I bought my Piccolo in February and it was my first foray into Japanese pens in general and urushi-finished pens in particular. Iíd read a lot of reviews of pens made by Nakaya and Danitrio and was intrigued by the overwhelmingly positive comments made by the reviewers. Two aspects particularly interested me: whether they lived up to their reputation on an aesthetic level, and whether they deliver as functional writing tools.
Leaving aside aesthetics for a moment, Iíve come to realise that the issue of whether a pen meets my requirements as a writing tool is more complicated than Iíd ever thought. When I started to pay serious attention to fountain pens, having been a casual user for many years, I started with the idea that I would try a few out and find the ďperfect pen for meĒ. Little did I guess what an interesting journey this would turn into, and how subtle and complicated would be the interaction between the key components of a fountain pen: the nib and feed design; the ink supply; and the materials, aesthetics and ergonomics of the supporting container Ė the section, barrel and cap. Iím sure Iíll set a lot of experienced heads nodding sagely when I say that Iím no nearer finding my perfect pen. Indeed, the whole idea of a Ďperfectí pen now seems slightly absurd. But, at any rate, Iíve had a lot of fun so far, and Iím sure thereís plenty more to come as long as my bank balance holds up!
Coming back to the Nakaya Piccolo (with apologies for the philosophical detour) its attractions were, for me, two-fold: itís probably the cheapest way to try a hand-made urushi pen and I liked the look of its shape and size. Up to that point, my biggest pen had probably been my Pelikan 625, so this seemed like a pen of a similar general size and this proved to be the case. Uncapped, the chunky little Piccolo might be a bit too small for those with large hands, but for me, itís very comfortable to hold. I find it easy to grip and the weight is about right too, neither too light nor noticeably heavy.
Mine is a medium point and find it similar to a western fine. I might enjoy it even more were it a tad broader, so Iíd be tempted to buy a broad next time and have it reground as a stub. Itís totally beyond reproach in terms of ink delivery. It started first time, never skips and writes just on the wet side of neutral. It doesnít matter how fast I write, the Piccolo always keeps up Ė very impressive. The nib is the standard Nakaya medium. Itís pretty firm and produces a very consistent line with no noticeable variation. My example isnít toothy, but it isnít butter smooth either. Actually, I rather like the feedback it provides and find it to be an effective writer, but not one that gives me a lot of pleasure to use. The end result on the page looks just a little boring to my eyes, but when Iím interviewing someone or taking notes at a meeting, this pen is the perfect choice Ė I can write quickly and everything is crisp and clear. The Piccolo has a C/C converter and ink capacity is fairly small. However, because of the fine nib, I find it lasts quite a while and itís simple and convenient to fill.
From an aesthetic perspective, the pen is a runaway hit with me. It might just be a temporary phase but recently Iíve become rather turned off by unnecessary Ďblingí on fountain pens. I don't mean decoration in general, rather the kind of decoration that is just designed to make the pen look expensive or give an impression of wealth and power. It seems to me that pens such as this Nakaya belong to an aesthetic tradition with different values, one more concerned with traditional craftsmanship and a celebration of the natural world. This is apparent in their use of natural materials such as ebonite, the urushi lacquer, the delightful pen kimono and simple wooden box they come in.
Fit and finish on the Piccolo are excellent, but the urushi instantly reminds you that this pen has been made by a person, with care, and with concern for their craft. Thatís something I really like and makes the pen extra special for me. The design is nicely understated and doesnít draw attention to itself. Thereís no unnecessary ornamentation but the overall effect, particularly when closed is very harmonious and well-balanced. My only regret is that I bought mine with a clip, though it does have the practical advantage of helping to prevent it rolling off my desk! The urushi is very well applied and finished, with just a hint of variation that shows it was done by hand. Iíve read lots of comments about how the appearance of these pens changes as they age, but until now Iíd been rather sceptical. I canít really describe how mine had altered, but Iím conscious of a subtle change, a deepening or greater richness to the colour perhaps, that has certainly occurred since I received it. Urushi appears a durable finish. My Piccolo has been in almost daily use and still looks exactly as it did when I first unwrapped it.
Iím not into giving numerical scores, but I hope itís clear that my feelings for this little pen are very positive. The Piccolo may not be my favourite fountain pen, but it definitely has a long-term place in my pen case and it wonít be my last urushi pen. Iím a nature photographer and I like things that remind me of the natural world - and that's partly the reason why I like the Piccolo so much and wanted to review it. The pen's craft-based aesthetic and use of natural materials is part of its appeal for me, but so (weirdly) is its shape. This will probably sound really left field but uncapped, the Piccolo reminds me of one of my favourite insects Ė the broad-bodied chaser dragonfly. I've attached a picture - take a look and see if you agree with me!
Edited by Painterspal, 03 June 2009 - 19:42.