Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Pilot Inks at Flea Markets

The desire to collect pens and to learn about them can easily be enlarged through collecting all kinds of memorabilia and accessories. Inkwells are easy targets—durable, abundant, not too expensive (albeit with many exceptions)… and certainly nostalgic. They are a common find at flea markets and antique shops.


Some old inkwells at a flea market.


The following inkwell is one such example. It is a 30 ml inkwell by Pilot produced in the 1940s and 1950s. Its original price went from JPY 30 to JPY 50. A bigger inkwell, 50 ml, was also available. And there exist schematics of 20 ml inkwells which might very well have existed, but I have never seen.


The dimensions correspond to an inkwell of about 20 ml. Published on Pilot Times (パイロットタイムス), Sept 1959.


A set of two 30-ml inkwells on display at the Pilot Museum the Pen Station. The price was JPY 70 in 1949.

Nothing fancy or rare, but very characteristic of that time. Pilot’s pen museum –Pen Station—truly reflects that with a variety of basically the same inkwell from several years along its lifetime. Nothing unusual, but the history of pens is mostly written through common tools rather than with those one-of-a-kind pens and inkwells nobody could find.


Platinum Century, music nib – Platinum Pigment Blue

Bruno Taut
June 20th 2013
etiquetas: Pilot, tinta

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Sistemas de sellado (II)

Estaba pendiente un nuevo texto sobre los sistemas de sellado de las plumas japonesas. En el texto anterior mencioné la obsesión japonesa por evitar las fugas de tinta. Como dije, no creo que fuera solo japonesa, pero lo cierto es que ese primer sistema de sellado --la válvula accionada desde el culotte-- se mantiene hasta hoy. Y eso son unos cien años de historia.

Pero ese sistema de sellado del depósito no es el único que se puede encontrar en Japón. Pilot (Namiki Manufacturing Co.) lanzó al mercado alrededor de 1920, dos años después de su fundación, una pluma con un nuevo sistema de sellado del depósito. Se trata del sistema de estrellas o, en japonés, hoshiawase (星合せ) o, en la clave de Pilot, N-shiki (N-式).


Una colección nada común de Pilot con sistema hoshiawase.

En este sistema, la boquilla está compuesta por dos cilindros concéntricos que pueden rotar (poco más de 90 grados) uno respecto al otro.  En el exterior, dos puntos --las estrellas-- indican la posición relativa de los cilindros: con las estrellas alineadas los conductos internos de la boquilla permiten el paso de tinta del depósito al plumín. Desalienadas, la tinta queda confinada en el depósito.


En esta foto se pueden ver los dos cilintros concéntricos que abren y cierran el paso entre el depósito y el plumín. Se trata de un hoshiawase muy temprano; posiblemente de 1920.


Una versión más tardía, 1927, del sistema hoshiawase.


Detalle de la boquilla de una hoshiawase con las estrellas claramente visibles en rojo. Alineadas, la tinta puede circular del depósito al plumín.

Por lo demás, son plumas de llenado por cuentagotas. Todas ellas son de ebonita, casi siempre negra, aunque las hay coloreadas. Estas últimas son muy buscadas.

Pilot usó este sistema hasta 1928. Al parecer, nunca fue todo lo efectivo que deseaban.  Posteriormente, en los años 40, hubo alguna pluma anónima que resucitó el sistema.


Cuatro hoshiawase en batería.

Una variación sobre esta idea fue el sistema de dos depósitos de tinta de la pluma Double Flow, japonesa de los años 20 igualmente, ya descrita en estas Crónicas. Pero no parece que Double Flow estuviera relacionada con la empresa Namiki Mfg. Co., dueña de la marca Pilot.

Platinum Belage - Platinum Pigmented Blue

Bruno Taut
Yokohama, 21 de junio de 2013
etiquetas: Pilot, soluciones técnicas, Japón

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Capless 1973

Capless pens are a regular topic on these Chronicles, and it only makes sense as they are one of the very few iconic pens made in Japan. But the Pilot Capless is not just a pen, but a family of them that followed a natural evolution over its fifty years of existence.

Today’s pen is the Capless model released in 1973. It is one of the lesser known variations, and one of the hardest to find in the second hand market.


The Capless originally released in 1973 with catalog reference CN-400 BS. In 1981, its price increased and the reference changed to CN-500 BS.

This model is nested, in time, between the well-known model made of plastic and stainless steel, with either black or non-colored stripes (C-400BS and C-400SS, 1971); and the faceted model made of plastic (FCN-500, 1984), well distributed world wide, and favored by many who disliked the current model (released initially in 1989). The 1973 Capless initially carried the catalog reference CN-400 BS, thus showing that its price was JPY 4000. Later, in 1981, the price increased to JPY 5000, and the reference number changed accordingly: CN-500 BS.


The black-striped model from 1971.


The faceted model from 1984 (FCN-500R).

The 1973 model is made of plastic and aluminium, both with a matte finish. The clip is made out of the same piece of the nose, on which the hole for the nib is placed. This feature is shared with the following (faceted) model of 1984. But the 1973 model, let me insist, has a perfectly rounded body.



Close-up of the nib of the 1973 Capless. On the background, the clip shows its smooth design, perfectly integrated with the nose of the pen.

The nib unit shows some interesting features. In principle, the set --ink deposit, steel frame, feed and nib-- of the CN-400 BS is unique to this model. Compared to the model of 1971, the overall nib-unit design is different, especially on the metal frame. Additionally, the gold nib (14 K) is directly connected to the frame, thus providing a higher resistance--as could be seen on the second picture of this text, the 1971 nib unit had the actual nib attached to the frame by means of the plastic feed.

But if compared to the following model (FCN-500R, 1984), the differences in the nib units are minor, and are mostly related to the position of the guiding notch. The different way of attaching the nib to the frame does not affect the basic geometry of the unit. So, despite them, it is possible to use the old unit in the newer models and vice versa—the newer nib units could also be used in the 1973 model.


On top, the nib unit of the current model of Capless (FC-15R). It is the same, save changes in the nib material, as the nib units of the 1984 model (FC-500R). On bottom, the nib unit of the 1973 model (CN-400BS). The differences between them are limited to the position of the guiding notch, lower on the earlier model, and to the attachment of the nib to the steel frame. The later does not affect the general geometry of the unit. Both are interchangeable in their "empty boxes".

In all cases, regular cartridges and converters CON-20 and CON-50 can be used.

These are the dimensions of the CN-400 BS from 1973:
Length closed: 137 mm
Length open (nib out): 134 mm
Diameter: 12 mm
Weight (dry): 18.3 g

Pilot Capless FC-15SR (1989 model), stub nib by Shimizu Seisakusho – Waterman Mysterious Blue (Blue-Black)

Bruno Taut
Yokohama, June 12-15th 2013
etiquetas: Pilot, Capless

Monday, June 17, 2013

Sistemas de sellado (I)

Lo que uno da por descontado a veces resulta que es extraño y desconocido. Cierto es, por otro lado, que la documentación en castellano sobre estilográficas japonesas es escasa. En esta Crónica voy a tratar de explicar el desarrollo de los sistemas de sellado que se dan a lo largo de la historia en las plumas japonesas. Primero hablaré del sistema de válvula accionada desde el culotte. En la segunda parte hablaré del sistema de estrellas. Ambas cuestiones han sido tratadas ya en estas páginas, pero tal vez no esté de más recuperar esa información ahora en castellano.

Las Onoto con sistema de llenado plunger filler estaban entre las primeras plumas que llegaron a Japón a finales del s. XIX y principios del XX y tuvieron mucho éxito en este país. De hecho, algunas de las primeras plumas con marca japonesa fueron hechas por Onoto (De la Rue) para la tienda Maruzen, bajo la marca Orion. Algunas de ellas, en 1910, ya incorporaban un sistema de cuentagotas “sin plunger”; es decir, una pluma por goteo en la que quedaba el vestigio evolutivo del eje del plunger que tan solo actuaba como válvula de sellado del depósito de tinta.


Anuncio de una Onoto de principios del s. XX en la que utiliza el argumento de que con la válvula del propio plunger cierra el depósito y evita fugas indeseadas de tinta. También añade que con esa válvula se puede controlar el flujo de tinta. También es ese el caso de las plumas de cuentagotas japonesas.

Y en la mentalidad simplificadora de los japoneses, algunos fabricantes ya realmente japoneses –Oliver y la Swan japonesa de Nobuo Itô— tomaron buena nota de esta evolución y lo utilizaron en sus propias plumas.

La idea, dicen algunos, estaba asociada al temor a ensuciar los valiosos kimono con manchas de tinta. No me cabe la menor duda que los japoneses quisieran evitar manchas, pero lo mismo se puede decir de los estadounidenses o británicos y de sus trajes... Sí es cierto que el clima angustiosamente húmedo de Japón hace de las cuestiones de limpieza una obsesión nacional y tal vez esa sea la razón última de ese temor reverencial. Por otro lado, en el Japón de principios del s. XX, bien pasada ya la restauración Meiji (1867), el uso de los trajes occidentales ya era común.

En cualquier caso, estas empresas empiezan a hacer plumas de cuentagotas con un añadido: una válvula que cierra el paso de tinta a la boquilla que se acciona desde el culotte de la pluma. Esa válvula está cerrada cuando la pluma no está en uso y se abre, con apenas una vuelta del culotte, cuando se necesita usar la pluma. También se puede usar para regular el flujo de tinta en el plumín.


En esta Platinum con decoración maki-e de los años 30 el culotte está levemente desenroscado; es decir, en posición de escritura.

El sistema tuvo éxito y al cabo se le denomina, en inglés, Japanese eyedropper. El término japonés es inkidome-shiki, e implica necesariamente la existencia de un sistema de sellado de la tinta. Este sistema es el habitual entre las plumas japonesas de cuentagotas y es muy raro ver plumas de cuentagotas sin ese sistema de sellado. La excepción, menor, son las hoshiawase, que serán objeto de otra Crónica posterior.

Prácticamente, todas las marcas japonesas han usado este sistema en algún momento de su historia. Incluso hoy en día está en uso: Pilot lo usa en las Namiki con plumín de tamaño 50; para Nebotek es uno de sus tres sistemas de llenado. Danitrio, desde California, se empeña en utilizarlo en su afán de ser tan japonesa como la que más. Y en el pasado, la mencionada Swan (la japonesa), más SSS, Platinum, Sailor, Diamond, Ban-ei, Asahi Tsubasa... y todas las plumas jumbo, sobredimensionadas, de muchos fabricantes.


Una New Clip, tal vez fabricada por Fukunaka-Seisakusho. Se trata de una pluma jumbo con llenado por cuentagotas con válvula de sellado. La capacidad del depósito de tinta es de unos 8 mililitros. Suficientes como para crear una gran mancha.

Es un sistema interesante y divertido, pero tiene un par de inconvenientes. El primero es que interrumpido el paso de tinta entre el plumín y el depósito, el primero se seca muy rápidamente cuando no está en uso. Arrancar es a menudo un poco engorroso.


Una Swan japonesa (de Nobuo Itô) de alrededor de 1915. Junto a la parte trasera de la boquilla se puede ver la pieza cónica de cierre asociada al eje que, por dentro del cuerpo, se conecta con el culotte, tal y como se ve en la foto siguiente.


El culotte de la pluma anterior completamente desenroscado.

El segundo problema es el sellado del sistema en la parte cercana al culotte. La válvula se acciona desde el culotte a través de una varilla axial que entra en el depósito a través de un sello tradicionalmente de corcho. Este sello es muy vulnerable y es necesario reemplazarlo en prácticamente cualquier pluma de este tipo que uno pueda encontrar hoy en día en tiendas o mercadillos. De no hacerlo, la tinta se va a acumular en la cámara del culotte y va a salir en cuanto se desenrosque para escribir. En algunos modelos nuevos (los de Nebotek, por ejemplo) ese sello es ahora de un elastómero sintético.

En conclusión, las plumas de cuentagotas con válvula de sellado accionada desde el culotte son un producto netamente japonés que ha permanecido en el mercado durante los últimos cien años, que es prácticamente toda la historia de las plumas en Japón. Son fáciles de encontrar en plumas tanto viejas –aunque en ellas se impone una restauración a fondo— como en modelos nuevos. En este último caso, las plumas de cuentagotas corresponden, paradójicamente, a modelos caros.

Y en una segunda parte hablaré de otro sistema de sellado: el sistema de estrellas.


Mi agradecimiento a mis amigos del Foro de Estilográficas.


P. S: A principios de 2014, Nebotek cambió su nombre por el de Eboya.


Platinun Belage – Platinum Pigmented Blue

Bruno Taut
Yokohama, 14-17 de junio de 2013
Etiquetas: soluciones técnicas, Japón, Pilot, Orion, Maruzen, Sailor, Platinum, SSS, Swan (Japón), Danitrio, Nebotek, Asahi Tsubasa

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Belage

In 1979 Platinum released two interesting pens. The better known was the original 3776 model designed by Mr. Fountain Pen Haruo Umeda which is still on production. The second model was not so successful—the Platinum Belage.


A Platinum Belage from 1979 with a steel nib.

The Belage was intended as a popular pen. Its price range started at JPY 3000 for the basic model with steel nib. The model with a white gold nib (14 K) cost JPY 7000. In contrast, the 3776 started at JPY 10000.


This second unit implements a white gold nib (14 K), and was made in 1981.

The original Belage won the Good Design Award given by the almighty Japanese Ministry of International Trade and Industry, and it was indeed an interesting design: It is made of very simple and clean lines to create a very cylindrical pen. The tail and the section are made of plastic of a smaller diameter than the body, which allows for a perfect fit and alignment of cap and barrel both when closed and posted. In fact, the cap snaps loudly and securely on both configurations. These features, save the reassuring sounding snap, remind of the Muji fountain pen in aluminum—a simple cylindrical pen designed for a perfect adjustment both closed and posted.


Later Belage models, though, had this narrower tail removed, and, paradoxically, that created a less clean design. The clip, on its side, showed a number of variations in its size and shape, not always matching the looks of the pen. On that same year of 1979, it might be worth to note, Platinum signed an agreement with Play Boy Enterprises and the Play Boy bunny showed up on some pens, including the Belage. Finally, some other Platinum labeled as Belage used a different type of nib.


The Honest-66 cartridge, ink capacity of 1.7 ml, attached to the Belage.

In short, the Belage on display today is a cartridge-converter pen, that uses a wing-flow nib in either steel or white gold. These are very rigid, but very reliable in their writing. It is a fairly large pen, and the unusually long Honest-66 cartridge (1.7 ml of ink capacity) could fit perfectly inside the barrel. However, these cartridges were long gone by the year 1979 when this pen was initially released.


A stainless steel nib of a Belage. A wing-flow nib.

These are the dimensions of the pen:
Length closed: 138 mm
Length open: 126 mm
Length posted: 155 mm
Diameter: 11 mm
Weight (dry): 21.5 g

In summary, this is an attractive and modern looking pen, well made and very reliable. I have no information on when it was discontinued.


Sailor white pocket pen (F, 14 K) – Pelikan 4001 Brilliant Brown

Bruno Taut
Yokohama, June 12th 2013
etiquetas: Platinum, Muji

Sunday, June 9, 2013

More Platinum Music

Pocket pens, also known as mini and as long-short pens, were introduced in Japan in 1964 by Platinum, and remained in the market until the 1980s. Later on, though, Pilot released other pocket pen models—the limited edition M90 in 2008, and the entry-level Vortex, still on production.


A selection of pocket pens from six different manufacturers. Their nibs are made of steel, yellow gold of purities between 14 K and 23 K; white gold and the not-so-unique Platinum alloy.

During the twenty years or so of existence, these small pens were made in a variety of looks and styles—from formal and black to colorful and casual; for women and for men; for students and for successful professionals. And their nibs were matched with this variety: steel, gold in many different grades, white gold… And, finally, nib points were not limited to the traditional F and M. Other points were not that common, but existed.




A formal looking pocket pen--black with golden accents.

The following pen is an example of an unusual nib point. This Platinum pocket pen is equipped with a three-tined music nib. It follows the wing-flow design of nibs still on production, albeit this music nib is no longer available in current pens. Its feed has two ink channels, one per slit, and it is specific for this nib. The nib is dated on its reverse as having been made in 1973.


Previous Platinum music nibs did not implement specific feeds. Such was the case, for instance, of the unit from 1969 shown on the Chronicle entitled “Sixties Music”. That music nib, also installed in pocket pens, had a single ink-channel feed, like the rest of nibs of that design.


The feed with the double ink-channel.

This pocket pen is on the big size, and has a very formal look: black with golden accents. These are its dimensions:
Length closed: 125 mm
Length open: 109 mm
Length posted: 149 mm
Diameter: 13 mm
Weight (full ink cartridge): 18.3 g


The filling system is by cartridge. The current Platinum converter does not fit inside the barrel, although a small adaptation would make it fit at the expense of reducing the already small capacity of the ink converter (0.53 ml if untouched). Therefore, the ink cartridge, new or refilled, remains a sensible option (ink capacity, 1.2 ml).

All in all, this pen shows that a small container can be matched with an exciting nib. However, its size, and the policy of Platinum on the matter, limited the options for the filling system.


Pilot Vpen, F nib – Sailor Jentle Yama-dori

Bruno Taut
Yokohama, June 7th, 2013
etiquetas: Platinum, plumín, plumín musical

Friday, June 7, 2013

Fora (II). Changes

I think I should start by apologizing before all those who read these texts and who do not care much about fountain pen fora, and for whom their recent crises is totally alien. My excuse is easy—I also live in the Internet space, I generate contents and I enjoy and suffer the changes in this environment. And I have learned a lot from those fora. Next Chronicle, I promise, will be about pens.


So, what is the problem right now? Fountain Pen Network (FPN), the biggest pen forum in the Internet, has recently changed its rules (Terms of Use) to restrict the possibility to link other websites from any particular post, including links to personal blogs written by the very same author as the post author. And it goes even further—to be allowed such a link to your own blog, you should purchase a premium FPN account. Other changes enforced the idea that the content of the post should be original and unique, and should not be available in other websites.

Well, this seems a perfect example of the idea of “give us contents, provide us with traffic, and let us cash the benefits”. As private entities, fora can very well set these and other rules, but these very restrictive Terms of Use (retrieved on June 7th, 2013) might be a very stupid way of shooting themselves on the foot.

In a forum, any forum, there are two types of traffic. The most evident is the internal traffic—forum members browsing around and, eventually, commenting on already published entries and writing new ones. This traffic might be big, but it is also limited as there are only that many forum members. It is entertaining, but it also generates a lot of noise—we all know, enjoy and suffer those messages simply stating “great pen!”, “I like it” or “another one on my list”.

The second type of traffic is the external traffic. Non-members might land on the forum searching for some information. This traffic might be small, but it is new. These visitors are, in fact, attracted with quality contents. They look for the signal, and some might even become new forum members.

Quality work, I content, increases the traffic and adds value to the forum. Quality content, therefore, should be encouraged and promoted. But why would anyone give his work for free to a forum that will take over its property? Promoting this quality might go through inviting knowledgeable authors to participate in fora. And even paid for their work. Their contributions would certainly improve the forum also in economic terms.

One final note: I am not such an knowledgeable expert, and I am not demanding any compensation for participating in any forum. But when someone changes the rules the arguments can go in either direction, for and against. Rules, let us remember, are to be challenged all the time.

I am not asking to be paid, but I will not pay either.


Pilot L, pocket pen – Pilot Blue

Bruno Taut
Shinjuku, May 28th, 2013
etiquetas: metabitácora, fora

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Wingflow by Platinum

I finished the previous Chronicle with the picture of a recently purchased music nib by Platinum. That pen truly calls for a detailed presentation, but its nib is interesting on its own merits—long lasting merits. For this nib design is still in the market, forty years (at least) after it was initially released.


The Platinum music nib I mentioned on the previous Chronicle.

In fact, that music nib might very well be one of the first examples of this design together, of course, with more standard points. That was around 1973. Since then, that nib has been implemented in a number of pens, including some early Nakaya (2001), and has been cast in many different materials: steel, 14 K and 18 K (yellow) gold, and 14 K and 18 K white gold.


Three examples of this nib design made in three different materials. From top to bottom: 14 K yellow gold, 14 K white gold, and steel.


The same nib, now in 18 K gold, was implemented in this "exotic skin" series of Platinum pens from the late 1970s. This particular unit was produced in August of 1978.

As of today, in 2013, this design, made in steel, can be found in some (relatively) inexpensive Platinum models: Balance/Cool, Affection, and steel-nib Standard. On more upscale models –Sheep, gold-nib Standard, and some low end maki-e pens— we can see it made of 14 K and 18 K gold. However, on all these models only two nib points are available: F (細) and M (中).


The Platinum Cool uses a steel version on this nib. On the picture, with a fine (細) point.

Forty years in the market make a good argument. But how do these nibs perform? They are very rigid with just a hint of bending under pressure, but they are unbelievable reliable. They do write on contact, and are never shy to speak out.

On this design the nib edges wrap around the feed and fix their relative positions. This geometry was not new or unique. It could be seen as early as in 1935 in the Chilton Wingflow pens. The claims of this manufacturer were that this shape of the nib ensured “perpetual factory precision adjustment of point and ink feed”, while “it creates a reserve pocket for ink”. However, many argue that the main point of this design was to reduce the amount of gold in the nib. But Chilton closed down in 1941, and Platinum and is still here producing wing-flow nibs for over forty years. In fact, for longer than that, albeit with different designs now no longer available.


Two units of this wing-flow design by Platinum.


Page of the 1937 catalog of Chilton with the description of the Wingflow nib and its advantages. This image was taken from the website http://www.chiltonpens.com/.

Now, the question is, once again, whether we needed gold nibs or, given the stiffness of these nibs, much cheaper steel nibs would suffice.

My thanks to Mr. Furuya.

External links:
On the Platinum Balance-Cool:
http://penaddict.com/blog/2013/5/9/platinum-balance-fountain-pen-f-nib
On Chilton:
http://www.chiltonpens.com/
http://www.chiltonpens.net/


Platinum Belage (1979) – Platinum Pigmented Blue

Bruno Taut
Yokohama, June 3rd 2013
etiquetas: Platinum, plumín musical, plumín, Chilton
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