My final choice had been between the celluloid and the briar wood models (both the same price: $295) and between the Medium and Fine nibs.
Happily, the opportunity to compare the two arose very quickly - as soon as my wife discovered the beauty of the tortoiseshell celluloid pen and was delighted (and was not at all suspicious) when I grandly gave it to her ... "No matter, my dear, by all means use it if it pleases you so; I am sure that I can find another, ahem..." Permission granted.
My first Nakaya purchase had been from Classic Fountain Pens in the USA, directly from their pre-purchased Nakaya stock list, signed and delivered to my impatient hands within a week. This second "comparison" purchase was directly from Nakaya Pens in Japan. This was indeed a Japanese experience: delightfully polite and restrained, careful checking of detail, clear explanation that there would be a wait of several weeks while the next batch of briarwood was fully cured. I felt that I was being treated with great respect and regard, even though I was buying the cheapest pen on the list.
The website is quite easy to use, including a questionnaire to help "set up" the pen. I requested a Fine monotone nib, hoping that it wouldn't be too fine: Asian pens, and Nakaya in particlular, being the "finest of the fine". I decided to personalize this pen, first considering the addition of my name on the section and then, in a flash of inspiration, choosing a kanji script theme to highlight the Japanese crafting. The email exchanges with Chikako Yokoyama on this point were also delightful and attentive. I chose a theme for the script (in English - alas, my only fluent language) and went through two options in kanji script, being offered stylized samples via email to make my final choice. The engraving added a paltry $9 to the cost - a bargain considering the thought and work that went into selecting it.
Then the wait. 2 months in total. Then an email that the pen had been dispatched (several days earlier than the planned date) and (excitement building) arrival a few days later.
The now-familiar embossed presentation cardboard box revealed a light paulownia box containing the pen itself in a little kimono cloth bag along with black ink cartridges, a standard converter and an adaptor for "European" standard cartridges.
The pen was everything that I could have wished for. Deep brown color, with the grain glowing through a matt finish. Gold trim and clip contrasting nicely with the black section where the kanji script was engraved at the feeder side of the section (so that you see it if you turn the pen around to view the underside of the nib).
It is a solid pen, weighing 28 g fully loaded. Length capped 5 13/16" (14.8 cm), uncapped 5" (12.4 cm). Quite long when posted: 6 3/8" (16.2 cm) and holding the posted cap well - my preferred position. Posting the cap certainly felt balanced and it is solid enough when held uncapped. There is a tinge of concern about the risk of marking the barrel with the cap when it is posted, an anxiety that I felt with the celluloid model as well but no noticeable marks so far.
It is a precision engineered pen with excellent fittings. The wooden barrel (diameter 9/16" - 1.4 cm) feels warm and smooth. The tapered section provided a comfortable grip, perhaps a little on the slim side (diameter 3/8", 1.0 cm).
The cartridge / converter fitting seems to be unique to Nakaya pens and those of the parent company, Platinum pens.
The nib is an 'entry level" gold monotone "Nakata" nib and it is superb - a slight amount of flex. It writes with perfectly balanced wetness, with a hint of useful feedback on top of a flawlessly smooth consistent line. To my relief, it was not "too fine". By comparison, my Lamy 2000 XF nib (a cheaper pen) is equivalent in width but is not so smooth and tends to produce a mild variation in width. My brief experience with modern pens is that Asian pens are the exemplars of fine smooth nibs.
How does it compare with the Celluloid model?
The briar pen is longer and heavier, feeling solid where the celluloid is light and sweet. The cap clicks on with a firm "snap" whereas the celluloid cap screws on to the (slightly wider - 1.2 cm) section of the pen. As an aside, the threads on the celluloid section are the smoothest, finest and lowest-profile of any of the several pens that I have tried: you can barely feel them on the grip.
There could be an extra "standard pen measurement" of interest to those of us who carry pens in a shirt pocket: the distance from the underside of the clip down to the tip of the barrel - the distance sitting in the pocket. Some pens sit higher in the pocket than others. In this case, the briar pen (clip-tip distance 13.4 cm) sits a bit high in some pockets compared to 12.5 cm of the celluloid pen.
I include a comparison with the Lamy 2000: a pen that feels 'slight" compared to the briar pen.
The briar pen's dark brown and black grain feels warm, solid and dark compared to the celluloid pen which my wife was attracted to as being light and "airy" although I was smitten with it as well. The final comparison will hopefully never be made: briar wood is very fire-resistant (used also for tobacco pipes) whereas the celluloid pen is potentially very flammable and more prone to heat distortion.
Overall, this was another wonderful pen. Either of these pens would be an excellent choice for someone looking for an "individual" crafted pen with real class. I could not bear to part with either of them and I highly recommend them both.
Edited by darkgreen, 16 July 2009 - 11:58.