Review: Pilot Custom 823

Hand Over That Pen, please!

Katherine: This is a serious looking pen. But not too serious. All three finishes (amber, smoke and clear) are demonstrators, but the amber and smoke aren’t obviously so. As usual, the cigar shape isn’t my favorite, but I like the way the translucent amber and smoke materials look with ink sloshing around. My long time gripe with the clear one was that the cap liner (on all three, but most obvious on the black) is black… and very obvious. BUT, I’ve recently discovered that it’s not hard to remove the cap liner — a fat eraser (like one of the ones on those easy grip chubby kids pencils) can easily pull it out. Then it looks oh-so-much cleaner! If this pen came in the 912’s styling (flat ends, rhodium trim), it would be a must-own for me, instead I very much enjoy it, but I’m not in love with the way it looks.

Pam:  Le sigh.  It’s another cigar shape pen.  Its saving grace is due to the demonstrator quality of them.  The clip is… not aesthetically pleasing to me. I really enjoy the black and transparent material.  Per usual, I am more fond of rhodium trim, however I don’t think that trim is available in the 823 model.  Oh, what I would give for a ruthenium trim on the clear/transparent model.  I will admit that the vanity in me prevent me picking up this pen.  (Spoiler alert:  I regret not picking up this pen sooner.)

Franz: Now I feel out of place. I love cigar shaped pens but the Pilot Custom 823 is more torpedo shaped, no? Hihihi… Either way, I love the 823’s shape and for some reason, that smoke finish is a winner for me! The 823’s size is substantial in the hand but at the same time it’s not too big, if that makes sense.

Just like what we learned in our review of the Pilot Custom 912, Pilot assigned a lot of their pen model names according to the company’s year when they were introduced. Namiki/Pilot was founded in 1918 and they are celebrating their 100th anniversary this year as well. So for the Pilot Custom 823, the first two digits (82) mean that the pen was released in Pilot’s 82nd year, 2000. The third digit represents the manufacturer suggested retail price in 10,000 Japanese Yen, ¥30,000.

In the Hand: Pilot Custom 823 (posted) — from left to right: Franz, Katherine, and Pam
In the Hand: Pilot Custom 823 (unposted) — from left to right: Franz, Katherine, and Pam

 

The Business End

Katherine: Yay for Pilot #15 nibs! I really enjoy them. The medium on this pen was no different — a wonderful balance of smooth and wet, but not overly so in either direction. I’ve also had the pleasure of using a handful of other nib sizes on 823s and have been quite happy with all of them. Personally, I own a #15 FA, and love the bounce (the #10 I own is softer/flexier) and smooth writing it gives me.

Pam:  Franz was kind enough to allow me to borrow a 823 with a fine nib.  What a nib!!! It’s honestly everything one could love about a Pilot nib.  Granted, my experience with Pilot is limited to a few select pens (Elite, Myu, m90, Murex, Volex) and I typically use the Pilot Prera and Vanishing Point at work.  What was quite different about this particular nib is the size; it’s so big!! It’s also a great “upgrade” in both size, material and performance.

Franz: The 823’s nibs are very pleasant to write with. No adjustments were necessary to provide a great writing experience. However, among the three, the broad nib was modified by Mr. Dan Smith into a juicy stub. The medium and fine nibs had a good flow as well. The 823 nibs definitely have the bounce to give that flair in your writing.

Writing sample on Nanami Cross Field A5 Journal

Write It Up

Katherine: I thought the 823 was overhyped until I borrowed one from Franz for this review. As I wrote with it (and stared at it, trying to settle my feelings on its aesthetic) I realized why it’s such a popular pen… It’s a solid workhorse of a pen that writes wonderfully and feels solid and comfortable in the hand. It’s not too big, not too small, not too smooth, not too feedbacky… Somehow it’s a fantastic balance on so many axes (plural of axis, not that I’m balancing pens on wood chopping implements). I guess it’s implied, but I had a great time writing with it — though I did forget to loosen the knob the first time and was momentarily vexed as I wrote the feed dry.

Pam:  I didn’t just write with this pen for an extended period of time.  I “borrowed” this pen from Franz for an extended period of time.  It’s has just enough stiffness and give from the material and size to make the writing experience tactically enjoyable for me.  I found the pen to be very well balanced unposted.  It’s a bit tall for me posted.  The ink in the chamber is a bit mesmerizing.

The nib was Pilot smooth with little/no feedback.  The nib performed surprisingly better than I expected on cheap office paper.  It didn’t feather as much as usual.  Ink used was Pilot Iroshizuku Ku-Jaku. The pen and ink combo shined in both my Midori insert and Hobonichi (Tomoe River paper).

The writing experience of this nib is quite unique to this nib/pen.  I am a bit addicted to the particular writing experience that this pen provides.  I would highly recommend trying this pen out yourself.  Just remember, the first taste is free. ;P

Franz: The biggest thing that I love about the Pilot 823 is that there isn’t a step between the barrel and section and that the threads aren’t sharp. When the cap is posted it is plenty long for my large hand but like Pam, I prefer to write with the pen unposted because the weight is more balanced. So with fingers on the threads, the unposted length is very comfy for me.

EDC-ness

Katherine: Solid clip, 1.75 turns to uncap and an ink capacity that lasts pages and pages and pages. And it low-key looks so your boss doesn’t wonder why you’re writing with a glitter stick. But some oooh and aah when your teammates notice the ink sloshing around inside.

Pam: I loved this pen at work.  It was less than two turns to get you writing and as previously stated, the F nib does a pretty good job on office paper.  The clip was just enough to easily slip in and out of a my white coat pocket with little issues.  The ink capacity of this pen is fantastic and by far exceeds my other EDCs for work.  For quick note taking, the VP is the height of convenience.  However, for end of the day wrapping up “thought gathering” and where you have an extended note-taking session, I kept reaching for the 823.  I may be adding another Pilot to my pocket for work at the rate we are going.

Franz: The 823 is a great companion for use at work and when I’m out and about. The fine and/or medium nib was great for the copier paper in the office and it just wrote well. The ball clip is sturdy and fits onto my shirt pocket as well as my jeans pocket. The biggest advantage of the 823 is its ink capacity. When you operate the vacuum filler (pictured below), the pen gets about 75% filled up. There is a maneuver you can do to fill the pen 100% of ink which is about 2.5ml. Dan Smith shows this in his video review of the Pilot Custom 823 here.

As Katherine described earlier, the 823 does have a shut-off valve (second picture below) and you need to unscrew the knob to make sure the ink flows freely onto the reservoir and feed. Gotta make sure that it is unscrewed or else you’ll find the nib writing dry after a page or two of journaling (trust me, I know). The shut-off valve helps contain the ink when you are flying, or if you are shipping the pen filled with ink. I received my 823 filled with ink in the mail from my friend and aside from ink spots in the cap, no other ink was wasted.

Vacuum plunger knob pulled all the way back ready for inking
The plunger knob is unscrewed and the shut-off valve is open for ink to flow onto the reservoir/feed

 

Final Grip-ping Impressions

Katherine: The 823 is a solid pen. It’s not my favorite aesthetically, but I’m more than willing to forgive it that for how well balanced of a pen and nib it is. However, at $250-300 new, it’s not a pen I’m in a hurry to acquire (well, also because I arguably have more than enough pens…) but I do one day want to own one with an FA nib. I’m sure this will upset someone, but the 823 reminds me a lot of another pen I love, the Pelikan M800 — solid workhorse pens with an ink capacity for days and a clean professional vibe (assuming you aren’t sporting a maki-e M800 or something). If you like cigar shaped pens and gold trim, I don’t think you can go wrong with the 823.

Pam:  #PenAddictProTip I agree with Brad. As in you should try the 823 for yourself.  I believe that this pen is in the “everyone should try it or own it” category, like the Lamy 2000.  You may not like it, but it’s a pen that is so easily and quickly reference for what it brings to the table:  a LARGE gold nib, piston filler, a classic shape with a modern twist and a fantastic writing experience.  It is well deserving of the “pens you should know” pantheon. The price maybe a sticking point, but I have had such a great writing experience with this pen that if you enjoy it as much as I did, it may well justify the price for you.

Franz: Well, if you haven’t noticed yet, the Pilot Custom 823 is a definite win among the three of us. It is a decently sized pen with great balance and is a great fit for small to large handed writers. Currently in the United States, only the Amber finish is available. I really wish that the Smoke and the Clear finishes would be made available in the market. You may purchase the two finishes from Japan sources if you are patient and knowledgeable enough to do so. I was lucky enough to secure my Pilot Custom 823 in Smoke from the secondary market.

You can call it a cigar-shaped, or a torpedo-shaped pen, it doesn’t matter as long as you try one. It’s a fantastic pen for me and I’m happy I own one.

Pen Comparisons

Closed pens from left to right: Parker 75, TWSBI Eco, Pilot Vanishing Point, Sailor 1911 Large, *Pilot Custom 823*, Pelikan M805, Lamy 2000, and Lamy Safari
Posted pens from left to right: Parker 75, TWSBI Eco, Pilot Vanishing Point, Sailor 1911 Large, *Pilot Custom 823*, Pelikan M805, Lamy 2000, and Lamy Safari
Unposted pens from left to right: Parker 75, TWSBI Eco, Pilot Vanishing Point, Sailor 1911 Large, *Pilot Custom 823*, Pelikan M805, Lamy 2000, and Lamy Safari

 

Pen Photos (click to enlarge)

Amber

Clear

Smoke

6 Comments

Pen Maker Review: Romulus Pens (John Albert) Custom Pens

Pen Maker Extraordinaire: John Albert

This is a review of working with custom pen maker John Albert, of Romulus Pens. Since he doesn’t have pre-defined ‘models’, we thought it would make more sense to review more general aspects of his pens instead of diving deep on a specific pen. (Also check out his Instagram here)

Hand Over That Pen, please!

Katherine: To me, this is where John shines. He went to art school and it shows. His pens are classically inspired, but, if you choose, he’ll work with you to incorporate personal and modern touches (sometimes with gentle steering to save you from clashing asks or bad design choices). But, he’s also willing to experiment and try new things. My second pen from him, a purple “nonagon” was at least partially caused by my grousing about being unable to find a Nakaya Decapod Mini and my love for facets — and what a beautiful experiment that has turned out to be! Experiment or not, he takes an immense amount of pride in his work and everything is always immaculately finished — metal bands are tight and smooth, everything is buffed and threads are never tight.

 

Pam:  John has the eye of an artist and the patience of a saint.  I haven’t had any experience in designing a pen with all the options available.  Particularly since John will work with alot of different materials including hard woods, acrylic (and many more) and with the number of design elements in a pen from the cap, barrel, finials, and clip the possibilities are endless.  I started telling John what I wanted in a pen with only one material in mind as the working inspiration.  With my initially obscenely long emails of wants, wishes and “I don’t know what to do with this aspect of the pen” and alot of John’s patience and help as a vacillated between all the different possibilities, the “Sherlock” (my name for the pen, not his) was born.

John is great to work with and really does have some great input to fine tune your design to a particular feel or look.

 

The Business End

John typically uses Jowo nib units, but can work with other nibs if supplied by the customer. He doesn’t do any grinds or adjustments.

Katherine: While I like Jowo nibs, I don’t love the idea of having a bunch of Jowo-holders. As a result, the first pen I commissioned from John (the grey and yellow one) fits Pelikan m400/600 nibs. I chose to go with an eyedropper, not a piston filler, and it’s written fantastically with little leaking! More recently, John has been building pens around all sorts of nib units, including ones that are entirely friction fit. I don’t own one of these pens (so far) but am excited to do so once I find an appropriate nib.

A Pelikan M600 nib on Katherine’s first Romulus Pen

Pam:  I was fine with a Jowo nib for my first pen, particularly with the awesome black/rhodium finish.  John was able to get me 2 nib units for my pen, one with a 0.4 cursive italic and one in EF, to suit whatever writing mood I might be in.  I really enjoy both nibs and they write as expected.  John is branching out to other nib units and I look forward to having all kinds of custom pens that hold some pretty amazing nibs.  One day John! One day!

A two tone black oxide #6 steel nib for Pam’s first pen from Romulus Pens

Final Grip-ping Impressions

A Pen Maker’s Goal: A customer to own enough pens to have Wolverine claws with… ;-P

Katherine: I love all three of the Romulus pens I have — a grey celluloid with yellow accents, the first/prototype “nonagon”, in clear acrylic, and the second “nonagon” in a grape stripe resin. All three are immaculately finished, well balanced and well designed. I look forward to working with John on many more custom pens, I already have quite a few ideas queued up…

Pam:  John has great workmanship and the “Sherlock” is flawless.  The pen is so well polished that the barrel and the finials are seamless to the touch.   I joke with John that we can either have a custom pen subscription for me where I just send him money in regular increments until enough money accumulates for me to get another pen by him, or establish a punch card system with the number of ideas I have and get excited about.  I don’t keep the ideas to myself mind you, John gets the blitzes of communication when inspiration strikes and he takes it all in stride with great feedback.  Did I mention he’s a saint?  He also makes all my pen dreams come true.

No Comments