Tag Archives: pilot

Pelikan M200 Clear Demonstrator

Impulse purchase alert!

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At least it’s a gorgeous one.

How to tell if it’s an impulse: it’s the same model as something you already have, in the same nib size, and just a different colour. (It’s probably worse if you have two absolutely identical pens, but why would anyone…? Right?)

I thought I’d wanted a fine nib but my penchant for “as fine as possible” won out in the end, and I paid the €10 more for the EF, resulting in me now owning two M2xx EF pens. Not that it’s anything to complain about, since the colour is strikingly different from the M205 Amethyst

There are actually two versions of Pelikan’s clear demonstrator: an earlier release from 2000 also called the M201, and this release from 2012. The earlier one has a black piston housing and a black cap band around the finial. With either of these, though, the ink still sloshes around in a very satisfying manner, especially if there’s a light colour within; my first inking of this pen was with Robert Oster Peach.

The gold plating in this pen is slightly less yellow than in the two Sailors I’ve reviewed; there is a comparison photo in last week’s article. The nib, as expected of Pelikan, is a little wider than a Western EF, but really smooth and (after I washed it in some soap to get rid of manufacturing oils) a wonderful writer.

 

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Any shading ink looks incredible with this pen!

The amount of spring on Pelikan steel nibs has always amazed me and this is no exception. With some pressure you can get pretty good line variation — be careful, though!

Nagasawa Penstyle Proske Demonstrator (Sailor 1911 Standard)

Under £120 ($157) for two Kobe inks and a store-exclusive Sailor is a deal that really shouldn’t be passed up. The Kobe inks (at 61!) cover far wider ground than most other premium lines, and are far more consistent across the whole range than all makers. 

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This came with a gold-plated converter, too; I got them mixed up…

What you get for your money (after taking away the price of the two bottles of ink) is an exclusive pen for less than RRP. The cap band differs from the regular Sailor pen by being thinner — it doesn’t extend all the way to the lip. The etchings on it also say NAGASAWA PenStyle instead of SAILOR JAPAN FOUNDED 1911. It functions as any other Sailor would: with their shockingly small converter (~0.6ml) or a cartridge. Either way, no fuss.

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A perfectly tasteful amount of bling.

The nib itself has completely different scrollwork: Nagasawa’s logo takes pride of place instead of the anchor logo, with 14K below that and then a Sailor logotype. The nib size designation goes on the left edge, as is typical with Sailor. The border is also a simpler single-line design instead of the curly edge found on other nibs.

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A simple design, executed very well.

The rise of the Jinhao 992 and similar models of Chinese knock-off beg the question: if you can get a purely functional pen for 99p, why pay a hundred times that? The answers always come back to the same handful of things: build quality, quality control, design, and experience of use. In my opinion, owning both (the Jinhao will be reviewed at a later date), and knowing full well that one can be cheaply sacrificed while the other costs a good few hours’ pay… I still bring the Proske around. The writing experience with a Sailor nib is simply far beyond anything a Chinese pen can offer.

The extra-fine nib on this is absolutely wonderful. I enjoy my nibs very fine, and Sailor’s famous feedback is thus even more evident here. Yet it still writes smoothly, and the feed provides enough ink to keep the pen moving across more textured papers like Rhodia or Fabriano. Tomoe River simply bends to the nib’s will like grass in the wind.

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A 5mm grid means the x-height of the text is less than 2mm!

Overall, this is a deal I hugely recommend, both in terms of aesthetics — I think this looks better than the regular Sailor 1911 — and the fact that you get two bottles of ink with it. What better way to get started on a Kobe ink collection?

Pilot Décimo Mitsukoshi LE: Kira Karacho 1624 (2016)

It seems that every other fountain pen user has some variation of a Pilot Capless, be it the full-size Vanishing Point or the slimmer Décimo. I knew I wanted something special, since I’d gone this far without buying a basic model, and had been eyeing the Namiki-branded Raden VPs for months, trying to convince myself to stump up the cash for one. But then this came along:

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Clicky clicky.

…Japanese second-hand sites are incredible.

Though the website I scored this off claims that this pen is out of a production run of 75, the 2017 Mitsukoshi limited editions are made in a run of 100. As the pen itself is unnumbered, I can only assume that the seller made an error. There is also another version in ivory/white design and gold trim that causes really painful pen envy in me when I see a photo pop up online. This year’s versions are superb as well.

Much ink has been spilled (ha!) over the clip position on both types of Capless, and I have only this to say: for anyone considering buying one, it is a must to try before you buy. I had the fortune of trying the VP, to check if the clip would sit properly in my grip. At any rate, a standard triangle grip should have no problems with the clip, and I have also found it possible to hold the pen such that the clip sits beneath the index finger.

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No problem with me!

The nib comes in three different trims (gold, rhodium, and black) and mine is a fine nib in 18k gold. They’re also available in “special alloy” which are significantly cheaper, though if you’re shelling out for the technology that goes into the Capless, you might as well go the whole hog and get a gold nib. The best thing about them? They’re swappable!

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Nib assembly (with Pilot Metro converter).

The pen takes CON-50 converters (and thus CON-40) but I like to use it with the Metro’s squeezy converter. I’m not a stickler for being able to view the ink level, but if that’s important to you, in addition to a large ink capacity, the only way is to syringe-fill a Pilot cartridge. There’s a metal cap that comes included with the pen, to add some weight when using a cartridge. 

All the Pilot nibs I’ve come across have been uniformly excellent, and this is no exception: even with its tiny size, there’s a nice amount of bounce, and though the line is slightly thicker one would expect from a Japanese fine, there is a very clear and precise sensation when writing, even on smooth papers like Tomoe River. Here is a writing sample on slightly more textured Fabriano EcoQua:

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A flawless writing experience!

And as for the little cloud design on the body, that’s the hallmark of Kira Karacho 1624, a Japanese department store which teamed with Pilot to release the 2016 pen show exclusives:

Faber-Castell Loom Violet

Returning to the subject of more easily-acquired pens, here’s a modern review!

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Looks pretty sleek to me.

Modern pens don’t always look modern — here’s looking at you Pilot — but this is one which does, and not expensively so! Faber-Castell are often overlooked in the lower range because their top-end Grafs take the spotlight, and for whatever reason, Pilot and Lamy seem to have almost-complete control of the entry-level market. But a Loom can be had for under £25, which is firmly in Al-Star territory (and even Prera if you get lucky). 

What you get for that money is a solidly built cartridge/converter pen: the body is made of a matte-finish aluminium, and the section is made of plastic that is identically finished. That fact alone swung me towards this pen instead of the slightly cheaper Basic. The raised rings on the section stop it from getting slippery. The cap is plastic, too, but this is also finished in the same manner as the body. There is a smooth version of the barrel as well as several really bright colours for the cap, but I found this just right for me.

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Cartridge/converter pen, with easily-bought nib units: what’s not to like?

Somehow Faber-Castell has decided it’s a good idea to sell the lower-end pens without a converter. This is a minus in my book, but I have also been syringe-refilling cartridges, so your mileage may vary on this point. (The one in the picture above was given to me by a friend at the London monthly meet-up.)

The most important part of the pen performs incredibly, though, and if not for the body, this would be Pelikan-priced! Faber-Castell sources its nibs from JoWo, but the design on this is unusual: there is no breather hole, and the scrollwork is replaced by a series of pits that give it a really modern look. The nib size and the Faber-Castell logo are the only other things on the nib. You can buy nib units separately too; they just screw in and out of the section.

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I really like this design.

And when I started writing with this I was cured of ever recommending Lamy to anybody ever again. My vote still goes to the Metro, which is an old favourite of mine, but for anyone eschewing the cigar aesthetic, the Loom is next on the list! As a plus point, it doesn’t force you to use a triangular grip. The nib itself is smooth: almost buttery, in fact, without being too wet — a real extra-fine line, almost able to compete with Pilot fines. And the firmness is great on toothy papers like the Fabriano below: 

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Fantastic control and feedback too.

Last point: I find the way the threads of the metal barrel and the plastic section mesh perfectly together very very impressive. The German engineering that seems a little missing with Lamy is in full evidence here. Washing up is always a breeze.

 

Pelikan M320 Ruby Red

Uninked and new in box for less than $200 is a ridiculous price for this, and how could I resist?

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Chunky celluloids are amazing to look at!

This is a seriously tiny pen by modern standards. The smallest of the five Souverän sizes, this is Pelikan’s pocket-pen offering, though it’ll never inhabit one of my pockets. It’s far too precious for that!

The M300 is regularly available but the five different M320s were produced as special editions from 2008–10. To my eyes,the Ruby Red has the finest colours, and the translucent cellulose acetate is really quite something to behold…

How small is that nib?

A larger version of this exists as the M600 Ruby Red special edition, though the cap on that has the newer all-gold finial design. The gold-on-black finial was phased out a few years ago and for a pen that looks like the M320’s older, bigger brother you’ll have to look up the far rarer M620 Madrid from the Cities series, which has a noticeably deeper red in its material.

The black/gold finial is exquisite.

The nib on mine originally came in a very Pelikan medium — practically a broad — though the tiny 14k two-tone nib had a surprising amount of bounce! The modern nibs I have used on the M4xx/6xx/8xx sizes have all been fairly firm, but the M320 M nib I got was almost as soft as the one that was on the M1000 I tried out once.

It writes absolutely beautifully; I had the nib ground into an extra-fine by John Sorowka. The amount of spring on the nib is great!

With normal pressure, a subtle variation is pleasantly achieved.

Because of its small size and how much tipping it has, it almost functions like a Sailor Naginata-togi nib now! But a comparison with its original incarnation as a medium nib is quite something to behold

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…

Aikin Lambert Capitol Lady Dainty (1920s)

More eBay trawling resulted in this little dinky pen:

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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:

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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.

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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.

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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…

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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…

Sailor 1911 Large Demonstrator

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

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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.

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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.

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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:

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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!

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: