“Wow!” can get overused but in this case it is too small a word for the beautiful pens I just discovered on PenTrace. The artistry is nothing short of amazing. Kevin Cheng, a/k/a “winedoc” in the fountain pen community, has a stunning collection of maki-e pens. These are but a few.
Archive for the ‘Japanese Pens’ Category
Pilot’s Iroshizuku ink gets tremendous praise for performance as well as beautiful colors and rightfully so. But what preceded this much admired line? Pilot and Pilot Namiki inks and they are deserving of recognition, too.
With certainty I have been guilty of neglect. My bottle of Namiki Blue has had the same amount of ink in it for ages. Pilot ink hasn’t graced a pen here in years. The colors are rather conservative and color is what sways me first when I match ink to pen. So they’ve been passed over to the point of being dumped in a junk drawer. When there are brilliant inks like Iroshizuku ku-jaku, shin-ryoku, and yama-budo, why would black, blue, or blue-black get called out to play? In a word, performance.
To explore the idea that there might be something special about these inks, I took a tip from an FPN discussion and recruited some fine-flex pens for the task. First Pilot Blue-Black went into a Namiki Falcon SF. It took less than a sentence to trigger a eureka moment. Iroshizuku owes a great deal to its progenitor, Pilot ink.
Then I searched high and low for that bottle of Pilot Black that had never been opened. It was not to be found. Maybe it deserted me for lack of use. However, I did locate a box of cartridges and popped one into the other Namiki Falcon SF. Black performed just as good as if not better than Blue-Black.
Certain I was on to something, I had to find a pen with a similar nib for a three-way comparison. That wasn’t easy but an Esterbrook 9128 took up the challenge with Pilot Namiki Blue.
So the writing examples won’t skew the results, note that the nibs are not identical though they are quite similar. The Falcon with black ink is the most fine of the three. The Estie comes in second but it is the most flexible. The Falcon with blue-black ink writes a tad wider than the others and has been the flex pen I have enjoyed the most for daily writing. The nib doesn’t dig into paper quite as much as the other two so it writes faster and with less friction. It’s been a good choice when a versatile pen suits the project at hand.
Paper makes a difference and these inks did well on quality products like Rhodia and the Apica 6A10 used in the sample images. Feathering and fuzzy outlines ruled my Moleskine journal paper. Pilot ink fared better on copy paper showing just a slight fuzziness comparable to that seen with Iroshizuku asa-gao, shin-ryoku, and fuyu-syogun.
Again, this is about performance and characteristics – not color. The flow from all three pens is consistent, smooth, and nicely lubricated. Not exactly the same as Iroshizuku inks but close enough to become staples for fine-flex nibs. The Pilot inks are especially well-suited to practice sessions when color would be a distraction. When conservative colors are necessary, they will also shine.
All three inks dried relatively quickly despite depositing a substantial amount of ink on the down-strokes. In this regard the Pilot inks beat most of the saturated inks as well as some of the less saturated ones that I use the most frequently in my Apica 6A10 journal.
I don’t use black ink often, but when I do, Noodler’s and J. Herbin have been my inks of choice. Pilot Black measures up except that it is not quite as dark. Noodler’s Black is warmer, Perle Noire is cooler and Pilot Black is more neutral. The differences are subtle, but Pilot Black works so well in the Namiki Falcon that the two will remain a pair whenever black is the right color for the occasion.
Namiki comes in blue and black. Pilot is available in black, blue, red, and blue-black. The U.S price is $10-12 for a 60ml bottle of Namiki and $16.50 for a 70ml bottle of Pilot. Cartridges are available for both and in a variety of colors.
The only weakness might be the shape of the bottle. The Namiki blue and black inks come in a squat one that is not well-suited to large nibs. A syringe or pipette will be needed to get the last drop. Pilot ink comes in a 30ml size but that’s hard to find in the U.S. The 70ml is a taller bottle and works well with larger nibs.
Iroshizuku is a different ink to be sure but Pilot and Namiki are worth a look. No fancy bottles but just good quality ink, perfect for an inkophile.
When it comes to writing in my journal and especially when writing to a friend, bold or stub nibs are my preference. But sometimes I just gotta flex and the Platinum Century Fine Flex is coming along nicely in that role. With Iroshizuku fuyu-syogun on Apica 6A10, the hairlines are fine and the down-strokes are wide in contrast. It still takes a bit more force than I would like but there is decided improvement with each use. It may not be vintage flex, but it’s plenty of fun regardless.
Blue is a perennial favorite when it comes to color and ink is no exception. With so many shades available from every corner of inkdom, how can you select a simple palette and still enjoy a range of color? Satisfying properties, ease of use and ongoing availability are important, too. Several companies can fill these requirements but Diamine has three colors that work just right for my basic blue palette.
The first three are terrific together and offer a pleasing palette of blue hues. For a swing towards green on the color wheel, Teal is a versatile color that works well for correspondence as well as in the business environment unless you have a stick-in-the-mud boss who restricts ink to black only. No doubt you can imagine what I think of that.
None of these four are super-saturated colors and they work especially well in pens that are fine or extra-fine. All are easy to clean and don’t dry in nibs and feeds when written with at least once a week.
Another plus to Diamine, at least for the ten years I’ve used their ink, is that none of the ones I use have been discontinued. Lots of new colors get released but the older, good ones don’t disappear as a result. That’s loyalty to the consumer that deserves loyalty in return.
While the tall, narrow bottle may not let your Montblanc 149 suck up to it, the 30 ml bottles straight from Diamine are the best deal around. The cost for four bottles + U. S. shipping is around $21 at the current exchange rate. Just decant to your favorite, empty ink container and enjoy it anyway. C’mon. You know you will.
The dynamic Diamine duos in the image are
- Mediterranean Blue + Platinum #3776 music nib
- Royal Blue + Platinum #3776 Century “Chartres Blue” broad nib
- China Blue + Pilot Custom 742 Falcon nib
- Teal + Sailor Sapporo fine nib
Note that the scan isn’t bad but China Blue and Teal are a bit darker than pictured and Royal Blue is a bit paler. Mediterranean Blue looks just right.
Sometimes wishes do come true. For years I’ve wanted a traditional pen to replace the modernistic Lamy Vista 1.1 mm. Nothing wrong with the Vista but sometimes a more upscale-looking pen fits the circumstances. My wish list for attributes included a light weight resin body, classical styling with a 14K nib that has good flow and is very smooth. Oh, and make it in black with rhodium trim if you please. Too much to ask? That’s what I thought until I met the Platinum #3776 Music Model (PTMB-15000).
Again, Dick Egolf of Luxury Brands USA gave me the opportunity to find out what Platinum Pens had to offer and I am so glad he did. The #3776MU is almost exactly the same size as the resin Namiki Falcon and the Levenger True Writer. It is 136.5mm in length and 14.5mm at its maximum diameter. Weight is a mere 18.8g. For this, my hand is ever so grateful. If you prefer large, heavy pens, the #3776 might seem like a light-as-a-feather toy but the nib could make you think otherwise. This model has been around for years so any kinks have been worked out as the fit and finish reflect.
The only quibble I have is the volume of the converter for such a wide nib. A smaller nob and larger tank would be a worthwhile improvement but the available model is in line with most converters on the market.
This nib comparison chart shows how a line produced by the two-slit music nib differs from other Platinum nibs. How you hold the pen will affect that line if only slightly. When I write at my normal angle and speed, the line has less contrast than when I put attention on making thin horizontal strokes. It’s like having two pens in one which adds to the fun of using this nib.
Okay, so I’m smitten. If you like wide nibs, you will be, too. This baby has some serious width to it that makes pale ink really stand out. I foresee a summer of turquoise, aqua and swaths of color across my paper, overtaking my journal and correspondence. Pink and orange could be sunny alternatives. This palette is looking very promising indeed.
The moral of the story? Put really good stuff and a Platinum #3776 Music Model on your wishlist. Someone just might be listening…