Showing posts with label fora. Show all posts
Showing posts with label fora. Show all posts

18 April 2016

Signs of Change

Along these past months there have been a number of events that might show something is changing in the stylographic scene. Isolated, these might be regarded as anecdotes, even if unpleasant at times. However, coincidence in time can be a sign of something more relevant.

These are the facts:

1. The Montblanc-Fountain Pen Network (FPN) controversy (::1::, ::2::). Back in January, some FPN members published pictures of the not yet released Montblanc William Shakespeare model. Apparently, those pictures had been leaked by some Montblanc shops. Anyway, Montblanc complained before the administrators of FPN, who decided to remove the related threads.

Some controversy (see ::1:: and ::2::, especially the comment sections), mostly outside the FPN, followed, but that is not the issue here. What matters now is that Montblanc felt the need to react instead of ignoring the whole issue or resolving it internally by disciplining those who leaked the information.

2. Brown and the trolls. Well-known blogger and pen connoisseur SBRE Brown complained on his blog about the personal attacks he had been receiving recently through the comment section of his videos in YouTube. Brown expressed his surprise for what he considered a change in the community that he had thought as exemplary.

Again, Brown’s and other’s (Armstrong of The Pen Habit, Deans of Fountain Pen Economics, thread on Reddit, thread on Fountain Pen Geeks forum, etc.) comments are secondary to this argument. The relevant detail is that now we see people who take time and effort to express their dislike about something pen related.

I understand this phenomenon as an indication of an increased popularity of those videos. More viewers mean more exposure also on those lists of suggested videos on YouTube. And more viewers imply more probabilities of undesired personalities, of trolls with nothing of interest to say. In any case, the bottom line is a larger number of people exposed to pens.

3. Delta and Marte Modena (The best summary I have found is this link by Pedro Haddock: Italian brand Delta has decided to market some of its products exclusively through an online retailer—Marte Modena. This decision has alienated the traditional retailers as Delta is focusing on online customers, usually more acquainted with their products than the occasional customer of a brick and mortar shop.

4. Two more details, even if minor to the whole picture. Ian Hedley, of Pen! Paper! Pencils!, took the effort of writing a letter to Pilot UK to ask about Pilot’s import and pricing policies, and Pilot responded with detailed information (or detailed excuses). And in an operation of public relations, Pilot USA invited the Goulets for a visit to their facilities in Florida in November of 2015.

Both cases illustrate the importance given by Pilot to the online scene. And this is a new development.

So, what do all those facts mean?

All in all, they could be interpreted along the line of the pen community becoming larger and stronger. I have always argued that we, stylophiles, were a small group, economically weak, almost irrelevant in the economic balance of pen makers when compared to the group of occasional pen buyers. In other words, no matter how many pens we stylophiles could buy, we were no match to the volume of new fountain pens acquired by those occasional consumers.

But that imbalance might be changing. We might have become more attractive to brands like Montblanc, Delta and Pilot in the examples here described.

If my interpretation was true, the consequences would be very interesting. The business model of pen makers would evolve to cater some of our obsessions and cravings. Our opinions on fountain pens would, in fact, matter. Maybe then, the general frustration about the limited availability of nib points of most brands could be solved, for instance.

But, of course, this could just be wishful thinking.

Daiso Chinese pen with Mochizuki cross nib – unknown blue ink

Bruno Taut
Nakano, April 15th 2016
etiquetas: Montblanc, Delta, Pilot, mercado, fora, metabitácora

11 March 2016

Side Effects

What is the value of writing a blog about fountain pens?

This blog is about to enter into its seventh year of existence. Along this time, it has slowly specialized on vintage Japanese pens. During the first years, I also spoke about contemporary models, but that aspect of the blog faded away as Japanese pens became better known and distributed overseas, and fora and other blogs were prompt to speak about them. Needless to say, I also digress now and then and I have also written about somehow exotic pens (North and South Koreans, Spanish, Czechoslovakian,…) or about stationery

At first I thought that writing on fountain pens had a positive effect—information added value to the good, and our pens became more appreciated. But that appreciation also plays against us as those old pens are now harder to find and buy.

Two overpriced Pilot pens: M90 on top, Myu-701 on bottom.

Case in point—the Pilot Myu-701 has steadily increased its price along the past 10 years. The American demand –wealthy and numerous—creates an inflationary process on any pen becoming fashionable. And the first step for anything to become so is to be known.

This inflationary effect also affects new pens. we all know how Nakaya –to name a Japanese brand— increased its prices around 2010 after months of hype on international fora. But very often, companies react slowly to these fashions. Pilot, for instance, has not changed the price of the highly praised Custom 823 in the last twenty-something years. So, this inflationary effect is less dramatic on contemporary pens.

A Custom 823 by Pilot. Its Japanese price, JPY 30000 plus tax, has not changed in over 20 years.

The conclusion of all this is that writing about pens and, particularly, about vintage pens is a bit like shooting ourselves on the foot. But somehow I enjoy it—the writing, not the bullet.

Pilot Murex – Pilot Black

Bruno Taut
Chuo (Tokyo), March 4th, 2016
etiquetas: mercado, metabitácora, fora, Pilot, Platinum

14 May 2015

Information Providers

This story is already old and well known, and many a commentator and stylophile have voiced their opinions and views. But I am slow and had to take some time.

Some months ago the very active website FPGeeks went blank and, in fact, it has not showed any activity since then. The team formed by Eric Schneider and Dan Smith seems to be broken beyond repair. And later on we learned that Dan Smith had joined the company Kenro Industries, distributor of Aurora, Omas, Montegrappa, Tibaldi, in the US, as Director of Social Media.

The devil is often hidden in the details, but in essence this issue seems to be yet another example of conflict between money and freedom. Or, in other words, how much does information cost?

The Internet is full of free information. Not always reliable, but certainly free. Blogs and fora and a number of websites cost nothing to the reader (save, that is, for the internet service to be paid to the provider), and we all have become too comfortable with this fact. But all of those sites rely on the work and time and resources of a number of people.

How sustainable is this system? So far, it seems to be doing very well. And the main reason might be a simple one—there is enough number of information providers, of people, willing to share their resources. Consequently, the total load of work per capita is acceptable. And when someone could not cope with that load, another aficionado will promptly fill the void.

The information thus offered could be considered free of economic bias. There are no obvious economic incentives and authors would, in principle, feel free to express any opinion, positive and negative, on products and services.

The problem arises when the information providers look for some compensation for their dedication and resources. Some websites have advertisements, some blog authors ask for donations, some fora restrict what could be said on them to avoid annoying some actual or potential sponsors (::1::, ::2::)…

How does all this money affect the ecosystem of information in the Net? Economic incentives often, if not always, introduce bias in the expressed opinions. An obvious example, and not an extreme case, is that of Dan Smith—working for Kenro Industries, he will hardly say anything negative about the pens this company distributes. He is still an information provider, but a biased one.

It is not easy to draw a line between what is an acceptable incentive and what becomes a source of unacceptable bias. It is, in fact, a lot worse—those lines are personal. And, probably, differences in opinion about that line caused the break up of the Dan and Eric team and the present disappearance of the FPGeeks site.

Platinum 3776 (1984) – Parker Quink Blue

Bruno Taut
Nakano, May 4th, 2015
etiquetas: metabitácora, fora

11 October 2014

A Word of Thanks

I owe an explanation and a word of thanks to the readers of these texts and, more in particular, to those who took the effort to comment on my text entitled “Question”.

These are the reasons that triggered that text: I was going to be away from home and I wanted some Chronicles ready to be published easily. Then, it also happened that that “Question” text was my 400th Chronicle and the self-reflection on this effort was –still is— unavoidable. Finally, I discovered myself browsing over some blogs, including my own, without really reading any text in depth.

Therefore, once again, are these texts appreciated?

Thanks to those commenting I see now I have some actual readers, and I feel relieved. But the question was relevant—there are a number of people in the cyberspace trying to provide some relevant information on –re our context— fountain pens. And yet, too often, it is hard to avoid the feeling that no real impact they make. The information is out there, but many ignore it and do not make any effort to look for it. The impression –might be wrong, of course— is that little improvement is achieved on the general pen literacy. And then, the same questions arise once and again in fora and similar spaces. Never before information was more widespread and easy to find, but few seem ready to make the effort of finding it.

And if so, why bother writing anything?

Your comments meant a lot. This blog receives very few comments and therefore they are most valued.


Platinum pocket pen, music nib – B-Stock-Nakajima Sumire (Sailor)

Bruno Taut
Shinjuku, October 13rd 2014
etiquetas: metabitácora, fora

07 June 2013

Fora (II). Changes

I think I should start by apologizing before all those who read these texts and who do not care much about fountain pen fora, and for whom their recent crises is totally alien. My excuse is easy—I also live in the Internet space, I generate contents and I enjoy and suffer the changes in this environment. And I have learned a lot from those fora. Next Chronicle, I promise, will be about pens.

So, what is the problem right now? Fountain Pen Network (FPN), the biggest pen forum in the Internet, has recently changed its rules (Terms of Use) to restrict the possibility to link other websites from any particular post, including links to personal blogs written by the very same author as the post author. And it goes even further—to be allowed such a link to your own blog, you should purchase a premium FPN account. Other changes enforced the idea that the content of the post should be original and unique, and should not be available in other websites.

Well, this seems a perfect example of the idea of “give us contents, provide us with traffic, and let us cash the benefits”. As private entities, fora can very well set these and other rules, but these very restrictive Terms of Use (retrieved on June 7th, 2013) might be a very stupid way of shooting themselves on the foot.

In a forum, any forum, there are two types of traffic. The most evident is the internal traffic—forum members browsing around and, eventually, commenting on already published entries and writing new ones. This traffic might be big, but it is also limited as there are only that many forum members. It is entertaining, but it also generates a lot of noise—we all know, enjoy and suffer those messages simply stating “great pen!”, “I like it” or “another one on my list”.

The second type of traffic is the external traffic. Non-members might land on the forum searching for some information. This traffic might be small, but it is new. These visitors are, in fact, attracted with quality contents. They look for the signal, and some might even become new forum members.

Quality work, I content, increases the traffic and adds value to the forum. Quality content, therefore, should be encouraged and promoted. But why would anyone give his work for free to a forum that will take over its property? Promoting this quality might go through inviting knowledgeable authors to participate in fora. And even paid for their work. Their contributions would certainly improve the forum also in economic terms.

One final note: I am not such an knowledgeable expert, and I am not demanding any compensation for participating in any forum. But when someone changes the rules the arguments can go in either direction, for and against. Rules, let us remember, are to be challenged all the time.

I am not asking to be paid, but I will not pay either.

Pilot L, pocket pen – Pilot Blue

Bruno Taut
Shinjuku, May 28th, 2013
etiquetas: metabitácora, fora

24 May 2013


I have already spoken about fora and their problems on these Chronicles. Fora, I concluded, were not free. They do belong to some people who at the end of the day must pay for a number of items: hosting the information, the bandwidth to provide a reliable connection, maintenance, … And all that money should be generated by the forum itself, or, alternatively, someone should continuously cover those expenses.

Therefore, the whole operation could be summarized as follows: we, forum users, provide both the contents and the audience, and some third party cashes the benefits—if they existed, of course. However, those cashing the money do not need to provide any content but just the infrastructure for the information to flow among forum members.

Evaluating the quality of the contents is not an easy task. Fora are not scientific journals whose publishers, well aware of the size of their business, keep track of the citations each and every article received. At the end, this citation-based system, not free from controversy, works because scientific journal authors do need to raise funds for continuing their research and to keep on publishing. Fora are different--forum participants do it for free, not receiving anything in return save an eventual ego boost when some other member praised that entry. In fact, this scheme is not very different from most blogs.

But these two forms of communication in the Internet do differ: On fora, people ask questions and answer some others. On blogs, authors provide information. Of course, blog authors can also ask questions, but the audience of a blog can hardly compete with that of a forum, even if small.

Then, the success of a blog lies on the quality and on the interest of its entries. The success of a forum, on the other hand, lies on the sheer number of participants. Blogs are about the signal; fora, about the noise.

This might be schematic and oversimplifying, but it explains an obvious fact, the big turnover on forum participants. There are always many new members, but there are also many members who silently stop participating. The first are always voiced out, welcome and encouraged to participate. The second group is ignored, save for the very few occasions when they were missed.

The result is a feedback loop that enforces the mediocrity of most fora: The same questions are repeated over and over, and it is difficult to find well-researched texts because those who had learned through all those posts became bored and stopped participating. And the economy of fora favors this—the quantity is more important than the quality. The noise over the signal.

I detect, although I might be wrong, a decadence on fountain pen fora lately. Some of them are trying to cash down the benefits after years of hiding the economic interests of the managers. Other fora, in the meantime, seem stagnated—-not collapsing as they are initially cheap to maintain, but neither growing. The fact that there are more active fora, even if the activity were small, also shows some element of failure on those previously existing. The Spanish case is a clear example—a small community with four different fora. Maybe the old English sentence of “two Spaniards, three opinions” really applied in here, and the final result would be a couple of fora per each Spanish-speaking pen aficionado.

Is this the end of pen fora? Certainly not. Fora have its always changing cohorts of followers, and those with economic incentives on them will fight hard for their survival. But the time in which that relevant piece of information was to be found on fora is probably over.

The Internet, however, is long and wide, and new forms of interaction might be found any day soon. I will be patient.

Finally, and if only to say that I am not alone on my thoughts, I wanted to add a couple of links to texts by fellow bloggers reflecting on these same issues:
Peaceable Writer: Thoughts about Pen Forums,
and Goodwriterspen's Blog: Something is Rotten in the State of Denmark.

Pilot Custom Grandee, music nib – Gary’s yellow-black (iron-gall)

Bruno Taut
April 27th , 2013
etiquetas: fora, metabitácora

11 May 2013

November 1st

The mystery, apparently, has been solved—the pen to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Pilot Capless will be a modern Capless pen (1998 model) made of maple wood with golden trim. This will be a limited and numbered edition, and the release date will be November 1st. The news source is KeatsPhD, of the Fountain Pen Network (FPN), and he cites John Lane, the National Sales Manager of Pilot-Namiki for the US, as the origin of it.

It is interesting to note that Pilot had released this information in the US and not in Japan. Fellow blogger Bromfield, in Japan, pointed out that this is not the first time that soon after a “no plans for Japan” statement by Pilot news have arrived from across the Pacific Ocean. So, it is hard to think of all this as not planned by Pilot.

In fact, this strategy might be easy to explain. There are more stylophiles in the US than in Japan, and pen fora –FPN and others— and blogs in English reach much farther away than those in Japanese.

And, once again, we active users and collectors became tools of advertisement in the hands of some few companies.

Morison 18 K pocket pen – Sailor Black

Bruno Taut
Yokohama, May 11th 2013
etiquetas: Pilot, mercado, fora, metabitácora

03 February 2012


Blogs and fora are the main channels that keep any cyber-community connected. Both allow, although in different degrees, the exchange of information. Blogs like this one have obvious authors and that exchange of information is mostly unidirectional—from the author to the readers; but there is some room, through comments, for some bidirectional exchange. But it is on fora where most of discussions and most information are shared.

Now, we wanted to believe that fora are free and open to accept any discussion, but it is actually not like that. After all, fora belong to some people who have their own legitimate interests, and sooner or later, forum administrators show them. The temptation of limiting censoring is the unpleasant way to say it— the expression of ideas in order to protect those interests is hard to avoid. Fora become an extension of their business activities and there are certain limits not to be trespassed… But some of them can become ridiculous and question the role of the forum as an agora to learn.

On what grounds can an honest question on the safety of Noodler’s Baystate Blue be banned? Why does questioning the Japanese origin of Danitrio make the moderator –and Danitrio salesman— lock the thread? Why did asking what a fake is trigger bitter responses from a forum administrator?

All these forum policies and all those reactions of forum administrators reveal agendas and interests. And even if legitimate, they are annoying and misleading. Nobody asked us to participate on those fora, and we all agreed on abiding by some rules the forum organizer set in the beginning; and, by the same token, we could quit and leave any time. However, fora need participants and participants need places to discuss and learn.

The bottom line might be not to be misled by the apparent freedom of fora—they are not free.

(Pilot Super Ultra 500 – Athena Sepia)

Bruno Taut
February 1st, 2012
[labels: fora, Mercado, metabitácora]

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]

19 December 2010

Nib Questions

The Súper T ads in the 1940s and 1950s spoke of twenty different possible nibs for its pens. The Kaweco Sport in the 1930s had the option of twelve different nibs including three Kugel (sphere) points.

Súper T ad from 1948. On the left hand side it reads that there are 20 different nibs available for this pen with "everlasting guarantee". Advertisement collected by Grafopasión member Claudio.

In 1934 the Kaweco Sport could have up to twelve different nibs. Image taken from the Kaweco website (December 2010).

Those are only two examples of the wealth of nib possibilities in former times. Nowadays, the options are mostly reduced to the typical F, M and B triad, and, if anything else, some oblique nibs catering the snobbish rather than any real writing need. The main exception to this observation are the big three Japanese companies and their interesting nib catalog.

Cross nib by Sailor. My thanks to Mr. Noguchi, of the Wagner Association in Japan. Some other nibs by Sailor can be seen on the British Sailor website.

Three music nibs by two Japanese companies: Platinum on the top, and Pilot on sizes 5 and 10. Platinum's nib selection is a lot more reduced than Pilot's. Its sister company Nakaya has some additional points, including a stub.

Now I wonder what the real reasons for this were. Is it just a matter of supply and demand? Might it be a result of pens being more of a collectible object than a real writing tool?

I have no answers. I do know, however, that I find fewer and fewer interesting features in modern pens and, consequently, I turn my face to vintage pens.

(Kaweco AL-Sport – Waterman Havana)

Bruno Taut
(In exile, December 18th, 2010)
[labels: Kaweco, Japón, plumín, Súper T, fora]

19 November 2010


Spanish fountain pens are basically unknown outside Spain. Their history, actually, has not yet been written and it might very well be the history of a frustration—that of the inability to generate any successful industrial enterprise. But among those failures and frustrations some pen companies created very interesting products in Spain.

Such was the case of the company Súper T, based in the city of Torelló, in Barcelona province. Manuel Portús Ribas created this company in 1942, and it was active until 1976, five years after the death of its founder.

October 1953. Súper T ad of pen models 20, 40, 60, and 80. Collected by Grafopasión member Claudio.

Súper T manufactured basically two models, named Gester and Olimpia. The first is known to be in production since 1943. There were four basic versions of it –20, 40, 60 and 80—, three of which remained in the company catalog until the mid 1970s. The very luxurious Gester 80 –“a gift for a prince”, the ads said— had a solid gold cap and disappeared from the catalog around 1957. That model is now very rare and highly sought after by collectors.

Delta de Oro prize. Photo courtesy of Olga Portus.

The Olimpia model took its name after the Olympic Games in 1960. This pen received the “Delta de Oro” prize of design in 1961 given by the Catalan Associació de Disseny Industrial del Foment de les Arts Decoratives (ADI-FAD). It was on production until the company disappeared.

Ad from September 1953 of Parker ink manufactured in Torelló. Advertisement collected by Grafopasión member Claudio.

During the 1950s Manuel Portus received an offer from Parker to buy the company. Apparently, the American company was interested in the gold plating system used by Súper T—it provided very high quality results on caps. The parties did not reach an agreement, but as a result of the negotiations, Súper T started manufacturing Parker ink –Quink— in Torelló, Spain.

Manuel Portús died in 1971 and the company passed onto his son Juan Manuel. The decline of the company started, coincidentally, at that time. The early 1970s economic crisis and the popularization of ball pens pushed Súper T into reducing production costs. The excellent quality of previous years vanished rather quickly.

Finally, the company closed down in 1976.

My thanks to fellow Grafopasión forum members Alberto, Claudio and Olga.

(Súper T Gester 20– Pilot Iroshizuku Kon-peki)

Bruno Taut
(Madrid, November 17th, 2010)
[labels: España, Súper T, Parker, fora]

08 October 2010


Recently I wrote a chronicle to report on the new release of Sailor seasonal inks. On that text I also criticized that company for its policy on limited edition inks.

That chronicle became quite popular, much visited. I confess I contributed to that popularity by starting a couple of threads in two different fora (Grafopasión and Fountain Pen Network). But I am afraid my criticism on the marketing policy might have been overlooked by most. Fellow blogger Margana Maurer –Inkophile—, however, did notice it and, even better, she agreed with me. Good to know.

Two green inks by Sailor. On the left, the now discontinued Green. On the right, the seasonal Miruai —Summer 2010—. The difference in price, JPY 600 for the old green, and JPN 1000 for the seasonal.

The question, then, is what is the point of speaking about these inks? That chronicle is free advertising for Sailor. And a good one, for that matter, as is placed in a very specialized forum, where all its participants are potentially interested in those inks.

So, why are we doing this? Why did I write about this company whose strategy I dislike? Well, I guess we all are mature enough to make our own decisions. Information, fortunately, runs wild in these times of computers and global connections. But sometimes, though, I am not so optimistic: fountain pen companies are making a lot of money out of selling scarcity—that is the ultimate goal of limited editions. And a basic capitalist argument.

(Pilot Short pen – Pilot Iroshizuku Yama-guri)

Bruno Taut
(Shinjuku, October 4th, 2010)
[labels: Sailor, estilofilia, mercado]

03 September 2010


The debate is always open: how far can anyone go in copying things? Where do we set the line between inspiration and counterfeiting? Is it honest to buy a counterfeited good?

My previous chronicle spoke about the Platinum Knock 18, the capless pen manufactured by Platinum in 1965. As I said, Pilot’s threats of legal actions made Platinum to discontinue this model.

Is this a counterfeit? Platinum's Knock 18 (1965).

But, was Pilot the inventor of this push-pull system? Pilot certainly filed some patents in the US for a “Retractable Nib Fountain Pen” in 1964 and in later years.

The "Retractable Nib Fountain Pen" patent by Pilot in 1964 (published in 1966).

However, about twenty years before, some Grover C. Smith had already patented a similar invention:

A capless-like patent from 1944, published in 1946.

So, can we say Pilot was completely original in its creation? No, definitely not. Was Pilot the most successful? Yes, certainly.

I do not have the answers to the questions I asked in the beginning of this text. But by now I know that there are very few original ideas in the world of fountain pens. Accepting some copies as legitimate but not others is at anybody’s discretion.

Montblanc and non Montblanc torpedo pens.

Would we like to see copies of the Pilot Capless in the market? Do we enjoy torpedo-like pens not made by Montblanc? And what about Chinese-made copies of well-known pens?

A China-made Montblanc. Does anybody ever think this is a real Montblanc?

We should not forget that plagiarism is accepted when it becomes assassination.

With thanks to Grafopasión forum member Estilográficas.

(Platinum 3776 music nib – Sailor Red Brown)

Bruno Taut
Inagi, September 2, 2010
[labels: Pilot, Platinum, Montblanc, fora]

19 June 2010


Some weeks ago there was a somehow bitter discussion on the Fountain Pen Network (FPN) about the American company Danitrio.

It all started with what I thought was an innocent question: why do people think Danitrio is a Japanese company when it is based in California and uses German nibs, save the 24K gold Yokozuna nib made in Japan? The only real Japanese element on those pens seems to be the envelope, the art on the barrel and cap. That is truly made in Japan by Japanese craftsmen.

Many different opinions were expressed: Some followers of the thread were honestly surprised by this revelation. One of them even spoke of a possible “willful sin of omission”. Another group argued that looking Japanese and having Japanese-made ornament was enough to consider this brand Japanese, or that being American or Japanese was irrelevant. A third group noted that outsourcing was a general phenomenon and, therefore, the German origin of the nibs is not powerful enough argument to claim Danitrio was not Japanese.

Some unpleasant comments and ad-hominem (non-)arguments were also shared on the thread, proving how passionate some people might be when touching sensitive spots.

I never thought this was a sensitive topic, though. In fact, my question was based on my surprise. People on the FPN spoke of Danitrio as a Japanese pen company, but I had never seen such a brand in Japan. Not in shops, not owned by anyone. Actually, I saw my first Danitrio at the Madrid Pen Show in 2009. After that, I have only seen those pens at the Itoya Maki-e Fair celebrated in Tokyo last May, as it was already reported on these Chronicles. And on this occasion I learned about their California origin and about the main source of their nibs.

Danitrio urushi pens at the Itoya Maki-e Fair in Tokyo last May. Picture courtesy of Moskva.

All those responses to the thread I initiated pose, however, some interesting questions:

The first is fairly obvious: How do we ascribe one company to one country? Is Parker American, English, French? Is Waterman American or French?

Is the origin of the nibs a faithful indicator of the origin of the pen? Is the location of the headquarters or the origin of the investment the final argument?

The case of pens, for a pen enthusiast, is different from other products. Some claim that there are specific characteristics associated to certain countries of origin. If that were true, the question is relevant.

A second question is about why an American-based pen company disguises itself as Japanese. Some claim Danitrio never hided its Californian origin, but the overall perception among pen enthusiasts is that Danitrio was Japanese.

On my criticism to Danitrio on the FPN, I also added that it was hard to consider seriously a pen company that chooses not to say anything about its nibs when describing the pen. Most companies describe the size and materials of them as well as their type of writing—fine, medium, stub, oblique, etc. Danitrio does not say anything on this matter on its corporate website (as of June 2010).

So, my final reflection on Danitrio is that this company is more interested in creating a symbol of status than a fountain pen; a jewel over a tool. And I like tools.

(Nakaya Aka-tamenuri – Platinum Brown)

Bruno Taut
(Inagi, June 15th, 2010)
[labels: Danitrio, FPN, estilofilia, Japón]

PS: On June 12 (2010), the partisan moderator and active discussant “winedoc” closed the thread. Therefore, no more opinions on the matter could be added. In doing this, the thread will slowly sink into the sea of other active discussions. This was the final point to make me write this text. I do hope not to write about this company in a long while.

24 May 2010


Itoya’s Maki-e Fair 2010

(This event was celebrated in a shop, and unfortunately the management did not authorized pictures. However, this being Japan, too often these decisions are enforced or not depending on the staff in charge. Fellow Fountain Pen Network subscriber Moskva ( was allowed to take some pictures and I thank him for his permission to include them in this post. They are also published in this entry of the above-linked blog:

These days –from May 12 to 24— stationery Itoya in Ginza (shop no. 15 in this link) in Tokyo organized what they called a Maki-e Fair. Five were the exhibitors invited to it: The three leading Japanese companies –Pilot-Namiki, Platinum-Nakaya, and Sailor—, the California-based Danitrio, and a fifth one dealing with Aurora, Caran d’Ache, Parker, Pelikan, and Waterman. All those brands showed their creations in maki-e and urushi (lacquer).

Pilot introduced a 10-unit limited edition of a black urushi finished exclusively for the Fair for JPY 52500. It only came with M nib. The whole line of maki-e by Pilot and all the Namiki branded pens were on display.

The lower pen is urushi finished; the upper one, the regular black pen with golden accents. The difference, JPN 36750, and the nibs are exactly the same. Picture taken at the May meeting of the Wagner association (May 23, 2010).

Some pens by Nakaya together with matching business card holders. Picture courtesy of Moskva.

Platinum presented their first maki-e pen after a long time (I cannot find how long…), but their main selling point were those marketed under the Nakaya brand. However, the Nakaya craftsmen only attended the event on the last four days.

Two more Nakaya pens. Picture courtesy of Moskva.

Danitrio made the big news being invited to attend the fair by Itoya. And from now on, this shop will carry their line of products. Urushi and maki-e –with examples of good and unbelievable bad taste— were present on display. All the art on these pens is made in Japan; all the nibs –with one Japanese exception— are made in Germany by Peter Bock. They also displayed their 24 K gold nib.

Danitrio urushi pens. Picture courtesy of Moskva.

Sailor showed their urushi King of Pen line.

Sailor's King of Pens in urushi finish. Picture courtesy of Moskva.

Finally, the Western companies showed their very limited set of products. Among them, two M1000-based Pelikan limited editions –Maiko in Kyoto and Fireworks—, and the Sérenité based Waterman models were the more interesting products.

There was also a maki-e workshop for those interested in learning the basics of the technique. It costed JPY 2100 and was quickly sold out.

Certainly, I am not enticed by these pens, Actually, I wonder if they really were pens ready to write. For sure, some of them were, as I had the chance to test some of the pieces. However, the writing experience was not in accordance with the price tag. And
that is what finally counts.

(Pilot Telescopic – Waterman Florida Blue)

Bruno Taut

(Shibuya, May 22, 2010
[labels: Tokyo, Pilot, Sailor, Platinum, Danitrio, evento, FPN]