Having wanted one for a long time, it was finally because of a kind soul on Discord that I obtained mine! They were visiting Tokyo and picked up an extra at Tokyo Pen Shop Quill before mailing it to me upon their return to the UK.
The Custom 823 is normally available in only fine, medium, and broad nibs. Tokyo Pen Shop Quill are the only shop that sell FA nibs fit onto the pen, swapped from Custom 743s. They also test-drive before shipping, so you’re always going to get a good pen. Unfortunately, they do have long waiting lists stretching months.
My nib is stamped 917, meaning September 2017, and I’ve elected to take the black fitting out of the cap for a cleaner demonstrator look. It’s an easy process: just put some sticky tape the wrong way around on the end of a pencil (so the sticky side faces out), push it in, and twist. Being able to see the nib when capped (as above) is a pleasure.
Most criticisms of the FA nib stem from how it doesn’t flex like a vintage nib and how the hairlines aren’t so fine. I feel like this issue is fixed easily by not expecting vintage writing from a nib that isn’t forged in the same way. The #15 FA does come close, though, if the tip of the nib is shaved down a little to create better hairlines, and I’ve enjoyed the snapback on this larger size as compared to the smaller #10 FA. They do feel like very different nibs, so if you enjoy the 912/742 sizes, I can’t guarantee that you’ll like the larger FA nib.
The vacuum fill works excellently, being Pilot’s only vac pen. The method is the same: unscrew the blind cap, pull out the plunger, stick the pen up to the section in ink, push down, and let the suction do its work. Having a demonstrator is extra fun in this case because you get to see the ink sloshing around much more clearly.
Maintenance is also extremely easy: if you’re a fanatic, like me, and want to thoroughly clean the pen in between each inking, the nib pops out with only a little pulling, and the plunger assembly is also easy to take out and clean: the flat bits on the screw accommodate a 7/32” (5.56mm) spanner, similar to the ones supplied with TWSBI pens. I don’t recommend the latter unless ink is stuck in the threads, because there are many stories of barrels cracking from overtightening.
Overall, the pen is larger than its smaller-numbered siblings, though the more pronounced taper of the cigar shape helps to hide a little of its bulk. With the metal rod and the larger ink capacity (2.2ml), the pen does weigh more when inked, but it balances extremely well, with no hint of back-heaviness. The weight is also comfortable to use for long writing sessions, and indeed helps when flexing the nib, which is extremely smooth and juicy right out of the box.
This pen is, justifiably, Tokyo Pen Shop Quill’s greatest seller, and anyone who wants a taste of modern flex should get on that waiting list.
Here is a writing sample of the stock #15 nib, pre-grind, that shows the difference in hairline: about the width of a standard Pilot F nib, if not slightly wider. I find the flex on this nib to go up to 1.5mm easily, even 1.7mm when pushed, which should be plenty!
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Fragment of copperplate lettering, showing some of the capabilities of a stock Pilot #15 FA nib. I've used three different ways of dealing with final "t" in words: Spencerian-style (in "not"), Kurrent-style (in "first") and regular script "t" (in "yet"). Pilot Custom 823 demonstrator (with inner cap freshly removed) from Tokyo Pen Shop Quill, inked with Pilot Iroshizuku Yama-budo. #flex #fountainpens #penandink #handwriting #calligraphy #copperplate #cursive #pilot #custom823 #demonstrator #iroshizuku #yamabudo #lettering #practice #poetry