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  1. itskato

    Nakaya Nib Comparison

    So I was planning to buy a nakaya medium nib, then I saw this review https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uQSfX91oAC4 by Mr. Brown. As you can see in the video the regular medium seems very dry and hard as a nail. Then I saw the soft medium, it seems like it is the nib I really want. A little bit flexible and pretty wet. But still I can't be so sure just from watching a video. So I'd like to ask anyone that has experienced it firsthand how the soft medium feel compared to the regular medium nakaya nib (is the medium really that dry? because I'm a little bit shocked at how dry and hard it is). My favorite kind of spring is the m200 fine steel nib. It is springy but not to springy. I don't like a nib that is too springy like the soft fine 14K platinum nib. Please share your experience on the nakaya soft medium and medium nib! It'd be much better if there is a comparison of those nakaya nibs to pelikan m200 fine nib and platinum soft fine nib. Thanks in advance! Edited: seems like I provided a wrong link to an anime video, I've corrected the youtube link
  2. So, after individually reviewing two of my three Hakases (buffalo horn and rosewood), my Romillo Nervión and my custom Nakaya, I feel it is time to draw together some disparate threads. For many, the prospect of a fully custom pen is both alluring and daunting. With so many options the process seems fraught with danger, and the reassurance of an off-the-peg alternative, liberally reviewed and photographed here on the forum, turns the 'maybe' into an eternal 'maybe next time'. So here I will attempt to remove the mystery from the process, to shine a light on these three well-known if enigmatic makers, and to give a holistic and subjective overview of the process and the final pens. Maybe then I will help push a few of you over the edge into the abyss. Romillo Nervión, custom Nakaya, Hakase Rosewood, Hakase Buffalo Horn Communication: A friendly and knowledgeable contact is crucial, both in easing anxiety and assuring that there are no misunderstandings along the (sometimes long) way. Yet, oddly, it is the experience with the most scope for error that has proven to be the most rewarding, and then by a large margin. Hakase is a tiny company located in Tottori, a middling city in the north of Honshu, Japan's main island. If I say that its locale is known only for its pears and a sand dune, perhaps you will understand how remote Hakase is. Mr. Ryo Yamamoto is the proprietor and, now that his father and patron has retired, also the maker of Hakase's pens. From what I understand, he speaks little-to-no English, and yet... My three experiences with Hakase have been absolutely without flaw. Mr. Yamamoto's infinite patience, his pride in his products, and his devotion to his customers, has shone through in every interaction, no matter how minor. Questions were answered almost instantaneously (via Google Translate but, miraculously, still comprehensible), often including comparative photos of great skill, as well as personal guidance and impressions of the options under consideration. The little questionnaire (filled out once and then kept on file for future reference) asked for certain writing specifics and preferences, as well as a writing sample, and was always mailed back anew upon receipt of an order with an exact to-scale picture of the expected pen. Ryo even allowed my second pen to jump the queue to ensure it arrived in time for my birthday... Aftercare has also been sublime: a new nib was ground for me to match my pen (as each pen is constructed entirely by hand, it was necessary to send it back in its entirety to ensure a clean marriage between section and barrel); turnaround from Israel to Japan and back again was barely three weeks. I have had less contact with Álvaro Romillo at Romillo, but so far the signs have been good. eMails were usually promptly serviced (with a few lapses), and answers have been friendly, open and comprehensive, though they lack the overwhelming thoroughness of Mr. Yamamoto at Hakase. So where does this leave Nakaya? Not very high, unfortunately. I have had several experiences with Nakaya, both personally and through Classic Fountain Pens in California. Whereas Hakase exemplifies that friendlier nature of the Japanese national personality, Nakaya inhabits the realms of the introverted side. Even as a repeat customer, several exploratory communications with the company in Tokyo were politely rebuffed; a request for more details about the urushi craftsmen in Wajima (a town I was to visit as my latest pen was being produced) was ignored. It is no coincidence, therefore, that upon undertaking a custom design, I chose CFP to act as middle-man. Romillo size 9, Nakaya ruthenium plated F, Hakase F, Hakase F Scope for Customisation: I suppose this is the most important issue, for what is the definition of a 'custom' pen? Of the three, only Romillo is entirely made by hand, the other two relying on certain parts sourced from other manufacturers. Needless to say, this limits their creative scope somewhat. On considering a Romillo, I asked Álvaro what existed within the realms of possibility. His answer: the daunting "anything". I am not sure this was meant literally (I doubt I could order a telescoping piston without footing the bill for the necessary R&D upfront), but in dimensions and furniture, it seems that anything goes. He was even open to custom end-buttons, clips and nib engravings too, although strangely not to any material bar ebonite. A celluloid model has just been added to Romillo's website, so perhaps that is about to change... Nib, feed and filling aside, Hakase have been more than willing to alter their signature pens. Mix-and-match details from their plethora of designs, as well as a (new) choice of 14k golds or sterling silver, all to create your pen, then have Mr. Yamamoto tailor the dimensions and details to suit your taste. Materials are limited to those traditionally utilised by Hakase, but the canvas proves vast: celluloid, ebonite, various exotic woods, buffalo horn and even turtle-shell for those more adventurous, and possessed of deep pockets. With Nakaya, alterations are limited to the surface: the garnish rather than the meat. One must first choose a basic design from those already offered by Nakaya (or, as in my case, allow them to suggest one), and then work from there. Even then, there are seemingly arbitrary limitations: a request to include western text on the pen was quietly refused, as was a second nib and section. Pedantic and pointless, especially when undertaking such a project at such an expense. 'Specialness': You can find my thoughts elsewhere, but it goes without saying that one orders a custom pen for something more than brand image. More, even, than objective attributes. A handmade pen should sing in an ineffable manner alien to an object spat out by machine. It should not necessarily be without flaw, but those flaws must be evidence of the divine fallibility of man rather than lax quality control or the inadequacy of design. It is here that the Nakaya absolutely fails. It is a beautiful pen, a fantastic pen even and, imbued with so much personal resonance, I love it dearly. But it is a (relatively) mass-produced product with very beautiful embellishments. I do not pick it up and feel it was made for me, that it embodies some indelible connection between the craftsman and I. I do with the other two. Even the nib: yes, it is a good nib. Great even. But it is the work of John Mottishaw and is comparable to any of the other Nakayas or Platinums that I own, all on off-the-shelf pens and no poorer for it. The Romillo is the complete antithesis. It would not exist were it not for me, and everything about it screams 'anachronism' in the manner of an heirloom film camera or a car with a manual transmission. It is the very definition of what a custom pen should be - not a single part outsourced or produced by robot, and that nib is quite simply a marvel of character and grace. How a cottage manufacturer on Europe's periphery can do what the big boys cannot is beyond me, and for many that nib and that nib alone will pronounce the Nervión the absolute and uncontested winner here. I would not argue with that conclusion... But it is not mine. In my humble eyes, Hakase is the master of the custom pen. Everything, from the communication to the ordering to the blissful agony of the wait is exactly what I want the experience to be. The choice of materials and styles is comprehensive, and the skill exhibited in the manufacture (the threads are cut by hand!) is peerless. Yes, for some Hakases will forever be hobbled by the Pilot nib, feed and filler, yet the proof is in the writing and Ryo Yamamoto has still succeeded in translating my desires into nib form (three times on three separate pens) better than any nibmeister, let alone manufacturer. Yes, other Pilots in my collection may share the 'same' size 15 nib, but none dream to compare upon the page. I am happy to own all three and would consider none a mistake. But were I to only have one, there would be absolutely no doubt: Mr Yamamoto and Hakase would be the one to receive my only order.
  3. Here is my comparison of 4 Noodler's Inks: Bulletproof Black, Heart of Darkness, Borealis Black, and X-Feather. I used 2 pens, a Parker 21 and a Pilot Metropolitan. The comparison was done on 3 different papers. Enjoy and let me know what you think! Album in link below. http://imgur.com/a/jcnWa
  4. So here's that 2nd part of the review that I promised. I'll include the other pens that I meant to in the first review, as well as some others that I have purchased since. I'm doing my best to keep the reviews a fair comparison between the two groups (a rating of 7 in this review will deserve it just as much as in the previous review). Baoer 519: A: 7, F: 8, V: 8, D: 7 On the recommendation of another user in Pt. 1 of this shootout, I purchased one of these in FP for myself and one RB for my brother. Both are very nice pens, slightly thinner/smaller than I expected (for some reason). They're a good size though, and a well built pen. The cap clicks firmly, and the metal/laquer is all very nice. I immediately polished the gold off of the top of the nib because I don't think it matches, but to each his or her own. I will say two things about posting the cap on this: the cap is a bit overly heavy (not as bad as the Jinhao 159), and it's difficult to physically push the cap down on the rear post. It won't go all the way down on either pen. Still, it holds firmly. Also, very much to my liking, the top of the cap screws off, allowing the clip to be bent back in case it is bent away from the cap body. For a cheap stamped steel clip, this is a farily nicely built one with a good level of spring to it. Oh yeah, writing: it writes well. Quite smooth from the box, with a slightly too-dry line (easily fixed). reliable, and it writes with little to no pressure. Overall, can't beat $6 just to have a spare around. Parker Vector: A: 6, F: 4, V: 4, D: 5 This was one of two middle school pens. The other was a clear blue and chrome Sheaffer that was also poor. Yeah, this isn't going to be a great review. I really do like the look of the pen and nib, but the plastic is way too cheap and prone to breaking if even slightly over-tightening the barrel. The medium is way too thick for me, but writes ok when it writes. I admit, this was a better writing pen back in middle school, but I can't clean it up and make it write at all anymore. For the price, it's not bad, but I've had two barrels and a cap crack on me, and the writing experience was never wonderful. Man would I love this pen, this nib shape, if it were only relaible and the plastic were a bit nicer. Picasso 916 Malange: A: 8, F: 6, V: 6, D: 7 This is a really great looking pen, somewhat in the same class (though not as nice) as the Pilot Prera. It's modern, gets looks (namely in the brighter colors), but doesn't look too Wall Street. This is what would go with a Banana Republic outfit. The metal body has a good weight to it, but it's still fairly light, and the cap is not too heavy. The laquer is well applied. The nib is pretty, and with a little adjustment can write pretty well, but seems to suffer from possible baby's bottoming as it takes a small amount of pressure to write. The clip is difficult to remove and quite stiff, but not terrible, and I can't imagine it being bent away from the pen easily. One more thing, the cap does not post easily. It seems secure, then pops because of the air pressure built while posting the cap. It seems to take a twist forward and back under pressure to make the cap stay, and when it does, it's very secure. Clicking the cap over the nib is also a great feeling, not like any other pen I have (though not necessarily better). That said, I got the orange pen, and am kicking myself for it. The color in reality is this awful light pastel carrot color, bad enough that I limit my exposure out of the house. The 'Carolina blue" RB that I got for my brother is much nicer (although I wouldn't use it since UNC is my school's rival). I imagine the white and black versions would escape this problem, and the red, pink, and green look like they'd be better picks. Sailor HighAce: A: 7, F: 9, V: 8, D: 6 I don't know how I missed this in my last review. This was the first new fountain pen that I purchased since middle school (and since inheriting my grandfather's collection). This is a wonderful writer, for those of us who like fine nibbed pens. There's a feedback that this one gives that no other pen gives, it's wonderful. It's a very light weight pen, but the slightly heavier aluminum cap feels really great posted on the back. The pen is very simple, unassuming, clean, but still attractive. The plastic doesn't feel cheap. The converter is excessively expensive in comparison to the price of the pen, and it has to be a Sailor converter, but the normal ink cartridge writes for so long with the fine, slightly dry nib that I really don't mind refilling it by syringe. This pen has become my go-to BSB pen, and has held up to almost a year of the ink in the pen solid. This and the 78G offer very similar writing experiences. The barrel has a hole in it, so no ED conversions, although I'm sure you could epoxy that hole shut easily if you really wanted to (no real need though). Noodler's Ahab: A: 6, F: 5, V: 7, D: 7 This is a great pen, but it's a specialty item, and one that needs more intensive care. A medium flex pen at this price is impossible to find, especially one that writes a proper fine under low pressure. But I have trouble keeping ink in the pen (1 week capped on its side or nib up and the ink is gone) and also with ink bombs (leaking into the cap), and this is a big problem as a daily writer. The nib and feed will definitely need fiddling. All that said, it's still a wonderful pen at this price, but you must seriously need it for flex writing (or at least write daily with the pen). The size is very comfortable even posted, the piston mechanism is quality, and it's an easy ED converter, which is good because this will drink ink. Also, some people have figured out where to grind the nib to make this a much easier flex pen. Definitely worth having in a collection, but I don't trust it enough to keep with me on business. On a side(ish) note, this plastic, as you know, smells. I still like the idea of using renewable materials, and there's a nice "softness?" to it. You're best COMPLETELY disassembling the pen and washing all plastic components many times in soapy water and leaving them out to air dry for a week or 4. Eventually the smell will go away, and you'll be happy you bought the thing. So yeah, 5 more affordable pens. Of this pack, I think I'd have to go with the Sailor. It's one of the few pens I'd take to a job interview with me because it's dead reliable, unassuming, professional but not executive, flies well, and because it handles BSB like an absolute pro. FYI, the other pens I've taken to interviews include: Safari (Kung Te Cheng), Parker 51 (Lexington Gray). That's a pretty short list of a lot of trust. Hope you enjoy and can make use of these reviews. Greg
  5. gmcalabr

    Cheap Pen Shootout

    Cheap Pen Shootout I've decided to do a shootout of my lower-cost new normal writing pens. I've wanted to review most of these before, but haven't been up to giving each one its own review. I will be reviewing these in approximate price order, from $0 to $30, and scoring them in these categories (each from 0-10 points): Aesthetics, Functionality, Value, Desire, respectively. Pilot Varsity: A: 4, F: 6, V: 8, D: 3 These pens are the cheapest fountain pen money can buy, and are available in most office supply stores. The pen feels cheap, but sturdy. The nib is reasonably smooth and writes a nice medium wet line. Unfortunately, it's only available in a medium nib, which is fatter than I usually like to use. Some users remove the nib/feed and refill the pens, but I’ve tried this and won’t be doing that again after snapping one of the feeds. These are highly reliable pens. Platinum Preppy: A: 5, F: 7, V: 9, D: 5 This is a great little, nearly disposable pen. It's the only commonly available pen at this price with a proper fine nib (and also medium). Aesthetically, it's a modern clear plastic-y pen, but it still feels nicer than any blister-pack BP or RB. The nib is slightly on the dry side, but extremely reliable, and the price can't be beaten considering that it takes cartridges or converters. That, combined with a removable nib/feed make it worth cleaning and refilling. I have also eyedropper-converted one, and it’s awesome and has probably about a month’s worth of ink in it. I've marked the Aesthetics category a 5 instead of a 6 for the annoying graphics wrap on the barrel. *note, the free Preppy that comes with Noodler’s Ink at Gouletpens does not have this wrap and looks MUCH better. Pilot Petit1: A: 6, F: 8, V: 8, D: 7 This is functionally a Varisty (same nib/feed) with the following differences: mini-size, removable nib/feed, cartridge/eyedropper. These make a big difference to me. Also, the feed is made of clear plastic, so you can see the ink in/under the collector and feed. Well worth the $4 price tag, and available in many colors. Extra points to Pilot for molding small bumps on the back of the barrel so that the cap clicks firmly on the very back of the pen, extending its size and sturdiness. Hero 626: A: 5, F: 3, V: 4, D: 5 This is an interesting Parker 61 quasi-knockoff. Much thinner and lighter than the original, and the little hood arrow isn't nearly as pretty. It feels like it's more expensive than it is, but not by a ton. Very light, and the nib is a tiny little pin. When it works, it's not terribly smooth, but writes a wet EF line. Unfortunately, it often doesn't write at all in my experience. I've only been able to make Parker Quink Black to work, not Noodler's black, or other inks. That said, with the Quink, it writes fine and even started up just fine after I forgot about the pen for a couple of months. It's cheap enough to play around with, but a pen that doesn't write and isn't worthy of a display case isn't generally worth having. Hero 159: A: 7, F: 8, V: 9, D: 8 This thing is phenomenal. For $9 shipped from China, this is a great deal. It’s such a big, heavy pen that I cannot write with the cap on for more than a couple of minutes, but it feels perfect with the cap unposted. The nib is glassy smooth, even on cheap paper, and although the nib is a wet medium, I enjoy it enough to still write with it regularly even though it’s a bit too broad. The threads that hold the cap on are a hair rough, but that's a small gripe for a cheap pen. This is clearly a MB 149 rip-off, but it’s so well done for so little money. Overall, this is one of my best purchases. Also, if you don't like the nib, replacements can be found fairly easily. Hero 001-360: A: 5, F: 3, V: 4, D: 4 This is a very interesting low-cost pen. Aesthetically, the pen is simple, and although not expensive looking, it is nice to look at. It has a lightweight aluminum body which is on the thin side. The cap clicks firmly on both ends of the pen, and the pen is best balanced with the cap posted. The section is a slick chrome, which is a little slick, but not bad. The clip is spring- loaded, which is a nice feature on such a cheap pen. Then there's the writing. This pen has been less than reliable for one big reason: the spring cap does not have an inner cap liner, so the ink can dry out through the slots cut in the cap for the clip. I haven’t figured out how to deal with this yet, but silicone, wax, and rubbery glues will be tested. When it’s working, the nib writes a very wet line, and I imagine that it would be nearly impossible. Aerometric Filler works best when the steel guard is removed. Overall, I imagine that the trident is a much better pen as the 90 degree slit angle in the 360 produces some starting or writing issues, but as a ~$10 alternative, it's a good carbon copy pen. I understand that there is a newer version of this pen that looks a bit different, so there are options there too. Dolce Vita Naranja: A: 9, F: 7, V: 8, D: 9 This is a great, albeit a knockoff. This is easily one of my best looking pens at any price, and it's a reasonably smooth and reliable writer. Like most cheap/knockoff pens, it's only available in a medium nib, but again, I’m told it takes a standard #5 nib (not verified). It's a heavy pen, though not nearly as much as the 159, but it still feels good to write with. The nib is a bit small, but not totally disproportionate. Other users have complained about the cap taking a lot of force to pull off, but I've had the opposite problem. The cap doesn't slip off for no reason, but it has dropped the pen in my pocket, which is no good. Best for shallow shirt pockets, not pants pockets. Pilot 78G: A: 5, F: 8, V: 7, D: 4 This Pilot is a wonderful pen. The nib/feed is the same as many other Pilots in the $10-$50 range, but the rest of the pen is very cheap in look and feel. I very much enjoy writing with the slightly dry, very fine F nib. The stub nib is a great medium for the price. The design of the pen makes it look like it’s trying to keep up with an MB or something, but the cheap plastic and gold trim rings and clip are gaudy and cheap looking. I've even tried sanding the pen down to give it a matte finish and make it look more honest about its price range (which helped). If you don't mind the looks, this is an incredible pen for the money, but I can't get over the looks and will either retire or give away at least one of mine. FYI, my Prera is in my top 5 rotation. Nemosine Singularity: A: 8, F: 8, V: 9, D: 7 This is definitely a great pen. Good size, good looks, good writing. I don't like how this looks in anything but demonstrator (I normally don't like demos), and is a light, slightly above average sized pen. The plastic body and cap are very crystal clear and don't feel cheap at all. The nib is very large, but properly sized for the pen. I have the EF and 0.9mm stub nib, both of which are great. The EF is a proper EF, (think Pilot/Sailor F), and the stub is very smooth. Both write a hair dry, but adjust easily. This uses standard INT cartridges and comes with a converter. ED conversion looks like a strong possibility. Replacement nibs are available all over and for cheap. This pen is an incredible value that I would recommend to anyone. Lamy Safari: A: 6, F: 9, V: 5, D: 6 Probably the #1 default newby pen, the Safari has earned the title. It's a perfect tool; it's reliable, writes a fairly smooth wet line no matter which one of the many available nibs you have, and is a cartridge/converter. You’ll need Lamy-specific cartridges or converters. It's also quite comfortable; slightly larger than normal girth, fairly long pen, but light enough that the cap feels good posted on the barrel. The triangular grip section is very comfortable in my hands. On the down side, there isn't much to look at. Weight distribution is good, and although the plastic is a hair on the cheap side, it feels sturdy. This is a true German no-frills tool of a pen and a perfect workhorse. Also, they come in many colors, including the Vista demo and Al-Star aluminums. Despite everything, I have a hard time taking this over one of the other pens as it makes no fashion statement whatsoever. $30 isn't steep as pens go, but it's almost 3 times the price of everything else here, and I don't think that I can justify that. One last thing, the EF nib is unusably broad for small hand writing; I would probably rate this a medium, MAYBE a fine. Oddly enough, the 1.1mm stub that I now use regularly writes much more legibly in my hands. In general, I'd say that I have a hard time deciding between the Preppy ED and the Petit1 ED if I'm limited to $5, and either the Dolce or the 159 for under $15. I've heard that some people don't have such QC luck with those two Chinese knockoffs, but that's slightly less of an issue if you don't mind fiddling and polishing the nibs and feeds.





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