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  1. Background: I had always wanted an Urushi pen and have drooled over many a “pen picture” over many years, visiting the Nakaya pages from Classic Pens (nibs.com), Wancher pens, Pilot, Sailor, as well as the Nakaya site itself. The whole concept of Tamenuri, where layers of lacquer are used to slowly and patiently build up a finish with colours that change as the pen ages, fascinated me. No doubt the pens were expensive and the prospect of importing one sounded daunting. Especially because of my past experience with importing a Sailor Realo with a Naginata Togi nib from Classic Pens five years back. I had to pay 100% customs duty over and above the price of the pen and for a long time I had no idea where the pen was during the transit - but more about that in another post. So I was intrigued when, while browsing pages in a FaceBook group during the COVID19 lockdown, stranded in the north German town of Lübeck and unable to return home in India, I came across posts from a page called Urushi Studio India. They seemed to make Urushi lacquered ebonite pens in many different styles and colours, including my dream pen, Aka Tamenuri. Out of curiosity, I messaged the page and I was answered by Mr. Vivek Kulkarni, the artist, designer, owner etc. of G. M. Custom Pens of which The Urushi Studio India appeared to be a subsidiary. I was introduced to several of his creations and the prices, though certainly not cheap, would turn out to be cheaper than an imported Nakaya with international shipping and customs duty. I was getting hooked … and after my evacuation/repatriation/return a couple of months later, I took the bait! The Urushi Studio India: The Urushi Studio is very different from any standard fountain pen brand as is soon obvious. There are no named and numbered standardised models among which a customer has to choose. Each pen is unique and is created exactly as fancied by Mr. Kulkarni, who names them individually - The Australian Bushfire, The Greater Golden-back, The Multilayer Gold, The Red Heat etc. Note - these are names of individual pens - not product lines! Each pen requires individual attention over many months. Each pen is like a painting or rather a sculpture. You can learn more about the Urushi Studio by going to their FaceBook page and also by reading this article in inked happiness. After some discussion I settled on an Aka Tamenuri - one among, I think, three, that Mr. Kulkarni had in stock at the moment. I was told that the pen was 141 mm long and would come with a Schmidt converter and either a JOWO #6 steel nib or, if I wanted, a #6 14 K gold nib from Kanwrite aka Kanpur Writers a family owned fountain pen company from Kanpur, India. I opted for the Kanwrite nib. Deal done, Mr. Kulkarni took few more days to finish the pen with a last coating of lacquer and shipped it within a week. Fortunately, even during the pandemic, couriers were functional and I received the pen in three days flat. The box and the pen: first impressions and overall appearance: The box is plain but sturdy, matte black, and made of solid wood with the G.M. Pens logo and The Urushi Studio written over it in glossy black. It looks quite elegant in its own way. The box contained just the pen and a little handwritten note from Mr. Kulkarni. The pen has the same shape as the Nakaya Piccolo Cigar in Aka Tamenuri but there are some obvious and some subtle differences. First, this is much bigger and thicker. It is about the same size as the Pelican M800 but way thicker. Like the Piccolo, this pen is a simple cylinder with two very flat cones on either end. The capping cones appear to be flatter than in the Nakaya. There is an ever so slight curvature at the top and the bottom so that the middle of the cylinder is slightly - oh, so slightly - thicker than the two ends. The top and bottom cones are blunt and soft and blends smoothly into the cylinder. The whole thing has a smooth glossy polish. The surface feels like glass, warm to the touch. There were no scratches - not a single one and I am very finicky about these things. The cap meets the body almost at the centre where the dark Urushi gives way to an irregular red band of colour. The underlying red colour shows through also at the top and the bottom. The dark colour is painted on top of a bright red layer which is exposed only where two surfaces intersect. The red bands where the underlying colour shows through are not uniform - there was no attempt to make them so. The colours are what was naturally achieved. The small variations gives an impression of tongues of suppressed flames burning underneath! The surface gloss takes on subtly different hues in different light. Note the reflections in the barrel in the photographs and the mirror like smooth surface. Overall, one gets the impression of not a pen but a cult object! Something needed in the meditative Zen Buddhist practice. Something you get in a temple or prayer hall. But wait!! A fountain pen is very much a cult object too. Isn’t it so? The filling mechanism: The filling mechanism is cartridge converter and, as mentioned, a Schmidt converter was supplied. Mr. Kulkarni told me that it is possible to use the pen as an eyedropper although I don’t think I will try that. The base seems to be black ebonite which you see if you peek inside the cap or open the section to fill the pen. Usually, I prefer piston filling pens. However, a piston mechanism in this pen would be inappropriate and would introduce a break in the simplicity of shape. Introducing a clip, a band or any kind of discontinuity in the smooth lines and glossy surface seems like a sacrilege, an interruption and disturbance of inner peace! The nib and writing samples: The nib is a Kanwrite 14 K medium. The nib is unadorned and simple with just some regular scroll work and the words 14 K - 585 written below the eyehole. This is not, by any means a flex nib. However, there is a springy quality that makes it interesting to write with. With iroshizuku ina-ho ink, the flow is overall wet, although on very fast writing it did dry out once or twice. Simply waiting for a second, draws in ink into the feed and one can continue. Keeping the pen uncapped for a few minutes does not dry the feed and every time I could start writing the moment I opened the cap and put pen on paper. I have compared the nib to the Sailor 14 K Naginata Togi (extreme left) and the Pelikan M800, 18 K Bock nib of medium width (extreme right). It is unfair to compare any nib to the Sailor Naginata Togi which is probably the smoothest nib available on the planet. But that said, I think the Kanwrite nib comes out quite favourably - even unexpectedly so. Final words: I have been using this pen constantly since I got it a week back. I do not think I will take this along with me anywhere, even when the situation becomes normal and we cease to work from home. This pen, remains at home; when not in use it will be kept in its box on my desk. Of course a danger is that it can roll off and fall on the floor when I put it down during pauses in-between my writing. I am trying to make a habit of closing the pen and putting it inside the box, which I keep open in front, even during these short breaks. Would I like to get any more pens from Urushi Studio India? Sure. But for the moment, it is Fountain Pen Nirvana for me and besides I have promised my spouse no pens for the next foreseeable future - or I risk my marriage! So that is it for now. That’s all folks!

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