Hello, it’s Katherine again. In my LA Pen Show Recap I promised I’d do an overview of my haul… so here it is! As I mentioned, there doesn’t seem to be a US show quite like LA for urushi hunting — so, as you can probably guess, I picked up some of that. But, I also picked up a handful of inexpensive flex nibs and a vintage Italian pen.
I’ve put the urushi pens toward the bottom of the post, but a quick warning — there is some, uh, artistic nudity (carved into a pen) further on down. If this ain’t your thing, please skip this post!
I had a lot of luck hunting for flex among dealer’s cheaper trays and even the pens for parts. The first three pens in the photo were all from the same dealer, but I did pass up quite a few other “cheap” flex pens where I wasn’t excited by the exterior. I chose to take these ones home because I thought that, in addition to fun nibs, they looked neat.
Unfortunately, they all have fairly small nibs (part of what makes them inexpensive) so none of them fit a #5 nib unit. Some may fit a Kaweco Sport, but I don’t have a spare Sport to try them with.
While we’re on the topic of fun nibs — I bought this ridiculous 1.9mm Parker 51 stub from Greg Minuskin on Saturday. Just when I thought I was done buying, I realized he had a couple of these fatties left, so one came home with me. I’ve shown it here with the already-juicy factory stub as a point of comparison.
Mine installed with no issues, but I have heard that the hood may need to be filed a bit to accommodate for the enormous tipping — so if you do get one, go slow and carefully when installing! If you tighten the hood and it pushes the tipping, you’re at risk of breaking the tipping off. Oh no!
My one Italian pen for the show — an Electa in Grey (or Platinum) Arco. The pen has some cosmetic damage (see the smudge marks on the barrel right below the cap?) but I’m confident I can buff most of it out. Additionally, the pen sports a semi-flex nib. I love the nibs on vintage Italian pens!
(And ignore the yellow markings, they’ll rub off — I just haven’t gotten around to do it. I think it’s Letizia’s system for keeping track of her pens)
In addition to the barrel damage there is crazing on the end of the blind cap. Did you know that Arco pens could craze? I didn’t either — but now I’ve got proof. Letizia and I noticed the crazing as I was fiddling around with the pen, and she was horrified — the price went down and she included a solid black blind cap so I didn’t have to use (or keep) the damaged one. I chose to keep it, but I won’t store the pen with it.
If you’re unfamiliar with “crazing”, there’s plenty of helpful reading on the web, I found this article particularly helpful. And this one, specific to pens. The TLDR is that celluloid is unstable, and can break down over time. Some celluloids are known to do it, and for some it’s less common. It’s common with certain Wahl Dorics, and the Omas Royal Blue pens are known to do it (first they turn a gorgeous shade of purple, then pink… then disintegrate). This is the first time I’ve seen Arco craze, but apparently it’s not unheard of. Womp.
Bring on the urushi! I joked that there weren’t enough women at pen shows… so I bought some.
All three are carved urushi, with motifs of women in various stages of bathing (and nudity). I’d never seen pens like this, and another vintage dealer suggested that they were likely made after the war, as souvenirs for GIs. All three sport steel nibs and fill via a Japanese eye dropper system. They likely weren’t expensive pens based on the nibs and quality of the carving.
And the rest of my urushi haul. The top (left) three pens are from unknown makers — the first two involve gold and lacquer of some sort. The third may be urushi, and may not be — the dealer I bought it from, Lawrence Prenton, thinks it’s urushi, but it’s so even that I’m not 100% sure. Either way, it has a very nice red glow. The bottom/rightmost pen is likely a ban-ei pen based on the nib.
Ban-ei pens usually weren’t signed, but the nib bears the imprint that identifies it as a “GK” nib. There’s much more to read about Ban-ei & the nib maker (master?) Kabutogi Ginjiro, but that’s a rabbit hole all on it’s own. I own two other pens with nibs by him — but this is the first one I’m comfortable using daily, the other two are more elaborate kamakura-bori pens that I have a tendency to baby.
All the vintage urushi pens are Japanese eyedroppers (like most that are sold) none of them are restored except the black Ban-Ei. If you’re not familiar with Japanese eyedroppers, the mechanism is similar to the Opus 88, where there’s a seal at the back of the pen and a rod that shuts off flow when the blind cap is tightened. The big downside to these pens, as gorgeous as they are, is that very few people restore the mechanisms once the seal goes bad. To my knowledge, no US repairer takes them on — and the only restorer I know of who does it is based in Europe and doesn’t take pens from the US because of customs dues. That said, some people do the repair themselves at home (such was the case with the Ban-Ei), but if buying a pen that’s restorable is key for you — these likely don’t fit the bill.
And, that’s it folks! Did you find what you were looking for at the LA Pen Show?
We would like to thank Pen Chalet for lending us this Platinum Izumo fountain pen for review. Pen Chalet is based in Mesa, Arizona and has been a company that sells pens and stationery items at competitive prices. They also frequently run promos for specially priced items as well as provide discount coupons. Check them out if you haven’t yet.
That being said, the opinions below are our own and we were not compensated (monetarily, or otherwise) for this review.
Hand Over That Pen, please!
Katherine: The shape of the Izumo isn’t my jam… but I have a general bias against bulbous caps. Tapered? Maybe that’s a less graphic word. Anyway, general shape aside, the Izumo comes in many beautiful finishes (ugh I really wish I liked their base shape more!) this one is soratame, a green and black tamenuri, pretty subtle, but quite nice when you look closely. The pen also comes in a variety of other finishes, some of which are really quite breathtaking.
Pam: Whoa! This is a big pen! The urushi finish is flawless on a classic cigar shaped pen. At first glance, pen is really intimidating based on it’s size and finish. It’s not my aesthetic. To my untrained eye, I wouldn’t know that this pen had urushi on it because it’s just a boring black cigar shaped pen. The nib is a very business like nib. The design is either really retro or modern.
Franz: The Platinum Izumo is quite large, curvy and seems to create a grand stature. It’s like the pen says, “Hey look at me!” whilst flexing its muscles. I believe in the closed position, the pen is just a little over 6 inches. I’m one to appreciate urushi lacquered pens and this Soratame is beautiful and simple. I love the hints of color in the seams of the pen.
The Business End
Katherine: The Izumo nib feels much more “western” to me than the 3776 nib, but that’s a sample size of one. It’s smooth, wet and stiff — a great nib to get things done with, but not one I’m excited to write with.
Pam: I am going to enter a “expectations management” disclaimer. Given that this is a Platinum nib and my only experience with Platinum is through the 3776 nibs so my expectations included a characteristic and unique Platinum nib. I am biased. That being said, the Izumo nib is… serviceable. It’s just not memorable and lacks any characteristic that makes me want to pick it up again. It’s really really smooth which is fantastic for those looking that kind of writing experience. However, that’s not what I was expecting.
Franz: It was my first time to write with a President nib from Platinum and I echo the ladies’ comments above. It wrote smoothly, a good flow, and did not skip like any good nib should. I always love the heart-shaped breather holes of Platinum nibs.
Write It Up
Katherine: The section of the Izumo is very comfortable (though that gold ring at the very front bugs me, especially on the dark and subtle soratame finish) — though it doesn’t have the “flare” at the very end that I prefer. It’s a heavier pen than I expected (a little heavier than the m800?) but very manageable, I’m just used to urushi pens being super light. All in all a comfortable and usable pen, but not outstandingly so.
Pam: The nib is fantastically smooth. Almost too smooth. There is no feedback and it lays down a nice saturated line without being overly wet.
Franz: Being an ebonite pen, the Izumo was very pleasant to write with and was balanced. The cap is “post-able” however we did not attempt to do that since it is a loaner and posting generally mars the urushi finish. One thing though, my index finger naturally lands on the threads in the middle of the section and they’re kinda sharp. It doesn’t hurt at all but you can definitely feel them. But I’ll live with it because the urushi’s green underlayer shows very nicely. Needless to say, I did not experience any fatigue while writing in my journal.
Katherine: Super fast uncap (1 turn) and a strong clip — it’s a little big for me, but definitely EDC-able if you like the size.
Pam: Given the size of the pen and the finish, I didn’t take this pen to work. The clip works well and keeps it secure in a case.
Franz: The Izumo was a very lovely pen to use at work for jotting down notes as well as for signatures. The pen just stayed on my desk for most of the the day, but I did clip it onto my shirt pocket for safekeeping as well.
Like other Platinum pens, the Izumo is cartridge/converter filled and the supplied Platinum converter was very sufficient. If I were to use this pen every day at work, I’d probably refill it with ink every 3 days or so.
Final Grip-ping Impressions
Katherine: The Izumo has all the pieces — a beautiful finish, a solid nib and solidly built. At the end of it all though, half of this hobby is about the aesthetics and the Izumo just ain’t my thing. If you love the aesthetic, it won’t disappoint!
Pam: This a great pen for those who can appreciate the classic look, the nuances of the urushi and a very smooth writing experience. That being said, this is not the urushi pen for me. Perhaps I have been ruined by Nakaya, just maybe.
Franz: Overall, the Izumo is a great pen to use. Ebonite pens have always been a favorite of mine and this seems to be one of them. I do love the stealthy tamenuri finish of the Soratame. As I said in the beginning of this review, the Izumo’s size and shape makes a statement. And something that’s true with every pen one holds, does that pen speak to you?
Katherine: It’s been a busy month, and I haven’t spent as much time playing with pens as I would have hoped. I’ve found that for the last couple weeks, my constant companion has been a Parker 51 Special filled with Diamine Blue Orient. The Parker 51 (review to come!) sports black ishime stripes, courtesy of Bokumondoh. I love the feel of the ishime and the visual variance that it gives an otherwise kind of boring looking pen (sorry!). Diamine Blue Orient is a limited edition ink created for FPN Philippine’s 10 year anniversary — I assume it’s honoring the beautiful oceans surrounding the islands.
Pam: I have been on a bit of a vintage bender recently. Nik Pang introduced me to this understated brown Waterman that is a lever filler last month. I have also been finding out in my ink-splorations what brands of ink I prefer as I keep getting through all the samples. I inked up the Waterman with my favorite green, Montblanc Irish Green. The nib is akin to a Japanese F and writes beautifully. I chose a drier ink to highlight how fine the nib is.
On a side note, has any noticed inconsistent flows in heavily saturated inks? Or is that just me?
Franz: My pen for the month of March may be a vintage pen but it was a new acquisition from the LA pen show in February. My friend Jon S. knew about my apprehension about Sheaffer pens because most of the ones I come across are short and thin pens. So he showed me the Sheaffer 8C flat top pen which was from the 1920’s. And man, I loved it! He restored the pen himself and it’s in great condition as well. I’ve been using this pen at work almost everyday ever since I got it. The 8C fills my hand very well even when unposted so the bear paw is happy. =)
And of course I had to pair it with my favorite ink, the Pelikan 4001 Turquoise. Even if the nib is a fine width, it shows the ink color very very well. In some parts of the writing, some sheen comes through as well. There’s just something about turquoise inks that floats my boat.
Seems like the three of us have been writing with vintage pens lately. What pens have you been writing with?
In this review, we have included our guest reviewer Claire (@writteninrice). She creates and sells pen wraps via her etsy site as well as at the San Francisco pen show. Thanks for joining us in reviewing this Nakaya pen Claire!
Hand Over That Pen, please!
Katherine: The Nakaya Piccolo is one of my favorite shapes — it’s short, lovingly chubby, but also has pointed ends that give it some visual interest. In addition, the two I own are both in Nakaya’s lovely layered tamenuri urushi finishes. The Ao-tamenuri in the pen pictured is the more subtle of the two — the pen looks black at a quick glance, but upon closer look (or uncapping) there are hints of blue green.
Claire: It is hard to beat urushi in terms of beauty and depth. Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of amazing materials and finishes out there, but as far as I’m concerned, urushi will always take the cake. The Piccolo is the perfect size for my hand. I have found the other Nakaya shapes to be just a little bit too long for my taste and almost feel a little awkward in my hand.
Pam: The Piccolo is a great compact pen that is similar in size to the Pilot Prera and the Sailor Pro Gear Slim, so it would not be surprising that Piccolo is my favorite Nakaya model to hold. (The dorsal fin version 2 is my favorite to behold, if that makes sense.) I greatly appreciate that the shape is not the ubiquitous cigar shape, but rather has tapered ends which is much more streamline in my opinion. Although I greatly appreciate the craftsmanship of urushi, I am also really intimidated to own a urushi pen. Perhaps the cost plays a role in it, but I am almost afraid to damage the pen or the finish. I am just not in the urushi-comfy zone yet.
Franz: The Nakaya Piccolo has a very appealing aesthetic. As Katherine “pointed” out, the pointed ends are a nice feature and when you see it, you know that it’s a Piccolo model. Notice that the barrel’s finial is pointier than the cap’s? I really like that detail. And the Ao-tamenuri finish is lovely especially the sliver of color where the cap and barrel meet as well as on the threads. Sadly, it has been a couple years now since Nakaya discontinued the Ao-tamenuri finish. The Piccolo is still available in a variety of colors and finishes though.
The Business End
Katherine: Nakaya nibs are some of my favorite overall (as are Platinum nibs) and this one is my favorite out of all of them. The base nib was a Soft Medium which gives it some lovely springiness and bounce. Then Mottishaw ground it down to a Cursive Italic that gives my small writing wonderful line variation. The nib does have a specific sweet spot though, if you don’t find it (luckily it lines up with how I naturally hold my pen) the nib can feel scratchy.
Claire: The first thing I said when I tried Katherine’s pen was that I needed to get a nib like this on my next Nakaya. The Soft Medium CI is amazing. I am a huge fan of soft nibs, not looking for line variation, but the spring in the nib gives a feedback. The CI gives some line variation even when my handwriting isn’t super tiny.
Pam: If I was to purchase a Nakaya, or have another custom pen built, it would have a soft nib from Platinum. Platinum has done “soft” nibs the right way. It has a wonderful bounciness and allows for writing variation without straining your hand. However, if you write light enough, you can still get a consistent line. The feed dealt with the extra need for ink with no problems. Adding a CI grind to this nib was a genius decision because it allowed for more versatility and variability in your writing depending on writing pressure. I like a bit of a bite with my CIs and this grind by Mottishaw had a pretty great sweet spot. Of course with a CI I prefer to hold it in a tripod grip but for modeling purposes, my iron grip was photographed.
Franz: I have tried Nakaya nibs before especially with John Mottishaw’s cursive italic treatment however, this was my first time to use a “soft” nib and it was pleasant to write with. The bounce of the nib while writing was delightful. It does have a sweet spot because it already is a fine nib and then transformed into a cursive italic. When you’re not writing in the correct angle, the nib will definitely let you know. Trust me, I know. But when you have it in the right angle, it’s perfect!
And I believe that that heart-shaped breather hole adds to the love of writing with Nakaya nibs.
Write It Up
Katherine: The Piccolo is a perfect size for me. It’s short, which fits my hand wonderfully, but not too narrow. It has the section width of a full size pen (it tapers from 12.25mm to 10.75mm) which makes it comfortable to hold for long periods of time.
Claire: My Piccolo is the first pen I reach for when its time to write anything down. I might have burned through a good deal of my finished bottle of Shin Kai with this pen. There are not many pens I can sit down and write with for hours on end. Usually, I tend to switch pens every few pages of writing to keep things interesting.
Pam: I did borrow a Piccolo from Katherine and had a hard time returning it. It was a really great pen with such wonderful craftsmanship that can literally be felt as you handle and write with the pen. The threads are not sharp for iron grip purposes and the section is fantastic, so comfortable for the tripod grip. The variation that the nib provides really kept my attention and interest as I wrote with this pen.
Franz: Ah yes, the 20-minute writing experience. I gotta say that my hand wasn’t really happy writing with the Piccolo for a long period of time. Actually, after five minutes of writing my hand felt fatigued. I found the section to be a bit narrow so my grip landed on the barrel section and the short length of the pen was not really comfortable for me. I also tried to lower my grip to the section like the ladies above but it just didn’t feel natural for me.
Katherine: The concern with EDCing a Nakaya is the cost — this wouldn’t be a cheap pen to replace. But, it’s perfectly suited for the job: it uncaps in one and a quarter turns, it can have a clip (this writer does, my other one is a cigar, which doesn’t), it has a fantastic nib that has never spat into it’s cap and it has a very durable finish. But, I know for many folks, the idea of a scratch in the urushi is terrifying — so the Piccolo can certainly be an EDC, but it’s all about your comfort level! Personally, this is part of my bring-to-work rotation, but I work a lazy desk job. 🙂
Claire: There are not too many pens in my collection that I would bring with me to work. Though I don’t have a job where fountain pens would be remotely useful. That being said, when I am going to sit down and take notes or journal, this is one of the first pens I reach for. and the reason is just how comfortable it is to write with. This is key especially for long note taking sessions .
Pam: Not being the owner of the Piccolo, I kept the pen safe at home. Again, this pen is a work of art and at the risk of sounding pretentious, it should be savored while in use. This pen is best enjoyed in long and slow writing sessions.
Franz: The Piccolo’s smaller size qualifies it to be called a pocket pen and definitely is a convenient pen to bring along anywhere. It is also a nice pen to use at my work setting. The nib was fine but smooth for copier paper. When I need to write a quick note or signature, the fast uncapping helps a lot. The clip definitely secured the pen on my shirt pocket during the day. The pen is a cartridge/converter filled so you may find yourself re-inking after 2-3 days if you use it a lot.
Final Grip-ping Impressions
Katherine: If I could only keep one pen and nib, this might be it (please don’t make me though). It’s a fantastic pairing of an excellent (and interesting) nib and a visually interesting body that’s truly a work of art. The Piccolo is certainly a short pen, but it’s an unusual combination of shortness without the typical small-pen narrowness — and that fits my hand perfectly.
Claire: There are no two ways around it, I love this pen. The size, shape and weight are perfect for long writing sessions, though I wish the converter could hold more ink since I am refilling the pen constantly. I don’t think this could be the only pen I owned for just this reason. The small ink capacity would make it difficult as a daily writer for me since it seems that I rarely run out of ink when I’m home.
Pam: Honestly, if I had to recommend “if you can only write with one pen for the rest of your life,” I would be hard pressed to find any other pen that could compare to the performance, beauty, uniqueness and craftsmanship to this pen with a soft nib- especially for those with petite hands. (I feel like such a traitor to my Sailor collection by admitting this.)
Franz: I like the Nakaya Piccolo for it’s aesthetics and nib performance. But the very reason that the ladies above love this pen is the same reason that I wouldn’t own one. It’s just too darn small for my big hands especially when it comes to journaling or writing letters. To solve this issue is to just post the cap, right? But that isn’t something you do with an urushi laquered pen because it will mar the finish. Most people would like to take care of their pen’s appearance especially when it costs something like a Nakaya.
Overall, small to average sized hands, try the Piccolo out because you will more than likely want it. For people with larger hands who like the shape, skip the Piccolo and look for either a Long Piccolo or a Naka-Ai. Both are exclusive pens sold by Aesthetic Bay in Singapore. and Classic Fountain Pens, Inc. in California, respectively.