Tag Archives: fine

Pilot Murex

More than 40 years after its creation, this design still looks sleek and modern.

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Grail #2!

I jumped on one on Reddit for $200 and it came in excellent condition, save for a little cosmetic issue with the feed (more on that later). I already had money set aside for it and had been looking for it fairly half-heartedly on eBay — many of them were going for more than $400 new. But it was a matter of being in the right place at the right time for mine!

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The pen’s functioning bits.

The pen itself is a cartridge/converter model, but what really sets it apart from Pilot’s other metal offerings is the shape of the nib. Melded right into the section, the breather hole and tines are part of the same piece of steel. This makes the nib impossible to swap out, of course, but it’s possible to dissemble the nib assembly into section+nib and feed along with a couple other smaller parts. 

The snap cap is tight and very well designed, with the clip separately sprung so it moves quite freely and the MR logo pre-dating the Metro by several decades. (See featured photo for close up.) The pen tapers into flat ends on both sides, making it slightly shorter than the Metro.

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Urushi-coated feed, showing bubbles.

Now about the cosmetic issue: the pen came looking practically new, with the sticker still in place. It’s rubbed off a little since I started using it, but the main “problem” was that the urushi had started bubbling due to moisture and heat. Apparently this was a common problem, but it doesn’t affect the ink flow at all, and lends a touch of attractive imperfection to an otherwise robotic-looking pen. But, as always, here is a writing sample on Fabriano paper — and it wrote far better than I expected it to:

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It looked like it might have been scratchy… but no!

As the nib is literally part of the steel, it is very firm with no bounce at all, but the way Pilot has shaped the tipping means there is a very smooth line. It absolutely flies over Tomoe River but even on toothier paper (like Fabriano) there is almost a sense of enjoyment at how it glides around with no hint of scratchiness. Definitely something to pick up, if one comes across your path!

Look at that point! The Murex looks like it could draw blood. I promise I haven’t tried…

Pelikan 400NN Brown Tortoise (1950s)

I jumped on this one because Pelikan no longer makes anything near the range they used to have, both in terms of pen shapes as well as nib types:

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Look at the rounded cap finial and piston knob.

The 400NN was developed after the 400N was a “neu” version of the old 400, which looks like the modern M400. The finial and knob gradually got rounder, finally arriving at the rather cigar shape above. The binde of the vintage tortoise variants also varies far more in colour and evenness compared to the modern browns on the M400 and M800 pens; mine shades from dark brown to as light as yellow and green in some places — to my eyes, much closer to a tortoise’s patterns than the rather averaged-out modern colours!

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Such a beautifully uneven brown binde!

It arrived clean but definitely shows signs of age and wear: the finial is rubbed fairly smooth, not to mention the brassing on the clip and the cap band. The nib itself is in excellent condition though it has a slightly stubby quality, which is a sign of long periods of intense use.

Indeed, it was the nib that attracted me to the pen. Pelikan used to make a range of italics and obliques and “ballpoint” (Kugel) sizes with different sorts of tipping, and this dates from the era of pre-ballpoint carbon papers, when special nibs were made to withstand larger pressures without flexing. Mine is a DF (Durchschreib-Fein) nib, or a manifold fine, and comes in almost as fine as my Japanese pens — no modern Pelikan “fine” here! It is a single-tone 14k gold nib and has shorter tines. Unusually enough, it also has two breather holes. 

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Old-school cool: the DF nib.

In writing on Fabriano paper (below), the pen gives a very pleasant sort of toothy feedback — a sign of wear — and yet absolutely glides along on Tomoe River paper. As with my other Pelikan fines, it writes on the drier side, but is wet enough here to show the shading in Oku-yama. The pen itself is light to hold, as one would expect from the rather small 400 size. And while it is very firm, it does not feel like a nail…

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My most even fine nib!

A size comparison (in featured photo) places the 400NN as intermediate between my M200 and M620s, which is only to be expected. More delicious photos in better lighting here:

Montblanc Slimline (1980)

Another Montblanc I didn’t buy…

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Sleek as heck.

My mother gave this to my father almost forty years ago and it has made its way to me after not being used for most of the intervening period. (I guess it’s sensible to keep expensive pens away from the kids.) For such a slim pen, it has a total of four(!) Montblanc stars on it: one on the nib, one on the clip, and one on each end of the pen.

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Slap a star on every flat surface! The one on the barrel is slightly raised.

There is a model without the star on the clip (the Noblesse) and that has a gold nib. The Slimline, on the other hand, has a gold-plated steel nib. While I have never tried the Noblesse, the way this Slimline writes makes me feel that Montblanc certainly were doing something right: this is a joy to behold.

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The other two stars.

It seems to be a common complaint about modern Montblancs: that their nibs are very average and that the way to find a good nib is to go vintage. My admittedly fairly limited experience with Montblancs definitely bears this out; having tuned an old Montblanc 32 and tried some modern 146s and 149s, I can safely say I enjoy this pen far more than the far more expensive Johannes Brahms I wrote about last week.

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Very smooth, and with far more character than an anonymous modern nib…

Pelikan M805 Stresemann

Sometimes an eBay trawl can bring up surprising things…

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With no banana to scale, this almost looks like the M405 version.

This guy had forgotten to state the model of the Pelikan in his auction, and his photos had no other object to compare the size against. However, buried deep down in the wall-of-text description was “18-carat nib”, and Pelikan does not make M400-sized 18k nibs, so… I jumped. For £206 including shipping this beauty was mine.

The pen arrived in wonderful condition, as promised, and I was struck by how grey it was: it was not warm and not cool, just grey. To me this is the definition of neutral grey, sitting right in the middle, and so in the ensuing months I have only ever used greyscale inks in it.

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Silver furniture, black body, grey barrel…

The single-chick Pelikan logo on the cap finial is nicely done in a glossy/matt texture, and the clip looks incredibly sleek compared to its gold-coloured M800 counterparts, simply because of the colour (or lack thereof). The silver furniture gives the pen the -5 last digit.

Similarly, the nib is a beautifully monochrome piece of art. The M8xx is the largest-sized Pelikan nib with single-line scrollwork, clearly seen in the picture below. It almost seems like it’s more reflective than other pens, again due to the sheer desaturation of the pen. 

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Grey grey grey grey grey: what a beauty of a nib!

It’s quite a large pen, and the brass piston adds a lot of weight compared to the M6xx pens, which have plastic piston assemblies. This causes pens of this size and upward (especially the flagship M10xx) to be end-weighted, though in my case, the piston rests wonderfully in between thumb and index knuckles. Compared to the M620s I have, this pen requires much less pressure — and the M620s already don’t need much at all! Writing under its own weight, I can get very fine lines with the Stresemann, maybe even finer than a Western extra-fine. 

Despite its larger size and higher gold content, it is a firmer nib than the M4xx/6xx nibs. Mine writes like a real fine (instead of a “Pelikan fine”) and has a smooth response, though you can definitely feel it on less-smooth paper, like the Fabriano EcoQua I do my reviews on. That said, here we go: 

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Limited edition Tokyo Iroshizuku grey though!

To round off this review, here is a size comparison of the Pelikans I own…

Pilot Kakuno

Here’s what I call my “banana pen”!

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No banana for scale unfortunately.

One might easily consider this the Metro’s baby brother. Made of plastic and available in pastel-and-white or solid colour-and-dark grey, it is obviously aimed at children, with an ergonomic hexagonal shape, holes in the cap (so breathing is possible even if accidentally swallowed) and a really durable nib. There’s a roll-stop to prevent it falling off a (school-)table and it uses a snap cap. It’s also incredibly light: 12g capped and 8.5g uncapped!

Even better, it takes the CON-70, which the Metro (and even the resin Falcon) can’t handle. 1.1ml of ink is a huge amount for this Japanese fine nib, which, due to the way the cap is designed, doesn’t dry out even when left alone for weeks.

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It doesn’t get much simpler than this.

The nib is in fact swappable across all of Pilot’s entry-level pens: just grab the nib and feed and pull gently to pop it out of the section. After doing so, one might wish to swap in an EF from a Penmanship or a stub from a Prera. I bought mine in F, though, which is my preferable size for this pen. Being this light, I experience no fatigue at all even when writing for long periods, plus I don’t have to worry about running out of ink, since I check the converter every few days.

The funny thing about how good Pilot’s feeds are is that it will wick every possible bit of ink from the converter and then simply stop writing. But in the meantime, the nib punches way above its price point, and other makers’ £100+ steel nibs don’t come anywhere close to matching Pilot’s astounding QC. (I’m looking at you, Visconti.)

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No line variation at all!

With this entry, the two entry-level pens by Pilot have been covered, and this completes my starter-pen rainbow:

Pelikan M620 Piccadilly Circus

This was almost an impulse purchase. I say almost because I kind of really wanted another of the Cities series…

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 And here it is!

Having lived in London for five years, Piccadilly Circus is a frequent haunt. Pelikan released this pen as the 11th of the Cities series, with the Grand Place rounding off the dozen. And Pelikan absolutely got it right: the famous colours of the Underground roundel, splashed all over the pen in swirly resin!

Think of the grey as being dirty white text.

The one strange thing about this pen is the purple cap colour, which can be seen in the picture above; the inside of the cap is the same colour. While not very obvious at first sight, it sticks out a little upon closer inspection. Furthermore, despite the rhodium trim, the pen ships with a two-tone 18k nib, which I got in fine. It is beautiful — I tried swapping nibs with my rhodium-plated nib on the Grand Place, but liked the colours the way they are. The gold is a very welcome accent.

Nib and nib creep!

Of course, being a Pelikan, the pen is solidly built and feels like it is more expensive than it (already) is. The resin catches the light beautifully and the sparkle is astonishing in its depth and brightness of colour. More than once I’ve caught myself getting distracted while writing…

As for the nib, what is there to say?

I’m hooked on Pelikan’s nibs, okay?

Despite QC at Pelikan not being the best, I’ve never come across a nib I didn’t like. Some of them need smoothing to get rid of slight baby’s bottom (especially the stainless steel ones) but this wrote wonderfully right out of the box! If you can hunt one down, the slightly softer 18k nib is an upgrade over the standard M6xx 14k.

I’ve sold this pen, now, but there are a few more from the Cities series that I have my eye upon…

Pelikan M620 Grand Place

The pride and joy of my collection and my favourite pen:

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Drooooooooool.

I first learnt of this design when I came across the larger M800 Grand Place of 2015, which had a black piston knob and a black section. But then I saw a comparison picture with this and instantly fell in love: thus began my first pen hunt.

Curiously, an even smaller version exists: the M201 Bayou was made in a limited edition of 100 for Fountain Pen Hospital in New York. I had the forturne to see one at the 2016 Pelikan Hub in London, and was amazed to see just how translucent the barrel was. No need for an ink window when you can still see the ink sloshing around inside! Neither of the M620 or M800 models have translucent barrels, however.

Why this? Prior to this purchase I had only owned the M205 Amethyst and it has not gone uninked since I bought it. But I felt confident enough in the experience to take the plunge on a larger size, especially since the M6xx series was lighter than the brass-piston M8xx. Furthermore, the resin used in this pen is of a far warmer colour than the M800, which is slightly greyer to harmonise with the black parts. The copper colour of the M620 is incredible in photos — and even better in person!

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It practically breathes…

The Grand Place is the last of the Cities series (2002–6), and so it has the one-chick logo on the finial. Some of the earliest of the series have the two-chick logo, which was found on pens until as late as 2004. 

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Look at that sparkle!

All nibs in the Cities series are 18k gold nibs instead of the standard M6xx 14k nibs, though they are interchangeable. Unlike the M600/605 designation for two-tone/rhodium-plated nibs, however, the M620 nibs come in both, depending on the trim colour. The Grand Place was supposed to come with a two-tone nib but I opted for a rhodium-plated fine nib instead, because I liked the silver-coloured contrast with the pure warmth of the rest of the pen.

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Stunning nib, too.

When it arrived in London, a bottle of Sailor Jentle Oku-yama had just been delivered that day, and when I dipped the pen to write, I gasped. Such a smooth line, yet not without a certain feeling of precision. It was everything I had hoped for!

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Sailor makes some of the most ridiculous sheeny inks.

It matches my Massdrop Allegory leather wrap perfectly, and most of the time I’m torn between keeping it inked because it writes so beautifully and keeping it in storage because I’m worried about losing, damaging, or dropping it… But there you go. Grail pen #1 obtained!

Wing Sung 659

Welcome to the land of cheapo fakes and clones!

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Also, eyedropper demonstrators are pretty great.

Already name-dropped in my review on the Pilot Metro, the Wing Sung 659 is a Pilot 78G clone. Plenty underpriced, you can get them off eBay in a whole range of colours, and in both silver and gold trims. The important thing (for me) was that it came with a spare nib and section: one gets two nibs in total, one F and one EF. A converter is included as well. The fine nib is what I have fitted on today; the other section and feed has gone into cosmetically upgrading my Pilot Metro.

And how does it compare? Well, quality control is hugely lacking, of course. The rings on the cap are printed onto the plastic, and scrape off easily. Unlike the 78G, there are holes at the bottom of the barrel; I had to seal them before I could eyedropper the pen. And the nib is designed to copy Pilot’s — in place of PILOT on the original, we have WINGS. Funnily enough, the clip has PILOT replaced by LUCKY instead. Not even the same “brand”!

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This state of wear brought to you by two washings…

The only really neat thing about the Wing Sung 659 is the transparent feed, seen in the featured photo up top. The barrel is surprisingly sturdy, which is a plus, and the inner facets at the end cause some pretty interesting visual effects.

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Bits of sealant floating in the ink, too.

The nibs are decent, though the particular specimen I ordered did not show any difference in size between EF and F. Others have reported real Pilot-sized EFs as well as F nibs that write like Western mediums. Mine is comparable to the kind of line laid down by a Japanese medium, like those on the Pilot Metro.

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Fabriano paper, as usual, and a very firm nib.

I ended up buying three more to give to friends as “gateway drugs” into the world of fountain pens. For how cheap these are, they function surprisingly well! For people who like fine nibs, I would actually recommend this pen over the Lamy Safari, since it comes in at almost a quarter the price. (Just kidding. Buy the Pilot 78G or the Metro.)

Ohto Poche

Sometimes gems turn up on Massdrop: established brands for a steal, or things that I would not otherwise have known of. My first experience with them was for the Pilot Metro, and this was another:

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This definitely qualifies as adorable.

Ohto is a Japanese brand with innovative designs and pens to fit a budget. I gave this a go because I wanted a pocket-sized pen without having to bring my Waterman around. Its distinguishing feature is the way it’s designed to post: 

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It almost doubles in length.

The barrel is very slim and the rings on the end stop the cap from slipping over the whole pen. This way, the pen becomes longer than every other pen I own, while still being fairly light. Herein lies the only issue I have with this pen, though: posted this way, it is a little back-weighted, but that might also be due to the fact that I hold this pen extremely close to the nib. The centre of mass lies just behind the contact point in the crook of my hand, causing the pen to feel like it wants to tip away from the paper. (As a consequence, I actually use this pen unposted.)

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An extremely compact build.

This pen comes in four parts: cap, nib+barrel, cartridge, and end cap. It will only take cartridges, and the cartridge is kept in place by the end cap. The barrel has a matte finish that stops it being slippery to the grip, and the clip on the cap is tight enough not to slip off a pocket, although I do just tend to put the whole pen in the pocket instead of using the clip. There’s even a decorative jewel as a finial, which adds a little more sparkle to an already very sleek pen (refer to the picture at the top of this post).

The unmarked nib is firm, with some very tasteful scrollwork, and it writes at a Western EF. In my pen list I have marked this down as “Japanese fine”, which is probably accurate. I have not tried to swap out the nib because of how well it works, though I imagine that would be quite easy to do. Here is a writing sample:

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No flex at all, sorry!

The “OHTO Poche” in the sample above is an imitation of the little logo on the pen cap. And with a pen as small as this, one can do a few tricks with it…

Platinum Standard Maki-e: Cranes with Mt. Fuji

Maki-e and a springy 18k gold nib for less than $100? Yes please!

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No regrets about this impulse buy.

Okay, I have to admit, I got it on sale. Still, Platinum’s “Standard” line actually encompasses three different model numbers (PTL-12000, PTL-15000 and PTL-20000), but I cannot tell what the differences are. Mine is from the 12000 line and the design is called “Cranes with Mt. Fuji”. All three lines use the modern hira maki-e technique, where the images are screen-printed onto the pen; usually this results in a flat finish, but not with Platinum’s offerings. The Cranes has no maki-e on the cap and perhaps that’s not to everyone’s tastes, but I like the simplicity of this design.

As this is a lower-end maki-e pen, it is priced accordingly: hand-painted maki-e will cost easily five times more! But that doesn’t take away from the beauty of the design, which is colourful, eye-catching, and full of detail.

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(Potato photo.)

Posting the snap cap works well, though it also obscures some of the maki-e. I would never post this simply out of fear of scratching up the design, though it might be a little too short for large hands when unposted. This is a medium-weight pen, and is rather front-weighted due to the metal parts in the section. The two trim rings near the nib also give off a feeling of luxury — this pen feels like it is much more expensive than it is.

The clip is simple and straight and looks like a tie clip. Platinum’s famous slip-and-seal inner cap is included, and it works as expected. I have never had ink dry out on the nib even if I don’t write with it for weeks.

The nib itself is a little wonder: a tiny piece of 18k gold, similar in shape to those on the Preppy. It looks like it could almost be pulled off and swapped out Lamy-style, though I haven’t tried. Platinum doesn’t sell individual nibs either, and I won’t buy two Standards just to try this!

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Simple clip, simple nib.

A very beautiful pen, yes, but how does it write?

The nib has a little feedback that feels almost rough, but I like that. It definitely isn’t buttery-smooth by any means, but it won’t fly around on smooth papers either, and handles Clairefontaine and Tomoe River very well. My nib leaves a true fine line, nothing as fine as my experience with Pilot’s F nibs, but in turn definitely finer than Western F nibs.

Ink flow is always great — I have used inks ranging from the very dry Pelikan and Platinum blue-blacks to Pilot Iroshizukus and have never run into problems. The feed is also slightly transparent, so there’s an additional splash of colour in an unexpected place!

And, this is the best part: it’s slightly flexible! Advertising material states that it’s firm, but that hasn’t been my experience at all. For me this is a plus, since I like flex, and I can get some quality Engraver’s/copperplate and Spencerian out of the nib. The springback is surprisingly fast as well, though I would hesitate to label this as anything but semi-flexible at best. “Springy” is probably the term I would settle on.

Here we go, then:

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In my book this also counts as “absolutely incredible”.

This concludes two months of Flex & Other Follies! Thank you for reading my reviews, and have a happy New Year in advance. To finish off properly, however, here is another example of what I use the Platinum Standard for: