Monday, October 25, 2010

Three-pack

Pilot was the first manufacturer in Japan to create luxury inks in unusual colors. The Iroshizuku line is a big success world-wide despite the outrageous prices in certain markets. For instance, EUR 34 in Spain, USD 35 in the US…

The price in Japan is a lot more reasonable at JPY 1575 for those 50 ml. inkwells. More expensive, though, than the Sailor inks, and comparable to those of some imported fancy ones. However, making them even more expensive is always easy.


The new Pilot offer is a pack of three 20-ml. inkwells of three Iroshizuku inks for JPY 3150. But that is also the price of two full bottles –a total of 100 ml.

I have few doubts about the success of this offer. After all, many stylophiles rather variety over quantity.

(Platinum Glamour – Waterman Havana)

Bruno Taut
(Tokyo, October 24th, 2010)
[labels: Pilot, tinta, mercado, Japón]

Friday, October 22, 2010

Marine

Ryosuke Namiki founded the Namiki Manufacturing Company with the financial help of his friend Masao Wada in 1918. Namiki had graduated from the Tokyo Nautical School and had worked as a captain of a merchant ship. So, his life had been closely associated to the sea before embarking on the pen business.


According to Mr. Niikura, the pen in the picture was manufactured in the nineteen-twenties.

The engraving on the barrel.

It is an eyedropper pen -therefore, an O-shiki (O-式)- with a safety valve, as was common in Japan at the time. Its name is “kai-koku” (海国), Sea Country. These words are written on the nib in Roman characters, and on the barrel in Chinese ideograms.

The gold nib and its engravings: KAIKOKU and 14KGOLD.
The safety valve, half open.

This nib is a 14 K gold, semiflexible. An overfeed supplies all the ink it might need.

With thanks to Mr. Niikura.

(Pilot Short Pen – Pilot Iroshizuku Yama-guri)

Bruno Taut
(Tokyo, October 22th, 2010)
[labels: Pilot, Japón, evento]

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Literature

In some few weeks –from the 13th to the 15 of November—the 2010 Madrid Pen Show will take place. This will be the seventh edition of an increasingly interesting and important event. There will be, the organizers say, more than 40 traders from France, Germany, Israel, Italy, the Netherlands, UK, US, and, of course, Spain.

They also announce the presence of authors Jonathan Steinberg, and Andreas Lambrou. The latter, well known as the creator of Fountain Pens of the World (1995), is in the process of publishing the long awaited Fountain Pens of Japan (2010) in collaboration with Masamichi Sunami. A brief preview of the book is currently online.

The book Fountain Pens of the World is certainly a reference for most stylophiles. It aims at being comprehensive and if we could only have a book, this one could be it. But the more I use it, the higher my disappointment is.

Cover of Lambrou's Fountain Pens of the World (1995).

This book has the virtue of including a large number of pictures of pens, but there are many very significant pens that are not depicted at all. At the same time, pens from some periods are almost absent. Such is the case of Japanese pens between 1930 and 1960.

Picture of page 372 of Lambrou's Fountain Pens of the World together with one of the pens depicted on it--a Pilot Custom 74. On that picture, there are three Pilot Custom 74, and five Custom 67, just in case one single picture were not enough to identify any of those pens.

The inclusion of pictures of pen prototypes is also, in my opinion, a mistake. Those pictures belong to monographies on brands or on specific models, but not to reference books stylophiles check in search of basic information.

Another problem is the general lack of details –either pictures or technical information— on pen nibs. The technical notes are mostly limited to filling systems and construction materials.

More disappointing is the lack of consistency among the different chapters. What seems important on some of them is almost unnoticed on the rest. The book seems to be written by several hands with little coordination among them.

Little can be said about the new book, the long awaited Fountain Pens of Japan. Long awaited because, first, its publication had been announced for quite some time, and, second, because there is very little information in English about Japanese pens.

Table of contents of the book Fountain Pens of Japan (2010), by Lambrou and Sunami.

However, the preview showed some negative details. A most significant one is the inclusion of pictures of one-of-a-kind pens made for one of the authors. Beautiful as they might be, those pens hardly offer any relevant information for the collector as he will never be able to put his hands on any of those.

Picture taken from page 128 of Lambrou and Sunami's book. These eyedropper pens are customizations made for Masa Sunami: "Masa customized Onoto style pens in attractive colors, made from 1950s old stock material, ED, 1985."

It is my contention that general books should be informative for the collector. That means they should contain relevant information. Prototypes, one-on-a-kind customizations could, at most, become footnotes to the general text. The author, most likely a collector as well, should refrain his craving to show his collection, no matter how impressive it might be.

In conclusion, Lambrou’s Fountain Pens of the World in interesting, but disappointing. Too much information of little interest is included on it while some other is sadly missing.

(Pilot Elite Isaac Newton – Pilot Blue Black)

Bruno Taut
(Tokyo, October 20th, 2010)
[labels: libro, Japón, evento]

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Matsuzakaya


This chronicle is about one of those wonderful pens Mr. Niikura usually brings to the Wagner pen clinics. It is a Pilot pen manufactured, or labeled, for the Matsuzakaya department stores.


This is a black ebonite safety pen—the ink deposit is filled through the retracted nib. According to Lambrou’s Fountain Pens of the World, in the jargon of the company, safety pens were called L-shiki (L-式). Most likely, then, this pen dates back from the early 1920s.

14 K gold, number 2 nib. Made in Japan.

Fine nib, the kanji on the label says. And that might have been the price at its time: JPY 4.50.

As was the case for some other pens mentioned on these chronicles (I, II, III), this pen was sold only at the department stores whose name was engraved on the barrel. But back in the 1920s, the reasons behind this strategy were very different to those of Itoya’s and Maruzen’s regarding their current pens and inks.

My thanks to Mr. Niikura.

(Pilot Elite pocket pen with Silver cap – Sailor Red Brown)

Bruno Taut
(Tokyo, October 18th-19th, 2010)
[labels: evento, Mercado, Pilot]

Monday, October 18, 2010

Limited

Yesterday, Sunday 17th, the monthly meeting of the Wagner association took place in the usual form of the pen clinic. It was earlier than usual in the month because this coming weekend the Fuente Pen Show will be celebrated in Ginza.


Fewer people that in previous occasions we could see this time at the clinic. Might it be because of the incoming pen show, or because people run out of pens to fix… Nonetheless, many interesting pens were on display.


Once of them was this most unusually colored Pilot Custom 74.


In year 2005, Itoya marketed a limited release of this Pilot model with silver accents in colors black, red, deep red, deep blue and orange. The regular model has rings and clip in gold.


In this particular pen, the owner had swapped the nib with that of a Custom Heritage 91, equipped with a size 5, rhodiated nib. This makes the either a minor “frankenpen”… or a unique pen. As usual, these limited editions have very small number of available nibs—mostly boring.

On this occasion, Itoya did not market a Romeo pen but a just a regular model with some variations. But it was only available at their shops. I have also reported on the black urushi Capless made for the Maki-e Fair last May—only 10 units were for sale. These are other ways to make exclusive goods to attract customers and aficionados.

My thanks to Mr. Furusawa.

(Pilot Volex – Pilot Black)

Bruno Taut
(Tokyo, October 18th, 2010)
[labels: evento, Mercado, Pilot]

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Exclusivity

Making goods scarce, I said, is a way to increase the buying anxiety and, therefore, the pace at which those goods are sold. Some may also argue that this strategy has the added benefit of increasing the size of the market by releasing more new models and attracting the attention of potential customers more often.

Another strategy is the creation of exclusive goods: products that are sold only at very specific shops, either own by the manufacturer or by some retailer.

Such is the case, again, of Sailor. As was mentioned before (chronicle “Indecisiones”), Sailor inks are now present in several stationery shops in Japan as inks made exclusively for them: Maruzen in Nihonbashi (Tokyo), Ishidabungu en Hokuto (Hokkaido), Nagasawa in Kobe (Hyogo), etc. Some otaku will pilgrim through all of them, in search of the complete ink works by Sailor…


Maruzen, on its side, has its own line of pens and of inks available only at their shops under the name of Athena. The pens are currently made by Pilot, but in the past other important companies –de la Rue in 1913, Sailor in some recent years— also played that role. It is also worth to mention some commemorative pens Maruzen commissioned—the Parker Rashin to celebrate the 135th anniversary of the shop is a recent example (2004).

Itoya also had its own pen brands –Mighty and Romeo— that are now very scarce and sought after by collectors. In 2005, however, Itoya released the Pilot-made Romeo 2005 still available at their Ginza main branch.

Itoya's Romeo 2005. A Pilot made edition exclusively for this shop. (Photo taken from Itoya's website).

I guess these strategies pay off. And that means that some stylophiles and customers are really enticed by this sense of exclusivity: “You have to go there to get this!” And there some go in search of the Holy Grail—no matter it might be made of clay.

(Pilot Elite pocket pen with crosshatched silver cap – Sailor Red Brown)

Bruno Taut
(Tokyo, October 7th, 2010)
[labels: Japón, Mercado, Sailor, Pilot, Parker]

P. S: Edited on October 15th to add information on Romeo pens.

Monday, October 11, 2010

FK-3000P-SKU

Recently, I had the chance to put my hands on a fountain pen with maki-e decoration on the body. It is a Pilot with the very non-descriptive name of FK-3000P-SKU.

The maki-e pen with ornaments in cherry tree flowers, sakura. Also known as FK-3000P-SKU.

This pen is on the cheap side among those maki-e pens of the company. It is equipped with a size 5 14-K gold nib, and only two points are available: F and M. The price in Japan, JPY 30000.

One of the cherry flowers adorning the pen.

Indeed a nice pen whose only fault, other than the price, is the very limited selection of nibs. The reasons not to offer any of the other nibs Pilot has in that size is beyond my understanding. The looks are great, delicate and quite discreet despite the often striking contrast between red and black. But at the same time, this pen gives the impression of being a very delicate object. It is a pen to grab with white cotton gloves to prevent any scratch. In this regard, I wonder whether it is a writing utensil or a jewel to exhibit.

The cap has a velvety material inside to avoid scratching the barrel when posting the pen.

Functionally, this maki-e pen is almost identical to the more modest model the Custom 74. Their dimensions are the same, and weight-wise, the maki-e is four grams lighter than the twenty-two of the Custom.

The CON-70 attached to the Custom 74 section (with a golden ring) had to be purchased separately.

The difference in price between them is JPY 20000. JPY 20000 for the maki-e decoration. Ah! And for the converter CON-70 included with it, and not with the Custom 74. And the cheaper pen can be ordered with a selection of eleven different nibs, some of which are a lot more interesting than the plain F and M.

On the left, the rather rigid F nib of the maki-e pen. On the right, the springy soft-fine nib of the Custom 74. There is no problem whatsoever in interchanging them, but Pilot does not offer the SF nib on the maki-e pen.

This detail is a strong argument to conclude that the FK-3000P-SKU is more of a jewel than of a pen.

(Pilot Custom 74 with music nib – Sailor Red Brown)

Bruno Taut
(Inagi, October 11th, 2010)
[labels: Pilot]

Super 200. Music Nib

Pen review of the Pilot Super 200 with music nib.

In 1955 Pilot launched the “Super” series of pens as its workhorse. From the Super Ultra 500 –already mentioned on these chronicles— to the smaller Super 50, they were the equivalent, dare I say, to today’s Custom range.


Fifty-something years later, they are very interesting models as they feature two characteristics many a stylophile enjoy—a suggestive selection of nibs, and a self-filling mechanism. Pilot still implements non-boring nibs in some of their pens, but they are not combined with filling systems of interest, much to the disappointment of us pen users.

The pen I am showing on this chronicle is a Super 200 with a fingernail music nib.

1. Appearance and design (8.0/10).
As a fountain pen, this Super 200 is certainly not a fashion statement. It is a formal looking pen in black and gold, although the wide golden ring on the cap and the short clip give the pen a more daring look. Some variations on this model had gold filled caps.


2. Construction and quality. (9.0/10)
This pen is about fifty years old and works perfectly. Sure it needs some maintenance, mostly replacing the sac, but so far it is in quite good shape. Minor scratches can be seen on the body—normal tear and wear that do not affect its functions.



The push-in cap fits perfectly onto the barrel both when closed and when posted.


3. Weight and dimensions. (8.0/10)
Medium to small sized pen. Well balanced if unposted; posted, though, is perfectly usable.

Dimensions:
Diameter: 11 mm.
Length capped: 133 mm.
Length uncapped: 118 mm.
Length posted: 146 mm.
Weight: 17 g.



4. Nib and writing performance. (9.0/10)
This pen is a smooth and wet writer with a clear line variation, as is mandatory in any stub or music nib. The nib geometry allows for some flexibility. The horizontal line is about 0.5 mm wide, and the vertical ranges between 0.9 and 1.9 mm.


The fact that the feed is single-grooved is not a problem to supply ink to this wet nib.


5. Filling system and maintenance. (8.0/10)
This pen uses a quarter turn filler: a knob rotates 90 degrees to move a plate against the internal rubber sac. Sure it is more exciting than any cartridge/converter system, but at the end this sac’s capacity is not bigger than that of the excellent Pilot converter CON-70.


The use of self-filling systems imply a more difficult cleaning and maintenance. The case of this pen is not particularly complicated, though—the whole pen can be disassembled easily.


6. Cost and value. (9.0/10)
Although Pilot Super pens are not unusual in the second hand market in Japan, those with music nibs are not common at all. So, its rarity makes them more valued.

In any event, this is very interesting pen with quite unique features. The price, in my opinion, was fair.


7. Conclusion. (51/60 = 85/100)
An exciting nib in a self-filling pen with more than fifty years of history—not bad at all. However, this high score might be driven by some romantic consideration for those features more than by the real virtues of the pen.

Speaking personally, I am very happy with this pen.

(Pilot Super 200 with music nib – Pelikan Brilliant Brown)

Bruno Taut
(Inagi, October 10th, 2010)
[labels: Plumín, Pilot]

Friday, October 8, 2010

Scarcity

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]

Monday, October 4, 2010

Transparent

Note added on February 2017: There is a basic mistake on this text--the pen I called "Volex" is, in fact, a Myu-25, released in the mid 1970s. The only Volex on these text is the one on the far right on the first picture. Please, check the following Chronicle: http://estilofilos.blogspot.jp/2017/01/family-portrait-viii-myu-25-at-al.html.


Pocket pens have already been mentioned in these chronicles. In the West, dare I say, they are known because of two models—the Pilot Myu 701 and its close relative the Pilot M90. However, there is a myriad of pocket pens in all colors, and materials and, to a certain extent, even shapes.

Several Pilot Pocket Pens. The first three pens on the left are Volex Myu-25.

The Pilot Myu 25 Volex model followed, in some sense, the idea of the Myu 701 without the extensive use of stainless steel. Myu-25 Volex and Myu share most of the design features—clips, dimensions,… And section and nib are streamlined, albeit the Myu-25 and Volex nibs are not made out of the section.

Pilot Myu 701 on top. Pilot Myu-25 Volex in black on the bottom.


Myu 701 and Myu-25's nibs.

A variation on this theme are the transparent Myu-25 Volex—the demonstrators. The caps, however, were the same as for the regular models.

The black Myu-25 Volex and the demonstrator Myu-25 Volex (with black cap).

I cannot say much more than this. I do not know how common or popular they were at their time in the mid to late seventies. Or if they were only intended as selling tools for the Pilot salesmen of the time, as was the case with the original demonstrator pens.

Two transparent Myu-25 Volex.

Those demonstrators on the pictures were manufactured in 1974 and 1975. Both have fine nibs.


(Pilot Elite Pocket Pen with crosshatched cap (H187) – Pilot Iroshizuku Yama-guri)

Bruno Taut
(Shinjuku, October 1st, 2010)
[labels: Pilot]

Friday, October 1, 2010

Dyes

Sailor, we already said this, changed its marketing strategies last year. As a result, this company eliminated the line of old inks –some of them very popular—and launched what they call “seasonal inks”: four new inks per season. Having already passed the autumnal equinox, the fall inks had to be ripe for release.


These are the new four inks:
Chu-shu: Full moon in mid autumn. A grayish blue.
Oku-yama: Inner mountains. Red-violet.
Kin-mokusei: Fragant olive (Osmanthus fragans). Orange.
Yama-dori: Mountain bird. Blue.


These seasonal inks are, in actual terms, limited releases. Some of them –Sakura-mori and Yuki-akari, of the Spring and Winter collections, respectively— are no longer available in the shops in Tokyo.

This is indeed a great trick. Great and not completely fair. By doing this, Sailor raises some anxiety in all those fond or obsessed with inks—buy now, as soon as possible, for tomorrow they might not be there. And on top of that, their prices are 66% higher than the old line of inks.

Ink is becoming a luxury good. Fancy inkwells, creative names, low production costs, high profits… All for a quite simple product after all. Annoying.

The good news are that there might be room for cheap inks. Fellow blogger Julie (Okami) reported recently on this new line of inks: the Silk Route Inks. 50 ml. of ink at USD 3.50 (plus shipping charges) in functional plastic inkwells. And cheap does not mean, apparently, non-poetic. All power to them!

(Pilot Elite Pocket Pen with crosshatched cap (H187) – Pilot Iroshizuku Yama-guri)

Bruno Taut
(Shinjuku, October 1st, 2010)
[labels: Sailor, tinta, Silk Road Ink]
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