25 February 2016

Matching (XX). Lanbitou 757

Some years ago (::1::, ::2::), the Chinese Shanghai Hero Pen Company surprised the fountain pen community by launching an unabashed copy of the very popular model Lamy Safari. That Hero model, the 359, opened the gates for other Chinese companies to follow suit. The Jinhao 599A is one of those.

However, both Jinghao and Hero models show some very clear differences with respect to the original Lamy Safari: clip and nib for the Jinhao, barrel and cap top for the Hero, were the more evident distinctions.

The Lanbitou 757.

The Lanbitou 757 seems to be even more faithful to the Lamy Safari. Nibs are interchangeable, barrels match both in shape and in size… The external differences are limited to the inner cap –black plastic on the Lanbitou, shiny metal on the Lamy--, and the engraving on the barrel.

Lamy Vista (Safari demonstrator) and Lanbitou 757, side by side. Can you spot the differences?

A closer inspection shows that the materials of these demonstrator versions are different, and the feeds also follow separate ways. But most parts are interchangeable between Lamy’s and Lanbitou’s pens.

The feeds are different: one slit for the Lanbitou, two for the Lamy.

Nibs can be swapped.

The plastics are different.

Both cap tops carry the emblematic cross of Safari fountain pens.

The writing quality of the Lanbitou is more than acceptable. It has a reliable flow that is up to the challenge of much broader nibs than that provided with the pen. This original nib is on the dry side, but could easily be tuned to make it wetter. It is not labeled in any way, but I guess it corresponds to an F point. As I implied before, the pen accepts Lamy nibs without any problem.

Lamy nibs are richer in ink than the Lambitou one, but this is nothing can could be changed easily. Note how the feed is able to provide the ink for all of the points.

All in all, this Lanbitou 757 is nothing else than a knockoff of the Lamy Safari, and all the arguments exposed to finally absolve Hero of any legal infringement do apply here as well. Very few legal grounds could Lamy find to protect a design from 1980.

The question, then, is a different one—is it worth to copy an inexpensive good as the Lamy Safari or the Pilot Petit-1? Let the market speak.

My thanks to Mr. Mizukushi.

Lanbitou 757 with Lamy 1.1 nib – Pilot Iroshizuku Yu-yake

Bruno Taut
Nakano; February 25th, 2016
etiquetas: Lamy, Hero, Lanbitou, Jinghao, mercado

18 February 2016

Early Pilot Nibs. VII. Size 5

Here I am resuming the description of early Pilot nibs. We have already seen that there is not much consistency in those number other that, in general, bigger numbers mean bigger nibs.

Size 5 nibs by Pilot are very rare, but indeed they existed. I have only found one such example in a “hoshiawase” pen (::1::, ::2::). The nib is dated in 1927 and it is very likely to be correct for this pen.

The text on the nib already shows this was an early pen, from the 1920s.

The engraving of the date is very clear on this nib: March of 1927.

Manufacturing date .March 1927.
Length (mm) 28.1
Width (mm) 7.1
Feed diameter (mm) ---
Weight (g) ---
Material 14 K Au
Basic data of a Pilot nibs of size 5. Feed diameter and weight will be added in some days.

The section of the hoshiawase pen. The sealing cylinders are visible at the back.

My thanks to Mr. A Zúñiga.

Inoxcrom Corinthian – Sailor Yama-dori

Bruno Taut
Nakano, February 17th, 2015
etiquetas: Pilot, plumín

10 February 2016

Matching (XIX). Dagong 56

There is more to retractable-nib pens that just the Pilot line of Capless pen currently on production. Stipula, Lamy, Visconti, Stypen… even Montblanc has something like a retractable-nib pen… And there are some lesser known companies re-interpreting this style of pen.

One of them is the Chinese company Wuhan Pen Factory, located in Wuhan (Hubei province, PR China). Under its brand name Dagong, it produced the model 56 during the 1980s.

The box of the Dagong 56. Knock-type (push button) fountain pen, by Wuhan Pen Factory.

The Dagong 56 is made of stainless steel and has a gripping section in black knurled plastic. The nib –of gold plated steel— is operated by a push button at the back of the pen. The filling mechanism is an aerometric system integrated in the nib unit.

The empty box and the nib unit. The nib is made of stainless steel, gold plated. The filling system is a built in aerometric.

The pen clearly follows the Capless tradition of Pilot, but it is not easy to pinpoint which particular Pilot model was the source of inspiration. In fact, it looks like if the designers of the Dagong 56 had taken elements from several of the Pilot pens. The result, however, is attractive while keeping it clean and simple.

The Dagong 56, on the front, together with the Pilot Capless from 1971 on. The latest of those shown on the pic, close to the Dagong, started its production in 1998 and, therefore, it could not be a model in any way for the Chinese pen.

The click mechanism looks and sounds sturdy—maybe too much so, as it requires some strength to operate it. Apparently reliable, but less refined than the mechanism of the Pilot pens. Both, Pilot and Dagong, share an important element—a closing lid to prevent the nib going dry. This is not so obvious as there are other Chinese-made capless pens that do not implement such a lid.

The construction quality is decent, but shows some flaws. The steel, particularly on the nose has some obvious imperfections: it has some pores, and its surface is far from uniform. The mouth for the nib is not well finished—the lower edge is not straight and could erode the feed.

This picture shows some of the flaws of the Dagong 56. The steel has some obvious imperfections, and the opening for the nib is not nicely cut. Inside, by the way, there is a white lid to prevent the nib from drying out when the pen is not in use.

The engraving on the nib is very shallow and is barely visible. It includes the logo and the name of the manufacturing company: "WUHAN".

These are the dimensions of the pen:
Length closed: 139 mm
Length open: 144 mm
Diameter: 11 mm
Weight: 16.5 g (dry)
Ink deposit: 0.7 ml

A nice detail: the threads are made of steel on both sides.

Now, is this pen competitive? The Dagong 56 is no longer on production and it is mostly a rarity for collectors. The price at auction sites, erratic as it may be, often reaches EUR 60 to 70. Given the current exchange rates, a stainless steel Pilot Capless seems a much better deal.

Chuanren 3323, Student Pen – Wagner 2008 ink (by Sailor)

Bruno Taut
Shinjuku, Nakano; February 6th, 2016
etiquetas: Wuhan, Capless, Pilot

03 February 2016

Matching (XVIII). Chuanren 3323

The Pilot Petit-1 is already well known on these Chronicles (::1::, ::2::, ::3::). Over three generations of this model, we have seen several modifications, but in essence it has remained the same: a cartridge-only pen, steel nib only available in F, colorful plastic bodies… The nib, might be worth to remember, is shared with that of the disposable Vpen, and therefore it is easy and cheap to have a Petit-1 with an M point. The feeds of both Petit-1 and Vpen carry a wick connecting nib and ink deposit. Some argue that this wick makes the trick for such reliable and ink-ready pens even after days or weeks of inactivity.

The third generation of Pilot's Petit-1 fountain pens.

All that for JPY 200 (USD 1.65 at the time of writing), plus taxes. The main drawback for this pen might be the limited distribution outside Japan.

Then we have a Chinese version—the Chuanren 3323 Student Pen, manufactured by Zhejiang Chuanren Pen Co. in Lishui (Zhejiang province in PR China).

Four decorations for one pen, the Chuanren 3323 Student Pen.

The similarities between the Chuanren and the Pilot are startling, as can be seen on the pictures. But there are also some differences. The Chinese pen is about 2 cm longer than the Japanese one. This extra length allows for the use of an ink converter.

From top to bottom, the Chuanren 3323, the 3rd generation, the 2nd generation, and the 1st generation of the Pilot Petit-1.

Chuanren 3323 and 2nd generation Pilot Petit-1, side by side.

The Chuanren 3323 Student Pen, disassembled.

The nib, as is the case with the Pilot Petit-1, slids off the feed. And the feed does not have any wick in the ink channel.

In fact, the Chuanren 3323 comes with converter and, in principle, there might be no need for a cartridge. However, the converter shows a number of flaws: great interaction with the ink, and limited pumping power. Short Parker cartridges are a clear alternative.

The nib, made of steel, is a smooth F point with a decent flow. The feed follows the traditional pattern—an ink channel without any wick, as opposed to the scheme of the Pilot Petit-1 feed.

Writing sample of the Chuanren 3323. Regular flow for a neutral --neither very dry or very wet-- nib. But the feed is really full of ink, as can be seen on the following picture.

The inked feed. The B engraved on the feed has nothing to do with the nib point. Probably, it refers to the feed and pen color.

And inked Chuanren. The ink sticks to the walls of the converter defying gravity.

The construction quality of the Chinese pen is mediocre and is significantly worse than that of the Petit-1. Cap and body of the Chuanren are never properly aligned when the pen is capped, for instance. Plus, the cap cracked after a couple of days of use, and the nib and feed can be extracted from the section all too easily.

This picture shows two of the issue of this Chinese pen: the cracked cap and the misaligned cap and barrel when the pen is closed.

These are the dimensions of the Chuanren 3323 and the Pilot Petit-1, 3rd generation:

.Chuanren 3323.

Pilot Petit-1
.3rd generation.

Length closed (mm) 127 108
Length open (mm) 113 94
Length posted (mm) 148 132
Barrel Diameter (mm) 13 14
Weight, dry (g) 9.5 9.6
The weights are dry with either an empty converter (Chuanren) or an empty cartridge (Pilot).

As the Pilot pen does, the Chuanren pens come in different colors, and the company often changes the overall looks through variations on the pen graphics.

The typical price of the Chuanren 3323 is around USD 1.75 (JPY 210 at the time of writing), which poses an interesting question: Is it worth to copy an inexpensive model? Sure enough, the Chinese pen offers some advantages over the Pilot Petit-1; but, is that enough to create any economic profit out of a two-dollar knockoff pen? Can the Chuanren 3323 attract the buyers of the Petit-1?

My thanks to Mr. Sunami and to Mr. Mizukushi.

Chuanren 3323 Student Pen – Wagner 2008 ink (Sailor)

Bruno Taut
Nakano, February 2nd, 2016
etiquetas: Pilot, Chuanren, Parker, mercado

29 January 2016

Gama (II). A Stick

On the previous text I presented the brand Gama, produced by the stationery shop Gem & Co. in Chennai. The models I showed were all eyedropper with steel nibs and very classical looks… save one I left for another Chronicle.

Some Gama pens. One sticks out...

The first look of this particular model is surprising—it looks like an ebonite blank ready to go to the lathe. It is almost perfectly cylindrical, and only under close inspection the line between cap and body can be seen. The ends are almost perfectly flat, and, contrary to the rest of the pen, they are polished. This feature is shared by other Gama models—the Raja and the Kuyil, for instance.

The stick. Note the band name engraved on the barrel end.

Inside, we find a gold plated nib engraved with the brand name, although it was manufactured by the Indian nib brand Ambitious. The feed (diameter of 5.0 mm) is made of ebonite. The pen is an eyedropper and the whole barrel works as ink deposit. On the outside, a subtle engraving informs us of the pen brand, but you really need to look for it.

The section is polished, as is the case of both ends of the pen.

The cap has no clip, keeping the clean lines of the pen unaltered. It cannot be posted in any way as the pen has a constant diameter all along. These are its dimensions:

Length closed: 152 mm
Length open: 141 mm
Diameter: 13 mm
Weight: 19.5 g (dry)
Ink deposit: 1.1 ml (the body is not completely hollow)

The writing quality is more than acceptable on this particular unit. The line is quite wet although occasionally the flow becomes irregular, but without interruptions or blobs. It seems, though, that there is not much consistency on the quality of the nibs and some adjustment is often needed. The quality control is still precarious in many an Indian good.

The nib --gold plated steel-- and the feed --ebonite--. The nib inscription reads as follows: "(G logo) / GAMA / FIVE / YEAR POINT / (logo of the nib company Ambitious)".

I do not know the model name, albeit it takes a number of features from the desk model Ezhuthani. The pen cost around EUR 16.

My thanks to Paco-san.

Gama in black ebonite – Montblanc White Forest

Bruno Taut
Shinjuku & Nakano, January 21-29th, 2016
etiquetas: India, Gama

26 January 2016

Gama (I)

The city of Madras, the old name of present day Chennai, has already shown up on these Chronicles as the home of the Indian manufacturing plant of Pilot. That center closed down in 1978, but that did not mean the end of pen production in the city.

The stationery shop Gem & Co. from Chennai produces its one line of pens under the brand name Gama. The company started business in the 1920s as importers of pens and pen parts from Great Britain, and around 1950, the brand Gama was launched.

Today, Gem & Co. makes mostly eyedropper pens in ebonite. Some other materials such acrylic and vegetable resin are also used. Occasionally, high-end models implement German nibs by JoWo, and can be inked with cartridges and converters.

It is indeed not clear how many different models there are currently on production. The basic reference as of today, seems to be the website if the stationery merchant Asa Pens. On it we can check some of the Gama models, but the selection is likely to be driven more by the current stock than by the actual catalog of the manufacturer. It is also possible that being Gem & Co. a small company, models and variations were subject to small productions and quick changes.

Four of the pen models by Gama. From the top, the first and the third are made of ebonite; second and fourth, of plant polymer. All of them are eyedropper pens.

The model named Forever, nonetheless, seems to be a stable pen within the catalog. This is an ebonite eyedropper pen, with a steel nib. It is a fairly large pen –146 mm long when closed— that holds about 2.5 ml of ink in its barrel.

The Gama Forever in blue and black ripple ebonite. Steel nib in size 6. Ebonite feed.

On the other end, we can find a very small pen: 69 mm long (closed) and less than 6 grams in weight. This is also an eyedropper made of ebonite.

The very small model of Gama pens. The total length is 69 mm. Again, an eyedropper made of ebonite.

Two other pens shown on the pictures of this text are eyedroppers, but they are made of some kind of plant polymer (vegetable resin, some call it) that has a very distinctive smell. These come with steel nibs of sizes 5 and 6.

A Gama pen made of plant polymer. Eyedropper, size 6 steel nib. This pen has an ink window that can be a source of ink leaks.

Finally, there is another pen, black in color, about which I will speak extensively on another text.

My thanks to Paco-san.

Gama, black ebonite – Montblanc White Forest

Bruno Taut
Shinjuku and Nakano, January 21-23, 2016
etiquetas: Gama, India

20 January 2016

Matching (XVII). Paidi Century

It might be time to revive this old series of Chronicles on originals and copies and inspirations and homage. In a sense, all I had to say on these issues had already been said, but some recent encounters show new and different models for the copies. Now, the originals seem to be Japanese, and this is interesting in itself.

The following pen is a Paidi “Century 1”. Paidi is just one of the brand names of the well known Shanghai Hero Pen Company.

Paidi "Century 1".

Under the rather colorful body, an interesting nib emerges—an integral steel nib in the fashion of the Pilot Murex/Myu and the Parker T1/Falcon.

The integrated nib.

The Paidi Century 1 (bottom) together with other well known integrated nibs.

Can we speak of copies? This Chinese pen dates from the 1990s and therefore showed up in the market years later than the American and Japanese counterparts. At the same time, the variations in shapes and colors among all these pens are clear and hardly any confusion could exist in the eyes of the consumer. But is this enough to speak of different pens instead of plagiarism? The answer might depend on the side of the border you were in.

From the top, clockwise, Parker Falcon, Pilot Murex, Paidi Century 1.

From the top, clockwise, Parker Falcon, Pilot Murex, Paidi Century 1.

This is the model Century 1, and there are other variations—the Century 5, and the Century oversize with a screw on cap. The same nib was also implemented on some models marketed as Hero.

These are the dimensions of this pen:
Length closed: 135 mm
Length open: 113.5 mm
Length posted: 141 mm
Diameter: 10.0 mm
Weight: 19.5 g
Ink deposit: 1.0 ml

Pilot and Parker rely on cartridges and converters for these models. Only the Paidi is a self-filling pen.

This is a self-filling pen with an aerometric system.

My thanks to Mr. Mizukushi and Mr. Sunami.

Pilot Capless FCN-500R – Montblanc Racing Green

Bruno Taut
Shinjuku, January 19th, 2016
etiquetas: Hero, Parker, Pilot