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Can't Decide Between Pilot Custom 823 F Or 742 Po


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Hi everybody,

I've been haunting the forum for a while now without posting anything but now I desperately need some purchase advice.

As a university student I need to take a lot of notes every day. I figure 5-10 pages a day isn't all that much for some of you hardcore writers out there but for me it is and therefore need a good pen… or at least want one :) .

My requirement for a pen is that it performs well for fast and long writing sessions. From my research so far I have narrowed it down to the Pilot Custom 823 F or 742 PO / F. I don't really care that much about the price because I'm not a collector. Therefore, I don't plan to buy another dozen of pens but only one that does exactly what I want. However, the 823 is definitely at the upper (almost painful) limit. Through my search after the ultimate writing utensil for me, I already acquired several other fountain pens (Italix, TWSBI, Pilots) but sadly none of them left me satisfied. (I included the pens that I own at the bottom.)


Writing this, I feel rather awful, much like a millionaire complaining about his collection of supercars. This is whining on a high level but I’m like that. I don’t want much but I want the best or to put it more accurately: the best value for money... If I was said millionaire I would probably buy a custom Edison, or a dozenof them since money would not be an issue anymore :P .


Now, I can’t decide between the 823F and 742PO/F/EF. I want a pilot because they offer affordable, high quality pens with fine nibs. In addition, Pilot blue and blue-black inks are waterproof, well behaved and affordable. The 823 received high grades all around in the reviews, I’ve read. The only thing I don’t like about it, is that one must unscrew the back in order to make it write. That just sounds …wrong, kind of like having a car, that only drives if you turn on the windshield wipers :wacko: … Moreover, the PO nib is intriguing me. I’ve read that the PO nib only requires little pressure(1) and is good for fast and small writing(2). This sounds exactly like what I’m looking for. However, there are only few reviews around and two youtube videos

in which the nib makes an awful lot of noise.


What? You’re still reading? Ok then, thank you so much for taking the time to read about my conflict! I really appreciate it. If you happen to know something about the two pens in question please let me know.





Supplementary information:

These are the pens I already own:

-Pilot 78G F: For the price it’s certainly a stellar pen but it's also small and flimsy and has a low ink capacity. On top of that it’s rather boring…

-Pilot Vanishing Point F: The clicking mechanism is very convenient and the nib is on the dry side but smooth. However, the gripping section is placed awkwardly above the ridge between the metal cap and body. In addition, it's tapered towards the tip and rather heavy which makes the pen exhausting to write with.

-TWSBI 580 EF: It looks very nice, has a good size and weight but it’s too wet for taking notes on heap paper, produces a too thick line and feels slow, a little like writing with glue…

-Italix Parson’s Essential fine stub: It’s very smooth. The line variation makes everything look better and it’s built very well. However, the stub is too thick as well for taking notes.

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  • quabop


  • daintydimsum


  • vnnil


  • cursivator


I owned the 912 in a PO nib (and somehow lost it, annoyingly). The PO is an extremely fine nib, the finest I've tried - I found it finer than Platinum's UEF. A Pilot Fine nib is... quite a bit broader and smoother.


My PO nib was a bit scratchy and I actually wanted to take it to Oxonian at a penshow, before promptly losing the pen. Ugh. I'm not sure if the PO was just scratchy because it was so fine, or if it just needed a bit of an adjustment/re-alignment. I didn't end up replacing the pen with a PO nib though. It was not my favourite nib and I'm very fond of very fine nibs. I now have a 912 with a Soft Fine and like it very much.


I do plenty of writing each day and have small handwriting - a Japanese fine is about as broad as I can go. I think the PO might be a bit scratchy if you don't have an extremely light touch. A Fine would be easier all around.


Also, have you considered a Sailor EF? They are very fine, hard as a nail but somehow have character, and a pleasure to write with.

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@daintydimsum: Thank you for your advice. I believe I have a rather light touch. I usually exert just enough pressure to get a consistent line on the paper... I read that the SF nibs are not quite as fine as a normal fine nib. Was I misinformed? I have not really considered a Sailor. In retrospect, I don't know why not... So I will have to look into that. Would mind telling me more about the Sailor EF nib and how it compares to a Pilot's fine? Thanks again.

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While I don't have my Pilot Custom Heritage 912 PO on me at the moment, I'd be happy to try to help answer your inquiry. My actual pen is the one you mentioned above (Gourmet Pens review, also the Pen Addict review). I no longer have my 823 F, unfortunately, but I did own one. I also primarily use Pilot Blue Black ink.


Personally, the PO nib is one of my favorite nibs, and is my favorite Pilot nib. It is a very smooth nib (has a small sweet spot), but you can write very fast with it and it keeps up without issue. A few points with pros (+) and cons (-) between the two:


Pilot Custom 823 F (#15 size nib)

+ Large ink capacity

+ Demonstrator barrel (easy to see ink capacity)

- Unscrew the blind cap to write longer periods (more than a page or so; this is fairly minor)

- Smallest "stock" nib is an F; you can buy from some Japanese sellers with alternate nibs

- Harder to completely clean (if you're switching ink colors often; not a huge deal)

- More expensive than 742

= Bigger pen (neither a pro or a con)


Pilot 742 PO (#10 size nib)

+ Decent ink capacity with included CON-70 converter (and remember, the finer nib will use less ink anyway)

+ Easier to clean

+ Less expensive than 823

- Unable to see ink remaining without unscrewing barrel (very quick to do, but still... a con)

- Many nib options besides the PO nib.

= Smaller than 823


Now, having said that, do you feel like you can write fast with your existing Pilot nibs? You may enjoy a Pilot with an EF nib as well. My PO nib is just slightly finer than my Pilot EF nibs, but not that much of a difference. Since you have a light touch, you may not need the PO nib and could get by with an EF. (See Brad's Pen Addict review, which includes both my EF and PO nibs in writing samples.)


Or, you could even get a Pilot Custom 92 (piston filler, so decent ink capacity) with an F nib (#5 size). I use a Pilot EF nib daily for notes at work. I could just as easily use the PO nib for the same purpose. Just some food for thought.


I guess it depends on what factors are most important to you. Let me know if you have more questions.

Edited by trhall
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To give some #'s to capacity:

  • Pilot 823 holds 2.2ml ink
  • Pilot Con-70 holds 1ml ink
  • Pilot Heritage 92 holds 1.2ml ink

Your TWSBI 580 holds 2ml ink



...writing only requires focus, and something to write on. —John August

...and a pen that's comfortable in the hand.—moi

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I've a Custom 823 F and a Custom Heritage 92 F. Both really smooth and a joy to use for everything. I don't find the 823 operating method a pain at all.

The Good Captain

"Meddler's 'Salamander' - almost as good as the real thing!"

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If sou are planning go use Pilot link anyway, and that size is OK, go for the 742. Pushing the $ limit might let you unsatisfied, and the 742 will let you use cartridges, which might be convenient.



free 70 pages graphic novel. Enjoy!

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Dear trhall,

thank you very much for your extensive reply. There is nothing neither good nor bad about the two pens that really makes me lean towards one or the other. However, I’m wondering if the 832 only costs 50$ more because auf the filling mechanism. How does the 742 feel compared to the 823? Or better, does the 823 feel like a pen that costs 50$ more?

Concerning my writing speed, I am not quite sure I understand the reasoning behind your proposition to consider an EF nib. Are you suggesting that a PO nib is “faster” than an EF and an EF in turn “faster “than an F nib? What did you mean with with: "Since you have a light touch, you may not need the PO nib and could get by with an EF."?

My biggest issue really is the nib choice. I’m wondering if a PO nib or EF might suit me better than an F. The problem is that I don’t really know how they compare or what I should expect. Could you please tell me more about the nibs in question?


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I think the SF just has a bit more line variation and flourish to it; I don't find it excessively broad at all. I have a fairly light touch too, and still needed to exercise self-control with the PO nib. I think that's what was a bit exasperating - I should have been able to write faster with the PO (since I can go smaller and don't have to worry about the words melding into one another), but because of the control needed, whatever speed I thought I would have gained was gone. But again, I think my nib probably needed some adjustment - I've had nothing but good experiences with Pilot's nibs.


Sailor's nibs are very stiff. Some don't like it but I do. The lines are lovely and fine but on my pen I find that it needs near-constant use when there's ink in it. Oxonian confirmed this as well when tweaking mine at the London Pen Show. But once it gets going, it's lovely. Indeed, I'm considering getting a Sailor KOP because I really enjoy my Sailor.

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The 823 has the piston filling mechanism, a bigger nib, and is also a heavier pen (29.5g vs 25g). Do you like a more substantial pen?


My question with the EF vs. PO nib is that both write a similar line. You could purchase a smaller Pilot (Custom 74) with an EF nib for less money, and still get a nice fine line. That's all.


The EF is finer than the F, but has a similar feel. The PO nib has a smaller sweet spot due to the nib shape, but I had no issues getting accustomed to it. It's a very nice nib. I don't think you can go wrong with any of your choices. It' simply up to aesthetics and what features you prefer in a pen/nib.

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I would say you go for the Custom 823 with a fine nib. The unscrew mechanism can get a bit annoying so I just removed the little "o"-ring so I wouldn't have to be constantly unscrewing the back of the pen. The Custom 823 is currently my go-to pen and I find it comfortable even when writing for prolonged periods of time.

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  • 4 weeks later...

If you apply pressure to the EF nib, it will flex a tiny bit, resulting in a slightly wider, wetter line. The PO nib does not do that; it's like an EF pointed almost straight into the paper.


Sometimes when I'm writing quickly, I begin pushing on my pen, so I like the PO nib.

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  • 2 years later...

My 823s (I have all 3 widths and colors) are my absolute go-to pens (and I gotta LOTTA pens,) great, comfortable writers -- but even the fine is nowhere near what you seem to be talking about. I also have a Sailor EF, an impressive nib in its way. But my 912 with a PO nib is almost a jaw-dropper -- how can such a a thin line write so smoothly (in my case out of the box, but I second preparedness for some nibmeistering,) even on paper with a little bit of tooth? I can't imagine anything really thin won't make a little bit of sound, but YouTube sounds are not the best example, the condenser mics register sound in a different way than the human ear.

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Given that both are excellent pens, and it does seem plausible to me that the 823 spends ink at 2.2 PO's rate, it all comes down to personal preference:


1. Preferred line width and quality of the paper (the PO being far better for cheap paper)

2. How you handle your pens and/or risk (although it is well built, the 823 is more expensive to replace and fragile)

3. Look and feel (demo vs solid, colour, shape)


Both pens are outstanding, but they're are very different.

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