I bought this pen from Kevin (Winedoc) using his compassionate lay-away plan for approximately $800, the most I've ever spent on a pen. (Just writing that sentence re-awakens the trauma of having spent so much, but I can also say that the balm of ownership is unassailable therapy.) Kevin explained in his sales post that the particular urushi technique used on this pen was also traditionally used on samurai helmets. A young man in his 20s is the artist. Anyway, I surprised myself when pulling the trigger to bring this stone-finish lacquer pen into the fold—as I normally like gleaming, shining pens—but this pen had several wonderful draws which I'll try to make real for you.
First Impressions (4/5)
A light-weight, comfortable, and subtly beautiful pen. I can't imagine an improvement. Seriously.
That said, let's back up and talk about packaging.
First, the pen's outer box is a simple, sturdy black cardboard.
Within this is a simple, beautiful, very nicely made wooden box with brass hinges and blue velvet lining. A magnet holds the lid in place.
I'm so glad that Danitrio did not put up something garish or wildly expensive. This box would be attractive on anyone's desk and doesn't overwhelm its contents. Still, I have a bit of a problem with any packaging extravagances. I only care about the pen, not the box it comes in. The Dani packaging in this case was perfect, but I think that for environmental reasons we should avoid all that is not essential for safe shipping. Doing so should also lower prices for pens, it seems to me. So 4/5.
Appearance and Design (5/5)
In addition to its pleasing dimensions (described below), the Tetsu Sabi-Nuri lacquering technique leaves a texture like stone, so it stays fixed in the hand and does not rotate; the nib remains correctly positioned in relation to the paper. The texture also means the pen always looks clean and neat. You would have to dip your hand in motor oil to leave a fingerprint. In spite of its stony texture and large size, however, the Tetsu Sabi-Nuri is remarkably light-weight, and, unlike a real stone, feels pleasantly temperature-neutral, not cold. These paradoxes provide a lot of my enjoyment of the pen.
The pen's beauty is subtle and, for me, it is therefore all the more exquisite. I've plucked pebbles out of stream beds at dawn that were as beautiful to me as the Hope Diamond, and it's just the same with this understated brown pen. I have visually striking writers like my Delta Dolce Vita with its unmistakably gorgeous marmalade orange barrel, but the Tetsu is just as beautiful. It doesn't distract me while I write, and yet every occasional pause gives me a chance to look lovingly upon the brown-on-brown wave and flying tern images on the barrel and cap.
The art represents to me a kind of meditative stillness at the center of a dynamic natural scene. Isn't that the epitome of the writing experience?
Construction and Quality (4.5/5)
I am thinking a score of 5 here to reflect the pen I have, but not the first one I bought. When the pen first came, the nib and feed did not fit together quite correctly (as later determined by Kevin), so ink would alternately gush or choke off altogether. That one, I'm afraid, I would have scored a 0/5. Kevin, however, immediately replaced the feed and nib, and now everything seems right and tight (and the flow is perfect). The section and barrel screw together tightly and securely; the converter seems very well made, and I can find absolutely no flaw in the workmanship anywhere. I'm dinging a half-point in this category because I think the clip should be tighter than it is. It is not loose, by any means, but I would be reluctant to leave in clipped in a shirt pocket. I rarely carry pens that way anyway, so it's not a big deal to me. That the clip prevents the pens from rolling off the desk is good enough.
Weight and Dimensions (5/5)
Holding the pen is an immense joy. As I mentioned above, the Tetsu Sabi-Nuri is remarkably light-weight. I like pens with quite a large diameter, and at 5/8 in. (1.5 cm), this pen is very satisfying. I'm also fussy about the length; I'm usually subtly annoyed when a pen is not long enough to really reach a quarter inch or so beyond the web of my thumb as this leads to a feeling of instability. Without the cap, the pen is 5 3/16 in. (13.25 cm), a great length for me, especially because I tend to hold pens at the very top of the gripping section or even at the very bottom of the barrel. I can't over-emphasize what a delight it is to hold this pen.
Nib and Performance (5/5)
The nib is a flexy, two-tone, 18k gold, medium nib. (I think other nibs are available, but ask Kevin.) In terms of contact with paper, this nib reminds me a bit of my Omas Milord; incredibly smooth, but with the perfect amount of feedback so that one doesn't just skate away out of control. I would say that the nib is every bit as smooth as my 21k Sailor 1911. I also really enjoy the Buddhist image (The Dharma Wheel in flame) that is engraved on the nib.
Ink flow in the pen is, I would say, perfectly balanced, neither too wet nor too dry. If baby bear had had a fountain pen in addition to her "just right" porridge, it would have been a Tetsu. I have tried Diamine, J. Herbin, and Iroshizuku inks in it, and they all work very well. (The humble writing sample shown here was done with Diamine Asa Blue.) And, finally, as I hope you make out from my pic, there is generous line variation. I'm still getting used to writing with a flexy nib, as it's my first. I've enjoyed the softness of my Visconti Van Gogh and Kaleido pens, so this was a natural direction for me to explore.
Filling System (5/5)
The pen is a converter filler. Purists may wish for a piston on such an elemental pen as this, and while I own piston-fillers, I tend to prefer converters because they hold less ink—an advantage for those of us who like to change colors of ink more often than not. The converter seems to be reliable and well-made.
Cost and Value (4/5)
The full price paid was $825. Given that this is a serious piece of art, from the lacquer work to the signature, to the nib itself, I'm not surprised by the price. As a buyer, it is easy to fall into probably over-simplified daydreams of what goes into a pen like this. It goes something like Oh, some sumac juice and hard rubber and a bit of plastic, so probably $4 – 5 in materials. So what exactly am I paying for? Obviously, musings like this don't accurately involve the full manufacturing and artistic process which clearly justify the cost—or at least most of it. But I do wonder what the markup actually is. That said, Kevin is absolutely great to work with, and I don't mind paying top dollar for a pen if that also means that I get great customer service—which I always have had from Kevin, and I can't recommend him highly enough. (No affiliation.)
One last delicious subtlety that I must mention is the unusual sound this pen makes when being capped or placed on a hard surface. It is a sound like that of glass or porcelain which I really love. It somehow seems to extend the preciousness of this inky deity.
For the past couple of weeks, I have pretty much abandoned my usual rotation because I only want to write with this pen. No doubt I'm simply head-over-heels in love with this new friend, but something tells me that this may be my very BFF. It is beguiling in its material qualities, friendly in its feel, and exquisite in its perfect workmanship and artistry.
Edited by Gendo, 16 May 2011 - 00:24.