Tag Archives: pilot

Pilot Murex

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

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!

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.

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:

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:

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:

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.

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.

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…

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.

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. 

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: 

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?

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.

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.

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:

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”!

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.

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.)

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…

 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…

Wing Sung 659

Welcome to the land of cheapo fakes and clones!

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”!

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.

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.

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.)

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…

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.

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!

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.

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:

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:

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. 

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…

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.

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…

Namiki Falcon

This was my very first major purchase, after a few Platinum Preppys and some experience using dip pens. I scoured various sites and reviews and worried about springing the nib, since r/fountainpens was, at that time, under a wave of stories about people pushing their Falcons too hard. But I had also been practising cursive and pointed-pen scripts using a Nikko G and a Brause blue pumpkin, so I thought myself up to the challenge.

And here it is!

My very first purchase!

Made of resin, it came in a soft medium nib. Having searched on eBay, I pounced on a slightly under-priced offering of an uninked NOS (new old stock) pen. I am aware that Pilot now calls them the Pilot Falcon, and the Elabo in Japan, though I can spot no difference in their nibs. My cap band does say Namiki instead of Pilot, funnily enough, and it came in a nice Namiki box.

Old enough to not be branded Pilot!

I have not tried very hard to find out how old this pen is, even though I really enjoy using it. From my varied half-hearted attempts though, I have not found anything that tells me when Pilot started using Pilot as the brand for all the lower- to middle-end pens, leaving Namiki for the top-of-the-line offerings. Anyone who has information to offer can comment below! At any rate, both the cap band and the nib have NAMIKI etched in them; PILOT is now standard on all Falcons. (Edit: I later took a 20× loupe to the nib and found B908 etched in it, right above the section. It means it was made in September 2008, on the B production line at the Hiratsuka factory.)

And boy, does it write! When I first got it, I only had a 30ml bottle of Pilot Black to fill it up with, but my ink collection has expanded somewhat since then, and this nib lays down enough juice to show up shading beautifully. (Also, the composer John Adams used this pen to autograph my score of Hallelujah Junction.)

Colour-corrected in Photoshop. I find the name Verdigris inexplicable for this colour…

Even as I continued amassing pens and inks, I never left the Falcon uninked except when washing and drying it out. It sits in my everyday carry pouch and has never lost its place to any other!

I really should memorise more pangrams.

To finish off: happy International Fountain Pen Day! There will be far more to come, as I work my way through cataloguing my collection, so stay tuned…

(Below is a link to my not-purely-pen-stuff Instagram account, which you can follow for more pen stuff!)