Namisu Nova - Brass
Whilst I don’t mind using plastic/resin pens, my preference is for a well-balanced metal bodied pen. I like my tools to feel solid – give me a metal-bodied camera over a plastic one, give me a metal watch etc. I don’t mind weightier pens and find a badly balanced pen will be tiring to use even if lighter than a well-balanced pen, but I don’t write at great length anyway – generally it’s short letters, and at most a couple of hours of intermittent note taking.
I had tried a Tactile-Turn Gist in Stainless Steel and liked it apart from its unposted length, and posted balance. I’d tried a Kaweco Liliput in brass and liked it as a trouser pocket pen for occasional notes but found it too slim for prolonged use and was tempted to try a Kaweco Sport (I probably still will) but whilst browsing for pens came across Namisu. The brass Nova was on offer, it came from Scotland so no horrible Customs fees, used Bock #6 nibs rather than #5 and seemed a very good price.
- Appearance & Design (1-10) – Minimalistic but lets the brass shine
It came in a simple but perfectly adequate black cardboard box embossed with Namisu in one corner. Inside the pen was nestled in a black velvet pouch resting on a typical flock insert. The packaging is certainly nice enough for giving this pen as a gift, without being so costly that you wonder how much of the pen’s cost was the box. No cartridges are supplied (I am surprised they don’t include a single cartridge) but the pen is fitted with the standard reliable Schmidt converter (I think this was an optional extra when the Nova was launched through Kickstarter, but comes as standard with pens purchased through their web site).
The pen itself is minimalistic to the point that some may find bland, but that minimal design does emphasize the material the pen is made from – this pen shouts brass! Shape wise it’s a pretty standard chubby torpedo/cigar shape with a plain cap. It’s about as minimal as you can get. I’ve seen it described as a Nakaya Piccolo clone, and with the conical ends it does bear a family resemblance, although the Nova is longer and it’s taper is noticeably more exaggerated as well as having a more minimal section without the pronounced ring around the nib. It’s arguably closer to the Nakaya Naka-Ai in taper (but a little shorter). For me it’s more elegantly shaped than the Piccolo, but not as elegant as the Naka-Ai (although if I could afford a Naka-Ai I’d obviously want urushi…). I can’t get overly excited by the design – I think it’s got the edge over the Karas Kustoms Nakaya ‘homage’ (clipless Ink), but it’s basically just another cigar shaped pen with a step down to facilitate a minimal look when capped. If you want a similar design but not in metal look towards, Bexley, Edison or any number of companies. If you want a better designed metal torpedo look at the Namisu Orion.
As with all clipless designs, with minimalism comes the possibility of a rolling pen. My desk is usually so cluttered there’s nowhere for it to roll, but for those weird tidy desk people you might want to consider a pen stand (or taking a Dremel to your office desk when your boss isn’t looking). I don’t carry pens in my shirt pocket and as it’s not going to easily fall out of a jacket the lack of clip doesn’t bother me – it might you. There is an inexpensive leather sleeve available too.
The polished brass looks lovely when new (or freshly polished); it’s a gorgeous looking material, but bear in mind it is unlacquered so will tarnish. Anyone who’s owned a Kaweco brass pen will know how it will age if left – brass doesn’t develop as rich a patina as copper but will ‘matte’ with time and darken slightly. I’ve been wiping this down with a cloth after each use, but I doubt I’ll keep it up, and like the way my Kaweco Liliput has aged with use. You could probably remove the nib and apply lacquer if you really wanted to…
7/10 – lovely material and well executed, but not particularly original.
- Construction & Quality (1-10) – Truly excellent
I’ve had experience of other pens that started out as Kickstarter projects and they’ve tended to show odd machining marks and extremely minor manufacturing flaws – nothing that I felt critical of, just what you’d expect from a small machine shop. My brass Nova is a different proposition in that there’s not a mark on it (well there wasn’t when it arrived!). I don’t know whether Namisu do their machining in house or use a specialist machining company- they promote themselves as a Design Company and it might well be that they don’t do the manufacturing themselves. Either way this is beautifully machined with perfect threads, no grinding of metal or slight gaps where parts meet. The cap unscrews smoothly with around a single turn. Highly impressive. With my grip my thumb rests on the step down to the section, but the threads aren’t sharp and whilst I can feel the step I don’t find it uncomfortable.
10/10 – No faults found
- Weight & Dimensions (1-10) – Long enough to comfortably use unposted. Heavy!
I’ve realised that any pen that is designed to be used unposted needs to be at least 120mm and preferably longer if I’m going to write at any length. At 128mm uncapped this is fine for me – capped it’s around 140mm. It’s not a svelte pen (slightly under 16mm at its widest and around 12mm on the section) but personally I find very slim pens uncomfortable for prolonged use.
Weight wise it’s a real beast… Capped it’s 89g, but 26g of that is the long cap – at 63g uncapped it is still a very heavy pen. Having said that it is very well balanced – slightly front weighted but not ridiculously so. It might be twice the weight of an uncapped Jinhao 159 but in use it’s so much better balanced you wouldn’t realise it. It’s not a pen I would want to write with for hours on end, but after half hour I don’t feel any hand fatigue.
It’s not designed to be posted, but it will post reasonably securely if you don’t mind seriously risking scratching the barrel and turning a heavy pen into a really heavy pen. Surprisingly although the balance isn’t as good when posted, the cap doesn’t throw the balance off as horrendously as my Tactile Turn Gist or Faber Castell E-motion (personally though I’ll use it unposted).
Photos compare it with a Pilot Custom Heritage 91 (near enough identically sized to the CH74)
7/10 – Heavy, but well balanced. Not overly long, but usable unposted
- Nib & Performance (1-10) – Moderate flow with my inks. Smooth, reliable but dull.
It comes with a Bock no. 6 nib in a standard Bock housing. Steel nibs are included in the base price with titanium available for an extra £45 at current prices. The steel nibs are available in Extra Fine, Medium or Broad, with titanium in extra fine or medium. Owning both fine and extra fine nibs in steel I can see why Namisu only offer the one – the difference between them is pretty marginal. Extra-fine is only slightly narrower than a typical Japanese medium. Obviously you can buy replacement Bock nibs from several places (shout out to BeaufortInk for excellent service). You can also fiddle around and fit other no.6 nibs onto the feed should you wish.
For this pen I ordered a Broad steel nib purely because it was one I hadn’t tried. On the positive side it was smooth straight from the box, didn’t skip and delivered an even flow with Iroshizuku and Diamine inks. It’s a perfectly decent nib, but I found the broad was barely wider than the medium nib, lacked the slight ‘springyness’ the extra fine has and needs too much pressure to get any line variation. It’s well behaved, but to my mind a little dull. My recommendation would be to with the very good extra-fine steel or try the titanium, but nib preferences are very personal. I can’t say the nib performs badly in any way, it’s just not to my taste and will probably be replaced and used as a base for a cursive grind. In the meantime I’ll swap in either an extra fine or the 1.1 stub (another nice nib in my experience). If you’ve used other pens with Bock no.6 nibs you’ll know what you like. I’ve not had a badly performing No.6, and my only issues with Bock nibs have been with No.5s, both of which required some smoothing and flow adjustment, but were good performers once fixed.
6/10 – Solid performer but not to my taste – other nib options might score an 8
- Filling System & Maintenance (1-10) – Standard Schmidt converter included.
The pen is easy to disassemble with the nib housing unscrewing allowing easy replacement and cleaning. A standard reliable Schmidt converter comes fitted with the pen, and the body is long enough to take both long and short international cartridges.
- Cost & Value (1-10) – Great value
You can only purchase Namisu directly from their web site. It was on offer when I purchased mine, and there was also a discount for signing up to their newsletter. At full price it retails for around 75% of the cost of an all brass Tactile Turn Gist and 60% of an all brass Kustoms Karas Ink with the same nib, which I think makes it very good value. Obviously exchange rates will vary…
- Conclusion (8/10) – Be tempted
If you like metal pens and don’t mind a weightier writer I’d recommend seriously considering this beast. It’s well enough balanced that I don’t find the weight a big problem – I could write for longer with this than many lighter pens in my collection, although I admit I wouldn’t choose this to write with for hours at a time. For me once I’ve swapped the nib it will regularly be used as a letter writer. I bought this before trying the Namisu Orion and personally find the Orion a better design, but this is still a pen I will enjoy having in my collection. Namisu produces runs of pens and don’t always have all their pens in all materials and finishes available so if it appeals I wouldn’t hang around for too long.
8/10 – Not a pen for everyone, but does what it does very well at a very good price