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Danitrio: "Stars" by artist Shunpei


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#1 DRP

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Posted 07 June 2009 - 03:11

Danitrio: "Stars" by artist Shunpei

It's been over two years since I first saw photos of a pen I wanted. It is now in my hands.

What separates this pen from all the others? And, why take so long to buy it? There's a story.

For those of you who are more interested in the pen review, I'll offer that first then the story behind it.

First impressions: Positive in every respect.

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There is a cardboard outer box with Danitrio stamped in gold on the top. Open the outer box and there is a polymer foam envelope (no doubt made of "precious resin" for you Mont Blanc fans). Removing the foam envelope reveals a beautiful lacquer finished wooden box, again with Danitrio stamped in gold on the top. I understand that the lacquer used is urushi though cannot confirm that. The gloss is most impressive and that suggests that urushi was used.

I'm not ordinarily one to be impressed with a box. My usual perspective is that the function of a box is to protect the contents from damage.

This is different. Because I can't -- or won't use this pen when I go to the grocery store, it needs a suitable place for storage. A place which protects it from sunlight.

Then you see the pen .....

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Appearance & Design: Also positive in every respect

This is obviously subjective judgment -- subjective in every respect. If I didn't like the design, I wouldn't have put money away for two years. Obviously, I like the design or I wouldn't have bought the pen.

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It's been said before that the beauty of these pens are not revealed in photos. There's a reason. In order for the lighting to be relatively even, contrasts and colors are sometimes less evident so as to avoid getting glare in the photos. Because these pens are very shiny, glare is a problem.

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Under most lighting conditions, "stars" burst forth. My initial impression was that the stars were incredibly bright; that they leapt from the pen's surface.

Adding to the impact of this effect is that silver dust was used over the entire surface of the cap & barrel. This makes the pen appear more gray in the photo whereas in your hands, the brightness of the surface is accentuated.

This pen is a beautiful instrument. In that sense, it is a work of art and must be treated as such.

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At the same time, it is a fabulous fountain pen. You can't just leave it in the box. Great pens call out for a deep drink of ink and the opportunity to dance across a piece of paper.

This is the most expensive pen I've ever owned. Possibly the most expensive I've thus far laid hands on, though I admit I don't go around fondling people's fountain pens very often.

Merely because the pen is so valuable, it won't be treated like most of my pens. My other pens go where I go. This is just not the kind of pen you take to the hardware store. I won't have the Danitrio with me except at home.

I'll have to find a balance somewhere for a gorgeous piece of art with the soul of a workhorse. That's what my Danitrio pen really is: art, but not art for art's sake. This pen delights in getting down to the business of putting ideas on paper.

That's the challenge. The Danitrio is like one of those huge work horses you see in county fairs and livestock shows - Percherons and Clydesdales - the horses that built railroads. They are impressive when merely standing there, but their real beauty is revealed when a heavy wagon is behind them and the horses begin pulling.

That's what I've already found with the Danitrio. The real joy is putting pen to paper.

Nib: Love it! Also, love the range of nib options.

On most paper it leaves a reasonably wet, solid line. On glossy paper, it may skip a bit but no worse than any other nib on the same paper
stock.

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The nib I selected was a flexy fine. I acquired the pen from Kevin at Internet Pens (Winedoc on FPN) who recommended this nib based upon what I expressed as my preferences. The recommendation was a good one. The flexy fine offers incredible smoothness but also enough line variation to make the written word more interesting. In the sample below, I've illustrated what the nib can do with a bit of pressure, though not much. I haven't really put the nib through its paces.

Danitrio offers a remarkably wide range of nibs (all made in Germany by Bock, if I understand correctly). Some are "flexy" or semi-flex, some are stiff. There is a full range of widths from extra fine to stub. Beyond that, don't ask me about options. Winedoc keeps everything they offer in stock so he can answer the question better than I.

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Filling System: Strong positive, in my opinion, anyway.

Filling system is a converter and I presume some manner of cartridges. Looking at the pen, I suspect that it could easily be converted to an eyedropper filler though I say this with two caveats:

1) Don't take my word for it, and
2) Don't ask me how it should be done.

There is one incontrovertible truth about converters: they are easy to clean. This is a high priority to someone like myself who changes ink colors almost as often as some people change underwear. To me, ability to clean the pen and converter is a high priority. Thus, I am one of the converted to converters.

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To others, ability to clean the pen easily may not be so consequential as high ink capacity. If you are among the ranks of believers who say that a fountain pen should carry at least a four gallon supply, I suggest you find out if your pen can be filled by eyedropper.

My priorities are met. You're on your own.

Weight & Size: Good, but be aware of what you're getting into.

This pen is approximately the same length as most other pens on the market. Compared to a Sheaffer Balance II or a Bexley Grande Submariner, the length is the same, plus or minus a fraction of an inch.

Width, however, is appreciably greater than many other pens (shown below: Bexley FPN Limited Edition, Bexley/Parkville Pen Grande Submariner, Danitrio "Stars," Sheaffer Balance II).

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As a matter of personal preference, the Bexley Grande Submariner is about as wide as I usually like, and I actually prefer a pen more like a Sheaffer Targa for situations where a lot of writing is involved, such as going to meetings and taking notes.

As I noted before, I won't be taking the Danitrio to meetings. This is more for personal correspondence, addressing cards, and the like.

Weight is not quite as great as I would have expected when first looking at the pen; only slightly greater than the Bexley Grande Submariner. Even fully inked, the weight is reasonable.

The pen is also nicely balanced when not posted. The manufacturer explicitly recommends against posting the cap because the cap can leave a wear ring after a time. Repairing the finish if there is a wear ring can be time consuming and possibly costly. Wear rings are not covered by the pen's warranty.

This represents another reason to use the pen at home. When I take the Targa to the hardware store, I just post the cap so it doesn't get dropped or worse, lost. That's a challenge with the Danitrio where the cap would have to be carefully protected.

When I go to a store -- any store -- there is loads of stuff in my pockets ranging from coins to keys to whatever else I have at that moment. An elegant cap such as what's on the Danitrio might not do well in an environment with keys and coins. Additionally, I drop things thus explaining the numerous nicks and slight dents on my trusty Targa. This is another reason to leave the Danitrio at home in a safe place. It's where the convergence of art and utility must intersect at a place somewhat different than for most other pens I own.

Performance: Superlative -- but buy one with your eyes wide open.

This is a great pen. It writes magnificently. It is a piece of art you can hold and use.

Just be aware that the materials used make the pen less than completely practical for taking to work if you happen to work in a lumberyard or some place like that.

This pen has an urushi finish. Urushi is a natural lacquer element which makes a highly durable, waterproof finish which is wonderfully glossy and draws out colors of elements beneath. In essence, it is a nearly ideal finish for a fountain pen.

Urushi has an interesting story worth hearing. Urushi is the sap from the Japanese Sumac, a large tree found in much of Asia but in particular, Japan. Sap from the tree is "tapped" much like maple sap comes from the maple tree to later create maple syrup. There are significant differences between maple and urushi, however. Poison ivy is also a member of the sumac family and like all sumacs, raw sap causes allergic reactions in people. Thus, pouring urushi over pancakes is thus not encouraged as it is for the sap of the sugar maple.

j0414035.jpg This is to remind you that urushi syrup should not be substituted for maple syrup. Results may not be as pleasant as one might think.

Rather, what is recommended is to "cure" the urushi in such a way that it becomes varnish. Once cured, the irritants dissipate and it is safe to use. Touching urushi sap before or while it is being cured can cause a severe rash. Even breathing vapors from the uncured urushi can have unpleasant results. Do not try this at home.

A disadvantage of urushi is sensitivity to bright light which will, after a time, begin to discolor the lacquer finish. A message in the box suggests that you can use a pen with an urushi finish all you want but it's a good idea to put it away when you're not.

That's a word of warning to be considered. These pens are not entirely suitable to sit in a glass display case which sits in a sunny corner.

If you can keep the pen in a drawer that is usually kept closed then the pen is okay. This isn't the Declaration of Independence which is kept in a container that can survive anything short of a direct nuclear blast. A Danitrio pen is a well-made, tough tool. With reasonable care, it should last longer than about anybody who is reading this today.

Just remember the words, "reasonable care."

Quality of art: Fantastic

Okay, now it's time to throw reason to the wind and get very subjective again. It's also time to tell the tale of buying a really nice pen when I couldn't afford one.

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Winedoc posted photos of five prototype pens in January of 2007 (this is the link:http://www.fountainpennetwork.com/forum/index.php?showtopic=23436&hl ). All were being considered for production though at the time, no decision had been made.

One pen particularly caught my eye -- Stars. Here was a unique pen even among unique pens. As Kevin put it, "modern and abstract in design, yet executed in the traditional way."

It's a style that I like. A study in contrasts. Colors which are rich and vibrant yet placed in a most subtle manner. A distinctly fresh approach to design but done so as to respect the tradition developed over a millennium. The pen matches no definitive design character yet draws boldly -- but lightly -- from them all.

I had to have this pen.

I saved the photos which appeared in Kevin's original post to my computer, thinking only that it would be nice to gaze on this extraordinary instrument occasionally. As time went on, I decided that I wanted the real pen and not just pix.

About ten months later I finally gathered the courage to write Kevin directly. I wanted to buy the pen but I certainly didn't have the money to do it. Kevin had offered a lay-away plan so I inquired of two things: whether the pen was still available, and just how long would he hold a pen in lay-away? I don't know if the pen I wanted was the longest lay-away he had ever handled but it had to be right up there. Fortunately, Kevin is blessed with the gift of patience combined with genuine enthusiasm for helping others who want to share his passion.

Kevin responded that yes, the pen had not been sold to anybody else and yes, he would hold it for what seemed to me, at least, to be an eternity. The only caveat: once he gets the pen, there is no backing out. If he's in, you have to be in, as well.

Done deal. He put the pen away and I began sending my paltry checks on a monthly basis, more or less. Then, wait.

That phase has ended. It's now mine. All mine.

I get to enjoy it.

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The artist was someone who signs his pens "Shunpei." Several of his pens have showed up on FPN. In addition to those previously mentioned, there was a pen which markedly resembled a leopard (FPN link: http://www.fountainp...n...ic=69828 )

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What I find consistent about Shunpei's work is the attention to detail. In the leopard pen, for example, Shunpei has accurately depicted the difference between the leopard's back and the underbelly. Yet, Shunpei has used a twist of irony -- actually a humorous irony to underscore the difference between a large feline and a fountain pen. Aside from the careful attention to accuracy of the big cat, there is absolutely no other effort to disguise the fact that a fountain pen is a fountain pen and nothing else.

This is a tasty, delicious irony that added to my enjoyment of reading about the pen. It also reflects Shunpei's work. Subtlety with a decidedly humorous bend to it.

On my pen, Kevin offered these insights into how the pen was decorated: "As with most maki-e, they are actually more complex than meets the eye. After the base urushi is done multiple layers, silver powders are used. This is also mixed with tiny chips of abalone shells (which give the prismatic color effect you can see in some of the photos). The stars are indeed done using either the silver foil (cap) and gold foils (barrel) cut into relatively the same size by hand. This is very labor intensive of coruse. The gold foils would be more "yellower" if it is against a darker urushi background, but since it is surrounded with silver powders, the gold is not as "yellow". You will see artist using this "trick" to make the gold either more yellow or less yellow. The whole pen is then burnished to make sure the silver and gold foil does not flake off from routine using.

Conclusion: Bet you never thought this was going to ever occur.

With this I close what has to be one of the longest pen reviews in the history of the Fountain Pen Network. If you have read all of it, you probably deserve some sort of award.

Buying a pen of this nature is a decidedly personal decision. You have to like what you see to justify paying this kind of money for something to write with. The looks of the pen have to make a statement -- to you, at least. The idea of paying this kind of money must have a justification which transcends mere utility, though Danitrio delivers a product which is impressive by any objective standard of measure.

Manufacturing, materials, and artistic craftsmanship reach their apogee here. Quality of the writing instrument is unquestionable.

You have to make the decision that you're going to buy a work of art and then commit yourself to taking proper care of it.

I did and I'm satisfied.

Of course, now I'll have to find another grail pen. Probably won't take long.


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#2 PaulK

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Posted 07 June 2009 - 03:30

Truly a work of art! Use it in the best of health (I would have added "and spirit"; however, from your review, your "spirt" is obviously soaring!). Congratulations on your purchase.

Paul

A dreamer is one who can only find his way by moonlight, and his punishment is that he sees the dawn before the rest of the world.

~ Oscar Wilde, 1888

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#3 jpr

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Posted 07 June 2009 - 03:38

Congratulations! Wonderful looking pen. thumbup.gif

Edited by jpr, 07 June 2009 - 03:39.

Ah, that fresh ink on paper look!

#4 kaisede

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Posted 07 June 2009 - 03:53

Beautiful pen and nice review.

Andy

#5 jlepens

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Posted 07 June 2009 - 04:22

That is a great review! Kevin is so nice to provide the layaway allowing us to buy pens of such beauty.
Congrats on a cool pen and a great story.
Joi - The Way of the Japanese Pen
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#6 Chris Chalmers

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Posted 07 June 2009 - 04:26

Congratulations on your wonderful new Grail Pen!!! What a pen - what a review - and yes, I read every word - followed every link.........and do indeed deserve a reward - but may have it already - the joy of reading your review - a wok of art in its own right!!!
As the owner of two of DaniTrios prototypes - "Heavenly Bodies" and Saido-Nuri - I can understand your pure delight - and that fine flexy nib will continue to make you go weak at the knees.........I have that nib in my Snake and also Butterfiles.
Enough of me - you will not regret a moment on your two year wait - kudos to Kevin!

Edited by Chris Chalmers, 07 June 2009 - 04:27.

Each day is the start of the rest of your life!
Make it count!!!

#7 Brian

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Posted 07 June 2009 - 18:25

Congratulations on your beautiful pen. I like the analogy to the draft horse because it works pretty well.



#8 FrankB

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Posted 07 June 2009 - 21:59

Thank you for a well done review. I think you did an excellent job of conveying both your enthusiasm and your good taste.

I have also taken advantage of Kevin's lay away option. As long as a buyer is serious about his purchase, Kevin will go to admirable lengths to make the purchase happen. I laud him for his customer service and patience.

I hope you enjoy your pen for many years. thumbup.gif bunny01.gif

#9 DRP

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Posted 10 June 2009 - 01:30

Thanks to all who have added comments & compliments. They are most appreciated.

#10 archie001

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Posted 10 June 2009 - 18:00

Very nice review of an excellent pen... nice images! Thanks!!
Fountain Pen is for people who have a delicate taste in writing

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#11 PatientType

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Posted 11 June 2009 - 04:17

That is a truly magnificent pen. A functional work of art ... something you'll treasure all your life. From that perspective, you made an excellent and practical investment. Dollar for dollar, you'll probably enjoy that more than you will most other purchases you've made.

Congratulations!

#12 alvarez57

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Posted 20 June 2009 - 03:08

Bump!

Very nice and amusing review. The pen is stunning in the detail of its work. I have your same nib and I truly like their nibs but beware of the temptation of pressing too hard as if it were and old flex pen!!!!!!!!!!!!! That's how I got mine into trouble.

sonia alvarez

 

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#13 kiavonne

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Posted 22 June 2009 - 17:51

DRP, that was a very nicely written review and well worth the read for me as well as the wait for yourself, I'm sure. Your review was easy to follow and shared your feelings quite well. I also follow all links on Danitrio pens, as I've fallen deeply into them myself. I had admired from afar, as you had, until the "Akikazu no Tsuki" showed up at just the right time, and this was my first, absolutely must have Danitrio. Now, I'm in the wait game, as two custom octagons are being completed for me. Kevin has been very generous with his lay away plan, and anyone who really will commit to the puchase won't be disappointed at all.

Your next grail pen may be a ways down the road, but I'm with you in that enjoying this one will take your mind off any others for a while, as you savor and enjoy the prize already in hand. The real work horse analogy really was very apt. Beautiful pen with eye-popping finish, and great memories are bound to be set to paper while using it. Congratulations on acquiring your grail, in the epic sense.
Scribere est agere.
To write is to act.
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#14 DRP

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Posted 28 June 2009 - 07:41

Kiavonne, I took a look at your "Akikazu no Tsuki" which is a glorious instrument! Now, you are in the "wait game" to have a couple of pens made for yourself.

These are indeed fine pens and well worth waiting for.

Thanks, again to Winedoc who will hold them on a layaway plan -- on favorable terms to the customer!

David

#15 feiye

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Posted 28 June 2009 - 08:38

I've read this review so many times, I really enjoyed it - it's so heartfelt and meaningful as it was such a journey to even get the pen in your hand. I hope you continue to enjoy the pen for a long time yet!
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#16 Merrib

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Posted 28 June 2009 - 17:02

I imagine that your spirit soared when your "Holy Grail" FP finally became yours and you held
it for the first time. May that feeling never go away but stay with you each and every time that
you pick up the pen.

#17 DRP

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Posted 28 June 2009 - 22:56

Thanks for the kind comments about the review and the pen.

Yes, it's a source of pleasure each time I open the box and pick it up. There's a special excitement associated with taking it out of the box and discovering some subtle nuance that I had not observed previously.

Fortunately, Shunpei's exquisite design is undergirded by the fact that it's also a really good pen. Part of the challenge -- also joy -- is selecting the nib which possesses writing characteristics that I want. Danitrio offers a wide selection of nibs and that benefits the process of buying a pen which meets expectations regardless of how high the expectations are.

Again, thanks to all for your kind remarks.






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