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Pilot Custom 74 Soft Fine Review (Black With Gold Accents)


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Pilot Custom 74 Soft Fine Review

This is my first ever review, so please bear with me and please let me know of any mistakes.
Table of Contents
  • Introduction
  • Packaging
  • Form Factor and Appearance
  • Nib and Section
  • Conclusion (TLDR)

· Name: Pilot C74
· Country of Origin: Japan, imported to US
· Model Number: FKK-1000R-B-SF
· Color: Black with Gold Accents
· Price: $84.39 from Amazon (free Prime one-day shipping included)
· Included Items: Box, warranty papers (no converters, just a cartridge)

Part I: Introduction
The Pilot Custom 74 is perhaps one of the most well known 14k next-step pens on the market. Its name comes from when it was first manufactured, in 1992, 74 years after Erich Drafahl and Ryosuke Namiki created the Namiki Manufacturing Company, which would go on to be named Pilot.
The Custom 74 looks extremely different in Pilots US and Japanese markets. In the US, it is sold to distributors for around ¥20,000 ($168), and is available only in demonstartor colors. In Japan, the pen is called the C74, and is available only in solid colors. In Japan proper, the pen is sold from Pilot for ¥10,000, however, it is available from most importers for around ¥8,500 (~$86). The Amazon vendor Future Station, from where I purchased the pen, is currently selling it for $84.39. However, it is a direct Japan import, so it only ships with a cartridge, box, and papers (no converters included). Luckily, Con-70s are not rare, so I ordered one with the pen for an added $9.

Part II: Packaging (85/100 It serves its purpose in a very no-frills fashion)
The packaging the Japanese Market C74 arrives in is rather nondescript and utilitarian. There is a grey cardboard sleeve, with the Pilot logo embossed in a glossy gold finish on the top. Besides this, the box has a set of letters Z-C-GN on the front, and some Japanese recycling notifications of the back.


Once the sleeve is open, the utilitarian focus continues. You are greeted by a black, lightweight plastic boxwhich I personally think looks more like a chest. It, like the sleeve, features the Pilot logo in gold on the top. Once opened, the box has the Pilot logo on a stitched fabric background, with the pen sitting in its plastic sleeve and clip tag on top of a plastic felt-ridged cover with a decorative ribbon.


Once you take out the plastic pen rest, you are left with a warranty card (in Japanese), a return policy guide and fulfillment form (if you are not satisfied with the product), and a sticker of some sort. Also included is an instruction manual with English, Japanese, and pictograms. It is very detailed.

In some similar reviews Ive read, people often describe the box as being cheap, and to some extent, theyre right. The box is in no way comparable to that of a Pelikan m205, or even perhaps a Conklin or Monteverde. However, the box serves its purpose excellently with no frills attached. It is protective of the pen, built well using the least expensive materials as possible, and is brilliantly functional. This seems to be a bit of a metaphor for the not only the box, but also for the entire pen itself.

Part III: External Form Factor & Appearance


This pen is the classic cigar shape. From end to end, I measured the Pen as being 14.1 cm with the cap, and 12.6 cm without the cap. By itself, the cap is 6.7 cm. Compared to my current pens, its just a couple millimeters longer than my TWSBI Eco, Lamy Safari, Platinum #3776 Century, and Waterman Kultur capped. With the cap off, it is longer than the Century, but shorter than everything else. However, it does stand out due to its narrowness. Its maximum circumference is 11 mm, and is 10 mm at the grip (about the same as the barrel of a Safari). Most of my other pens hover around 12 to 14 mm, and those two to four millimeters do make the pen seem thin.

Although it is not uncomfortable for me (my hands are about average size, erring towards slightly large), it definitely feels awkward compared to some of my other pens. For someone with big hands, it may be uncomfortable for long periods as time). It gets a little bit tiresome for me after 40 minutes of writing. (This week, I had final exams, and challenged myself to use each pen for the essay portion of the test.) However, this pen, by the end of the test, did make my hands cramp up.

The pen is made out of black resin (aka plastic) with gold-colored accents. It is very light, weighing 12 g without a converter or ink inside. Although it is light, and plastic-y, the build quality is excellent. It is sturdy and has so far received no cracks even after a small number of drops onto hardwood flooring. It also looks nice; it has a very classic, almost Mont Blanc-esque feel to it.

The clip is a triangle with a sphere on the end. It is connected to the cap by a simple gold ring separating the finial. It is stiff, but serves its purpose well. To keep things symmetrical, the pen also has a similar gold ring by the end of the barrel. At the end of the cap, there are two gold bandsone wider, raised band with the text ☆ Custom 74 ☆ Pilot Made in Japan. Next to it, is another thin gold band like on the finial and barrel.


The cap screws on tightly in about two rotations. The threading is firm and there is no movement. In my short ownership, the pen has not once become loose without me unscrewing it. The cap is firmly attached to the barrel, and there is little to no movement. It does take a little force to unscrew if it has been screwed tightly. It friction posts posts securely. The pen is also well balanced, both with the cap on and off.

The pen, although it seems to be cheaply made, is very well made. It feels good in the hand, and is not cumbersome or obstructionist. It also looks good. It has an understated, functionalist beauty to it that some may not like. It is not gaudy or attention-calling, it just looks classic and feels sturdy.

Part IV: Nib, Section, and Writing

Like the body of the pen, the grip is simple. It is a small section, only a centimenter in diameter and 1.6 mm long. There is no ledge between the threads and the grip, and the threads themselves are not sharp, so they can be used as a grip if need be. It is a normal, circular grip, and the pen feels nice in the hand.


Now, we get to the #5 nib, the golden portion of this instrument (pun not strictly intended). It is a 14 karat (58.5%) gold Soft Fine nib. (Roughly a JoWoTWSBI, Goulet, Monteverde, etc.EF size). It writes gorgeously. I inked it with my go-to Noodlers black, and as soon as it touched my Rhodia paper, I was astonished. The nib is very smooth, with just the right amount of feedback (as I got to cheaper and cheaper paper the feedback got more and more intense). It feels incredible in the hand. Not only that, but it is gorgeous. It features some really nice scrollwork besides the pilot name, model and size number. It really gives the nib some visual character.

26963815464_0fdc237367_n.jpg 26963812894_d662a9e24a_n.jpg

However, this is no normal fine nib, it is a soft fine, and it feels amazing. With it, you can get line variation going from a western EF to a western M or maybe even a B. Every once in a while, it will get to a BB, but it normally railroads before then. And although this is not a flex nib (and please, please do not use it that wayyou will kill the poor tines), it does make it possible to add some panache to your writing quite easily. The feed keeps up with the nib no matter how fast, providing a nice, steady, wet flow of ink. It is really a joy to write with.


Writing Sample on 90g Rhodia

Part V: Conclusion (or TL;DR)

For $86, this pen is truly incredible. It has a 14k nib with great variation and wonderful characteristics. It is built well and it feels sturdy; the resin is wonderful. It is compatible with all Pilot convertersespecially the incredible Con-70, and is all around an incredible pen. I really recommend it.

Final Score: 265/300 88%. Would recommend.

As this is my first review, please let me know what I can do better next time,

Caleb Edited by caleb
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Excellent review of a most excellent pen, Caleb. Thorough but down-to-earth. Well done.

I love the smell of fountain pen ink in the morning.



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Thank you for this review caleb :) I like both CH92 & C74 with size #5 nibs.

I really loved the pen at "first ink" :D The MSRP is JPY 10,000. The only competition imo, is from a Platinum#3776 with a bigger nib as far as msrp is concerned


Mine (here) has a springy, soft & juicy standard medium nib & I use it posted to get the heft.


Below is the logic for MSRP for pilot models:


The C74 was launched 74 years after the company’s inception (i.e. 1918), and as usual it does carry the first two digits of the model number as ‘74’ and the third digit is by default ‘1’ usually refers price at launch of the pen (i.e 1 X JPY 10,000).

Edited by sannidh

You have come to earth to entertain and to be entertained - P.Y


Some Pen & Paraphernalia Reviews

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Hi Caleb, a great review - especially for a first go. I've been toying with the idea of trying out a Custom 74 - but haven't yet reached the point where I'm ready to 'pull the trigger'. A couple of questions, though: (1) Does the Custom 74 cap post onto the barrel - and if so, do you find it more comfortable to write with posted or unposted? (2) What was it that made extended writing with the pen uncomfortable for you - the length, or the diameter of the grip section, or something else?

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This pen can be gotten very inexpensively and offers a real bargain.

I agree that it is a beautifully made, very simple and understated pen.

I have the soft-medium nib and have fallen in love with it.

Just a lovely, juicy nib with great feedback and line variation.

Probably my favorite nib.

I just bought another 823 and have been thinking about buying a 743 soft-medium to do a nib swap with my much loved 823.

The Pilot custom line is just so great.

Thanks for the review.

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thanks for the review!

It's a small world......but I'd hate to paint it. -Stephen Wright

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(1) Does the Custom 74 cap post onto the barrel - and if so, do you find it more comfortable to write with posted or unposted?


(2) What was it that made extended writing with the pen uncomfortable for you - the length, or the diameter of the grip section, or something else?

1) Yes it does post quite securely, It wouldn't fall off unless you yourself tried to remove it. I, personally, enjoy this pen unposted because it gets a bit long and undwieldy otherwise. However, it does stay balanced, so it depends more on the size of your hand.


2) For me, the diameter is definatley what makes it uncomfortable for writing a 45 min. essay. My grip is normally more of a tripod grip, however, anytime I write past 15 minutes, my grip errs toward a quadrupod grasp (which necessitates a wider barrel). So I guess it was a combination of my quadrupod grasp and the diameter that made it uncomfortable, although it depends on the person. It's about the same width as a Pilot G2 rollerball if you've ever used one.

Edited by caleb
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Nice review!


I agree with you on the nib - mine has a soft fine-medium and it is superbly smooth! I also agree with the touch and feel - it feels like a high end pen to the touch. An underrated pen to be sure!

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Thanks for the review caleb. Pilot remains one of my most favorite penmakers. C74 is astonishing value for money pen.

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Thanks, Caleb. I appreciate members who take the time to share their thoughts about pens, and do it in a way that "talks to me". I enjoyed this conversation. As it happens, I bought one of these wonderful pens a few years ago after hearing a lot about Japanese fountain pens and settling on this model as my introduction to them. For many of the reasons you touched on, Caleb, it's been a mainstay in my EDC pen wraps since then. Excellent pen. Excellent review.



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Very good review, only a minor correction, I've seen that the Custom 74 is sold in Japan with a MSRP of 10,000 yen.



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Very good review, only a minor correction, I've seen that the Custom 74 is sold in Japan with a MSRP of 10,000 yen.



Thank you. It is now updated.

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Very good review, only a minor correction, I've seen that the Custom 74 is sold in Japan with a MSRP of 10,000 yen.



Thank you. It is now updated.

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Nice review!

My only complaint about the pen is the appearance. I enjoy using the soft fine nib as it gives some interesting characteristics to my writing, but I would prefer it if the design was a little more interesting than a plain black cigar.

The nib is surprisingly soft and it's excellent value for money!

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First review, you have set the bar very high for yourself. A great review of a great fp, I have the same pen with the same nib and really enjoy using it. Good price also.


Can't wait to read your next offering.




"may our fingers remain ink stained"

Handwriting - one of life's pure pleasures

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If that's your first review, I can hardly wait to see the next ones - great job. This pen has been on my "wanted" list for some time, and your review just tipped the balance even further. Thank you! (I think)

"Life would split asunder without letters." Virginia Woolf

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Awesome review...


This is making me lean towards this pen. I love the $80 price point for a 14k nib!!


Have a soft fine Pilot Falcon already, and I love the small line variations it produces.


Thanks again for the review!

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