The (Japanese) Elephant in the Room
Pilot Custom Urushi
I won’t bore you with the specifications, basic descriptions, or construction components of this pen, because they have been covered in other reviews of this pen. Instead, I’d like to tell you how I feel about owning this pen, which I received about a month ago... Long enough for the honeymoon to be over and to be able to take a critical look at this pen.
Some background: I have been using fountain pens since I was about ten years old. I have a small collection of top-drawer pens, including Montblanc 146 & 149, Pelikan M800 & M1000, Visconti Homo Sapiens Dark Age Maxi, Nakaya Neo Standard, Parker 51’s and the ubiquitous Lamy 2000. I’ve always loved thick pens, and at my age, arthritis is starting to develop so I love them even more.
I began searching for a new pen because while I was happy with the width of the grip on my 149, I was unhappy with its length. Likewise, I liked the length of the grip on the M1000, but not the width. I purchased the Nakaya six months ago and love the urushi finish, so I focused my search on Japanese pens. With some advice, I zeroed in on the Pilot Custom Urushi.
I purchased my pen from nibs.com and was shocked when the card was personally signed by John Mottishaw, indicating that he set up this pen. (The other two pens I ordered from them were adjusted by his team and I’ve heard through forums that he is reducing his work. I feel lucky. Thanks, John!)
NIB: The pen has a huge and wonderful medium nib, which writes very similarly in width to the Pelikan M1000’s fine nib. It has a touch of bounce, which is much less pronounced than my M1000 and Visconti Dream Touch nibs. I find that I have to pay very close attention to the latter two nibs because they require very precise pressure, which can be fatiguing in long writing sessions. I do not discern any feedback with this nib, which is slightly disappointing when compared to my Nakaya, but something I can live without.
GRIP: The most important part of this pen for me and its main selling point. For me, it is utter perfection. It is slightly longer than the M1000, very similar to the width of the 149, and fits my hand like it was custom made for me. (Maybe that’s the “Custom” in the name.) The slight taper is very comfortable as well. I was worried that the gold band embedded in the grip could be felt, but I was pleasantly surprised that it feels seamless. I am able to write for hours without my fingers cramping or my knuckles burning. I couldn’t be happier with the grip on this pen!
FIT & FINISH: This pen feels like it was made under a microscope. The build quality and tolerances are quite literally amazing and much better than any of the other pens that I own. When I unscrew the barrel to access the converter, I can feel absolutely no feedback. (I had to look to make sure it was coming apart as it was that smooth.) The metal bands feel cool to the hand and not plasticky like on the M1000.
Under a loupe, the black filling in the lettering on the cap band appears to have been perfectly applied and the contrast with the gold looks really great. However, the black lettering makes the clip on the cap look cheap and out of place because PILOT is merely stamped into the metal and not filled with black paint like on the band. I would have greatly preferred the clip and band to match.
Also not matching are the end cap on the barrel and the finial on the cap. The cap finial has a gold band while the body’s does not, and to me, it makes the barrel look unfinished and overlooked.
URUSHI: If I didn’t know better, I would have thought that this pen was made of high quality plastic. I cannot easily discern what is urushi and what is plastic. It feels very highly polished and is one of the most reflective pens that I own. I ordered mine in black instead of vermillion because my brain has a hard time filling a red pen with blue ink (I know, I’m strange), so the vermillion pens may have a more pronounced urushi look. This also may be a testament to the quality and finishing of the plastic as well (no seams or manufacturing marks). I would have been quite happy to pay a lot less for this pen sans urushi, but do appreciate the amount of labor that went into creating this writing instrument.
CAP: This is the most ridiculously, comically large cap ever. It is so big that I can’t store this pen in any of my pen cases, including my Montblanc single pen case made for the 149. (The case microscratched the cap while pulling it in and out.) It fits into my Nakaya pen kimono, but that parking spot is reserved for the Neo Standard. I found a folding pen case at Montblanc that it fits into, but because of the size of the cap and necessary storage case, I do not see myself taking this pen with me when I travel. A shame, really.
FINAL THOUGHTS: If I had to buy this pen over again, I’d absolutely do it. While I have some quibbles about the pen overall, the wonderful feel in my hand and fantastic nib are what makes a great pen great… At least for me.