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  1. Hi everyone, I've been waiting a little impatiently for this pen to arrive I've started to get interested in japanese urushi pens recently and wanted to stretch out my collection that is mostly made out of european celluloid pens (ie. omas,montegrappa,pelikan etc.) My first urushi pen was a mikado which I really enjoyed, and was unlike any of the 30ish pens I've owned before. But as it was a fairly well known pen in the community I didn't feel the urge to write a review on it. My first review was on a KOP with blue urushi finish, which is my favourite pen still. My second review is this one, on a pen that is fairly underpresented in this medium Imho. Without further ado, I hereby present you the custom urushi in red finish : Appearance & Design : 9/10 I view this pen as the spiritual successor of the 845, as the resemblance between two models are uncanny. This is like the jumbo version of that pen, swollen in size almost everywhere possible. This is a true oversize pen, bigger in size than both KOP and m1000. The design reminds me somewhat of the big red duofold of yore, I really enjoy this shiny red urushi this pen comes in, it's like a toy pen from far away but has the complexity of urushi lacquer up close . Color is a nice contrast to my tame nuri mikado, which towers above even custom urushi in size . In this model, the urushi is applied only to the mid portion of barrel and mid portion of cap, and the remaining parts (section, finneal etc.) are made out of plastic ( at least it feels that way). This somewhat leaves something to be desired, as from my KOP urushi I was used to the whole urushi looks. The gold rings all around give the pen a more professional look, compared to KOP and mikado, both of which are in the understated spectrum of pens imho. This pen looks really wonderful and as always pictures never do justice to the urushi pens and I think from the visuals department this pen fits perfectly to be the flagship of pilot company. I took out only one point from the scale, as I was spoiled by the work of art urushi on my KOP previously, which has a 3d feeling of depth in its paint that is not present in custom urushi. But make no mistake, the shine of urushi on this pen is nothing less than spectacular. 3 sisters Section is plastic, as is with KOP, but it's not painted here, neither are finneals of cap and barrel. Construction & Quality: 10/10 After using a couple of pilot pens, quality control and construction quality both have their ceilings removed in my point of view. The engravings, clip holder ball, gold rings etc. are top notch and everything is made to fit perfectly, even the barrels fit into section creates an airtight closing, which feels extremely sturdy, more so than KOP, which has the same metal on ebonite barrel-section closing but is of lesser quality imo. This pen is clearly made to last, and I don't imagine this pen making any problems in the near future. I think pilot really made a home run in the quality control department, and I wouldn't be surprised if every custom urushi came out this good out of box, as this type of construction quality is usually an all or non endeavour. Weight & Dimensions : 10/10 I am again cheating in this department , as I have not weighted or measured this pen with a proper tool . But the pictures show how it compares in size vs KOP and mikado, and custom urushi is noticeably heavier than KOP but probably lighter than mikado. I know this sounds like stone age calculus but that's all I got unfortunately . The pen feels right in the hand, and the center of gravity is somewhere close to middle of barrel. For those that enjoy pens similar in size to 149 or KOP, this should feel like a natural fit. Nib & Performance : 10/10 This is the part in which I was genuinely surprised. Having used quite some modern gold pens, I was expecting something similar to m1000 characteristics, probably a little stiffer due to shape of nib, but boy how wrong was I . This nib is definitely soft, probably a little less so than m1000, but the similarities end there imho. The snap back is really genuine, and it feels closer to write with a 912 fa nib more than m1000 imho. The feed was always adequate in my short writing sessions but I didn't write a whole lot until now. I feel better writing with this than all of my oversized nibs, and that is a really hard thing to achieve . Pilot has nailed it in the #8 nib department imho, even though they haven't got any experience there before. Here's a writing sample of all three pens; One can notice how line width of custom urushi is much thinner in some places than mikado while almost same width in other places, the feed was able to keep up with nib during my sessions Edit: I think I have forgot to add a compare & contrast between these pens, as if you have an experience with any one of them, it can be easier to understand how the other two writes. Sailor is the one I have most experience with, as I've been using a medium KOP for more than a year now. That nib is really smooth, like probably one of the smoothest nibs I've ever used. It's closer to fines of european nibs, and there's little line variation, though the flow is never interrupted, even if you write fast and push the nib a little. With some push, you can the shading of the ink more apparent, even if line variation is limited. The second pen I use most is the mikado, which has a bock made 18k medium #8 nib. That nib is probably as soft as sailor, but it has a lot more flex at tip than sailor has. This creates very nice line variation although it feels a little mushy and snap back is not as good as I would like, reminding me of the good old m1000s . That pen dries fairly easily after the fill, so I almost always exclusively use it valve open, and sometimes force feed ink into the feed with the valve, creating an oversaturated passage, and that's quite fun . Being able to change the flow of the feed is a very welcome option, and gets the pen a very nice character, even though the nib is probably a run off the mill bock nib. The line width is similar to european pens, as the nib is european, so it runs closer to the broad KOP nib more than medium nib. That leaves the custom urushi to last, and as it is an f-m nib, (japanese characteristics) it is hard to make a direct comparison here. It is very narrow, like at least a size narrower than kop m or two sizes than dani m. However, the nib has the best line variation of the bunch, and I can't say the nib is soft per se, as it is only the tip that bends when applying pressure, the line easily goes beyond medium, probably matching kop in everyday writing, if you have a heavy hand. The feed is wet, and if this was a broad nib I guess it would be wetter than sailor, but with this tipping it makes the ancient copper shade really nice.This nib has really nice characteristics that is hard for a newbie like me to explain, but I've seen some japanese pages comparing this to a 149 nib, both taken out of the pen. Although they have similar sizes out of section and have same gold percentage, they have many differences and it was quite an interesting read. I'll add it to one of the comments if I find that page. Filling System & Maintenance : 8/10 This pen is a cartrdige/converter and comes with the really nice Con-70 proprieatory converter. Although it should be accepting the newer con-40 without any trouble as well. This is one of the largest converters on sale afaik and it is a real sweetheart to fill and empty. So I think this is a real good alternative to pistons or eyedroppers of other oversize pens. The only nitpick I have is that if this pen was a piston filler or ED, with the massive barrel it has, it probably could fit twice the ink no problem. But as everyone ever used a piston filler before those are harder to clean than converters and if something breaks whole pen needs to be serviced, as if the converter here is broken, a new con70 should cost less than $10. I gave it a 9/10 in this regard. The maintenance issue is a little more complex, as I think if it is kept safe, this pen could easily outlast its middle age owners . However if an unfortunate accident occurs, it will be a little harder to clean up the mess. First of all, this pen is not sold anywhere out of japan, so good luck asking for an exchange from your local b&m store . So if you've got an acquintance in japan maintaining this pen could be a lot easier . I took off some points and gave a 7/10 in this regard. Cost & Value : 8/10 I bought this pen directly from japan and the price was less than half of what I paid for KOP urushi. That puts the price/performance ratio of this pen through the roof, as it is a wonderful pen for ~$800. The thing is again good luck finding this pen let alone finding it for that price . In the more commonplace markets such as rakuten, it can be bought closer to $900 but they state a multiple month waiting list for this specific model. And in western retailers, the black model sells for around $1100, sometimes higher. I think pilot managed to hit a sweet spot with the cost & value of this pen, as incorporating low cost production techniques (converter filler, plastic section etc.) with high cost features ( #8 nib, urushi barrel & cap) they created a pen that is not stupid expensive but really has some of the features of stupidly expensive pens. (looking at you namiki ) The thing is, I really hate it when somewhere around the world some other human being pays a lot less to reach the same product as me while the producer earns the same, and the middle man fills their pockets. I mean no harm for the retailers trying to sell japanese goods as they're selling almost at the same price, which makes me think this is probably more due to the large distributors instead of small retailers. I wish japanese pens could settle a street price all around the world, and we could use their awesome pens more often. Final Thoughts & Conclusion : 55/60 When I added up the final score, I noticed it probably was higher than the score I assigned for KOP, which is my favourite pen . I think this is more due to the fact that I think this is a better pen for a larger population than KOP, as KOP has quite a few shortages that can be dealbreakers for many people. As I have written in the review, pilot has hit many home runs with this pen and this specific finish is an underdog in the oversize pen world, which is a shame as it is a solid all-rounder that is quite more fun to have around than the good old & boring 149 or other slew of black precious! resin pens. I am still a newbie in this forum and appreciate all critics, especially if I can improve myself. Thanks for reading.
  2. I'm relatively new to collecting fountain pens, but having now rotated through 'collecting' other things over the years (and I, like most people, actually hoard rather than collect, in the true sense of the word), I know how things ultimately play out. Whether it be camera equipment, watches, even vacuums, always the same process, so now I like to get right to the punch line and be efficient with my spend and my learning investment with new hobbies. Start with the beginner unit, work up to a really solid performing 'value' unit that punches above it's weight, then get a VERY NICE ​unit that becomes one's daily driver even following the hobby immersion, then top it off with THE GRAIL... then on to the next hobby, but keep ties to this one, without the incessant urges to buy, Buy, BUY! Some people spend 40 years wandering in the desert to get to this place (its about the journey, right?)... others, perhaps a matter of months. The whole while, immersing oneself into forums, online shopping feedback, professional written reviews and You Tube videos soaking in knowledge and sharing about the hobby and its equipment. One gets very familiar with the technology of the hobby, the key brands and their traits, the temperament of that collecting universe, etc... And hopefully along the way, if involved long enough, develop some enthusiast contacts and share that enthusiasm of the hobby virtually. My learning over the years is that until one finally buys the Big Kahuna grail collectable, one ends up with a lot of equipment and a lot of money spent, most of which goes underutilized, the whole while feeling compelled to buy the next thing. Or there is the (uncomfortable for me) process of offloading of equipment (for pennies on the dollar, more times than not) through the 'sales corner' of the forum. Anyway, I've got my meager 3 pen collection, and the remaining 'grail' must be purchased. I know for my GRAIL, I want a BIG pen, but one that functions very well. I spent a number of hours researching European big pens and am very concerned about the fickle nature of their quality and usability. There are some horror stories out there about the Pelikan M1000 (specific to nib performance) and not consistent adoring reviews of the MB149 either. I personally enjoy my Asian pens, with crisp writing output and not sloppy wet. They all seem to punch above their weight. Which is why when I am looking at a $1K-$2K Asian pen, I can only imagine what I would actually feel about it in my hand. I've really become attracted to vermillion Urushi from a color/material standpoint. I know the Emperor is honking huge... but this a grail so really should be over the top. I understand it is well balanced and writes well. Meanwhile the Custom Urushi just looks really tight and I love the two-tone nib. Does anyone have any actual knowledge of which one writes better? Which has the best fit and finish? Which is just more awesome? Right now I'm finding the Emperor at ~ a 50% premium over the Custom. Assuming money is no object, which is more awesome, and why? What are the concerns with each? Anyone own both?





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