When I first dipped my toe into the waters of modern handmade Japanese fountain pens, little did I realise how dangerous they might be, at least for my financial health at any rate. Anyone contemplating buying one of these pens take note – they’re seriously addictive and there’s no support group out there to wean you off them once you’re hooked, but you’ll find plenty of encouragement from other addicts here on FPN to buy more!
A Nakaya Piccolo (also reviewed here) whetted my appetite for ebonite urushi pens but failed to fully satisfy it. While a great pen in many ways, and one that has remained inked and in regular use these last 18 months, I’ve never quite got to like either the appearance of the Piccolo when uncapped (capped it looks stunning IMO) or the shape and size of the section. This latter issue is a fundamental problem for me because the area where you hold the pen is such a critical part of the design. I find the gripping area of the Piccolo too small, so I always end up holding part of the threads. I find the section a slightly odd shape too, so that I’m always vaguely conscious of it when I use it. It’s not enough to stop me and it’s easy to grip securely, but it isn’t ideal.
This led me to seriously consider buying another Japanese pen, but which one? I looked at Nakaya and Danitrio’s range and, while I was making up my mind, Nakaya introduced a new model that looked ideal – the Neo Standard, adapted from their desk pen model. It had an interesting curvy shape, a longer gripping area and the way the cap threads were integrated into the overall shape of the pen was very neat. I placed an order direct with Nakaya (which turned out to be an entirely straightforward and easy process) for a Kuro-Tamenuri finish Neo Standard with a personal Kanji and began to wait. However, I’m not renowned for my patience. The weeks ticked by and a chance discussion with Kevin Cheng (Winedoc) led me to pick up a Danitrio Takumi in Aka-Tamenuri finish (it was a good price – what else could I do?). Both pens arrived the same month; both are full size (at slightly larger than an MB149 size one might even consider them oversize), both have relatively soft, fine nibs, both are c/c fillers and both are ebonite pens in an urushi finish, they just shouted out to be reviewed together.
Packaging: the Danitrio arrived in a rather large, shiny, piano black box, with a padded, lined interior. It’s a very imposing item and looks expensive. The Nakaya arrived in one of their standard, understated wooden boxes with a pen kimono. I don’t use pen boxes but both are equally nice in their own way.
Appearance and finish: The fit and finish of both pens is exemplary. The urushi is perfectly applied and looks stunning – my photos don’t begin to do justice to these beautiful pens. The Kuro-Tamenuri finish of the Neo Standard is rather more understated than the lighter Danitrio, and the colour on the exposed edges has yet to really develop. At first glance the Nakaya looks black, but look again and you realise it’s actually the darkest red imaginable. While the Nakaya almost appears to absorb light, by contrast the Danitrio seems to glow as it sits on my desk. I don’t know what it is about urushi, but it’s a wonderful finish for a fountain pen and, after a year of use, both pens still look in ‘as new’ condition. Both share the almost organic, hand made quality that sets these pens apart from other more mass-produced alternatives.
Ergonomics and use: Neither pen is designed to be posted, which is fine as I don’t routinely post my pens and to do so would, in this case, make the two pens absurdly long. Both are, quite frankly, ridiculously comfortable to hold and, in use, effectively disappear, becoming just an extension of my hand – which is just as it should be in my opinion. If forced to choose, I slightly prefer the Nakaya because it is marginally narrower and I have small hands, but both are fantastic and it’s invidious to criticise either. Considering their size, both pens are surprisingly light weight. The Neo Standard weighs 20g uncapped, while the Takumi is approximately 18g. Being cartridge/converter pens, neither have the heavy piston mechanism that can disrupt the balance of some large pens, e.g the Pelikan M800, but the Takumi can be converted to an eyedropper more easily than the Nakaya because the latter has some metal internal parts. I’m happy with the capacity of both converters, but heavy users might consider this an issue.
Nib: Okay, cards on the table, I initially had some issues with both pens. To begin with the Takumi would write a page or so then, suddenly, the ink would stop flowing. This was annoying but, after some trial and error, a change of converter cured the problem. The Danitrio Bock-made nib is one of the softest modern nibs I’ve used and offers some flex. However, I rarely press hard enough to exploit this quality and find it a smooth and very juicy writer. The Nakaya worked perfectly out of the box, but I found its nib a bit of an acquired taste. I chose a soft nib and, while ink flow and general performance were beyond reproach, it seemed a bit uninspiring to use – bland is the word that came to mind. A year on I’ve got to like it more. It’s rather like I imagine the suspension on a Rolls Royce to be: smooth, comfortable and very cushioned, but slightly lacking in personality or excitement. Overall it’s a good nib and it's churlish to complain as it does everything it should in an exemplary fashion, but it lacks that extra ingredient - call it star quality - that would make it a personal favourite.
Conclusion: After a year of using these pens I can confidently say I love them both! If it was easy to swap the Nakaya's nib I’d be tempted to order a replacement stub, but I’d rather not send the whole pen away. I’ve tuned the Danitrio nib up a touch and it’s now a real favourite with lots of character. The Nakaya wins out for ergonomics, the Danitrio prevails for its writing quality. Overall, I use the Takumi more, but if the Dani nib was on the Neo Standard it might just be my favourite pen ever…
Compared to a Pelikan M800...
Edited by Painterspal, 26 July 2010 - 21:26.