Thursday, August 30, 2012

On Sailor Nibs

Today’s chronicle is, basically, a description of the golden nibs Sailor offers on its catalog nowadays. The reason is twofold: first, there seems to be some confusion about what the company offers and on what sizes those nibs and nib points are presented. Second, this text might serve me well for future references. Actually, it shall serve me well…

Nowadays, Sailor golden nibs come in two purities –58.5% and 87.5% of gold, or 14 K and 21 K—and in three sizes named as medium (中型), big (大型) and super big (超大型) by Sailor; or junior, senior and king of pen in the translation for some markets. These nibs are implemented in the Profit (1911 in some markets) and Professional Gear series of pens. The Chalana line of thin pens is the only exception to this rule—these nibs are made of 18 K gold (75.0 %) and come only in extra-fine. The selection of nib points available in each size is summarized on the following table:


Big (top) and medium (bottom) nibs by Sailor. Both of them made of 21 K gold.

Some of those nibs can be rhodiated (rhodium-plated), bicolor, or black in appearance.

The Nagahara specialty nibs are based on the Naginata Togi nib in big size, but they can also be produced in the super-big size. The first Realo pen, on the occasion of the 95th anniversary of the company, was equipped with a super-big Naginata Togi nib in M.

Sailor Realos in two different sizes: on top, the regular Realo, whose nib is of size big (大型). On bottom, the limited edition Realo, marketed in 2006. This is based on the King of Pen model and its nib size is super-big (超大型). It is a Naginata Togi nib in M.

From left to right: Naginata Togi big size, FM point; big size F point; medium size FM nib in 21 K; medium size with M point made of 14 K gold, old imprint.

A selection of Sailor nibs in sizes medium (中型) and big (大型).

According to the Japanese catalog, not all the points (in medium, big and super-big sizes) are available in both Profit and Professional Gear models. In general, there are more points available for the former than for the later. Again, according to the Japanese catalog of Sailor.

My thanks to Mr. Noguchi.

Platinum pocket pen in steel with black stripes – Platinum black

Bruno Taut
August 29-30, 2012
etiquetas: Sailor, plumín

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Old Trick

Some brands, Pilot among them, might be approaching the ink business as if ink were perfume. And in fact, ink and perfume are not that different—both are easy-to-make consumables, yet so flexible in the final outcome, in color or fragrance, as to allow wildly creative names and displays. The basic difference, though, is that cosmetics sell seduction and sexual appeal, and inks have not yet reached that far.

There is another difference: inks need of a tool to be used—the pen. Then, pen brands came with this fundamental lie: only our inks are good for our pens. With other inks our pens might not work; with other inks the guarantee will be void; with other inks the pen will break; with other inks…

"Joker ink for fountain pens Joker".

Even the mostly unknown brand Joker tried this trick, which is frankly strange. Not many Joker pens can we see in the hands of users and collectors. Therefore, the market for its inks –"Joker ink for fountain pens Joker" might have been quite limited.

Anyway, we know now this is an old lie in the hands of pen companies. But pen novices still ask about it on pen fora.

My thanks to my friend Kostas.

Pilot G-300V – Wagner 2008 ink

Bruno Taut
August 24th, 2012
etiquetas: tinta, Joker, mercado

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Demonstrators in Japan

Apparently, along the nearly 50 years of history of the Capless family of pens, only the short model marketed in 1965 had a demonstrator version and, as was the case with most transparent pens, was not intended for sale but to show the internal mechanism. These were, in fact, tools in the hands of Pilot’s salespeople to convince retailers of the virtues of the pen. What most demonstrators intended to show was the filling mechanism, which was a primary battlefront in the market of pens. Then, cartridges became the filling system of choice and transparencies lost its ground, although with some exceptions. In Japan, this happened in the early 1960s, after Platinum had launched the Honest Cartridge in 1956.

The rare Capless demonstrator from 1965.

The Pilot Capless belong to a different breed of pens. Instead of showing the filling system –a regular and uneventful cartridge-converter—it shows the retracting mechanism and the movable nib unit. And that puts on quite a show! Or, at least, an original one that many a user would be willing to buy.

The latest demonstrator by Platinum. It is named after one of the five lakes around Mt. Fuji: Shoji (精進湖). However, there is not much of a mystery inside the barrel.

And no show is provided by most Japanese modern demonstrators. Save a couple of exceptions –Pilot’s Custom Heritage 92 and Custom 823--, all of them are cartridge converter pens with nothing special to reveal. And, after all, cartridge and converters were removable and of easy access to the user.

Three demonstrators. From top to bottom, the cartridge-converter Pilot Custom 74, the piston filler Twsbi Diamond 530, and the piston filler Pilot Custom Heritage 92.

In the meantime, the Taiwanese brand Twsbi shows that it is possible to make affordable demonstrators with self-filling mechanisms. Now, a transparent modern Capless, that would really shake the scene!

My thanks to Mr. Hiroshi Shimizu.

Pilot L pocket pen – Sailor Sei-boku

Bruno Taut
August 20-22th, 2012
etiquetas: Pilot, Capless, Japón, Taiwan, mercado, Twsbi, Platinum

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Marketing

The following video clip carries the signature of NHK, the national TV and radio broadcaster in Japan. However, it is far from being merely informative and, in fact, it is an instrument of advertisement and marketing for Pilot’s Iroshizuku line of inks.



It is an unlisted video, and it could disappear anytime. This is a summary of its contents:

The developer of Iroshizuku inks is a woman named Kiyomi Hasegawa, who spent 15 years behind the counter of a stationery shop. Customers, apparently, were looking for a broader variety of ink colors for their fountain pens. That drove her to create these inks as “this kind of product was not available from any other manufacturer”.

Iroshizuku, the speaker says, grabs the essence of Japan, and the beauty of the Japanese language. The ink names are inspired by “visual scenes in Kyoto and in the rest of Japan”. The unique bottle design is hand blown by professional glass blowers. The package is based on perfume products.

To enjoy these ink colors, Pilot developed a demonstrator pen [Pilot Custom 74 demonstrator]. The documentary ends with words about the ritual of inking a pen and about how the pen conforms to the owner with its continued use.

Couldn’t Pilot do better? Other than the empty rhetoric on the beauty of Japan, and on the beauty of the Japanese language, all we have is a collection of inaccuracies, wishful thoughts, and marketing justifications:

These four Iroshizuku inks were released in August 2011. So far, they are the last ones. Currently, there are 21 different colors.

-- Small selection of ink colors? No other company offered fancy-colored inks?
Does that mean Pilot did not know about J. Herbin or Private Reserve, both present in the Japanese market before Iroshizuku inks came to exist in December 2007? The Iroshizuku line started with five bluish hues, and even the Japanese company Sailor, in 2007, had five colors in its catalog, other than the black, blue and blue-black trio. If we spoke of the foreign market, the offer was a lot wider: Rohrer & Klingner, Diamine, De Atramentis, Noodler’s…

-- Hand-crafted inkwells blown by professional glass blowers?
Does this really add any virtue to the ink? Is Pilot only trying to justify the whopping EUR 33 these inks cost in Europe? Maybe Japanese customers do not deserve those hand-crafted bottles, as the domestic price of those inks is JPY 1575.

-- Packaged like perfume?
I guess that is the business model for inks nowadays. Perfumes, after all, generate a lot of profit—make them cheap, sell them expensive—and many a company would be happy with that source of benefits. Needless to say, Pilot can declare its intentions openly, but some of us might find this business model unsettling.



The conclusion is that this might be the future of inks--inks as luxury products. This is really a market driven by cravings instead of by need, and that does not benefit customers at all.


Sailor Profit Realo – Pelikan 4001 Brilliant Brown

Bruno Taut
August 15th, 2012
etiquetas: Pilot, tinta, J. Herbin, Diamine, Private Reserve, Noodler’s, De Atramentis, Sailor


Post scriptum (August 17th, 2012): I wanted to add a link to a blog entry by fellow stylophile Carlos Javier Contreras ( http://misplumasfuente.wordpress.com/2012/04/14/comparacion-de-precios-de-tintas-para-plumas-fuente/ ). On this text, the author analyzes the ink cost of several brands and compares them to the price of a very nice single malt whisky, a product that took 21 years to be produced under very strict conditions. Although the text is written in Spanish, I think there is not any problem to understand the graphs and the tables included on it. Those prices, in USD, correspond to the online shop Pen Gallery (as on April 11th, 2012) and do not take transport fees into account.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

No Ordinary Capless

A couple of texts I have dedicated to the Pilot Capless released in spring of 1965: the first one on the pen itself, and a second one on its instruction manual written in Spanish. But there is more to this pen.

There is a demonstrator among those!

One of the holy grails of Capless pens is the model, or rather variation, I am showing today. It seems to be the only demonstrator version ever made of the Capless family of pens. Its purpose, in line with the traditional idea of demonstrator pens, was to show the nib-retraction mechanism and it was never for sale. I know of three units of this transparent pen: two of them in Japan; the third, in Europe, and this was associated to the instruction booklet written in Spanish. I know, though, this pen was purchased in Taiwan. Sure enough, there might be some other units.

The holy grail of Capless, with the possible exception of the short-lived Platinum Knock.

Demonstrator and regular pen, side to side. Note the absence of clip on the demonstrator.

This demonstrator pen has, let us note, the guiding mechanism made of steel. That was not the case on the regular versions—early models (spring 1965) had those made of plastic and later on, maybe by fall 1965, it was changed to steel. The demonstrator I am showing had its nib made of 14 K gold in January 1966, which seems to contradict my observation of these nibs made of steel. Carmen Rivera’s website on the history of Pilot Capless shows gold nibs in the later models (fall 1965 on) and steel on those earlier ones (spring to fall 1965). Both nib materials were likely to coexist during the later life of this model.

The golden nib of the demonstrator. It was manufactured in January 1966.

In any event, this Capless demonstrator is no ordinary Capless.

My thanks and appreciation to Mr. Niikura and to Mr. Syrigonakis.

Pilot Petit-1, 3rd generation – Diamine Teal

Bruno Taut
August 12th, 2012
etiquetas: Pilot, Capless

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

The Spanish Connection

Thanks to a fellow stylophile I could access the following instruction booklet. It corresponds to the Pilot Capless model released in spring of 1965, and described on these pages some days ago.

The pen...

The interesting detail of this booklet is that it is written in Spanish. And the obvious question is on which market Pilot was thinking at the time of printing it. Or, where in the Spanish speaking world were these Pilot Capless distributed by the mid 1960s? I do not have any answer. The obvious candidates, in my opinion, were Argentina, Mexico and Spain, and given the vocabulary I would think of Mexico as the final destination. But this is just a guess.


... and its instructions.

Nevertheless, this booklet shows some early attempts to distribute Pilot pens, or at least its Capless model, in less developed markets—the world for Pilot was not just Japan, for obvious reasons, and the US. At the time, mid 1960s, Spanish-speaking markets were dominated by Parker, in competition with some local brands if those existed. Such was the case in Spain.

Around 1960, should we remember now, Platinum pens were present in several European countries, albeit under the name of local brands: Joker in Italy, and Presidente in Spain.

My thanks and appreciation to Mr. Nikos Syrigonakis.

New Clip (Arabian Ford) Jumbo pen – Unknown black ink

Bruno Taut
August 6th, 2012
etiquetas: España, Japón, Presidente, Platinum, Joker, español (idioma), Pilot, Capless, México.

Friday, August 3, 2012

On Ink Reviews

I have never reviewed any ink on these chronicles. The reasons are multiple:

-- I tend to value ink price over the rest of features, and that depends highly on the market, as I have already pointed out in previous chronicles.

-- I am not picky with inks. Of course, I have favorite colors, but this is a very personal choice. My wonderful green might be horrible to the eyes of the next guy. And performance is more important than color.

Clean, fluid and stable. Those were the three properties Spanish ink company Sama advertised for its inks in 1926.

-- Ink performance is dependent on several factors. At the end, as any pen user knows, the triad pen, ink and paper is the eternal golden braid of writing performance. On the analysis of a pen, in contrast to that of an ink, there are some features (filling system, pen design and dimensions, etc.) that are independent of the other two components of the trio—ink and paper.

-- Reviewing an ink implies the definition of many a standard—set a pen, and a nib, and a selection of paper. But those might not be available to everybody. And that particular combination of ink and pen might result in a poor performance that would improve with another pen.

-- Last, color rendition in a screen is, to say the least, a complex issue, and a proper calibration must be performed by both the author and by the reader of the blog. Actually, nonetheless, the problem is prior to that--the perception of the color changes with, among other factors, the light under which we see what we wrote. What color temperature do we choose as the standard? Sunlight at noon in Madrid is very different to that in Glasgow.

In summary, these are some of the reasons behind my reluctance to review inks. But there might be some exceptions in the future.

Platinum GlamourSailor Sei-boku 青墨

Bruno Taut
July 29th, 2012
etiquetas: tinta
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