20 September 2014


The world of pens, nowadays, is full of reactionary obsessions. It could not be otherwise, for fountain pens are obsolete tools. Consequently, once this point is accepted and understood all cravings are allowed—-ancient materials, old filling systems, outdated manufacturing techniques…

One of the debates involves the material out of which the feed is manufactured. Old pens, before 1950s, used ebonite (vulcanized hard rubber) and around that time different plastics made their way as the material of choice for feeds as it is today. Ebonite, though, is still used today mostly on high-end pens. This is often used as a selling argument, although Montblanc’s flagship pen, the 149, uses plastic feeds. Many a stylophile are happy to buy that argument and swear by ebonite as the ultimate material to provide a good (and generous) flow of ink to the nib.

But, is the feed material that important for the final performance of the pen? Or, in other words, what are the differences between these two materials, plastic and ebonite?

The main difference lies in the way the ink interacts with those two surfaces. Ebonite is hygroscopic and favors capillarity and circulation of the ink along the ink channels.

On the other side, on plastic ink forms drops and its flow becomes more difficult. There are some ways to correct this issue: by making the surface rougher (“unpolishing” it) the specific surface of the channels increases and the ink smears along them. Another strategy was to add some hygroscopic layer to the feed.

But the final conclusion might be that due to that problem –the ink not wetting the plastic feed— ebonite should be the obvious option. However, ebonite carries its own problems to the production line—it is more expensive than plastic and needs to be cut. Ebonite oxidizes in the wrong environment, and its purity (or the presence of impurities in it) plays an important role in the final quality of the manufactured good. The final result is that it is not unusual to see deformed, bent or cracked pieces of ebonite, in feed or in other pen parts.

Ebonite feed from a Platinum pen from around 1935.

Section, nib and feed of a Super T Gester from ca 1960. This feed, made of ebonite, was bended and could not drive the ink to the nib efficiently.

Plastic, on the contrary, can be molded into the desired shape, and is very stable chemically. So, plastic is cheap, fast and reliable.

Two plastic feeds by Platinum from the late 1950s. The one on the left was misstreated, whereas the one of the right has never been used. Both preserve the original shape.

Well designed feeds, on their side, do work well and are able to provide fairly big flows of ink. Case in point—the Nagahara’s two- and three-fold specialty nibs are attached to plastic (ABS) feeds. There are no complaints in the pen community about their reliability, and they show that a proper design does the job despite the limitations of the material.

Plastic feed of a cross-music nib by nibmeister Nagahara. But in fact, all feeds are the same for a given nib size in the Sailor catalog.

Some argue that plastic feeds have not passed the test of time and that we cannot really asses whether they might degrade with time. And they go further into saying that we can also find perfectly preserved ebonite feed after many years of use or storage. But we also know –and that is the point here— that ebonite feeds are vulnerable.

After all these considerations, personal preferences and romantic ideas come. And they are welcome, for writing with these tools is in itself romantic and anachronic.

Pilot Custom 74, music nibGary’s Red-Black

Bruno Taut
Nakano, August 15th, 2014
etiquetas: soluciones técnicas

11 September 2014

Casa Hassinger

There was a time when there existed a production of Waterman ink in Spain. And maybe even more than just ink…

A bottle of Waterman ink produced in Barcelona.

A man by the name of Egon Hassinger acquired the license to produce ink from the American company Waterman. And the production was made in Barcelona, as can be read on the bottle. But the activity of the company Casa Hassinger might have included the assembly of Waterman fountain pens for the European market. The company imprinted a small H on clips and nibs to mark those units passing through their hands in Barcelona. Some stylophiles in Spain even suggest that some parts could have been manufactured locally, including the nibs. These could have been manufactured by Damiá Onsés Ginesta, a prolific nibmeister who provided units for mostly any Spanish pen company at one point or another.

A Waterman clip with the Hassinger mark. Picture courtesy of waltonjones.

The Hassinger's Waterman. Picture courtesy of waltonjones.

Casa Hassinger was registered in Barcelona at the address C/ Balmes 75. Egon Hassinger lived in this city between 1915 and 1948, when he passed away. The company was liquidated in 1990.

The bottle of Waterman ink marketed by Hassinger can be seen at the Gaudi’s Casa Milà in Barcelona. This is but one example of local production of ink of some well known brand. The cases of Parker and Pelikan had already been mentioned on these Chronicles.

My thanks to stylophile waltonjones for his pictures of the Hassinger’s Waterman fountain pen.

Pilot Elite pocket pen, manifold nib – Platinum Black

Bruno Taut
Nakano, September 10th 2014
etiquetas: tinta, Waterman, España, Barcelona, nibmeister Onsés Ginesta

27 August 2014

Matching (XV)

Which one is the original and which one is the copy? Sometimes the answers are easy, but the context of those copies is always interesting.

Some people, including some Japanese, like to bash Japanese pens on the grounds of not creating original products and, instead, copying well known alleged masterpieces, even though these were not original in the first place.

A selection of balance pens by the big thre Japanese manfacturers. Among them, a couple piston fillers (::1:: and ::2::) and a plunger filler. The rest are cartridge/converter pens.

Some of the nibs of the previous pens. They include several music nibs, a couple of falcon, a fude, some Naginata, a two-fold nib...

Some truth there is in that claim—those Japanese-made balance pens exist because of the success and ubiquity of the Montblanc models. But it is also true that the big three Japanese companies have proved their capability to innovate and have created most original products. And this, in fact, does not make any more innocent of the accusation of plagiarism. Most likely the opposite—cannot these companies implement their nibs and filling systems in original designs? In fact, now and then, they do that

Sailor released this pen on the occasion of the 90th anniversary of the company. It sports a cross nib by nibmeister Nagahara.

(More on the matter soon).

My thanks to Mr. Noguchi.

Inoxcrom 77, steel nib – Platinum Black

Bruno Taut
Nakano, August 12th 2014
etiquetas: mercado, Japón, Montblanc, Pilot, Sailor, Platinum

23 August 2014

Jentle 2014

More unpaid and unintentional advertising.

Some weeks ago I spoke of the new release of eight not-so-new ink colors by Sailor. Not-so-new because those eight colors had already been marketed 2010 as seasonal inks in limited editions with big success.

Weeks later, news and rumors in the Net claimed that Sailor had reduced the selection of inks in its catalog. From now on, only three basic colors would be available—black, blue and blue-black—and that there would be some fancy colors at a premium. That would mean, at least, that the basic color line (peach, sky-high, ultramarine, grenade, epinard and apricot) was coming to an end after just three years in the market.

The ink selection in 2011. Taken from Sailor website in 2011.

Now, Sailor has just released a new catalog of fountain pens and accessories after years of the same boring and incomplete edition. The new catalog included, needless to say, the latest releases like the Sigma and the Promenade and the Precious Woods series. And on the page dedicated to consumables we can see that the transition in the ink department is completed. Now, besides the permanent black (kiwa-guro) and blue-black (sei-boku), Sailor makes eleven Jentle inks: the basic three plus the eight re-editions of the 2010 seasonal inks. And the price is the same for all the eleven Jentle inks—JPY 1000 plus tax. So, no variations on this department with respect to the previous colors.

Page of consumables in the new (Summer 2014) catalog of Sailor for fountain pens and high quality writing utensils. Click on the picture for better resolution (too often Blogger is not up to the challenge).

One final reflection—does Sailor have any consistent policy about its inks? The changes in its catalog of the last five years seem quite erratic, especially when compared to Pilot and Platinum. However, those changes could also be understood as an effort to call the attention of all of us. And that Sailor did get.

Super T Gester 40 – Sailor Yama-dori

Bruno Taut
Nakano, Augusr 15th 2014
etiquetas: tinta, mercado, Sailor

20 August 2014


Does anyone read my texts or looking at the pictures is mostly all we do when "reading" a blog, any blog?

Inoxcrom 77, steel nib - Platinum Black

Bruno Taut
Nakano, August 12th 2014
etiquetas: metabitácora

17 August 2014

Pen People

A pen person, Leigh Reyes rightly said, knows better than drinking anything looking like ice tea at a pen meeting. And would use almost anything as a pen holder. A pen person, as well, never misses a street with such a suggestive name as Namiki.

In Chuo-ku, Tokyo.

And wonders what Vanishing Point might mean as a bar, members only, in the sleazy streets of Roppongi (Minato-ku, Tokyo).

In Minato-ku, Tokyo.

Yeah, we are a crazy bunch.

Super T Gester 40 – Sailor Yama-dori

Bruno Taut
Nakano, August 16th 2014
etiquetas: estilofilia, Tokyo

14 August 2014

Matching (XIV)

Which one is the original and which one is the copy?

It is well known that the big three Japanese pen companies keep a close eye on each other, and we can see startling similarities on some of their current products. That, in fact, is not new. The original idea of the pocket pen, for instance, is disputed between Sailor and Platinum —Pilot’s first pocket pen came later, in 1968—, but the final result was by the end of 1960s all three of them –and even some other smaller brands— had their own version of a black and formal looking pocket pen well suited for the Japanese salary man.

From left to right, a Ferme, a Pilot, a Platinum (with damascene decoration, zogan in Japanese, on the section), and a Sailor. All pocket pens in black with golden accents. All four nibs of these pens are made of 18 K gold.

But not only that model was copied. Years later, by the mid 1970s, all big three offered pocket pens made of stainless steel—all clean and lean. Only one of them, however, dared to make an all-steel pen with integrated nib.

From top to bottom, Platinum, Sailor and Pilot pens. The Platinum unit uses a Pt-alloy nib. In other words, a white gold nib. Pilot and Sailor nibs are made of 14 K gold.

Which one is the original and which ones are the copies? Among the three examples shown today, the Platinum is probably the earliest of the lot given its Pt-alloy nib.

Inoxcom 77, steel nib – Platinum Black

Bruno Taut
Nakano, August 12th 2014
etiquetas: Japón, mercado, Platinum, Pilot, Sailor, Ferme