Posts Tagged ‘Pilot Custom 742FA’


Really Good Fountain Pens


Comments and email queries often suggest subjects worthy of further exploration. Such was the case when a recent email cast my collection in the light of pens that hold up well and are worthy of recommendation. After restricting choices to pens that can be purchased online and whose nibs have not been modified, here are the models that made my list of

Really Good Fountain Pens

  • Platinum #3776 and #3776 Century – These pens rank at the top of my list. The build is slightly lighter than the Sailor pens I own, but that is good for my hand. No flow issues and the nibs are excellent. Someday I hope to get a medium for a real workhorse. It may not replace the #3776 music nib as my most used pen, but I would love to give it a shot at the top slot.
  • Lamy Safari and AL-Star – An entry-level pen that is one of my most durable and reliable writers. The extra-fine has been a staple here for years. I haven’t tried a fine or medium, but the broad might be a tad too wide and free-flowing for most people. The 1.1 mm can have an erratic flow, but the nibs are usually smooth. The nibs run a bit wider than most and they are quite stiff, but they are also easy to swap. Nibs come in stainless steel and black. The latter looks particularly sharp on a model with a black clip. Put one on a charcoal Safari to make a stealth model. Two of my Lamys have been so modified. The build is very good at the price which won’t matter if the oddly shaped section doesn’t fit your grip. My daughter and I found it to be comfortable after the initial sessions. The control afforded by the section shape is excellent and prevents slipping. That is a decided plus for me.
  • Pelikan M400 and M215 – These are very different pens, but equally well built. Both wrote well from the beginning. The M215 feels more sturdy, but it is a metal pen. I am extra careful with piston-fillers and run Noodler’s Eel ink through them from time to time to lubricate the plungers. The M400 was adjusted for extra flow several years ago and is now a terrific pen for long sessions.
  • Pilot Namiki Falcon – I have three of the resin model and that says a lot. The build is good and the section very comfortable for me. The nibs can be a tad scratchy, but a little use fixed that in one of mine. The other two were smooth from first use. The design is understated and puts the focus on what the nib can do. No flow issues with the supplied converter so the nib and feed are well matched.
  • Sailor 1911 and Sapporo – These pens have outstanding build quality. No flow issues and the converters are very well-suited to the nibs and feeds. My Sapporo is a fine nib and a nail. The 1911 is an extra-fine that is a bit soft. They are very different nibs, but both are very smooth.
  • Baoer Eight Horses – Not everyone has had the good luck I have had with a Baoer. However, I do have two that write remarkably well. This is a heavy pen, but well balanced. The build quality is excellent for the price. The converter even has a plastic ball to keep the ink flowing. I am not as thrilled with the Jinhao 750 which is made by the same company, but one of these days I’ll purchase a silver Eight Horses with a B nib if I can find one. That will make a full set.
  • Pilot Custom 742 – This one is a bit harder to recommend given my 742FA can be flow challenged. However, the build is excellent and the size perfect for me. I think it would be a terrific pen sporting a different nib. The FA is very smooth and does flex, but no ink so far has conquered the feed. There are five on my desk ready to take up the challenge so more testing is ahead. When I advance ink into the feed, it writes well enough with virtually no pressure. The slit is always inky, but this pen arrived used if not abused. Giving it the benefit of the doubt, I think it has an imperfect nib on an otherwise very nice pen.

The price range for these pens purchased new is $6 to over $300. Message boards are the best place to buy used, but eBay can be good for inexpensive pens like Lamy and Baoer depending on your risk tolerance level. If you want perfection, buy from a seller who tests the nib and who has a good reputation for standing by his wares. As careful as I am, one in four pens arrives in need of assistance. That really isn’t surprising considering how a tiny mistake in the nib can make a pen write poorly. Basically, don’t get your knickers in a twist if you get a stinker. It happens to all of us. Get help from the seller immediately. Most will make it right one way or another.

So that’s my list. Is there a pen you would recommend without reservation?

Really Good Fountain Pens


When Only Blue Will Do


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.


Are Modern Japanese Flex Nibs Created Equal?


Japanese pens are known not only for extra-fine nibs but also for variety. There aren’t many flexible nibs manufactured in the west so if flex sounds interesting, here are a few options.

The pen most often mentioned at online communities is the Namiki Falcon made by Pilot. It comes in three nib sizes, soft fine (SF), soft medium (SM), and soft broad (SB) and is readily available in the U.S. The Pilot Custom 742 Falcon (FA) is more flexible but can have an erratic flow resulting in inconsistent flex writing. The Platinum #3776 Century comes in several nib sizes including a fine flexible (FF) model that is easily the most narrow nib of the lot.

Three Japanese Flex Nibs

Three Japanese Flex Nibs

The flex nib pens in my collection have had enough use to be all they can be except the Platinum Century. It will need more time in my hand to reach its full potential. With a light touch it shouldn’t change dramatically through it should get a little softer. With a heavier hand, the nib would flex a bit more. Since I have the other pens, I’m inclined to let the Century remain the pen with less flex and a finer line.

Japanese Flexible Nibs Writing Sample

Japanese Flexible Nibs Writing Sample

The inks are Iroshizuku fuyu-syogun, Diamine China Blue, Diamine Violet, and Noodler’s Black Swan in Australian Roses. None of the colors are particularly accurate but the relative line widths are portrayed well except the Century. That one can make even finer lines than depicted but that takes a bit of practice and control.

Each of the nibs has its positive attributes. Though the line widths appear quite similar, there are some differences. The degree of softness or flexibility dictates the amount of pressure needed to achieve the widest line. The Century requires the most effort and the 742FA the least. For those who prefer extra-fine to fine nibs, the Century is more than capable of filling that niche. The Namiki falls somewhere between the two. It will never be as soft as the 742FA and it is quite rigid when new. Give it time and it will soften producing nice variation.

Again, I will attach a caveat to the Pilot Custom 742FA. While the build quality is very good and the nib well-suited to flex writing, the flow cannot keep up. I doubt this is an issue with other 742 nib models but the Falcon nib needs a more consistent flow. Even after a professional adjustment, my 742 requires slow writing to avoid unfilled spaces. The problem might be the converter. It needs frequent priming as in twisting the knob to push the ink closer to the feed. The nib deposits so much ink when asked to fully flex, that priming must be done all too often. Pilot makes two other converter models, but in my tests these produced no improvement in performance.

Leigh Reyes thinks Pilot should offer the 742FA as an eyedropper so there would be no flow restriction. Another benefit is that it would maximize the amount of ink per fill. That might be the best solution though my Waterman 54 Pink Nib, one of the best flex nibs ever made, is a lever-filler without flow problems. Converters are convenient but not suited to all situations.

Using flex nibs requires some adjustment to achieve good results. Writing slowly and applying more or less pressure correctly is key. Upstroke = no pressure. Downstroke = more pressure. Practice up-down strokes with /\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\. Many pens that aren’t flex will produce a bit of flair with that sort of exercise. Try it with your signature once you’ve gotten the way of it.

Should you become totally enamored with flex writing, vintage fountain pens will become a necessity. There just is no modern nib that compares unless you get it modified by a nibmeister. Oh, and there are many dip nibs that flex beautifully but that’s another subject entirely.


A Simple 2013 Fountain Pen Resolution


This certainly explains a lot. A light went on for me this morning when I realized the word “resolve” had something to do with “resolution” as in starting off the new year. Until today I thought you just made up something, tossed it out into the ether, and magically it would come true – or not as mine rarely have. Time for a change. defines resolve as “to come to a definite or earnest decision about; determine (to do something).” As a verb, “resolve” is used with an object and what better object to be the target of my latest resolution? Why, the mighty fountain pen, of course!

Putting substance to that thought, my 2013 pen resolution is to keep the kids clean. Now that may not sound like a big deal but cleaning and flushing them before they get dried out takes some organization when a rotation can number over a dozen. Flushing a nib while there is a tiny bit of wet ink in the feed makes quick work of cleaning. Waiting until the ink has dried in the nib can take days of rinsing and draining. Frankly, I’d rather be writing.

Here’s the plan. Check every pen once a week on a consistent day. Sunday works best for me. Any pen that has ink in the feed but not the filler will get a cleaning or a refill or both. If the same ink will go back in the pen, I may refill it without cleaning up to three fills total but only once if the ink is highly saturated.

The other part of this is to immediately rinse or refill a pen if I write with it until no more ink flows. Some of my pens give a hint that the end is near but most don’t. Too often I have been guilty of setting aside an empty pen in favor of one still able to work and then forgetting the empty pen needs attention. In a pinch, filling the pen with enough clear water to keep the nib and feed moist until I have time for a proper cleaning will do. This is one of the areas in which resolve should come in handy.

There you have my simple 2013 pen resolution: keep the kids clean. Is there a pen or ink resolution on your list?

Pilot Custom 742 FA Nib

Pilot Custom 742 FA Nib


Pilot Custom 742 Falcon Update #1


That cranky Pilot Custom 742 Falcon returned from its spa visit improved but not perfect. Not that it isn’t a handsome pen and comfortable to use. It is certainly that but the nib and flow just challenge me in a way that other fountain pens don’t.

To give the pen a fair chance, the original Pilot piston converter was temporarily swapped for a Pilot cartridge which improved the flow somewhat. Since sucking up ink from a bottle proved utterly useless with the converter, I purchased some pipettes with narrow tips to better fill the stubborn thing. Although it took a bit of doing to get the ink to zip along, the nib is much improved over its initial performance and the converter is now useful.

Funny how the pen seems to work best with Pilot ink, from Pilot Blue-Black to the black cartridge to a fill of Iroshizuku Asa-Gao. Hopefully, it will expand its repertoire to include a few other inks known for shading like Noodler’s Apache Sunset and Golden Brown. However, for now Asa-Gao will do.

Nevertheless, the flow still cuts out especially on descenders. It does not happen nearly as often as it did prior to its trip to the spa for some corrective work but the issue is still there. The nib has not been customized for my hand and might work beautifully as is for someone else. Someday I may put that to the test.

Another issue is that the nib sometimes catches unless held at what for me is an unforgiving angle. Again, the nib has not been customized for me so even though a monkey owned it first, I have to assume this is what is normal for the 742 Falcon nib. It is not an insurmountable problem but rather one that requires practice to overcome or possibly modification for a wider range of contact.

Of this I am certain: modern flex cannot compare to vintage flex. The mechanics are very different in how that wider line is accomplished and the effort necessary is much greater. Perhaps once the 742 FA has broken in to the degree my Namiki Falcons have, it will demonstrate enough suppleness to sustain a comfortable rhythm. Maybe a better flow will result as well. In the meantime it will get some use as held lightly, the nib is quite soft and nearly effortless to use. It will suffice for journal writing but not for correspondence where legibility is more important. After all no one needs to read my journal. Heh. Not even me!

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