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The Affordable Fountain Pen That You Should Buy Is....

japan japan surplus long sort pilot platinum sailor

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#1 antichresis



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Posted 27 February 2018 - 05:31

I made a short blog post about vintage Japanese long short pens and some observations about them. The post has been reproduced below. Photos are from Bruno Taut.

Well, it should be are. In the Philippines, we're helped by the phenomenon known as "Japan Surplus". These are thrift shops focused on Japan-sourced (used/vintage) goods which now and then will include fountain pens from the venerable trio of Pilot, Platinum, and Sailor.




If you are open to buying used goods, these are great buys because for not much money (you can get a good one for $20-30) you get a lot of pen. The ergonomics are great since the entire "section" of the pen is round, smooth, and sloping nicely toward the nib. It's also a pocket or a "long-short" pen which means it is meant to be manageable in your pocket, compact and light.


These write quite well and, in terms of thickness, I find that an F (fine) nib on these will are a close approximation of needle-type gel pens like the Pilot G-Tec 0.4, while the M (medium) nibs are like 0.5 ballpoints. I caution against getting the EF/XF (extra fine) nibs because these are often too rough to be enjoyable unless you get one that is "like new". Regardless of the nib width, the ink flow on these are a very good fit with what the regular user encounters day-to-day. Outside of some glossy or coated papers like credit card receipts, these can and will replace you regular pen (and will write better than whatever pen is offered to you if you don't carry a pen). You can go to a bank and fill out a deposit slip without any of the fears commonly brought about by using fountain pens. You don't need to get a special notebook that costs more than ink.


You also get a gold nib. A gold nib really isn't that important. You write with the tip of the nib which is of the same material in both gold and steel nibs, and gold nib flexibility only makes sense with flex writing, which isn't a useful feature for many people.


What a gold nib does give is theoretical quality because people believe that gold nibs will last longer than stainless steel nibs, but what's more important is that if you look at the brand new market, gold nibs come at a premium (because of the appreciation of gold) and is also paired with the non-beginner pen. This means that gold nibbed pens, disregarding the nib, are of much higher quality than the bodies of steel nibbed pens. While the divide wasn't as apparent in the heyday of fountain pens, I find this distinction applicable as well to vintage pens. The plastic feels thicker, the caps close more snugly, and things generally feel made to higher standards.


A good example is the Pilot Elite (of old) and the current Pilot Elite E95S. One is $30, the other is more than $130. Since fountain pen technology development is almost non-existent, outside of a newer coat of paint, heavier components, and a negligible increase in gold (14k vs 18k), it's the same pen. Both pens can use the Con-40 ink cartridge converter too, to make filling-up from ink bottles easier.


Lastly, another consideration is exclusivity. There are certain circles that go gaga over new pen barrel colours and decorations (priced many times more than the base model of already expensive pens) and they justify this weakness for capitalism's snares as getting something very few people have. Yet, often, for these pens, these people will organise a group order (to save on shipping) which means a bunch of them get the same pen. With these Japanese pens, it's very unlikely you'll come across someone with the same pen, even if you mingle with local users.


A pitfall though for these pens is that the dealers associated with these pens are frequently not fountain pen users, sometimes unscupulous, and this may lead to problems when trying to purchase a pen. I, personally, have never been able to find these pens in the wild, and only get to them through online buy and sell groups. Here, the dealer problems are magnified because photos are frequently very bad and requests for more photos only get you more out of focus photos.


This is a big deal because one of the things you have to look at when getting old pens is the tipping. Because the tipping is what actually hits the paper and what you write with, its quality spells the difference between a good pen and a near useless one. Half of the time, these are worn down, mangled, or worse, gone! Bad photos, vague answers, and a "what you see is what you get"/"as is, where is" store model really gives you doubts about the product and doesn't really make for an enjoyable buying experience sometimes.




A smaller consideration is that these pens almost always have a fingernail nib. These are very hard to dismantle (I would profusely caution against it) and so sacrifices some modularity for people who like tinkering with their pens. The design also makes cleaning take a bit more time than open nibs so it's not a good choice if you like changing inks quickly or testing inks. Of course, one workaround is to just buy more pens of this kind.


Hero #232 Blue-Black is my Waterman Florida Blue.


Your Kilometrage May Vary (#ykmv), a Philippine blawg about ink and fountain pens.

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#2 Inkling13


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Posted 27 February 2018 - 05:36

Interesting... I wish one could access this market online, but I'd guess that would drive prices up. 

#3 KLscribbler


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Posted 27 February 2018 - 07:21

Nice post. Last month, I noticed one such Japanese used item thrift store near my home in Kuala Lumpur and went in hoping to find some pens. Alas there were none to be found, although the store had a very nice selection of used furniture and some really pretty ceramics and teaware.


Wish there were more stores like that over here. I like the vintage Pilot Elites but they are not often encountered here in Malaysia. The modern Elite 95S is  pretty easy to find locally, however.

#4 pseudo88



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Posted 27 February 2018 - 20:01

Interesting, I like the third one from the left.

"The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt."

B. Russell

#5 Richard


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Posted 04 December 2018 - 18:19

Having just now fallen across this topic, I'd like to add one comment. The OP says, "A smaller consideration is that these pens almost always have a fingernail nib. These are very hard to dismantle (I would profusely caution against it) and so sacrifices some modularity for people who like tinkering with their pens."


Fingernail nibs are not that difficult to dismantle.


1. Remove the ferrule that the barrel screws onto. This is usually hand tight, but sometimes it requires gripping the ferrule with section pliers.


2. Loosen the nut that secures the feed in place. This usually requires a pin spanner that you can make from a length of brass tubing.


3. Tap the back end of the section on a rubber or plastic sheet such as a desk mat. This loosens the feed, and that releases pressure on the nib so that you can just slip it out.

Click to send email: richard@richardspens.com
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