Tag Archives: iroshizuku

Pilot Murex

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

IMG_20170526_003726
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!

IMG_20170526_004331
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.

IMG_20170526_004151
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:

IMG_20170526_004425
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…

Aikin Lambert Capitol Lady Dainty (1920s)

More eBay trawling resulted in this little dinky pen:

IMG_20170429_173059
Not an actual Conway Steward Dinkie.

This is the first Aikin Lambert I own, but not the first I’ve tried. About half a year ago, a family friend had heard I was “interested in pens” and so taken out something she had bought thirty years ago. It turned out to be an incredible overlay pen, slim, similar in size and length to my Mabie Todd Swan, and when I uncapped it, revealed a very slim nib. By then, I was experienced enough to know at sight that it was flexible. And I was allowed to dip and try it…

Having remembered the feel of that pen, I proceeded to add the maker’s name to my occasional eBay searches. Which is how I got this:

IMG_20170429_173137
Back of the nib, and the name wearing off the cap.

A Capitol Lady Dainty: similar in size to a Waterman 42 1/2 V (as in featured photo), it was far less troublesome as a lever filler and, while also far less flexible, was much eaiser to fiddle around with. The branding is also on the cap instead of the barrel.

IMG_20170429_173241
Flexible nib, latex sac and pen barrel.

The pen itself writes with a feed back unexpectedly similar to my Pilot, and though not as flexible as the one I first tried, definitely qualifies as a vintage semi-flex. It is also firm enough to use as a regular point nib, for which it writes a very pleasant Western fine. There is a toothy quality to it on Fabriano paper, which is slightly textured, but it glides across Tomoe River, the feed being juicy enough to keep the contact point well-lubricated. Using an excellent ink like an Iroshizuku helps greatly as well.

IMG_20170429_173108
A very expressive line and easy control make this pen awesome.

The nib has the capability of very expressive swells when called upon to function that way, though since this is one of my firmest vintage nibs, I often use this as a regular fine when I am rotating through my collection. Perhaps I should start looking again for one that is truly flexible…

Pelikan M805 Stresemann

Sometimes an eBay trawl can bring up surprising things…

IMG_20170414_220928
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.

IMG_20170414_221144
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. 

IMG_20170414_223513
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: 

IMG_20170414_223443
Limited edition Tokyo Iroshizuku grey though!

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

Sailor 1911 Large Demonstrator

…It’s harder to take photos of this pen than I anticipated. But how beautiful is this?

IMG_20170331_075628
Blingy, too!

I tried out my first Sailor at the now-defunct Penfriend on Fleet Street (yes, that Fleet Street) in London. It was the smaller 1911 Standard, with a 14k nib, but it was also the demonstrator. Having read so much about the pros and cons of the Sailor nib came nowhere near to actually trying one out, though, and the instant I put pen to paper I was blown away by how smooth it was.

And so the online trawling began, as it always does… I found a few of these going on the eBay grey market and started placing bids, eventually winning this Large demonstrator for around £135 ($185). I thought for a while about getting a Naginata-togi nib, but those only start at MF and go broader from there, and would not work with my small handwriting.

IMG_20170331_080014
Simple, no-fuss assembly.

The pen comes with a converter included and a stock cartridge of what I assume is Sailor Black. Unfortunately with Sailor, the converter is proprietary and holds a shamefully small amount of ink (~0.6ml). But it does what it needs to do, though it can feel a little fragile. I’ve also come across photos of eyedroppered 1911s, though I wouldn’t recommend that at all since ink can corrode the metal band in the barrel.

IMG_20170331_075743
Look at the scrollwork on that nib!

The cap has a slightly-less-transparent inner cap, which some have said spoils the demonstrator aesthetic. To me it doesn’t matter at all, and the cap helps keep the nib from drying out. The nib has some scrollwork on it which is extremely classic in style, and actually makes use of nib creep to stand out — in the photo above, black ink has increased the contrast on those lines. The Sailor logo and 21K 875 follow below 1911, the founding year of the company. Oddly enough, the nib width is etched into the left side of the nib.

Sailor famously has a pencil-like feedback seen by a fair few as toothy or even scratchy. I can only agree with the former: there is a little bit of bite on the paper, but the nib is very smooth — not buttery in the way Pelikans are, but definitely not scratchy. I found my first experience with the smaller F nib absolutely mindblowing, and the larger one was no different. My H-MF (hard medium fine) nib is in no way a nail, but it is definitely firm enough and shouldn’t be flexed. To me, even looking at the line it lays down gives me an impression of a very precisely-shaped point:

IMG_20170331_080111
Sooooo smoooooth.

With how pretty the pen is, the first thing I did when opening it up  was to ink it with my yellowest ink!

Pelikan M620 Piccadilly Circus

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

img_20170201_230726
 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…

Pilot Custom Kaede (modified!)

’m going to jump a little out of order here: my best friend helped me buy a Pilot Custom 742 with an FA nib from Itoya Ginza in January 2016, which I only received in July when we were finally in the same country again. I originally wanted the one in burgundy, but then found out Pilot only has interesting nibs in their black cigars. So I ended up with a great nib in a very classic design, which is all good, but why do that when you can have this?

img_20170216_203132
Even better than a red body.

I had this delivered from Kingdom Note’s magical online second-hand store to a Japanese friend in October, and got to it just after Christmas. So this is a pen that’s taken a year to put together. And it’s beautiful: when I saw it in person, it looked better than any of Kingdom Note’s photos, and they take really good photos.

img_20170216_203203
Not your usual combination!

Because each pen is turned from a different cut of wood, the grain differs from pen to pen. Pilot have treated the body and cap with a waterproof resin, so it does not warp from washing or sweaty hands, yet it is still possible to feel the wooden texture. Some sort of technological magic at work here… Even better, the pen feels slightly lighter than the resin of the 742, but in no way delicate. This is quite possibly my favourite Pilot, and it takes second position in my favourites list only because the Grand Place is such a gorgeous pen!

The real wonder of the pen is the FA nib. Very plain on the front, it has a distinctive shape due to the shoulder cutouts and is Pilot’s only nib that is shaped this way. The cutouts help the nib to flex more, and the plain front is (according to Pilot) for structural strength, since scrollwork causes additional stress in the nib during flex. Among modern soft and flexible nibs, it’s the one that comes closest to vintage flex for me. (Disclaimer: I have not tried the new Aurora offering or the Wahl-Eversharp Decoband, which are supposed to be great flexers too.)

img_20170216_211944
So worth it.

This pen is the same size as the 742 but lacks the trim ring at the bottom of the barrel. The cap band says CUSTOM ART CRAFT instead of Kaede, but Kaede just means “maple”. There are other wood pens in the 845 size as well — priced accordingly as you’d expect. A cartridge/converter pen, it takes Pilot’s largest converter (the CON-70), though it is pictured with the smaller CON-50 here.

img_20170216_203346
Cap, barrel, and section + converter.

But many people have commented on the FA nib and its tendency to railroad. In Pilot’s defence the pen was designed to be brush-like for kanji writing, which involves short strokes with variation. The stock feed won’t keep up with Western-style calligraphy, which is a massive waste, but there is a fix for this:

img_20170216_211330
Step 1…

Start by taking the pen apart. In the picture above, from left to right and top to bottom, are the cap, FA nib, breather tube, feed, O-ring, section, CON-50, CON-70, and the barrel. Obviously, only one converter can be used at once, but I had a spare, so I took this picture showing both. The key to this modification is really the feed and the breather tube: Pilot make their feeds for the Custom series in two parts, unlike any other feed I own. The feed for the FA was taken from the 742; the original M nib this pen came with was shaped slightly differently to accommodate a differently-shaped nib. The O-ring was taken from the feed on the Kaede, since the 742 does not need one. The interior of the two sections are different, and the screw threads are also at a different pitch, so it was not just a matter of swapping the section assemblies.

Step 2: a dissembly video for removing the breather tube.

Now take the two parts of the breather tube and dry them. Deepen the ink channels using very careful cuts with a penknife or other cutting tool. Err on the side of extreme caution: you can always take more off, but you can’t undo mistakes that go too far! And since Pilot do not sell nibs or feeds separately, you’ll have to buy a whole new pen.

img_20170216_211819
Widen and deepen these two channels.

Now wash off the dust and reassmble the pen. The flow will be much wetter, and I have noticed I need to use almost zero pressure before I can get a line as fine as it used to be — an advertised line width of 0.35mm! But the increased flow means the pen writes more smoothly, and I no longer have any railroading problems with sensible use. It still breaks when I try to go above 2mm flex, but that kind of swell is best left to vintage flex and dip pens…

img_20170216_212125
Trust me, this is absolutely worth the trouble.

Pilot Metropolitan Retro Pop (modified!)

This weekend we have another workhorse pen on my table! It will be a while before the next flex pen makes its way into a blogpost, so sit tight for a bit…

img_20161202_083535
The only colourful Pilot I have for now…

The Pilot Metropolitan, or MR, or Cocoon, or Knight (?!) is affectionately known as the Metro and needs no real introduction. Often mentioned in the same breath as the Lamy Safari/Al-Star when it comes to starter pens, my loyalties lie by far with the Pilot.

It is made of brass and consequently feels fairly hefty in a way that has often been described as “premium”. It weighs more than 1.5 times the Lamy Safari and sits at just over 1.3 times the Al-Star, yet with its well-built shape, lies perfectly in the hand.

The nib definitely outperforms every other pen in this price range I know of. Mine worked right out of the box after letting the cartridge flow a little, and wrote smoothly, with a real Japanese fine line. (In a nib size comparison, this pen comes in as finer than a Pelikan EF!) The same kind of line with would be expected with a fine uni-ball signo pen or the ubiquitous Pilot G2. And it is absolutely consistent: being a firm nib, it offers zero line variation.

img_20161202_083452
Doesn’t mess about at all.

The nib is easily swapped, as with Lamy’s offering, but it isn’t officially so, and is definitely not a feature. Pilot friction-fits its feeds and nibs, which means that with some well-applied force one could pull the nib out for a swap, at risk of loosening the fit in future. None of my Pilots have suffered from loosening yet, though. 

Pilot has designed an excellent feed: it wicks ink so well from the converter and works seamlessly with the nib such that the pen just keeps writing and writing until it stops. And with the included squeeze converter, which is opaque, this is a problem…

Yes, I could have bought a CON-50 or refilled an empty cartridge with a syringe, but why not give it a cosmetic upgrade instead? So I did some messing about on my own. The fact that Pilot makes a lot of pens with the same specification is good news for pen owners, who can swap nibs between Pilot’s Petit, Prera, Plumix, Pluminix, even the Kaküno — and, most importantly for the purposes of this write-up, the 78G.

Out of China comes the Wing Sung 659, a cheap clone of the Pilot 78G. It can be easily bought on eBay for less than £7 (US$10) and comes in a range of colours like the original as well as a demonstrator version, available in both gold and silver trim. And since it is a clone, its parts are interchangeable with the Pilot Metro!

img_20161202_083646
Around the pen: black section and grey feed from Pilot, and a Wing Sung 659 nib.

Best of all, it comes with its own converter, with a capacity slightly larger than that of Pilots own CON-50. With some jiggling of bits everything fits together nicely.

img_20161202_084756
That’s what’s hiding inside the body of my pen. Below: the provided squeeze converter.

But the real test of a pen is always how it writes. Since there is no line variation at all, this will be a short writing sample. As always, this is a Fabriano A5 dotpad:

img_20161202_084955
There is still enough juice to showcase shading and sheen.

Since the Iroshizuku Ku-jaku I happened to have the Metro inked with clashes with the pen body a little, I dug up an old Instagram photo of when I was comparing pink inks, during which I had a nice matching shade inside.

Lamy Al-Star/Safari

Welcome to the first non-flex review on this site! After the first three incredible flex pens, I stumbled an almost-new Lamy Al-Star on eBay, mostly because it was purple, came with a nice EF nib, and was a little cheaper than buying a new one from online stores. And as this is a well-known starter/workhorse pen, I won’t really have much to contribute to the great chunk of Lamy reviews already on the Internet.

However, I will include my other Al-Star and also the Lamy Safari in the same post:

img_20161123_112652
In order of acquisition from top (earliest) to bottom.

I acquired the dark lilac Safari along with some cartridges when it was first released, but later regretted not going for the ink bottle; a kind Canadian on the r/fountainpens Discord chat tracked down a bottle for me, costing me 42 of those dollars. All of these three pens have taken some beating in my pencil case, since I mistakenly left a Muji fountain pen inside — with its nail-file grip section! — and are consequently less than pristine.

The best thing about the Safari/Al-Star, in my opinion, is the swappable nib, which is cheap to replace, easy to take out, and even easier to clean. All one has to do is put a little bit of tape on the nib and pull it off the section, but if you’re like me and bring nibs around without tape in my bag, you can also pry it off gently with a fingernail and some jiggling.

These nibs come in EF, F, M and B sizes as well as 1.1, 1.5 and 1.9mm stubs. There are even 14k gold options! (I haven’t handled one of the gold ones though.) All of these nibs are swappable between pens which use the same mount, and so you can have a gold nib on a Safari and a steel nib on an Imporium if you so wish.

That said, the nibs are well-known for having slightly questionable quality control: my two EF nibs sit on either side of my F width, and one of my Ms is more like an F. As you can see, I’ve put the fatter EF onto the dark lilac Safari, and it writes roughly the same size as the F on the blue Al-Star. These results are the same regardless of which inks I use. The 1.1mm stub nib is on the purple Al-Star. 

img_20161123_113906
Hmmmm. Questionable QC right there. (Paper: Fabriano A5 dotpad.)

The Lamys write a little on the dry side, and the nibs are very firm, almost like writing with an inky nail. The stubs are true stubs, with rounded edges, and are quite forgiving with regards to writing angle. None of the Lamy nibs I have tried come close to having any sort of give at all, and they all have a toothy sort of feedback; my black EF nib is especially susceptible to laying down really dry lines. That said, the scratchiness could be entirely down to how fine I like my nibs to be…

img_20161123_110716
Seriously? They really do.

But it is relatively cheap and easy to get a steel nib replacement, should one be unsatisfied with their fat EF or their thin B. I own quite a few nibs myself, though one day I would very much like to splash out on a gold nib for one of these pens as a permanent upgrade.

All that aside: writing sample! Inks used are Lamy Dark Lilac, Pilot Iroshizuku Tsuyu-kusa and Pilot Iroshizuku Chiku-rin. The Chiku-rin definitely suffers from being in such a dry nib, since the shading is wonderful in my other pens.

img_20161123_114814
One day I will be able to tell you how their gold nib feels. One day!

Here’s a little more handwriting, as well as a preview of the subject of a future entry…