Note: Large Photos Ahead!
Throughout 2006, I admired several Urushi fountain pens, and became particularly interested in the Tamenuri finish. I put a Nakaya Cigar on my wish list, and planned to buy my first modern urushi pen next year. Then PenGallery had a sale and I decided what the heck. :-)
From the Nakaya Urushi range, I chose the Kuro-Tamenuri Cigar in the Piccolo size. Kuro-Tamenuri is a traditional finish which involves the layering of black urushi over scarlet-red urushi to achieve a lustrous Blackish-Red lacquer finish.
Three days after placing my order, my Cigar Piccolo arrived on my doorstep. I removed the Paulownia wood presentation box from its pretty golden outer sleeve and marveled at how light the wooden box was. (It weighs a mere 140g.) Opening the box I found a lovely fabric pouch, a Platinum converter unit and a small packet of Platinum Blue-Black ink cartridges.
I couldn't actually bring myself to touch the pen with my bare fingers, so I slipped the pen out of its pouch and into a cloth in my hand. It was late afternoon, and my office was full of warm summer light which made that spectacular lacquer finish just glow. I was astounded. My heart raced and my mind did too - the lacquer was so shiny! So reflective! The colour so rich and incredible! The size was perfect! The shape was sublime! It was a total visual overload.
Appearance and Finish
I chose the clipless Nakaya Cigar because I wanted a pen with clean, soft, uninterrupted lines which would display the Tamenuri finish in all its glory. I have a lot of pens, but none have captured me quite like this. The urushi lacquer must be seen to be believed - if you think it looks good on the screen, I can assure you that you would find the physical specimen completely stunning.
The Cigar is offered in three exquisite urushi finishes: Black "Roiro", Blackish-Red "Kuro-Tamenuri", Reddish-Red "Aka-Tamenuri". I immediately loved the Kuro-Tamenuri finish, but after I ordered my pen I wondered if the Blackish-Red colour would be too subtle, however I need not have worried - there is no way this pen could be mistaken for plain black. Rather, it's a beautiful dark burgundy hue with rich, warm brown undertones. The section ends, barrel ends and cap ends glow with brighter red highlights as the lacquer is thinner there.
The fit of this pen is flawless. The nib section mates perfectly to the barrel via a threaded brass fitting and the same can be said about the fit of the converter. Everything sits as it should - perfectly aligned, snug and flush-fitted.
The surface is wonderfully warm and incredibly smooth to the touch - so much so, that while I'm holding the pen during a pause in my writing, I have found myself repeatedly stroking my thumb along the barrel - it just feels so perfect! The urushi is utterly luscious and liquid-like in its beauty.
Design and Size
I find the stout shape with gently-conical ends very pleasing to my eyes, as I am not so much a fan of rounded-end pens. The very similar lengths of the cap and the barrel give the Piccolo a wonderful visual balance.
The cap unscrews in one full turn, and I often sit it in front of me, or hold it in my hand while writing. I am not inclined to post the cap for fear of marring the finish. Being clipless, I make sure I've placed the cap somewhere safe where it can't roll away from me.
Although the Piccolo is the smallest urushi pen from Nakaya, this is no mini. At just on 5" (12.8cm) long when capped, and a total of (11.6cm) when uncapped, this pen is size that would be comfortable for many hands. The width of the barrel is considerable, making the pen a very nice handful. When writing, the Piccolo feels very well balanced. The pen is quite light for its size, and surprisingly, the pen in my collection which is most like the Piccolo in regard to dimensions is the Esterbrook J! Their capped lengths and barrel lengths are near-identical, with the Piccolo having a larger barrel girth.
Above: Sheaffer Snorkel Autograph, Sailor 1911M, Cigar Piccolo, Esterbrook J, Pelikan M200, Aurora Mini Optima.
Nib Design and Performance
Nakaya pens have a single-tone yellow gold 14K nib with minimal adornment as the standard. The two-tone, prettily engraved 14K nib is an extra cost. The nib on my Piccolo is big and beautiful, and the broad, flared shape is a gorgeous sight to behold, especially as it ends in an EF (Extra Fine) point.
My Nakaya 14K EF nib is SUPERB and I cannot fault it in any way. The line width is marginally smaller than that of my Sailor 14K EF, and the Sailor nib is slightly smoother - because it is wetter. I don't mind feedback from my nibs at all - and in fact I prefer it. The ink flow is perfectly suited to the line width, rating about 3.5-4 on a scale of 1-10, with 10 being a garden hose. The feed is a regular comb-feed which appears to be made of plastic.
My benchmark Extra Fine nib is a Sheaffer Triumph 'A4' (XXF) in 14K, a nib which will always be in a league of its own in terms of the design and sheer smoothness. For regular EF nibs straight out of the box which have impressed me, my top nib list looks like this:
- Nakaya 14K EF
- Sailor 14K EF
- Aurora 18K EF
I plan to buy a second Piccolo next year and have it fitted with a Nakaya Super Extra Fine nib.
The Piccolo arrived with a Platinum converter and a small box of Platinum cartridges. I enjoy piston-fillers, and own several from Pelikan and Omas, but I have no problem with converters. The capacity of the Platinum converter is quite decent, similar to a Sheaffer cartridge I would think.
The barrel size could certainly accommodate an eyedropper; but I would likely not have bought this pen in an eyedropper configuration. While I can appreciate the ink capacity, I have dozens of bottles of ink which I love to use, so I change inks quite often.
Cost / Value
I would buy the Piccolo again in a heartbeat.
The RRP of the Nakaya Cigar is in excess of US$400, which for me, places it firmly in the luxury pen realm, and makes it one of the most expensive pens that I own.
I purchased my Cigar Piccolo from PenGallery online, and the pen arrived on my doorstep in three business days from Malaysia. My transaction was flawless and Lai was excellent to deal with.
The Piccolo is not only a remarkable writer, but a remarkable object which I feel honored to own.
As previously stated, I would buy this pen again and do so with a huge smile. I adore it. While expensive, I feel it is worth every cent, as no other pen that I own has pleased me so thoroughly on so many levels. As the last important pen on my wish list, I feel this pen to be a "prize" if you will, at the end of my fountain pen journey. I've accumulated some eighty or so pens in the last couple of years, and I half-wonder that if I had of bought the Piccolo in the beginning, would I have bought many more pens at all?
The Piccolo is a true item of perfection - a superior blend of craftsmanship, design and function within a visually breathtaking form.
(All Images Protected By Copyright)
I hope you have enjoyed this review!
Edited by Phthalo, 21 July 2008 - 11:38.