Since discovering how wonderful Japanese nibs are, and how well-suited they are to my tiny handwriting, I often keep an eye out for small, attractive Japanese pens with EF nibs. Unfortunately, EF-nibbed pens are few and far between – unless you enjoy black pens and/or manly pens – which I do not. Anyway, last year, several small Japanese pens had made their way onto my wish list, but one of the most promising was the Pilot Custom 98 – a short, simple pen with a resin body and 14K nib.
The Custom 98 is available in six colours; Black, Deep Red, Dark Blue, Dark Green, Deep Yellow and Red, and three nib widths; EF, F and M.
Cute and compact, I liked the Custom 98 immediately! The Red was calling my name, but as I already had a Red Sailor 1911M I picked the Deep Yellow instead.
The pen came inside a small rectangular presentation box with a Pilot CON-20 converter, two Pilot Blue cartridges and the instruction / warranty booklet.
Appearance / Finish
I really like the Deep Yellow colour – I was expecting it to be rather mustard-like, but it’s more like yellow ochre. The Deep Red and Dark Blue versions of the Custom 98 have colored end-jewels which match the body and cap, while the Dark Green, Deep Yellow and Red pens have black end-jewels. I personally don’t mind contrasting jewels on pens, and in this case the contrast is especially nice.
The Custom 98 is nicely made and sports a 14K nib which puts many more expensive pens to shame.
Design / Size
Bullet-shaped pens have never done much for me, but the proportions of the Custom 98 are just right, and the whole package is very appealing. The pen is constructed from a plastic / resin which feels of similar quality to that of my Sailor 1911M. The thickness of the barrel in particular is quite generous for such a small pen, and this makes for a robust feeling in the hand.
The Custom 98 has a push cap, which is unusual for me, as the majority of my pens have threaded caps. It makes a nice change, and of course is very convenient when you pick up the pen in a hurry. I usually post the cap on this pen for longer writing sessions, otherwise it's fine un-posted. I have no problem with gold-trim, and in the case of the Deep Yellow body, it’s an attractive match.
One design negative: The metal trim ring / section fitting at the bottom of the grip section. Why so many modern pens continue to feature this is beyond me.
At only 10.8cm / 4.2” when uncapped, 12.2cm / 4.8” long when capped, and 13.4cm / 5.25” when posted, the Custom 98 is definitely one for the small pen fans. As you can see in the photo above, the Custom 98 is similarly sized to the Pilot Prera (the Prera is slightly thicker though). Other similarly sized pens are the Pilot Legno 89s and the Sailor Sapporo, but like the Prera the Sapporo is thicker and also heavier.
Nib Design / Performance
The Custom 98 features a pretty #3 size nib made from 14K yellow gold. The line width of my 14K EF unit was perfect! It’s finer than any of my Sailors, and even marginally finer than the XXF-esque Pilot Prera “F” nib.
As a fellow Custom 98 user noted in a recent snail, these particular 14K nibs should really be prefixed with the word “Soft”. They actually do offer a nice touch of variation, and are more than just merely springy. I think the Custom 98 is a good option for fans of true EF nibs who do not mind smaller sized pens.
The Custom 98 accepts a standard Pilot CON-20 converter, and of course Pilot cartridges. I use only cartridges in this pen - which I refill with a syringe. This is neater and the cartridges have a better capacity than a converter.
Cost / Value
The retail price for the Custom 98 is $90 or so. I’ve seen them sell on eBay for a lot less, but the ballpark seems to be around $80 which I feel is a little high.
I purchased my pen from the Japan Ujuku Shop. Delivery occurred within five days or so, and as always Mr Yamada was a pleasure to deal with.
Great EF nib - this one is a keeper.
Edited by Phthalo, 21 July 2008 - 11:40.