Showing posts sorted by relevance for query onoto. Sort by date Show all posts
Showing posts sorted by relevance for query onoto. Sort by date Show all posts

20 September 2018

1937 Plunger Fillers

Plunger fillers arrived in Japan by the beginning f the 20th century by the hand of Onoto, one of the first brands imported in this country.

The idea of the plunger filler was quickly copied by a number of local companies, as we have already seen on these pages (::1::). Pilot named this filling mechanism as System P (P-shiki), and implemented it in the 1920s.

Two plunger fillers from 1937.

The two pens on display today are a bit more modern. Both are Pilot, implement plunger fillers, and were made in 1937.

The reddish pen is made of ebonite and semitransparent celluloid. The nib is a size 6 made of 14 K gold with no indication of the point. The manufacturing date on the converse side reads 1.37: January of 1937.

Ebonite and celluloid. Size 6 nib.

The second pen is made of black ebonite. Its nib is a size 3, made of 14 K gold, and labeled as “manifold”. The manufacturing date is 4.37: April of 1937. This manifold point is one of the options described on the booklet included in the box. The others described on it are posting, stenographer, coarse, falcon, and oblique.

Classic black torpedo in ebonite.

Size 3 nib, manifold point.

Both pens are very similar in dimensions despite the differences in the nib size. In fact, the size 6 nib is associated to the smaller pen.

Red pen, #6 nib Black pen, #3 nib
Length_closed 133 136
Length_open 117 119
Length_posted 165 168
Diameter 13.6 13.7
Weight (g, dry) 17.9 17.2
Nib size 6 3

Both nibs, side by side. On the left, the size 6 attached to the red pen. The inscription: "WARRANTED / 'PILOT'/ 14 K / MADE IN JAPAN / -< 6 >- / POINTED / HARDEST / IRIDIUM". On the right, the size 3 nib of the black pen: "MANIFOLD / WARRANTED / 'PILOT'/ 14 K / MADE IN JAPAN / -< 3 >- / POINTED / HARDEST / IRIDIUM".

The manufacturing dates as engraved on the nibs: 1.37 and 4.37 (upside down).

On both pens, the tail knobs show the feature Pilot used to identify their plunger fillers―a row of short parallel lines near the base. This detail is, in actual terms, a very safe way to identify this filling system on (early) Pilot pens given the vulnerability of this mechanism. A non-working plunger could be mistaken as a Japanese eyedropper (inki-dome). Both systems are often in need to service, particularly when those pens had been found in the wild (like in a pen show).

The tail knobs of Pilot's plunger fillers carry that line close to the barrel. The inscriptions are the same on both pens: " 'PILOT / THE NAMIKI (N logo) MFG. CO. LTD. / MADE IN JAPAN ".

Finally, it might be worth to remember that from 1938 on, the restrictions on the use of gold in Japan became strict (albeit with some exceptions) . Therefore, these two pens from 1937 with gold nibs are some of the latest such pens from before the War.

Pelikan M800 Kodaishu – Sailor Red Brown

Bruno Taut
Nakano, September 18th, 2018
etiquetas: Pilot

08 February 2018

Inner Tube System

To the traditional eyedropper way of inking pens, Japanese companies added a mechanism to seal the ink deposit when not in use. A mechanism… or several of them.

The better known of them is the Japanese eyedropper, inki-dome system, although the original invention belonged to Onoto (De la Rue). Another such system is the hoshiawase (star system) invented by Pilot in the early 1920s. But there is more.

A Pilot from around 1920, if not before.

Prior to the system of the stars, Pilot entered the market –as a late comer in the Japanese context— with another system: the naikan shiki (内管式), or inner tube system. This consists of a modified screw –made of ebonite— attached to the section of the pen. By tightening or losing up that screw, the ink flow could be interrupted or open through the internal channels in that screw. The obvious inconvenient was the need to open the pen –the ink deposit— to operate this ink-stained screw. However, this system was effective in sealing the ink deposit.

Pilot developed and marketed this system probably trying to offer a novelty in a market already mature, with two very active pen companies –SSS and Nobuo Ito’s Swan–, and a number of imports from Europe and the US. The naikan shiki was short lived: only a couple of years around 1920.

As for the rest, this eyedropper pen is made of chased ebonite and implements a size 2 nib made of 14 K gold, although it might not be the original nib of this pen. The clip this particular unit sports is a later addition.

On the nib, the inscription says "14 KT GOLD / "PILOT" / < 2 > / MADE IN / JAPAN". However, the style of the inscription is probably too new, thus showing it is a replacement nib. On the text entitled N. M & Co. we can see a similar pen whose nib carries a much simpler engraving.

These are the dimensions of the pen:

Length closed: 139 mm
Length open: 131 mm
Length posted: 179 mm
Diameter: 12 mm
Weight (dry): 17.4 g

On the chased barrel, '"PILOT" / FOUNTAIN PEN / N. M. & Co.'. The company logo is on the left hand side. It shows the well-known lifebuoy encircling an N.

On the barrel end, a mysterious inscription: "P3CH". We had already seen it on another Pilot pen of the time.

Not all innovations work… However, the Japanese industry has never been shy to try different technical solutions on nibs and filling systems.

But short lived systems like this make the day of many a collector.

And on my side, I must add a correction to an old Chronicle.

My thanks to Mr. Sugimoto and Mr. Furuya.

Romillo Nervión – Sailor Blue Iron

Bruno Taut
Nakano, February 7th 2018
etiquetas: Pilot, soluciones técnicas

15 July 2017

On the Pilot Custom 823

I ended up my previous Chronicle with a call to myself—I should say something about the Pilot Custom 823. This is a pen I have avoided on these texts as it is well known and many people have reviewed it in detail. One more review on my side would hardly offer anything new.

However, the release of the Pilot Custom Urushi has reframed the pen scene –if only, for Pilot— and the Custom 823 might have become even more interesting now. That is the contention of this piece.

The Pilot Custom 823 was launched in the year 2000, or year 82 of the Pilot era. A story published on a French forum affirmed that this model was the Pilot reaction to the Pelikan M800, a pen many aficionados consider as a compendium of virtues. I have not been able to confirm that story, but its narration is worth of Ben Trovato.

Pelikan M800 and Pilot Custom 823.

In any event, the M800 and the Custom 823 are very different. The sizes of their nibs are almost the same, but that might be the end of the similarities. The Custom 823, in fact, follows the tradition of the Onoto pens arriving in Japan at the turn of the 20th century. The plunger filler is, in that regard, a lot less alien to Japan than the very German piston of Pelikan. Of course, there are examples of pistons made in Japan, most notably by Vanco in the 1930s. The big three companies have all made some pistons, but all those examples are rather new: Platinum in 1989, Sailor in 2006, Pilot in 2010.

The Custom 823 first appeared in 2000 and included a fully transparent version. Its price was JPY 30000 (plus tax) and has not changed since then. The clear version soon disappeared from the catalog, leaving the amber and smoke models we now know. The clear version reappeared around 2011 at some shops —and can still be found at those—, but it has not yet reached the glory of the catalog.

The Custom 823 in its three versions: smoke, amber, and clear (back to front).

Nib-wise, the Custom 823 implements size 15 nibs (in Pilot's way of sizing), but out of the 14 available points of this size, only three, according to the catalog, are available on the Custom 823: F, M, and B. Some shops, at least in Tokyo, also offer other nib points, particularly the waverly (WA) and the falcon (FA). In fact, the 823 could take any size 15 nib, and that is what some retailers do by exchanging the nib with any of the options available in the Custom 743 model. Whether those swapping void the warranty offered by Pilot is not clear.

A Custom 823 clear with a "falcon" (FA) nib. This combination is not included in the Pilot catalog. It is offered by some shops. This picture was taken at Maruzen-Nihonbashi.

Another combination that does not appear on the books: clear Custom 823 with a "waverly" nib. Available at Asahiya-Kami Bungu.

The model 823 is now 17 years old and it remains as one of the most interesting models currently made by Pilot. Now, the Custom Urushi might, paradoxically, make it even more interesting. The Custom Urushi is certainly an impressive pen, but it is also expensive (JPY 88000), and the search for alternatives within the Pilot (and Namiki) catalog leads to the smaller Custom 845 (JPY 50000), also decorated with urushi, and to the Custom 823 and Custom 743 (JPY 30000). On these three cases, the potential buyer had to settle down with the smaller size 15 nib. My contention, then, is that faced with the obligatory reduction in nib size to lower the actual cost of the pen, the JPY 30000 of the nominal price of the Custom 823 are an even more impressive value given, most interestingly, its self-filling system.

The urushi relatives of the Custom 823: Custom Urushi (top) and Custom 845 (bottom).

The stark contrast between those JPY 88000 of the Custom Urushi and the JPY 30000 of the 823 makes the later a lot more appealing. A lot more, I think, than when the obvious competitor was the Custom 845 at a value of JPY 50000.

Lanbitou “Vista” – Noodler’s Zhivago

Bruno Taut
Nakano & Shinjuku, July 2017
etiquetas: Pilot, mercado, Pelikan, Platinum, Sailor, Vanco

21 June 2017

Athena Basic Line

Maruzen, founded in 1869, is one of the reference stationers in Japan. It was also a key actor in the introduction of fountain pens in this country. Maruzen imported American and British pens in the beginning of the 20th century and became the distributor of Onoto pens in Japan in 1907. By 1915, Maruzen created the brand Athena to market domestic pens made by Eisaburo Sakasai, whose factory Maruzen bought after his demise in 1937. The production of Athena pens lasted until around 1970.

Between 1970 and 1994, the brand Athena was limited to Athena Ace inks. Athena fountain pens resurrected only in 1994 by means of some Pilot OEM fountain pens.

Athena Ace Ink from mid 1960s. JPY 50 for 30 ml.

The Athena Basic Line (ABL) is another example of Pilot OEM fountain pen. It is a flat top model, made of black plastic with rhodiated accents. The nib carries an original engraving: “ATHENA / 1869 / MARUZEN / 14K-585 / < F > ”. And hidden by the section, the manufacturing date, A505; that is, May of 2005 at the Hiratsuka plant of Pilot’s.

The shape of this pen –a flat-top— initially relates to the 70th anniversary (1988) and to its close cousin Custom 72 (1990), both implementing size 10 nibs.

But the Athena Basic Line model is much closer to two contemporary models—the Custom Heritage 91, and the Custom Heritage 912 (CH912), both from 2009. The dimensions of these three models, as can be seen on the table, are slightly different. The ABL and the CH912 use the same size of nibs, size 10. However, the Maruzen model is four millimeters shorter when closed. Their caps, though, are perfectly interchangeable and share size and shape. All three pens can use the converter CON-70 (and any of the currently made Pilot converters, save the obvious exception of the CON-W).

Custom Heritage
- Basic Line -
Custom Heritage
Length_closed 138 137 141
Length_open 122.5 122 125
Length_posted 155 156 157
Diameter 14.6 15.6 15.6
Weight (dry) 21.5 25.2 24.8
Nib size 5 10 10
Nib options 9 3 15
Price (JPY) 10000 25000 20000

Comparative table of the dimensions of these three close relatives: Pilot's Custom Heritage 91 and 912, and Athena Basic Line. Lengths measured in millimeters, weights in grams, prices in JPY without taxes.

On both pictures, from top to bottom, Pilot Custom Heritage 912, Athena Basic Line, and Pilot Custom Heritage 91.

The price of the Basic Line was JPY 25000, plus tax. That is JPY 5000 more expensive than the CH912, and JPY 15000 more than the Custom Heritage 91 with size 5 nib. These differences in price are common between official products and the OEM pens made for other companies.

The Athena Basic Line. The clip is engraved with the brand name: "ATHENA". The cap ring carries another engraving: "MARUZEN JAPAN Basic Line Athena".

On the nib we can read "ATHENA / 1869 / MARUZEN / 14K-585 / < F >".

In actual terms, the Maruzen model, the Athena Basic Line can be seen as a forerunner of the Custom Heritage models that would appear about four years later, in 2009 (year 91 in Pilot’s era).

Sheaffer’s TM Admiral – Pilot Iroshizuku Ku-jaku

Bruno Taut
Chuo and Nakano, June 17-21 2017
etiquetas: Pilot, Maruzen

16 June 2017

On Ban-ei Nibs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sheaffer 1250 – Pilot Iroshizuku Ku-jaku

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

18 May 2013

Pilot's Safety

This is not the first time we see a safety pen on these Chronicles. During the early days of Namiki Mfg. Co. five filling systems were implemented in Pilot pens—the O-shiki (O-式, eyedropper filler with shut-off valve), the T-shiki (T-式, lever-filler), the N-shiki (N-式, hoshiawase), P-shiki (P-式, plunger filler) and the L-shiki, (L-式) the retractable-nib safety system shown today.

The hoshiawase system is the only original innovation by Pilot at the time, The rest of systems were copied from Western products (plunger filler, lever filler and safety), or from other Japanese companies –Maruzen had marketed and manufactured eyedroppers with shut—off valve derived from Onoto’s plunger fillers around 1910, and on these Chronicles I already showed a Japanese Swan with that same system from ca. 1915.

Other Japanese companies made safety pens—Sailor, Platinum, SSS, Itoya…—, but they are hard to find nowadays, and that makes these finds all the more valuable. This safety pen in particular is in immaculate condition—most likely, it was never inked. The decoration and imprints on the black ebonite barrel look like fresh out of the production line.

The pen sports a replacement nib. It is a very flexible unit, made in 1930, of size 3 in 14 K gold labeled as steno (for shorthand writing). It is perfectly identified as made by Pilot, as has always been the case with Pilot and Namiki nibs. The barrel, on its side, carries the brand and the company names: “PILOT / NAMIKI MFG: CO. / MADE IN JAPAN”. The production date is around 1925.

The imprint on the nib reads as follows: "STENO / 14 KARAT GOLD / PILOT / REGISTERED / -3-".

These are its dimensions.
Length capped: 118 mm
Length open (nib extended): 124 mm
Length posted (nib extended): 151 mm
Diameter: 12 mm
Weight (dry): 13.7 g

My thanks to Mr. Sugimoto.

Platinum 3776 Century, music nib – Platinum Pigmented Blue

Bruno Taut
Shinjuku, May 16th, 2013
etiquetas: Pilot, soluciones técnicas, Japón

NOTE ADDED ON MAY 22nd: The nib is not original. The replacement nib shown on the pictures was made in 1930. My thanks, once again, to Mr. Sugimoto.

31 December 2012

Double Flow

I often wonder how special the Japanese fountain pen market was. There were, in this market, a large number of unique technical solutions—hoshiawase, shut-off valve, hose filler, A filler (A-shiki), easy drink filler… Japan seems, at times, a large laboratory for new solutions, although most of them never left the country.

The very rare Double Flow Fountain Pen.

Such is the case of today’s pen—a Double Flow Fountain Pen. Apparently, it is just a BCHR pen in the very traditional shape of Japanese eyedroppers, often called Onoto shape. Usually, the tail operated the shut-off valve. But that is not the case of this pen.

The engraved marks on the section are similar to those of a hoshiawase pen.

The pen has two concentric ink deposits--the innermost is attached to the section on the picture. The ourtermost is the barrel (on the background), as is the case on all eyedropper pens.

On this picture, both deposits are dettached from the section.

This pen is still an eyedropper, but it lacks any shut-off valve. In exchange, it has two concentric ink deposits inside the barrel, and the section has separate channels for each deposit. On the outside, the gripping section has some engraved marks—similar to those in a hoshiawase pen—to select the deposit from which the ink would feed the nib. Three are the options: outer, inner, and a mixture of both. Needless to say, the inks used with this pen had to be compatible; that is, mixable as the mixture would take place directly in the feed.

This picture shows the back of the section. The wider thread attaches the barrel; the smaller, the inner deposit for the second ink. Two feeding holes are visible--the central for the innermost deposit, and the lateral one for the outer reservoir.

The Double Flow Fountain Pen together with a copy of the instruction sheet.

In summary, this Double Flow Fountain Pen, such was its name, is a dual eyedropper with an ink selecting mechanism. Very few units of it are known, and on the one here shown, the nib is a later replacement. There exist, however, some instruction sheets. On it, the manufacturer explains that this dual flow system had been patented in Japan (patent number 36005), and that applications had been filed for patent in Britain, USA, France, and Italy. It dates back from the mid 1920s.

Indeed another original solution of the Japanese laboratory.

My thanks to Mr. Sugimoto.

Platinum 18K full size pen (ca. 1970) – Pelikan 4001 Royal Blue

Bruno Taut
Yokohama, December 31st, 2012
labels: soluciones técnicas, Japón, Double Flow, tinta