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Pilot Custom Urushi Red Review



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Fatalpotato

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 :

 

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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.

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3 sisters :)

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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.

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Nib & Performance : 10/10

 

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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 :D. 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;

 

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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.

Edited by Fatalpotato
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Salivating profusely here! Thanks for a great review! My banker will contact you shortly to scold you for tempting me beyond measure.

 

- P.

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Fatalpotato

Salivating profusely here! Thanks for a great review! My banker will contact you shortly to scold you for tempting me beyond measure.

 

- P.

Haha :). Thanks for the read, and don't forget even after you pull the trigger it takes at least a month for this beauty to arrive. I wonder if they send by snails :D.
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Nice and Congrats! It certainly was a top contender for my first Urushi (which I still wait on). I'm still undecided whether it is a good or bad thing to have a plastic section on an Urushi pen.

 

I keep hearing speculation of the Pilot 100 year anniversary 'suprise' in 3Q18. Only time will tell whether we both should have held out or be greatful that we depleted banks accounts enough to not go totally broke on some commemorative edition pen.

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Fatalpotato

Seems like a wonderful pen! Enjoy it!

Thanks sir I hope you enjoyed my review as well.

Nice and Congrats! It certainly was a top contender for my first Urushi (which I still wait on). I'm still undecided whether it is a good or bad thing to have a plastic section on an Urushi pen.

 

I keep hearing speculation of the Pilot 100 year anniversary 'suprise' in 3Q18. Only time will tell whether we both should have held out or be greatful that we depleted banks accounts enough to not go totally broke on some commemorative edition pen.

 

I heard about this se right now but my gut says that will probably like all the special editions we get in the last decade, a subtle color change and double the price :(. If all goes well I plan to buy an emperor in late q3 or early q4. Maybe I'm wrong about the 100th year commemorate and I can gladly allocate my sources there :).
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Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts. A comparison with other similar offerins from different makes is especially helpful to the community.

 

You compared the Custom nib to an M1000, but I am interested in your impressions vs the other two nibs in your photos.

If you want less blah, blah, blah and more pictures, follow me on Instagram!

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TassoBarbasso

I have the Pilot 845 and it's the best pen ever made in my opinion; seriously considering getting this one, too! :)

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Fatalpotato

Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts. A comparison with other similar offerins from different makes is especially helpful to the community.

 

You compared the Custom nib to an M1000, but I am interested in your impressions vs the other two nibs in your photos.

A very nice question and I indeed forgot to add that to my review so that's a reminder for me to edit the review tonight. In short, I really enjoy the buttery smoothness of the kop nib, especially in broad size. Custom is definitely more feedbacky, especially in this f-m tipping. The nib is placed very shallow inside the section afaik, which makes it a lot softer than the sailor nib, but it also has some flex as well,definitely more so than kop. Danitrio nib is also flexier than sailor, but not as much as custom Imho. Dani is probably the wettest of the bunch, especially with the help of shut off valve. However, custom is also genuinely wet, especially when I dare to push the nib a little. The feed is probably made from the same material as my 912 so I don't think it will take much before the pen starts to railroad. But I've not managed to do that yet, as I'm a little afraid to push the nib right now :). So on smoothness:sailor>dani>custom line variation:custom>dani>sailor i will add a broader comparison to review and also include how it compares to my 14k dolce vita oversize nib :)
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Fatalpotato, really nice review. I love my pen so much that I now have 2 of them. One black one with a medium and a crimson one with a fine/ medium nib.

 

One thing I really love about the 845 is it's ability to fade into the background if you choose to use it in a public setting. Very elegant pen, with enough difference that people will not mistake it for a Montblanc. However it has enough details that elevate it to being a very unique and exception workhorse for the user. Because of the dimensions of the Custom Urushi, there is NO WAY that it can go incognito, unlike the 845. It is such a huge pen that people notice it right away. If you have the black version, at least people will give you a look, wondering what type of special pen you have. The crimson is hopelessly a showoff with its unique size and very eye catching color.

 

Together with my ebonite KOP, I want these 2 pens to be with me for an eternity. It's that good.

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Fatalpotato

Fatalpotato, really nice review. I love my pen so much that I now have 2 of them. One black one with a medium and a crimson one with a fine/ medium nib.

 

One thing I really love about the 845 is it's ability to fade into the background if you choose to use it in a public setting. Very elegant pen, with enough difference that people will not mistake it for a Montblanc. However it has enough details that elevate it to being a very unique and exception workhorse for the user. Because of the dimensions of the Custom Urushi, there is NO WAY that it can go incognito, unlike the 845. It is such a huge pen that people notice it right away. If you have the black version, at least people will give you a look, wondering what type of special pen you have. The crimson is hopelessly a showoff with its unique size and very eye catching color.

 

Together with my ebonite KOP, I want these 2 pens to be with me for an eternity. It's that good.

Thanks for the kind words, and I agree on pretty much everything you said. The 845 has more tipping choices as well, and would be a good fit for anyone who like normal size pens. My only concern with 845 was that although pilot was a huge company their flagship pen was not so much different than their other offerings. With custom urushi available, they got a direct competitor vs 149, kop etc. That's pretty good for the profitability of the company and for us oversize pen folk :).
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It sounds like a very similar experience to my vermilion and black 845s in the urushi lacking the depth and life found in urushi pens from other makers. I sold the vermilion 845 because I really failed to bond with the nib but still have the black one. With it the contrast between the urushi and plastic parts is not quite as obvious.

 

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Fatalpotato

It sounds like a very similar experience to my vermilion and black 845s in the urushi lacking the depth and life found in urushi pens from other makers. I sold the vermilion 845 because I really failed to bond with the nib but still have the black one. With it the contrast between the urushi and plastic parts is not quite as obvious.

I liked the nib so much that I would have bought the pen even if it was all plastic at this price point. The urushi is just an extra for me. However, I'm not sure if same can be said about 845, as I don't think that pen warrants a $200 extra over the 743,if you're impartial to the urushi of the pen. Anyway, if you have the chance, I recommend you to check out custom urushi, it's a good upgrade in ergonomics and writing to the 845 Imho.

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I liked the nib so much that I would have bought the pen even if it was all plastic at this price point. The urushi is just an extra for me. However, I'm not sure if same can be said about 845, as I don't think that pen warrants a $200 extra over the 743,if you're impartial to the urushi of the pen. Anyway, if you have the chance, I recommend you to check out custom urushi, it's a good upgrade in ergonomics and writing to the 845 Imho.

I've looked at them but so far they haven't really stirred much interest. There are simply so many other really nice pens out there but someday it may make it onto my list.

 

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Fatalpotato

post-136445-0-25207000-1527407647_thumb.jpg

 

I think this review deserves a better written section so I would like to expand it a litle bit. I've not learned how to write in cursive or any fancy writing styles while in school so I hope my hand writing is legible :) I think this will be one of my favourite pens of all time, mostly due to the awesome nib.That is a true masterpiece and I wish the European and American companies churning out the same stuff over and over re-branding them soft, flex, vintage flex etc. would learn a thing or two :)

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The topic of nibs is an interesting one. I believe Japanese tend to have the least variation from sample to sample and most people assume their nib experience is the same as experienced by others, but certainly that is not always the case. Currently my KoP Broad is my favorite performing nib and curious what advantages you see of this Custom nib vs. the KoP since you have both? I also wonder how the Namiki (Pilot) No. 20 and No. 50 nibs feel/perform vs. the Custom Urushi?

 

Finally, I will add my M1000 M has been one of my most unique nibs from a feel perspective. I find it fun and interesting to use and it is great from that perspective but it is not a great nib. It has a bi-polar personality, constantly changing how it performs. It also has very significant variance in performance if the feed fins are full vs. when not. All my Japanese nibs are so much more controlled in every aspect I really see this as a weakness with my M1000 nib, which is why it is not great.

 

Anyway, nothing like a “greatest nib in the collection” pen. It usually makes for a Top 2 contender.

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Fatalpotato

The topic of nibs is an interesting one. I believe Japanese tend to have the least variation from sample to sample and most people assume their nib experience is the same as experienced by others, but certainly that is not always the case.

 

This is definitely true for the pens I own.

 

Currently my KoP Broad is my favorite performing nib and curious what advantages you see of this Custom nib vs. the KoP since you have both? I also wonder how the Namiki (Pilot) No. 20 and No. 50 nibs feel/perform vs. the Custom Urushi?

 

I think my fine-medium nib on custom is a little more similar akin to my KOP medium, but still they're more unlike than alike. KOP is way more smooth than custom, and it feels it has the better ink supply of the two, which helps the smoothness but takes away a little bit of shading imho. Custom is much more flexy than KOP but it's hard to say it's the softer nib of the two, as the mobility of the nib is mainly at tines, and not the body of the nib, and line variation requires some force, definitely more so than m1000.

I don't have any namikis yet so I'll let someone else judge that comparison :).

Finally, m1000 is one of the nibs I enjoy most, altough not so much for the line variation but for the smoothness of the nib in general. I like to fill the feed by turning the piston knob until I can see at least half of the fins are saturated in ink. I have not yet needed to do so in custom, as the only time it started to starve was when it was low on ink. This reminds me of sailor feeds, which are top notch imho.

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flipper_gv

The topic of nibs is an interesting one. I believe Japanese tend to have the least variation from sample to sample and most people assume their nib experience is the same as experienced by others, but certainly that is not always the case. Currently my KoP Broad is my favorite performing nib and curious what advantages you see of this Custom nib vs. the KoP since you have both? I also wonder how the Namiki (Pilot) No. 20 and No. 50 nibs feel/perform vs. the Custom Urushi?

 

Finally, I will add my M1000 M has been one of my most unique nibs from a feel perspective. I find it fun and interesting to use and it is great from that perspective but it is not a great nib. It has a bi-polar personality, constantly changing how it performs. It also has very significant variance in performance if the feed fins are full vs. when not. All my Japanese nibs are so much more controlled in every aspect I really see this as a weakness with my M1000 nib, which is why it is not great.

 

Anyway, nothing like a “greatest nib in the collection” pen. It usually makes for a Top 2 contender.

 

A lot of people have noted how inconsistent their M1000 nib is. I have two nib units: a broad that had a slight baby's bottom that I will eventually send to someone to make an italic out of it and an extra fine.

 

That extra fine nib is the best I have. It is extremely consistent, it lays down the same amount of ink every time no matter how much ink is left. I can leave the pen unused for 2 months and I pick it up and it instantly starts. It's hard for me to describe how great in all aspect this nib is. It is also the only nib in my collection I haven't had to adjust (flow/smoothing). I guess I lucked out with that one.

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Fatalpotato

I have an ef m1000 that was perfect out of the box as well. My medium one required some work on tines as they were misaligned when it arrived and I think it has some baby's bottom. It is sad how an otherwise awesome pen is plagued with these easy to resolve qc issues. Btw I've heard the broader Pelikan nibs get, the more stub like they become. Would be interesting to see how much the stub work would effect that.

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MomoShinChan

Thank you for the really good interview. I wonder what's the reason why Pilot do not release this worldwide already?

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