There is a wise catch-phrase coined by the seminal 90s British sitcom Spaced. "Skip to the end." And so I will:
This is the single best pen I have ever owned, ever held, ever used. It is so good that it has made me believe - maybe just a little bit - in the old, oft-told myth of The One Pen.
There. Good. I uttered the sacrilegious words. Now that they are free and I am free too we can backtrack a bit (as I take a deep breath) and I can attempt to explain how this little cylinder of rosewood, ebonite and gold caused the furnaces of hell to freeze to ice.
As some of you will remember, this is not my first Hakase. The first - a rather fetching buffalo horn torpedo - confused initially, before wrapping its tentacles firmly around my heart. This pen too came as something of a shock (no, slow down - I am getting ahead of myself), but even then there were no, even fleeting, feelings of disappointment. I had long wanted a wooden pen and after being gently guided through the options by Hakase's Mr. Ryo Yamamoto, I slowly narrowed my choices to the shape (flat-top), size (large) and wood (rosewood). I paid my deposit and began my wait.
The photographs I recieved from Mr. Yamamoto in answer to my questions - 1. l-r: buffalo horn torpedo, RW15C, RW10C; 2. l-r: ebony, rosewood, cocobolo
The pen arrived with little fanfare as all Hakases do: a small wooden box wrapped in the company's steel-grey wrapping paper. Open the paper, pull the lid off the perfectly-fitting box and there was the pen. It was, and is, absolutely gorgeous.
The shape is highly unusual but deceptively simple - a large cap worked to a slightly conical summit allied to a voluptuous barrel that narrows to an abrupt end (where the signature Hakase production date is carved into the wood). This allows the cap to post comfortably and securely. The pen, though large, is light and comfortable, and is is perfectly balance whether the cap is posted or not. Only the gold roll-stopper breaks the clean, unadorned lines.
Although the pen is exactly what I expected, some details still manage to surprised. Google translate being what it is, I intended to ask Mr. Yamamoto how one could possibly fill, empty, clean and care for a pen constructed entirely from wood but could not reduce the question to sufficiently simple syntax. Not that it would have been necessary, for the apparently wooden section turned out to be the most glorious, warm, sensual ebonite, polished to a lustre that would make even the old vintage gods of yore weep.
The wood itself as I wished: it smells deep and sweet and organic and is pockmarked with veins and crevices and seams. It feels as I expected the buffalo horn to feel: rough and intimate; perfectly flawed as only a once-living, experiencing thing can be. It has been masterfully worked, from the hand-carved threads that screw on and off with the faint rubbing sound of rope being fed through an old loom, to the nearly imperceptible join where the cap's hollow section and rounded top meet.
The furniture is as to be expected of Hakase: solid, hand-beaten 14k gold. I understand from Mr. Yamamoto that white gold and sterling silver are now options but I cannot think of a single Hakase model that would benefit from a more monochromatic palette. As my buffalo pen had a circular nipple roll-stopper, I chose a pyramid for variety, and I am glad I did for it seems to catch the light and gleam in a more three-dimensional, more dramatic, way. Hugged lovingly within its trough, the band is neither loose nor tight and I find myself absentmindedly rotating it around the barrel as one would a wedding-ring on a fleshy finger: smooth as olive oil and hypnotically satisfying. Reassuring even.
Nib, converter, feed: all Pilot. Off-the-shelf, yes, but of the highest quality nonetheless and perfectly integrated. For this pen I requested a fine nib and once again Hakase delivered. It is without a shadow of a doubt the single best nib for me and my illegibly cramped style of writing that I have ever used. Even by Japanese standards its line is fine, but it is so consistent and predictable, so smooth and forgiving of angle and pressure, that I have not been able to put it down.
I have an obsessive methodology that governs my writing. Ever since I began work on the second first draft of Unpublished Novel #1 I have changed both pen and ink every day. This was not only an excuse to amass and horde, it had at its root a practical purpose. Not all writing days are created equal, and altering the visible signature simplifies the thankless transcribing process months later. General rule: if a colour (day) begins eloquently, it will most likely remain eloquent. If not, skip ahead to the next colour (day) and fill in the blanks later. This simple regimen has remained unbroken for nearly five years, through two and a half novels and countless edits and rewrites. Until now.
Since I received this pen, held it in my hands and first filled it with Iroshizuku Shin Kai, I have used no other. This is not out of necessity - I am not currently travelling (even then I carry between three and seven pens) and I have over a hundred pens and probably a good deal more inks easily to hand. No. I have, quite simply, not wished to use another pen.
Size comparison - MB149, RW15C, Buffalo Horn Torpedo
To add insult to injury, the price is also shockingly resonable. No, you're right - calling a pen that retails for ¥162,000 (~$1,600) good value is a sure sign of insanity, but stay with me. First, because of the lack of embellishments (read: gold), this pen is several magnitudes cheaper than most of Hakase's creations. Then, when we remove immediate family from the contest and look at alternatives based upon price, all are big brand variations on a mass produced theme. And so the question becomes: would you rather pay for a fancy finish (raden on an M1000 for instance), elaborate gratuitous embellishments (MB POA 4810s, themselves 30%+ more expensive), or a unique, handmade product of singular skill and obsession where your fingers can sense the love and attention in every touch?
Before we reach the foregone conclusion, allow me a brief addendum, for I bought a Hakase case with my pen and must include at least a mention in this review. Outsourced to these people, it is constructed of the most beautiful fragrant leather and is crafted as immaculately (and with the same methods, last and all) as hand-made shoes. Although I ordered it as a separate entity, it has been custom-made (without me asking) to fit this pen and this pen only. There is no strip for a clip (visible on the website here), and a little hole has been cut at exactly the height of the roll-stopper. It holds my pen, and my pen only, perfectly and it is impossible to appropriately describe how lovely it feels to have the pyramid slide into place and to see it poking out through its rabbit-hole into the light.
But forgive my brief digression, for now we've returned full-circle back to where we began. This is the single best pen I have ever owned, held or used. It is so good that it has made me believe, maybe just a little bit, in the old myth of The One Pen.
Perhaps now you will understand why.
Edited by mongrelnomad, 17 July 2013 - 06:43.