A more chronological display would have been a lot more illustrative. There is also the obvious void of pens made after 1980 (save for some contemporary Pilot Capless and some Kato Seisakusho’s models).

Given the focus of the exhibition, most of the pens on display are common tools that were available to the average citizen. The most obvious exception to this rule is the selection of maki-e decorated pens used to illustrate the section on Japanese craftsmanship.

This section is completed with assorted memorabilia: ads, display cases, sale materials, etc.

More importance is given to the theme of craftsmanship of pens (section 1.2), focused on two aspects: pen turning and maki-e decoration.

Pen turning by rather primitive means has always been an important part of the Japanese pen industry. Let us remember brands as Ban-ei, Kato Seisakusho, Hakase, Eboya, Ohashido, and many others. Several of those lathes --pedal operated, with precarious chucks more often than not, and unstable toolposts— together with sets of tools can be seen at the museum.

Maki-e is also very well presented. The selection of pens, many from private collections, is magnificent and is supported by a computer system where visitors can explore the decorative motifs in detail through high quality pictures.

Page 111 of the catalog. It displays a maki-e decorated pen by Platinum. A pen, actually, already described on these Chronicles.

The exhibition is interesting and worth the trip from Tokyo. After all, pens rarely show up collectively in museums. Unfortunately, pictures are not allowed. However, there is a very serious flaw: pens and other objects are not dated. This is an inexplicable mistake to any curator.

The catalog is nicely printed and is affordable in price (JPY 1800, plus tax). Pictures, and in particular those of maki-e pens, are very good. But the editor made a big mistake. There are a number of pictures of pens that are seamless compositions of pictures of single pens. At the time of putting them together, someone made the stupid decision of representing all the pens in the same length, not respecting the actual differences in size. The result is ridiculous: a pocket pen of the same length of a full size Pilot Custom Sterling, as can be seen on the accompanying pictures.

Page 30 of the catalog shows these six Pilot pens. All of them, apparently, have the same length.

This is how those six pens (save minor decorative details) really look like with respect to each other. This ridiculous mistake is repeated in a number of pages of the catalog.

The lack of dates in the exhibition is not corrected in the catalog. Again, we are deprived of that valuable piece of information.

But I would visit the exhibition “Lifestyle and Fountain Pens” again.

My thanks to Poplicola-san.

Ban-ei in black urushi – Pilot Blue

Bruno Taut
Nakano, April 20th 2016
etiquetas: evento, Japón, estilofilia

24 November 2015

Madrid Pen Show 2015

I wonder whether it is worth to write about yet another pen show. In a sense, all of them are one and the same: people gathering around fountain pens. But I attended the 2015 Madrid Pen Show (November 13th to 15th, 2015) and I feel compelled to speak about it.

Photo courtesy of Foro de Estilográficas member Antolín.

The Madrid Pen Show is currently the biggest event of this kind in Europe—70 tables, 62 traders from 13 different countries, and over 1200 visitors in the two and a half days of the event.

The following video by Mr. José Riofrío truly captures the pleasant atmosphere of the event. The commercial side is a given to any such show; the social part is also there, but is often limited to the local community of stylophiles. The Madrid Pen Show is, in this regard, the meeting event of most of the Spanish pen community, regularly connected through the Spanish pen fora, mostly the Foro de Estilográficas and Relojes Especiales – Grafos. Some of the members of this community can be seen at the dinner party, which by now is an integral part of the celebration.

The pixelated figure (min 3:05 and 3:12) corresponds to Mr. Tom Westerich, who after greeting the camera decided he was too important to appear on the video and filed a complaint before YouTube. This is, therefore, the "Westerich-correct" version.

A lot has been said and written on how to proceed in events like this, but I am afraid that even the most seasoned collector becomes overwhelmed by the sheer amount and variety of pens. It always becomes difficult to decide how to spend the always limited resources.

But if asked, I would advice in the following terms:

I. Keep focus on what you want. This might be either a model, a brand, a category of some sort, etc. Your eyes and your brain will quickly filter the signal from the noise.

II. But do not close your eyes totally to those pens not fitting your primary interest. A pen show is a magnificent opportunity to see and to touch extraordinary pens, which takes me to point III.

III. Ask, touch, try,… and ask again. Take the chance to learn about your beloved objects.

IV. Explore the show before buying, but also consider that some pens might be rare finds. Sometimes, what is left behind might be gone forever.

V. Assume you will not see every single pen in the show. There are just too many, and that is why rule I becomes even more important.

Enjoy the pen show near you, even if overwhelmed.

Special thanks to Mr. José Riofrío and to Antolín.

Parker 51 demi, vacumatic – Private Reserve DC Supershow Blue

Bruno Taut
Madrid, November 17th, 2015
Edited on December 16th, 2015 due to privacy complaints of Mr. Tom Westerich.
etiquetas: Madrid, mercado, estilofilia, evento

16 December 2014

On Maki-e Pens

I think we should face it—maki-e decorated pens are a class on their own, apart from any other. The reason lays on the fact that these pens attract the attention of people more interested on the decoration itself than on the pen. Consequently, details as the nib or the filling system or the quality as writing tool become almost --if not completely-- irrelevant. The pen, then, becomes a jewel with a nib, a cylindrical canvas for the maki-e artisan.

A small cup with maki-e decoration.

So, when the decoration is more important, the whole set of rules under which a stylophile analyzed a pen is turned upside down. Stylophiles greatly value the originality of all the components of the pen—nib and feed must correspond to that particular model, the clip could also have been replaced… And somehow the pen should be known to have existed (this might be tricky at times, but can be applied to the vast majority of pens).

But for the maki-e buff, all that is secondary. The quality of the decoration is paramount. Therefore, is there such a thing as a fake maki-e decorated pen? No, dare I say, as long as the maki-e is there (of course, there exist some maki-e-like decoration using some other less elaborated techniques that hold a lot less value, but they are not maki-e). In fact, this scenario favors the creation of one-of-a-kind pens based on almost any pre-existing model. There are, nowadays as in the past, maki-e artisans who decorated pens on demand, with no knowledge, of course, of the manufacturer.

Two unique maki-e decorated pens. In actual terms, they are Pilot Custom 67.

An obvious side effect of this phenomenon is the proliferation of organized customizations—Pelikan, Parker, Danitrio, Loiminchay… and, of course, the big three, Pilot-Namiki, Platinum-Nakaya, and Sailor. Indeed, this is an easy and safe way to add value to any given pen. As well as a convenient costume to pass as Japanese, which seems another way to add value.

A maki-e decorated Pelikan M1000.

Maybe we all –stylophiles and those fond of maki-e pens-- should remember that maki-e is an old decorative technique that long predates fountain pens. And narrow cylindrical shapes are rarely the most convenient canvas for any purpose.

A bowl for miso soup.

On my side, and this is just a personal option, I insist in thinking that a pen is a pen—and is a pen! And no decoration makes it any better, or any worse, as a pen. Some people, though, do not think like me.

Romillo Essential Black – Pilot Iroshizuku Kon-peki

Bruno Taut
Madrid, December 14th 2014
labels: mercado, Japón, estilofilia, maki-e

27 November 2014

Madrid Pen Show 2014

The 11th edition of the Madrid Pen Show was celebrated on the weekend of November 14th to 16th, and I am bound to report on it. But that is no easy task, as mostly all that there is to say had already been written on these Chronicles.

Year after year, the pen show is the big celebration of stylophiles in Spain, and even more than that, as some foreign residents also attended the event. Therefore, this is a major social gathering for many of us, a meeting point for people you only know by name or by alias on a number of pen fora or through email. And then, face to face, a lot more information is actually exchanged.

The conversation often moves onto the dining table, where pens and paper are spread our easily.

Sarj Minhas is well known in Madrid.

The commercial aspect is obviously important, but a pen show is rarely the place to find unexpected bargains. Pen traders do know their job and what they are selling, and they are also aware of the typical customer at those events—we are there because we value pens, and we would pay a lot more that the average person on the street. In fact, we know we are quite foolish when we pay more than, say, EUR 10 for a writing tool. And that is a common mistake among newcomers to a pen show—“pens are not cheap”, they say. Of course not, albeit there might be exceptions buried in the myriad of pens on display.

The space in between tables was scarce at times. That seems to be solved for the 2015 edition, when over 500 sq. meters will be available.

Gary Lehrer, David Nishimura and Carlos Sánchez-Álamo. Among others, of course.

A visitor and a trader. Rick Propas and Jim Marshall. Photo courtesy of Foro de Estilográficas member Antolín.

A third leg in a pen show is the didactic one. Some events do this very well by organizing seminars and workshops. Madrid Pen Show fails at that, but by no means the learning aspect is absent. Both traders and visitors are often well versed on pens and they are willing to share their knowledge. That comes very easily, and it is indeed a pity not to take benefit of this well-informed crowd.

Jonathan Steinberg, Darek Sot, David Nishimura--all of them trading pens.

Luiz Leite and Rick Propas.

Pens, pens, pens...

Figure-wise, the Madrid Pen Show congregated about 1200 visitors and 67 traders over thee days. For the next edition (November 13 to 15, 2015) there will be a maximum of 72 traders on a larger lounge of over 500 square meters. The Madrid Pen Show is now the largest event of its kind in Europe.

Jim Marshall attending some customers. Photo courtesy of Antolín.

My thanks to Foro de Estilograficas member and friend Antolin.

Romillo Nervión Terracota – Pilot Blue

Bruno Taut
Madrid, November 25th 2014
etiquetas: Madrid, mercado, evento, estilofilia