Saturday, February 25, 2012

No Logo

On a previous chronicle, I tried to analyze the role of Montblanc in the market of fountain pens. Montblanc, I concluded, sells a brand and a symbol of status devoid of mostly any content. The only detail that really matters on a Montblanc pen is the white star on display.


Japanese company Muji (Mujirushi Ryôhin), on the contrary, uses the opposite strategy. Mujirushi Ryôhin means “no brand, quality goods”, and indeed no brand name and no logotype can be seen on any of this company’s products.

On the left hand side of the cap a lip can be seen. It fits perfectly on the grooves on both section and barrel.

Regarding fountain pens, Muji has marketed a number of models. Many of them are remarkably similar to some made by Ohto. Currently (February 2012), there seems to be only one model available. It is a cartridge-converter pen made of aluminum. Its nib is, most likely, made by Bock in stainless steel. Its design, basically a perfect cylinder, is attractive and functional. The section is knurled for a good grip. Barrel and cap fit very tightly and elegantly both when the pen is closed and when is posted—the cap lip slides inside an ad-hoc groove in the section and in the barrel end.

On this picture, the groove on the barrel can be seen. The lip of the cap fits perfectly inside.

The cap, perfectly attached to the barrel on the posted configuration.

Performance-wise, this pen simply does its job. The nib is rigid and uncharacteristic; on the dry side, but without missing a stroke. It lays what looks like an M point, although there is an F engraved on the nib.


All in all, this is an average pen that honors the selling point of Muji: no brand, good quality. This is not a symbol of status. It is just a pen that writes correctly.

These are its dimensions:
Diameter: 10 mm.
Length closed: 13.8 mm.
Length open: 12.6 mm.
Length posted: 16.2 mm.
Weigth (inked): 20.0 g.

It costs JPY 1100 (tax excluded) in Japan.

(Muji pen in aluminum – Diamine Teal)

Bruno Taut
February 26, 2012
[labels: Muji, Ohto, mercado, Montblanc]

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Branding

I finished the previous chronicle with a non-very pleasant sentence about Montblanc pens. But indeed it is not clear whether Montblanc pens are bought to be used or to be displayed.

On another front, I recently encountered this both terrible and brilliant sentence: "Successful corporations must primarily produce brands as opposed to products." (Quoted by Naomi KLEIN in No Logo, 1999).

Assorted Montblanc products.

Et voilà! Montblanc is one of those brands, and Richemont group is the successful corporation behind the undeniable prosperity of the white star. 80% of the market of luxury writing tools is in their hands, and the very sought-after logo is now on goods that have nothing to do with writing: watches, jewelry and leather complements. The success of Montblanc is, after all, on the brand and not on the quality of the product. Montblanc is a symbol of status.

These Japanese copies of Montblanc stopped being a threat when Richemont Group went on to selling a brand instead of a product.

And that is why Montblanc fakes are so easy and so ubiquitous—their goal is to display the white star, and nothing else. Just like the original product. Whether they write or not is totally irrelevant.

Selling a brand instead of a product has some toll to pay.

(Sailor Profit Realo – Athena Sepia)

Bruno Taut
February 10th, 2012
[labels: mercado, Montblanc]

Monday, February 13, 2012

Profit Realo

Pen review: Sailor Profit Realo with a Cross-music nib.

To a certain extent, this review has already been written and published on these chronicles. The two most distinctive elements of this pen were analyzed, or deconstructed, and put in the context of the current catalog of Sailor pens: Are this nib and this filling system worth the price we would have to pay for them?


I should start this review by saying that this pen is a frankenpen. This combination of nib, a specialty nib by Nagahara, and filling system is not included in the catalog of the brand—specialty nibs are associated to cartridge-converter pens. But this frankenpen allows us to cover several elements that are to be found on a number of Sailor pens.

This Sailor is the regular Realo model and NOT the limited edition from 2006 based on the King of Pen model. Regular Realo pens implement the senior nib size in 21 K gold. Smaller nibs are the junior size –in 14 and 21 K gold--, and bigger, the King of Pen nibs in 21 K gold.


1. Appearance and design. (7.0/10)
This model, the Profit, it a cigar type pen à la Montblanc. Being a Realo implies its filling system was a piston, and its barrel has an ink window. Its very obvious design, the window is framed by two golden rings, is not the most charming one—it makes me miss the more subtle appearance of original Realo made for the 95th anniversary (2006). The ink deposit is on the small size.

The decorative elements on this pen are golden, and this seems to be the only option for Realo models.


2. Construction and quality. (9.0/10)
Very good quality. The plastic material –that precious resin of some other manufacturers—is resistant to scratches. Posted, the cap fits well on the barrel and does not leave any mark. The piston action is very smooth and requires little effort. So far, this has not compromised its seal.



3. Weight and dimensions. (9.0/10)
As I mentioned on the introduction, the regular size Realo is based on the senior size in Sailor’s line of pens. This means that all senior size nibs fit in this pen’s section.

This is a well balanced pen, especially if unposted. These are the dimensions:

Diameter: 16 mm.
Length closed: 142 mm.
Length open: 122 mm.
Length posted: 157 mm.
Weight: 22.0 g.
Ink deposit: 1.0 ml.
Balance open: center of masses at 67 mm to the tip (55%-45%).
Balance posted: center of masses at 89 mm to the tip (57%-43%).

The feed is made of plastic.

4. Nib and writing performance. (9.5/10)
Sailor’s specialty nibs are indeed unique. This Cross-music is the result of overlapping two nibs. The four tines and two slits ensure a juicy and constant flow of ink. There exists a further sophistication for this (and the rest of specialty nibs)—the implementation of an overfeed, by the name of “emperor”, to make sure that the high demand of ink of this nib is met. The emperor has a hefty price—JPY 10,000 to add to the already high price of these nibs.

The 21 K gold nib. The tip is certainly big, but it is also very carefully cut.

The nib point is cut to provide a very broad horizontal line and a fine vertical one. But that is not all—increasing the angle between pen and paper the line becomes thin in all directions.

This nib performs its duty wonderfully (and therefore, there is barely any need of any overfeed), but at a high cost in material, labor and money. Much simpler fude nibs do a very similar job at a lower cost.


5. Filling system and maintenance. (7.0/10)
Sailor Realos are piston fillers, and that attracts the attention of a number of pen aficionados. However, this pen’s ink capacity –1.0 ml— is smaller than that of a Sailor converter (1.2 ml). In a sense, this pen embodies the contradictions of those who demand sophisticated filling systems regardless the ink capacity. Needless to say, Sailor Realos are not the only example of this.

Maintenance wise, any piston filler is a bit more complex than most other systems. Disassembling the piston requires some tools and not all stylophiles have them at hand or are inclined to tinker with their beloved pens.

Nib and feed, though can easily be removed from the section. Cleaning them is so an easy process.

On this picture, the piston can be seen through the window.

6. Cost and value. (6.0/10)
This is an expensive pen. Cross-music nibs are associated to pens whose price is around JPY 50000, and Realos have a tag of JPY 30000. Exchanging the nibs and selling that complete pen we did not want (a cartridge-converter pen with a regular fine or medium nib) helps to lower the price, but by not much. However, this two-fold nib is unique and provides a wonderful writing experience.


7. Conclusion. (47.5/60=79/100)
Expensive pen with a unique nib and a small self-filling ink deposit. Other Sailor pens provide similar features at lower prices by simplifying the nib or the filling system.

No company nowadays compete with Sailor in the market of innovative and complex nibs. Montblanc pens, the obvious model for the Profit, are not cheap either, but Montblanc’s nibs are nowhere near the beautiful sophistication of this Cross-music.


(Sailor Profit Realo – Athena Sepia)

Bruno Taut
February 9th, 2012
[labels: Sailor, soluciones técnicas, plumín, Montblanc]

Friday, February 10, 2012

At the Museum (II)

(As seen at the Kanagawa Prefectural Museum of Modern Literature).


The pens I am showing today belonged to INOUE Yasushi (井上, 1907 – 1991). These are two Montblanc 146 from different times. The band aid on one of them shows that the writer really worked with it and that he was not concerned about the looks of the pen. I also had the chance to test this pen’s writing –really smooth, probably after years of use. It is probably a B point, which contradicts the idea of Japanese needing fine points to write very complex ideograms.


Inoue, like many other Japanese, preferred German brands over the rest, Japanese or not. This exhibit in Yokohama indeed showed that.

(Sailor Profit Realo – Athena Sepia)

Bruno Taut
February 7th, 2012
[labels: Montblanc, estilofilia, Japón]

Thursday, February 9, 2012

100 g/sq m

I had this text pending for some time. Hong-Kong-based company Daycraft had sent me a sample of its very appealing line of notebooks for me to enjoy and analyze. Travels and other circumstances kept me away from them and only now I could put my hands on them

The one under analysis today is the model named Daycraft Illusions Notebook—an A5 size with white 100g/sq m lined paper. Its 88 sheets (176 pages) are securely sewed together and are attached to a very colorful flexible cover that includes a pocket on the back.

The psychodelic cover.

But how does this heavy paper react to fountain pens? Well but not exceedingly well. We could think that a density of 100 g/sq m would be a good argument for an excellent performance, but density is not everything. The coating of the paper is indeed a very important element.

The reaction of the paper to the ink is based on two factors: evaporation and absorption. The ink must either be absorbed by the paper or, if kept over the paper, should lose its solvents, mostly water, by evaporation. Then, a very absorbent paper needs to be thick and heavy to prevent the ink from bleeding to the opposite page. But in very glossy, non-absorbing papers, the problem is a very long drying time with the risk of smearing.

On a side note, I will add that the absorbed ink also loses its solvents through evaporation, but in this situation the surface exposed is much bigger and the evaporation is quicker.

Six pens and five inks. Only one--the very wet Sailor Fude pen--creates a problem.

Bleed through of a very wet Sailor Fude pen with Waterman South Sea Blue ink.

The 100 g/sq m paper by Daycraft is very absorbing and creates no problem in drying and smearing. But wet inks and nibs do bleed through it, although this is not an issue for the vast majority of nibs.

Final verdict: Nice looking notebook. Heavy and good quality paper. However, wet nibs and inks can create minor problems.


(Sailor Profit Realo – Athena Sepia)

Bruno Taut
February 7th, 2012
[labels: papelería, Daycraft]

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

At the Museum (I)


The Kanagawa Prefectural Museum of Modern Literature holds these days an original exhibit on Writers and Their Pens (from January 14th to February 26th). It is focused mostly on Japanese writers active on the second half of the twentieth century, albeit with some exceptions such as the very notable of SOSEKI Natsume (1867-1916).


Indeed, such a museum is a museum of fetishes. What truly matters of a writer is the final work. However, it is also fair to wonder how the tool would affect the work of art—would Tanizaki have written In Praise of Shadows ((陰翳礼讃, In'ei Raisan) on a keyboard? I guess not. “Elegance is frigid”, he said…

All stylophiles are fetishists. We value the tool over its actual function. What about writers themselves? Are they fetishists or mere users? An exhibit like this helps us to understand this question, no matter how irrelevant it might be to appreciate their work.

This is the first chronicle on some of the pens I had the chance to see and feel at the Museum.


Today I am showing this nice leather pen holder that belonged to SATOMI Ton (1888-1983). It was bought from the very prestigious shop of T. Tanizawa in Ginza, Tokyo. Inside, a Pelikan 400.


My thanks to Mr Niikura and Mr. Tarusawa, and to Mr. Kibo, chairman of the Museum.


(Pilot Super Ultra 500 – Athena Sepia)

Bruno Taut
February 6th, 2012
[labels: Pelikan, estilofilia, evento, Japón]

Friday, February 3, 2012

Fora

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]
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