The Great Nakaya Size Comparison

One of the age-old (not really) questions of the fountain pen hobby is… which Nakaya shape is right for me? This post attempts to help answer that question, and do a comprehensive side by side of the different sizes available. There is an official comparison chart, but we have found that it’s not terribly helpful for getting a feel of what a particular shape might be like in hand.

We’ve included every Nakaya shape except the Desk Pen. (Please feel free to send us one… we promise to give it a good home!) It is worth noting that the Decapod Mini is discontinued, and the Dorsal Fins are both paused for new orders right now.

Favorite Shape and Personal Preferences

Katherine: Hands down, my favorite shape is the Decapod Mini. The shorter narrower grips (see pictures below) are super comfortable for me, combined with a light pen that feels very proportionate is a hands down winner. My second runner up (and much easier to find) model is the Piccolo — more or less the same grip and proportions, just without the facets. My preference for the Decapod Mini over the Piccolo is purely aesthetic. (Shameless plug: If you or someone you know has a Decapod Mini you might consider selling, let me know! >___>)

The Piccolo, Decapod Mini, Decapod, Decapod Twist, Naka-Ai, Long Piccolo, and Portable all have the same section, and I love it. Between those, it all comes down to aesthetics and balance — the longer pens are comfortable for me, but a little heavier, which depending on my mood, is good or bad. The Neo Standard’s section is a similar width, but longer, which is all the same to me, since I hold my pens fairly far forward. The Dorsal Fins, however, have both a longer and fatter section than the others — which is usable, but not quite as comfortable as the others. But, very cool looking — so that’s a trade off for me. (That I’m still not decided on)

I had initially worried that the “full size” Nakaya pens would be too long for me to use comfortably, but the ebonite and urushi are so light, that it really doesn’t make that big of a difference over the Piccolo unless I compare side by side. If you prefer heavier pens, the Piccolo/Decapod Mini are certainly not for you. Actually… I’m not sure any of the Nakaya are.

In the Hand: Nakaya Decapod Mini (from left to right: Franz, Katherine, and Pam)

Pam:  Not surprisingly, with my love for the pens that are either pocket or petite, my favorite shape to hold is the Piccolo. Honestly, Katherine’s Piccolo with the Negoro finish was so compelling to use that I was afraid to use it “too much,” in fear of wanting to purchase a Nakaya for myself. The threads are not sharp so despite my grip, it doesn’t dig in.  My pointer finger rests comfortably on the section. Unfortunately, the Decapod Mini does have quite a step so my grip isn’t as compatible with that amazing pen.

I find some of the larger sizes of the Nakayas, like the Naka-ai, to be too top heavy, or too long for me.  The Neo-Standard, likely due to having the same section as the Piccolo, is my favorite of the regular sized pens.  It’s pretty comfortable despite being quite a bit longer than the Piccolo.

Now, for my “white whale/mother of all the grails” of a pen, the Nakaya Dorsal Fins.  Unfortunately, orders for the Dorsal Fins are currently on pause due to overwhelming demand.  Dorsal Fin version 1 has a completely cyclic barrel making it similar to the size of the Neo-Standard in hand.  If you like the Neo Standard, the Dorsal Fin version 1 would be perfect.  Design-wise, I prefer the look of version 2, where the “fin” is extended to the body.  It didn’t occur to me until I got to try a Dorsal Fin version 2 in hand but the “fin” part of the body can be oriented to your hand!  Just take the feed and nib out and set it (carefully, of course) to what is most comfortable for you!  I prefer having the fin turned towards the fleshy part between my thumb and pointer finger for optimal comfort.  The fin reminds me of the clip on a Pilot VP so if you don’t like the VP due to the clip, consider flipping the Dorsal Fin body or going for version 1, if the Dorsal Fin is the holy grail for you too.

In the Hand: Nakaya Piccolo (from left to right: Franz, Katherine, and Pam)

Franz: As the bearpaw-ed person in this trio, of course I would prefer the larger pen models in the Nakaya line up. The Neo Standard would be my favorite Nakaya model but it really was a close competition against the Naka-Ai. The longer section of the Neo Standard slightly edged the Naka-Ai to be my second favorite. The Neo Standard just feels so nice and snug for my hand just like how a Pelikan M1000 does for me. I guess you could also liken the Naka-Ai to a Pelikan M800. Both pens are very comfortable to write and journal with.

The Decapod is such a fantastic design and those facets show off the underlying urushi lacquer very nicely. It is a slight step down in size from the Naka-Ai but the facets and the taper on the barrel and cap makes it so appealing to me. As a quick aside, almost a year ago, my facet-crazed friend named Katherine painstakingly searched for a Decapod Mini and when she found one, I’d say she wasn’t wrong to do so because it was worth it.

I have only recently held the Dorsal Fin models and was surprised how large they were. The Dorsal Fin (1 or 2) is a definite step up in terms of size from a Neo Standard, or Naka-Ai. The fins on them are remarkable to look at and just delightful to hold.

In the Hand: Nakaya Neo Standard (from left to right: Franz, Katherine, and Pam)

Size Comparison Photos

We are very fortunate to either own, or be able to borrow most of the Nakaya pen models. Having awesome pen friends is definitely a benefit of this great pen community. There are three sets of comparison photos and this was dependent upon the availability of the pens to be photographed. A big thanks to everyone who lent us their pens for this post.

We hope you enjoyed this comparison post. And please let us know which Nakaya model speaks to you!

Closed Pens (from left to right): Piccolo, Decapod Mini, Decapod, Decapod Twist, Long, Naka-Ai, Neo Standard, and Piccolo
Unposted Pens (from left to right): Piccolo, Decapod Mini, Decapod, Decapod Twist, Long, Naka-Ai, Neo Standard, and Piccolo
Closed Pens (from left to right): Decapod, Decapod Mini, Dorsal Fin Version 1, Dorsal Fin Version 2, Naka-Ai, Neo Standard, Portable, and Piccolo
Unposted Pens (from left to right): Decapod, Decapod Mini, Dorsal Fin Version 1, Dorsal Fin Version 2, Naka-Ai, Neo Standard, Portable, and Piccolo
Closed Pens (from left to right): Decapod Mini, Decapod, Dorsal Fin Version 2, Long, Neo Standard, Naka-Ai, Long Piccolo, and Piccolo
Unposted Pens (from left to right): Decapod Mini, Decapod, Dorsal Fin Verison 2, Long, Neo Standard, Naka-Ai, Long Piccolo, and Piccolo

EDIT: Photos comparing the new finless Dorsal Fin are available in an addendum post.

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  1. Very cool review of the Nakaya pens…. Agree that the standard photos do not help too much but this review should get referred to quite a lot… Finally I can make a choice ! Now to drool some more over these pens !

  2. What about length and balance when posted? Do you not post these pens for fear of scratching the barrel? I hope that isn’t the case because un-posted it’s only a question of time before the pen rolls off your desk (ouch!). Besides, if the pen is designed properly there should be a cap liner installed to protect the barrel when posted, and keep the nib and feed from drying out when capped. Heck if there’s no cap liner, forget about these pens and do yourself a favor – buy a Platinum 3776 Century for $75 USD instead.

    1. Hi! It depends on the person. I don’t post any of my pens — so I don’t post my Nakaya (I don’t like the balance of posted pens), but you totally could for many of the models (but not all, for example, Dorsal Fins don’t post). I’m not particularly worried about scratching the urushi any more than I would be with a plastic or celluloid pen, urushi IS pretty durable (often used on traditional bowls and such). Second, Nakayas don’t have a cap liner, but it hasn’t been an issue for me. I’ve had a few inked and sitting for weeks at a time (including with shimmer inks) and had no hard starting issues, but if you prefer cap liners, that these pens are not for you. In the end, when it comes down to value, the Platinum 3776s are nigh unbeatable, the appeal of Nakaya is largely aesthetic and the craftsmanship and story behind them — definitely not the perfect pen for everyone.

  3. Thank you very much for this beautiful and very helpful post! I prefer slender grip section. The difference of a grip section of 9mm or 10mm makes for my comfort of writing already a difference. I know the decapod mini(10mm) and I love it, even though normally I write more slender pens. Is one of the tested Nakayas in the grip section same or even more slender then the piccolo decapod? To find out I examined the pictures. But from the pictures it’s hard to see for me. It seems to me, the lens distortion of the camera makes the grip sections towards the edge more seizable (compare the two decapods shifting their places on the two pictures). The most slender grip section seems to have the blue Neo-Standart,if it’s not an optical color illusion.

    1. Hi Miguel! I compared side-by-side for myself that the Neo-Standard, and the Long are approximately the same size girth-wise but the section on the Long is longer.

      The Naka-Ai and Piccolo sections are ever so slightly thicker than the Neo-Standard. I’d say about 1 to 1.5mm difference. I do not have a Decapod handy to compare but I believe it’s about the same girth as the Piccolo’s section. I hope that helps!

  4. Wow!
    I’ve dreamed of owning (or even touching) a Nakaya for years, and in those plans I always keep thinking which one would be best for me. This is a GREAT comparison. Thank you very much.

  5. This post is quality! I forget how I stumbled upon it 🙂

    I would say I wish I saw this before I bought my Nakaya, but I actually have no regrets with my choice of a DF2.

    Lovely photos, and I especially appreciate the side by sides and the various hand sizes holding the pens.

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