Custom Series are the central pillar of Pilot fountain pen products and
various pens have been developed as the Series. I think Custom
Maple(Kaede)*1 figures prominently among others though it seems
plain and undemonstrative at the first glance. Firstly it is made of wood.
The wood is Itaya Kaede*2 from Hokkaido that is the northernmost
island among 4 main islands in Japan and where the diggings of
iridosmine existed. They get a hole in scantling cut from natural wood
and infuse fluid resin into the scantling through the hole by a hypodermic
syringe. After that they process it to cap and barrel. We can expect no crack
of time arises in the wood but can enjoy the aging of the wood by this original
processing *3, that is, reinforcing the wood from inside and painting no
lacquer on the surface of the wood as it is. Of course the grains vary from one pen
to another, but the grains of the cap and barrel corresponds each other because
they are processed from one same scantling. Secondly the nib is characteristic
old flexible type. I do not know the reason, but only this Custom Maple has the
same nib and feeder as those of legendary Limited Edition Pilot65 launched
in 1983 to commemorate the 65th Anniversary of its foundation(1918).
I have found that Pilot continues producing this characteristic nib over 25years
slightly without suspending.
*1 The brand name of this pen is Custom Kaede in Japan. Kaede is Japanese,
means maple in English, and is pronounced as "ka", "e", "de" literally .
*2 Itaya Kaede(painted maple, nomenclature: Acer mono, Acer pictum ) It belongs
to Aceraceae (the Maple family). It is a tall deciduous tree with yellow fall
foliage that is distributed widely in Japan, the Korean Peninsula, and China.
This tree grows in mountainous areas and can reach 1 m in diameter, 20 m in height,
the tallest among the Maple family. Annual ring of the tree is obscure and there is no
clear distinction about materials between the periphery and the center. The materials
is heavy, firm and sticky. Owing to the toughness, it is not so easy to process it. It is
difficult to dry it and the insufficiency of the drying causes the error of processing. The
grains are beautiful and it is prized as materials of furniture, musical instrument or
other handiwork. The sap tastes slightly sweet and it can be boiled down into a sweet
syrup like sugar maple in Canada.
*３ the course of the processing they cut natural Itaya Kaede into scantling, get a
small hole in the scantling, make fluid resin permeate the wood, cut the scantling into
round stick, separate the stick into barrel and cap, shave them by numerically controlled
lathe, make a hole in them, finishing by sandpaper, rough finishing using buff by machine,
final finishing using buff by hand.
A fountain pen will grow a favorite item that cannot be replaced by using regularly for a long
time. Natural wood is of the same kind. Wood will polish beautifully with deep color by using
for a long time and we will not be able to part with the mature wood. Now you cannot help
knowing the brilliant combination of fountain pen and wood. Besides Custom Maple has special
nib that fountain pen lovers admire. Furthermore I think that the price of it is very reasonable.
I do not know the reason, but Pilot does not have made vigorous propaganda of the above features,
only has made conventional remarks in its catalogue. In fact my company of fountain pen lovers
who owned the Maples told me that I should not miss this Maple whispering these information.
So I wanted to get the Maple eagerly as opportunity permited. The chance came relatively soon.
I happened to find the Maple offered for sale at 30% discount on the list price at a stationary shop
near my office where I went to buy a note. The grains of the Maple and the taste of writing was
not so bad, so I bought it without hesitation.
The Maple is inconspicuous even in Japan, much more outside Japan, perhaps little people
there know the Maple. So I would like to introduce this nice pen to you all.
1 First Impressions (9/10) The box is compact and made of paulownia wood, light and looks
decent. It seems that there is no extra cost in making the box, I had a favorable impression to that.
When I opened the box, there were the Maple, general instructions used for Pilot fountain pens.
I appreciated that Pilot Con-70 converter was attached. And then I was given a fountain pen
maintenance set* from the shop as a special supplement to the pen. It seems that Pilot has recently
delivered the sets to shops as free gifts to buyers of fountain pens worth certain price or more.
* fountain pen maintenance set An article not for sale. There are a filler specially made for
cleaning of Pilot fountain pens, a sheet of bleached cloth, 3 spare cartridges of ink(blue, black
and blue black) and instructions. I have tried the filler in practice and found that it is fairly effective.
2 Appearance & Design (10/10) - The shape of the pen is so-called balance type that resembles
the shape of Pilot65. The barrel and the cap is made of Itaya Kaede(painted maple) as stated above.
It is very hard and the feel of the material is satisfactory. The surface of the body is smooth owing to
the finishing using buff by hand and has no coating. So we can enjoy the feel of wood. The both ends
of the pen are also wood and the curved surface is processed beautifully. The color of the body was
light brown, but has grown to be rather dark brown and shiny before long. The nib is monotone gold
and golden parts are used as the clip and ring. The grip section is black resin. It is rational that the
grip section is made of resin because it is liable to be stained with ink. I think that the combination
of gold, brown and black is quiet and pretty well. "CUSTOM ART CRAFT JAPAN" is carved on the
cap end ring. The clip is a simple ball type and "PILOT" is carved on it. This pen has nothing novel,
but I think I will not be bored with the pen after I use it for a long time as a writing instrument.
upper: Maple lower: Pilot65
3 Weight & Dimensions (10/10) The length of this pen is almost the same as that of Montblanc
146 or Pilot65 measuring 143mm long capped, 127mm uncapped and 159mm posted(when capped it
is longer than Custom74 and shorter than Custom742, when posted the longest among these pens) .
The maximum diameter of the barrel is 15mm. It weighs about 21g(22g with ink full of Con-70). Pilot
stated that they considered the thickness, balance and weight of Pilot65 through and through, and the
weight, dimensions and shape of this Maple is almost the same as those of Pilot65. So I feel that it fits
my hands almost perfectly as I stated in the review of Pilot65
4 Nib & Performance (10/10) This pen comes with a 14k monotone gold M nib (F, M and B are
available.). The size of the nib is No.10 of Pilot that is attached to Custom 742, Bamboo, Pilot70 and
so on. This nib is the same as the nib of Pilot65 above mentioned and the most impressive thing is
that the nib is bended under (of course, the feeder is designed exclusively for this nib) and pretty flexible.
The taste of it is quite different from ordinary Pilot nib. Very smooth, like skating on ice and I have a
feeling that the nib sticks to the paper. The line it puts down is only a bit finer than that of my Waterman
Leman100M and Parker Duofold True Blue M. I use this pen to make a note on business occasionally
using Pilot Black ink. I always appreciate the goodness of this pen afresh when I use it.
left: Pilot65 right: Maple
5 Filling System (9/10) It comes with Pilot Con-70 converter that is Push Button type and hold
most ink(about 1.1ml) among Pilot converters (other Con-20, Con-50). It is very easy to fill it up with
ink. Of course, Pilot cartridge can be used.
6 Cost & Value (9/10) - The list price was 20,000 yen(+1,000yen consumption tax) in Japan, about
$215 at current rate. I fortunately bought this pen at 70 % of the list price. At that time there was
no other choices and I could not choose the best one among many pens without haste. But the consequent
was not bad. I am fully satisfied with the pen that I got. The Maple is current goods and not novelty,
so we can get the Maple at any stationary shops in Japan (in case of no stock, of course we can order.)
You may get the Maple at an auction at a discount. But the grains of the Maple differ respectively, so
I think that you had better choose your most favorite Maple at the counter in a real shop. At that time
you will usually have to pay the list price. I think the Maple is worth the list price.
7 Conclusion (Final score: 9.5)- This pen does not belong to the category of high end pens, but
it is made elaborately not only by machine but also by hands. It has real capacity though it seems plain
and undemonstrative and it impresses its owner as satisfaction. This pen makes me feel the pride of Pilot
as a fountain pen maker. Anyway, the price is very conscientious. Sailor has started to sell fountain pen
made of Japan cedar at the same price.This is also attractive, but the size of the Sailor is smaller than the
Maple. I would prefer the Maple in the first place.
I am tempted to hold this pen and rub the body gently though there is no use in doing so. It is ordinary
current goods and I have heard no rumor that it will be discontinued. So it is not necessary to get the Maple
in a hurry, but I strongly advise you to add this pen to your wish list. I would like you to become like-minded
persons who rub this pen gently some day.
Edited by rokurinpapa, 12 June 2010 - 02:58.