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Namiki-Pilot Vanishing Point Black Carbonesque


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#1 reginaldgolding

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Posted 09 December 2007 - 20:41

Hello all! This is my first pen review, I hope you find it useful. I'm going to not rate my comments, I think. I started with the intention to offer ratings, but I decided against it, I hope the article won't suffer because of that choice.

Please be aware that I represent only myself, not a manufacturer or reseller; I got a pen, and I wanted to talk about it, nothing more. Also, this reflects only first impressions of this pen; I have not used it for a great deal of time, so things may change as it gets some mileage. Also, please search the FPN for the term "vanishing" or "vp"; there are several very fine reviews by other owners of this model pen with fantastic information and photos. I am no expert, so I only hope to add to the larger conversation.


Today, the Namiki-Pilot Vanishing Point Black Carbonesque.


- Pre Purchase impressions
I had seen this pen online and in catalogs, and my first reaction was "ugly, gimmicky, and cheap". The idea of a retractable fountain pen seemed very unsleek and not at all classy, but toysome and novelty in nature. Plus, wouldn't it dry out? The price seemed way beyond the promise as well. However, the more I read, the more I did find happy owners (some unhappy as well), and it put me in the mind of "well why not. it is unique." Of the styles offered, I was drawn to the solid colors most, but their "Raden" offering with bits of abalone in the finish looked fantastic, but much too costly for that frill. The appearance of the Black Carbonesque finally caught me, and that's the model I chose.


- Price
I place this pen in the range of high-end 'better' pens, or lower-end 'quality' pens, judging by cost alone. The scale I'm using for this is my own creation, and may make no sense to anyone else in the known universe (Drugstore pens $0-25, Better pens $25-125, Quality pens $125-300, Luxury pens $300+).

- Worth it?
I find it important to know if you buy a pen, do you think the cost was worth the product. In this case, it was a gift to me, so absolutely! Seriously though, I found this pen well worth the price, and am happy with owning it. In my case, it came from Fountain Pen Hospital, at $112.

- Packaging
The box is a box you'd want to keep, matte black with logo, just soft to the touch, cheap gold trim, hinged, fuzzy plastic vaccu-formed tray with elastic band; a hefty step up from a cardboard or wrap alone, although ultimately, my stand on boxes is frivilous. The important part is the pen, but I do appreciate the extra effort in this case.


- Body
I was let down here. I did not research the body styling long enough, and I think I assumed the "Carbonesque" finish would be more than it turned out to be. I was hoping for more of a woven feel, even to the point of woven fibres beneath a clear finsih. This is not the case. The finish on the body, upon close inspection, feels like roughly painted dots in a weave arrangement, on top of a black pigment, all of which was wrapped in a clear finish. Not what I'd hoped, but at least the finish does not appear to be of a kind that will chip away or appear flaked over time. The final look is as if you applied paint to a canvass or burlap, and then rolled the pen across the wet pigment, to transfer the pattern to the barrel. I think it will grow on me, however.


- Mechanism
This is the unique bit about this pen; a retractable fountain pen. The button itself seems to extend clumisily, but I don't find it offputting, just different. It operates as you would imagine, just like your standard drugstore ballpoint retractable. One thing to note; part of the automatic retract/extend mechanism is an internal "hatch" or hinged doorway in the tip. When the nib is retracted, this door closes behind it to keep the ink fresh on the nib; that answered a big question for me about this pen. I find the clicking action very satisfying, just like a cheaper ballpoint; it's always fun, if annoying to those around you, to click it open and closed. I also find, however, that the travel of the click action feels a bit more to the "grind" than I would like. I'm looking for a 'buttery' feel there, and I don't get that. As near as I can tell, it's the nib-end spring responsible for that noise. No other parts appear to be misalligned or otherwise abrasive, so I'm leaving the blame on that spring.

- Springs
There are two springs; one nib-end and one button-end. The nib spring is quite taught, and that gives it a strong, quality feel. The button spring is quite a bit less forceful, and almost feels cheap to me. Not a deal-breaker, but I would have felt better with more force on the button side. This button spring causes a weirdness in re-assembling the pen that I would like to note. Since the button is spring loaded, and essentially a two-position action (retracted and extended), when you reassemble the pen, you will have to ensure the button is in the "retracted" position. I tried this maneuver in both states. If you extend the pen, and unscrew it, it wants to spring apart with vigor, so be careful. Best to retract it before you open the pen. Then, upon reassembly, be sure the button is "retracted", or assembly with be very clumsy, if at all possible. I imagine a stronger button spring would help avoid the tendancy of the button to toggle its state while apart for the filling procedure.

- Assembly
The pen is screwed together at the center, and opens/closes in the usual way. I was pleased to see that the threads on both halves are metal, neither are plastic, and there appears to be a rubber gasket between. This gives a solid and snug feel to the closure, without the harshness and finality of two metal bits that could loosen with little effort. The button mechanism is firmly installed, and will not rattle out when open. The nib-end 'clip cap' does not appear to be removable; but I did not attempt to unscrew or pry it off with any force. The inner pen, however, is also quite unique to this pen.

- Inner pen
With the halves apart, the only bit that is free is the inner pen. This consists of the nib, either the cartridge or converter, and the body assembly which holds these two together. The nib itself is very narrow, both in side width and in 'height' thickness, and is quite long (mine is a M size). It is clipped to the center rib, and does not itself to appear to be exchangeable. I think in this model pen, you would change the entire inner pen to achieve a different nib size, but again, I'm no expert here. Of note is the inner pen barrel, specifically, its length. This barrel is quite long, and covers the clear section of the converter almost entirely. In fact, only about 3-4mm (less than 1/4 inch) is visible between the barrel and the converter piston chassis. This makes the viewable window very very small and hard to work with. This poses a challenge for filling, since it's so hard to see if you're full or not. I suspect a cartridge may be easier to work with on this pen, but I tend to prefer a converter regardless of other factors. Finally, it is worth mentioning that the barrel of the inner pen is keyed, so that it will only fit into the front end of the pen in one position. This alligns the inner pen with the outer pen, and is required for proper retractable action.



- Filling
I covered a bit of filling already, but it's noteworthy to mention that the piston is not the only convertable available. I read that there is a squeeze-type converter you can fit with (my Pilot MYU 701 has such a converter, and I'm very happy with it in that pen) that could be a good alternative; it would also bypass the "can't see my ink level" problem (although, my squeeze filler is opaque, so maybe that doesn't help). Don't forget cartridges as well. Mine was shipped with one, but I tend to not use those for the most part. Once I run this load dry, I will try the cartridge to see how it performs.



- The business end
When extended, the nib feels only marginally extended (when comparted to a Waterman Phileas, for example, where the nib is very visable and a big part of the appearance of the pen), but not so much that it feels hooded, as you would find in a Parker 51, let's say. It's enough, but not too much. I do find that the nib on my pen tends to appear 'low', or, towards the paper-side of the pen when in service. This gives a flex to the nib that the nib itself does not provide. Normally, the flex you would find in a nib is in the tine, as they bend slightly up while lining, you can feel the flex, which would also, to a mild degree, influence the nature of the line itself (either in width, shade, pull, etc). However, with this design, the tines do still provide a bit of their own flex, and you gain a touch of extra flex from the movement of the inner pen within the nacelle. I do not find this distracting, but it is different than I'm used to. It's a more bouncy feel to the flex, without the same result produced as the ink hits paper. This is one of the more subtle sexy uniquenesses to this pen. Note though, that since the inner pen does ride low, the rib beneath the nib comes into contact with the bottom lip of the opening. It seems that no matter how clean and dry I keep the nib and inner pen, some slight residue of ink appears on that opening; something to keep in mind if you plan on sporting this pen with a blazingly white pressed shirt.




- The line
The most important thing, maybe? "Great pen, does it write?" Yes, I have been asked that. And yes, it does so quite admirably. Being new to pens, I have one and only one favorite ink, and it's all I'll use until I'm ready to experiment. At the moment, that'll be Noodlers Black. This nib pulls some great Noodlers, just to the dry side of wet. I get great start, constant flow, and never the gushy feel. I get just a hint of shade when I pull too fast across paper, but that's rare, for the most part, when I pen, almost only in the signature; so it's a nice touch. I feel a slight bit of tooth with the pull, but it's the kind of "smooth metal" feel and definitely not like that "smooth on the outer edges, but barblike in the center" scratch that so many nibs can give. Apart from my Parker 51, it may be my favorite tooth on paper so far.


- The write
I would like more heaviness to this pen. That being said, it's among my heavier pens. Outweighs the Parker 51 clearly, and is only mildly heavier than the Waterman Phileas. It's not at all rear-heavy, but the weight is not all up front. It's not my favorite balance, since I prefer a rear-heavy pen more often, but it does give a very nice solid consistent feel to the weight. It's thicker than the Parker 51 slightly, but doesn't feel clumsy in the hand. It also lacks that 'cradle' feel you get from a pen with a nice hourglass shape above the nib for your grip to land. That bugs me a bit, but it's the same sort of grip you'd find with a 51, so it is not uncomfortable by any means.

- The clip
Ah the clip! Seems the clip is a hot spot with some other discussions about this pen. Quick answer: no problem at all (for me, at least)! There, I said it. As you look at it, your first impression is "ok, yeah, no way; that clip is right where a clip should never be; what were they thinking". As for my grip, the clip seats directly between my thumb and forefinger, and forces a rotation on the pen such that the nib hits the paper in a perfect way. It is awkward at first, since few other pens have this design, but the feel of it is invisible in no time at all. The real downside to this design (if any), I find, is that it does prevent you from more avante garde pen-grip styles. For example, you cannot rotate the barrel 15degrees and get a different inflection from your line, since the clip forces you into one of three 'final' positions in the hand (between thumb/forefinger, between forefinger/middle, between middle/thumb), and the two non-standard positions put the nib at an angle such that almost no ink at all can flow. So, you're locked into one position, but really, with most pens, it's rare that you'd need such a custom grip every time you line; and honestly, you're probably going to switch to another pen anyway, because you don't own just one pen, and you keep at least three inked. I know how you are. By the way, the clip itself is fantastic; good strength to it, with a perfectly polished nub that's easy to clip in and out of a pocket (or collar, if you're so inclined) without catch.


- Size comparison
By way of visual comparison:
(1) Namiki-Pilot Vanishing Point Black Carbonesque (2) Parker Jotter (3) Rotring Core (4) Fisher Spacepen (5) Parker 51 Special

and
(1) Fisher Spacepen (2) Namiki-Pilot Vanishing Point Black Carbonesque (3) Parker Jotter (4) Rotring Core (5) Parker 51 Special


- Wrap-up
Like I said, this pen is still new to me, so my impressions could change over time. I'm curious to see how well it travels, how it handles in low-ink scenarios, at temperatures, and with other inks and papers. As for the moment, I really enjoy it, and will be using it alongside my Parker 51 Special and Rotring Core (that's the current rotation). If any new thoughts appear, I'll let you know!

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#2 AndyHayes

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Posted 09 December 2007 - 21:05

Excellent. Thanks for making the effort, it was well worth a read even for someone like me who has two VPs already. I lusted after a carbonesque one but they were going for beyond what I was willing to pay so I got a better deal on less popular colours. Having seen the body in close up I think that I made the right choice.

Nice pictures and it's great to see other items so that one can make a comparison.
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#3 TMann

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Posted 09 December 2007 - 21:09

Great review, Reginald. You really hit on a lot of the unique design features that are present on the VP.

I hope to see more reviews from you in the future. smile.gif

TMann

#4 CD7

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Posted 09 December 2007 - 21:45

Excellent analytical review! Thanks!
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#5 I am not a number

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Posted 09 December 2007 - 22:38

Very comprehensive review, to my mind it is a superb pen and well worth the attention.

Thanks!
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#6 Shelley

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Posted 10 December 2007 - 02:30

Yes the VP is a great pen, every time I use it I am impressed, such a great pen for such a little cost, the only issues I have are 1) does not hold much ink (a refillable cart helps), 2) monotone gold nibs, I woulld like a siver coloured nib to match the furniture and 3) clip-not the position but the shape/construction, if the clip was more Lamy 2000 I would be in heaven.
Other than that I completely happy!
Lamy 2000-Lamy Vista-Visconti Van Gogh Maxi Tortoise Demonstrator-Pilot Vanishing Point Black Carbonesque-1947 Parker 51 Vacumatic Cedar Blue Double Jewel-Aurora Optima Black Chrome Cursive Italic-Waterman Hemisphere Metallic Blue-Sheaffer Targa-Conway Stewart CS475

#7 Friend of Pens

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Posted 10 December 2007 - 19:28

Nice review! I've been considering treating myself to one of these, and am glad to read honest impressions of the pen here. I'm still hoping to be able to dip-test one in a proper pen shop if I get the chance, but if not I feel like I'm getting a better idea of what to expect.

#8 Goodwhiskers

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Posted 11 December 2007 - 07:24

My Blue Carbonesque is my favorite pen! cloud9.gif

The way to view the ink level in the twist converter through that narrow "window" is to hold the inner unit horizontally, shake it gently toward and away from oneself, and then look. It is necessary to have some air in the ink reservoir so that the pen will operate smoothly.

The only way I've gotten more ink into the twist/piston converter is messy and time-consuming biggrin.gif . I really don't recommend filling the converter directly from the bottle and putting it into the nib unit. It might work well a few times, but then . . . . tongue.gif

I have the squeeze converter too, in my Pilot Knight. I'm going to get another squeeze converter. That one is easier: just put the nib unit into the ink, pinch, let go quickly, wait about three seconds, and repeat until the air bubbles coming out are few and small. The sac is black and opaque, but filling it is so easy that one can do "top-ups" more often. cloud9.gif

#9 Goodwhiskers

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Posted 11 December 2007 - 07:27

Now, if only Pilot would make a manifold nib for the VP. I wouldn't it being steel if I could fill in multi-layer forms with it!

#10 Gojira

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Posted 11 December 2007 - 08:28

ARGH! Your review has only made the waiting for my Blue Carbonesque even worse!

#11 greencobra

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Posted 11 December 2007 - 12:22

This review was a good read and pretty much how I feel also. I have 4 of these guys and love them but I thought long and hard before I pulled the trigger on my first purchase.

Good job on the review. And thanks.
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#12 Brian

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Posted 13 December 2007 - 17:23

About the finish. In Japan the finish is known as kasuri and based on application of the finish over patterned cloth. Somehow the US guys decided it would be more fashionable to call it carbonesque which obfuscates the original intent. I wish they called it simply kasuri and sold it on that basis.

Other folks on this forum will know more so please add your knowledge.

Thanks

#13 reginaldgolding

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Posted 13 December 2007 - 17:50

Thanks for all the followup! Great community.
I imagine a skilled execution of the kasuri technique could really be a nice touch in many ways, so I don't want to go on record for suggesting that this is in someway an inferior style or technique or execution. I did, however, want to highlight my rushing to judgement pre-purchase. Now that I know this pen as it is, I am not at all unhappy; but I did wrongfully assume at first that it would be something more than it was. Had I to do it over? Yeah, I would go for a solid color... but, I love my Carbonesque. (Can pens sense fear?)

I am finding that it writes a thinner line that I would expect, although studying the nib (which is a M), it appears to be more narrow to the eye than I would assume from a M, in my limited experience; so that factor is consistent with product. This too, I do not dislike. Of my pens in rotation at the moment, it's my thinnest writer, and I tend to reach for it often, especially at work.

#14 kudzu

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Posted 13 December 2007 - 18:56

Hi, reginaldgolding - you'll find most folks think Japanese pens' nibs run a bit smaller than American and European counterparts. So a Japanese Medium is more like what Americans would call a Fine or a Fine-Med. We adjust our nib buying according to this general rule of thumb. The nice thing about Vanishing Points is that the nibs are so easy to interchange if you'd like a different size or style.

Edited by kudzu, 13 December 2007 - 18:58.

Kudzu

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#15 yachtsilverswan

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Posted 13 December 2007 - 19:06

Hey Reginald -

Great detailed macro photography. I have used these Vanishing Points for over a year, and I still learned a few things about the pens from your review and from the posted comments.

I too was expecting a more woven texture to the pen, based on it's appearance. But I nonetheless prefer the "carbonesque" versions to the smooth. The slightly bumpy texture of the pen is a nice tactile feedback and seems to give me the illusion of a more steady grip.

The Pilot VP has become my most used daily work pen, because I have to sign my name so many times during a day. And this is the only pen I have with quick, simple, one-handed operation. I can pull the pen from my shirt or coat, click, sign, click and replace. And since I frequently have something else in the other hand (the ubiquitous coffee cup), the VP just makes the whole oft-repeated ritual much quicker, much simpler.

Like you, I do wish Pilot would experiment with a more dressed-up version of this work-horse. I would certainly be a buyer.
Ray
Atlanta, Georgia

Pilot Namiki Vanishing Point with Richard Binder ItaliFine 0.9mm/F Nib
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Michel Perchin LE Blue Serpent (reviewed) with Binderized CI nib
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#16 bosipipes

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Posted 13 December 2007 - 19:37

I ordered the same one last from FPH. in fine point. Looking forward to it.
Thanks for the fine read.
Kirk Bosi
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#17 twdpens

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Posted 13 December 2007 - 22:48

QUOTE(Shelley @ Dec 10 2007, 02:30 AM) View Post
2) monotone gold nibs, I woulld like a siver coloured nib to match the furniture


Rhodium-trim Capless FP's come with a rhodium-plated nib Europe. Maybe other markets get a different spec?

Martin
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#18 alvarez57

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Posted 14 December 2007 - 05:17

Congratulations for it is a very nice pen. Wait 'till you see the Raden... you can get it cheaper than the $300 you see on some sites, and it is really gorgeous. Loved your macro.




sonia alvarez

 

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#19 Abhik

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Posted 14 December 2007 - 08:27

Congratulations!!Lovely photography and very honest review! Waiting to hear more afterwards 'reginaldgolding'!! Enjoy your pen.
Warm regards,
Abhik.

#20 reginaldgolding

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Posted 14 December 2007 - 12:20

Thanks for the close-up of the Raden, alvarez!
I think I would very much like that finish on a pen... or a mug... or a car.... drool.gif






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