In the early part of the 20th century, the fountain pen business was booming. Pens were being made all around the world by hundreds of different manufacturers, consisting of many designs, materials, and colors. In Japan, the fountain pen had been readily adopted for use in daily business. Being very practically minded, the Japanese businessman would make use of the chest pocket on his starched white shirt and park his fountain pen there. But typical fountain pens of the day were rather large and would sit up high out of the typical Japanese shirt pocket. In the 1970's, Pilot came up with an answer for this: The Pocket Pen, "Shortie", or Long Cap. The basic configuration is a longer than usual pen cap, a long section, and a short body. What this ingenious design does is allow for the capped pen to fit inside shorter than average shirt pockets, but when the cap is posted the pen assumes a normal size for comfortable writing. When Pilot came out with this design, it was an immediate sensation. So much so, that Platinum and Sailor (the other two of the "big three" Japanese pen makers) also came out with their own version of the pocket pen shortly thereafter.
Naturally, with this pen design being such a big hit, many variations were produced. You would be able to buy them in a multitude of different plastic colors or types of metal, as well as a variety of trim styles. One of the most popular pens that Pilot is known for is the MYU (or short Murex). This pen follows the basic pocket pen design, but for one important difference: it has an integrated nib. The body, cap, and section were made completely of brushed stainless steel, making for a very tough pen. The nibs on these pens are very firm, so they don't appeal to a wide range of fountain pen users. But the sleek design, toughness, and dependability make it a great utility pen. The version with black stripes (MYU-500BS) is my all time favorite pen for appearance; I think it is a timeless modern design and it should be indoctrinated into the NY Museum of Modern Art.
Of the metal pocket pens, Pilot made them primarily out of stainless steel with a couple of models in sterling silver. In my opinion, one of the more attractive metal designs is the "cross hatch" pattern, which is a series of black etched lines with the length-wise lines closely spaced. It came in a full metal design, as well as a metal cap with black body. This was also done in silver with the venerable Cisele (or grid) pattern, that Parker made so famous with the model 75. No doubt Pilot copied Parker, as the 75 came out in the 1960's.
Regarding the nibs that Pilot installed in the pocket pen, there were three different designs (to my knowledge). One of them is the same gold nib that was used for the full size Pilot Custom series. I think it is one of the best nib designs today, for consistent smooth line control with just a touch of flex. Also, the sizes run small, which is a nice contrast to other makers than run large. The next is a more straight triangular nib design (unlike the slightly curved Custom nib) that protruded out from the section, with a slight lip of plastic covering the back end of the nib. The last nib type used is the stainless steel one seen on the colored MYU pens and the Volex (stainless steel version without integrated nib), with a shape that looks like it screws down into the section. It has a nice clean look with a black band around the chrome collar.
As for my personal collection, I have always been partial to Pilot. But Sailor produced a few models that are extremely beautiful and very rare--it's nearly impossible to obtain them because of such low production. There's only one person (on FPN) I know of that has the two I'd love to own someday: The Arabesque and the Egyptian hieroglyphs.
So, that about does it for the description of materials and styles used in the pocket pen. How is it as a writing instrument, you wonder?
Pilot Short Pens, capped
Pilot Short Pens, posted
Pilot Elite Crosshatch Pens, posted, 3 nib sizes (B, M, F)
Pilot MYU 500-BS and MYU 701, close-up
Well, I have to admit that the first time you see the long cap and short body, the word "stubby" comes to mind. And that isn't necessarily a flattering adjective. I have to admit that when I first saw them, I wasn't immediately enamored. But once I got acquainted with the pen, I began to appreciate it to the point where I now find it attractive. It almost looks like a small model of a space craft or supersonic aircraft, especially when looking at the MYU.
Fit and Finish
What can I say--Pilot makes pens with exemplary quality. The short pens are of no exception. Everything is beautifully machined. Grooved lines feel nice to the touch. Plastic is thick and sturdy. The less expensive lines made by Sailor and Platinum might feel a little cheap, but definitely not Pilot's version. The only thing I might say is that not all models are completely fit tested with posting the cap. On some I've had, the cap clutch grabs firmly a little too soon, making it difficult to completely post the cap. But that's OK. It can even be considered a benefit, as it lengthens the pen--something appreciated by those with very large hands.
Nib Design / Writing Quality
As I said earlier, my favorite Pilot nib is the largest one that was made for the Custom series. But the others are quite competent. All of them write smoothly and consistently, with line widths about one size smaller than an equivalent Western nib size (a fine nib will write more like an extra-fine). The integrated nibs didn't have much size variety (essentially XF, F, and M), while the Custom nibs would be available in XF, F, M, B, Script, and Music (AFAIK). I have seen a Japanese pen seller describe the MYU nibs has also having a flex option (firm, normal, flex), but I can't confirm that this was indeed a buyer choice.
This is a cartridge/converter pen. Despite the small body, the filling mechanism is designed for ink cartridges that are about 30% larger than the short international ink cartridge. There is a squeeze converter still sold today that will fit (CON-20), but it holds slightly less ink than the cartridge. Plus, if you've got a cartridge refill kit (blunt syringe), you can just refill the cartridge instead and benefit from an ink level indicator (the cartridges are translucent) plus no ink reside to wipe off the nib after dunking.
This is a great pen series, which I think is understated and underrated in the arena of fountain pens. I'm quite happy with my small collection and hope to keep them for many years to come.
[Semi-related review: The Pilot Black Stripe pen series.]
Edited by MYU, 13 October 2008 - 22:54.