Saturday, July 29, 2017

Ebonite Feeds in Japan

This text is long overdue. This is, in essence, a correction to a couple of old posts on the Pilot (and Namiki) pens with size 50 nibs (::1::, ::2::). I said (but I cannot recall when or on which text) that their feeds were made of ebonite, and that is not correct—they are made of plastic. Actually, all feeds made by Pilot are made of plastic.


Emperor size pen by Pilot, later on labeled as Namiki.


The feed of the previous pen. It is lacquered on one side, but the material is plastic.

And not only those by Pilot, but also those by Platinum and Sailor are made of plastic. Are there, in fact, any exception to this rule? There is, but it comes from small makers and in unusual forms:

-- Eboya (formerly Nebotek) pens implement ebonite feeds on its higher end pens, but Eboya feeds and nibs are made by Bock.


Ebonite feed on a pen made by Nikko Ebonite. But the feed is made by Bock in Germany out of, probably, German ebonite. The rest of the pen is made of Japanese ebonite.

-- Masahiro creates ebonite feeds for its pens, which use Pilot nibs.

And that seems to be it. Stylo-Art Karuizawa, Hakase, and Ohashido take their nibs from the big three Japanese companies, and they do not modify the feeds. Onishi Seisakusho employs Schmidt nibs and plastic feeds.

Some old nibmeisters –and I am mostly thinking of Kubo Kohei— keep on making their nibs on demand, and their feeds are often made of ebonite, but these craftsmen do not manufacture pens regularly or according to a established model.


A nib made by nibmeister Kubo Kohei. Its feed is made of ebonite.


Nibs and feeds of a Platinum 3776 and of a Nakaya. On both cases, the feeds are made of plastic.

So, the interesting conclusion id the almost complete absence of ebonite feeds among Japanese maker. This fact does not pose any functional problem to Japanese pens with one possible exception —the irregularly behaved Pilot’s size-10 falcon nib implemented on the models Custom 742 and Custom Heritage 912. And there are powerful arguments to support the use of some plastics, mostly ABS, on feeds.


Sailor's nib and feed. The nib is made of 21 K gold. The feed is made of ABS plastic.

But for some stylophiles, ebonite feeds are the one and only way to go. And they will never be satisfied with modern Japanese pens… save for a couple of exceptions.


Pilot Custom 823 – Sailor Blue Iron (original ink)

Bruno Taut
Nakano, July 27th 2017
etiquetas: soluciones técnicas, Pilot, Platinum, Sailor, Masahiro, Ohashido, Stylo-Art Karuizawa, Eboya, Kubo Kohei, Japón

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

From Shizuoka

Besides all the big pen companies there are always some much smaller brands doing their best to stay alive in a very competitive market. In Japan we have already seen the case of Eboya and Onishi, and I have also mentioned brands as Ohashido, Stylo-Art Karuizawa and Hakase. But there are more.

Masahiro Seisakusho is the brainchild of Narihiro Uchino (内野成広). It is a small company located in the city of Shizuoka, about 150 km South-West of Tokyo. Its pens are only sold on-line through its own website, which happens to be only in Japanese (and very confusing on top of being in Japanese), thus limiting the distribution and visibility of the brand.


Masahiro Seisakusho.

Masahiro pens use Pilot nibs in sizes 5, 10, and 15, and no effort is done in hiding its origin. In fact, Masahiro Seisakusho is also a selling agent for Pilot pens. But Masahiro Seisakusho makes a point of making custom ebonite feeds for its nibs instead of using those manufactured by Pilot in plastic.



Ebonite, indeed, is the signature material of Masahiro pens. Most of its pens are made of this material, which is imported (presumably from Germany) instead of sourcing it from Nikko Ebonite, as all Japanese makes do save Hakase. However, Masahiro also produces some pens in acrylic plastic.



As for the filling systems employed, cartridges and converters (Pilot proprietary) are reserved for the lower cost models. More expensive models use the so-called M-system, which is nothing else than the old A-system implemented by Pilot in the 1950s on some 53R pens. This system, a pulsated piston, is the obvious predecessor of the Pilot’s CON-70 converter.


The pen whose pictures accompany this text is a fine example of all those characteristics: ebonite body, Pilot’s size 10 nib, A-system filing mechanism…

Its price was JPY 40000 in 2012. Since then, its price has increased greatly—JPY 98000.


My thanks to Mr. NK.


Romillo Nervión – Sailor Blue Iron (original ink)

Bruno Taut
Nakano, July 25th 2017
etiquetas: Pilot, Masahiro

Saturday, July 15, 2017

On the Pilot Custom 823

I ended up my previous Chronicle with a call to myself—I should say something about the Pilot Custom 823. This is a pen I have avoided on these text as it is well known and many people have reviewed it in detail. One more review on my side would hardly offer anything new.

However, the release of the Pilot Custom Urushi has reframed the pen scene –if only, for Pilot— and the Custom 823 might have become even more interesting now. That is the contention of this piece.

The Pilot Custom 823 was launched in the year 2000, or year 82 of the Pilot era. A story published in a French forum affirmed that this model was the Pilot reaction to the Pelikan M800, a pen many aficionados consider as a compendium of virtues. I have not been able to confirm that story, but its narration is worth of Ben Trovato.


Pelikan M800 and Pilot Custom 823.

In any event, the M800 and the Custom 823 are very different. The sizes of their nibs are almost the same, but that might be the end of the similarities. The Custom 823, in fact, follows the tradition of the first Onoto pens arriving in Japan at the turn of the 20th century. The plunger filler is, in that regard, a lot less alien to Japan than the very German piston of Pelikan. Of course, there are examples of pistons made in Japan, most notably by Vanco in the 1930s. The big three companies have all made some pistons, but all those examples are rather new: Platinum in 1989, Sailor in 2006, Pilot in 2010.

Anyway, the Custom 823 first appeared in 2000 and included a fully transparent version. Its price was JPY 30000 (plus tax) and has not changed since then. The clear version soon disappeared from the catalog, leaving the amber and smoke models we now know. The clear version reappeared around 2011 at some shops —and can still be found at those—, but it has not yet reached the glory of the catalog.


The Custom 823 in its three versions: smoke, amber, and clear (back to front).

Nib-wise, the Custom 823 implements size 15 nibs (in Pilot way of sizing), but out of the 14 available points of this size, only three, according to the catalog, are implemented on the Custom 823: F, M, and B. Some shops, at least in Tokyo, also offer other nib points, particularly the waverly (WA) and the falcon (FA). In fact, the 823 could implement any size 15 nib, and that is what some retailers do by exchanging the nib with any of the options available in the Custom 743 model. Whether those swapping void the warranty offered by Pilot is not clear.


A Custom 823 clear with a "falcon" (FA) nib. This combination is not included in the Pilot catalog. It is offered by some shops. This picture was taken at Maruzen-Nihonbashi.


Another combination that does not appear on the books: clear Custom 823 with a "waverly" nib. Available at Asahiya-Kami Bungu.

The model 823 is now 17 years old and it remains as one of the most interesting models currently made by Pilot. Now, the Custom Urushi might, paradoxically, make it even more interesting. The Custom Urushi is certainly an impressive pen, but it is also expensive (JPY 88000), and the search for alternatives within the Pilot (and Namiki) catalog leads to the smaller Custom 845 (JPY 50000), also decorated with urushi, and to the Custom 823 and Custom 743 (JPY 30000). On these three cases, the potential buyer had to settle down with the smaller size 15 nib. My contention, then, is that faced with the obligatory reduction in nib size to lower the actual cost of the pen, the JPY 30000 of the nominal price of the Custom 823 are an even more impressive value given, most interestingly, its self-filling system.


The urushi relatives of the Custom 823: Custom Urushi (top) and Custom 845 (bottom).

The stark contrast between those JPY 88000 of the Custom Urushi and the JPY 30000 of the 823 makes the later a lot more appealing. A lot more, in fact, than when the obvious competitor was the Custom 845 at a value of JPY 50000.


Lanbitou “Vista” – Noodler’s Zhivago

Bruno Taut
Nakano & Shinjuku, July 2017
etiquetas: Pilot, mercado, Pelikan, Platinum, Sailor, Vanco
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...