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Japanese Fountain Pen Quality Control - Not What It Used To Be?


kissing
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I had really enjoyed Japanese fountain pens, including Platinum, Pilot/Namiki and Sailor because they appeared to offer great quality control, consistency and innovative designs.

However, in the last few weeks, I purchased a number of well-regarded Japanese fountain pens in a row, ALL with quality control issues!

-Pilot/Namiki Elabo
Nib misalignment and very scratchy. Returned to seller for a refund

-Pilot Metropolitan Italic Stub
Horrible nib misalignment, returned to seller for a refund

-Platinum 3776 with Medium 14K nib
Nib misalignment, very scratchy - returned to seller for a refund

 

Obviously just 3 pens in a series could just amount to bad luck. Maybe I just happened to get the 1 in a million faulty pen for each example.. but this recent experience made me think: Do these companies give a stuff about nib alignment?

Especially on the pens with the 14K Gold nibs. People are paying good money for a supposed high-end product worth $100-200+

In the past, I also had to replace a Pilot Vanishing Point Medium nib due to scratchiness. I replaced it with a Broad nib, which was initially skippy but writes smoothly now after much breaking-in. The first time I bought a Platinum Music nib, I had to get a replacement due to nib misalignment messing with ink flow and smoothness.


On the other side, I have found that dirt cheap Japanese steel pens have fantastic quality control (eg: V-pen, Lucina, Preppy, Plaisir) and they write far better than these more costly 14K gold pens.



On the Platinum 3776, the nib alignment issue was bizarre.
The nib itself is aligned when removed from the feed, but appears misaligned when attached to the feed.
The plastic feed itself appeared to have been molded with a bit of an uneven surface, perhaps causing one of the tines of the nib to rise higher than the other..

Edited by kissing
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Your dilemma is exactly why I buy all my Pilot Vanishing Point and Fermo fountain pens directly from Japan from only one seller. I've also purchased 4 Matte Black Vanishing Point fountain pens from Amazon USA and have had to return one of them for an exchange because of a scratchy nib.

I just recently found a seller on eBay who had a bunch of brand new in the box Matte Black Vanishing Point fountain pens together with Con-40 converter and 18k nib plus free shipping for sale for 1/3 off their $139 and $149 retail price. I bought 6 of them for $100 each after going back and forth with the seller. I ended up purchasing 2 fine, 2 extra fine, 1 medium and 1 broad nib of the same Matte Black Vanishing Point fountain pen. I wouldn't have even considered buying them if they weren't this low in price. You cannot find a brand new Matte Black VP for $100 unless you buy the regular colored barrel with the alloy steel nib. Matte Black is my favorite Vanishing Point fountain pen. I love the stealth black barrel.

As for Japanese quality control with Japanese fountain pens, it's a hit or miss thing. You can get lucky and get one that has a smooth nib or you can get one that has a scratchy nib. Its the luck of the draw. For the most part, one can also get a scratchy nib fountain pen from even the more expensive manufacturers like Mont Blanc, Pelikan, Visconti, ect. The nibs on all of these fountain pens are mass produced and one cannot know if will they get one that's scratchy or smooth.

Edited by FountainPenGuru
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It isn't just you. I have had two Japanese pen snafus in the last week - a Platinum Century 3776 with a bent soft fine nib and a Sailor Shikiori 'Haruzora' fountain pen with a slightly wonky barrel. The first I'm getting a refund on, the second I'm living with. Both were new from Japanese vendors - one through Ebay, one through Amazon.

 

I thought it was just me.

 

Shawnee

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well, I returned quite a few Pilot Custom 74 and a a couple of 912 and a 92.

 

main problems:scratchniess, dry/no flow, inconsistent flow.

 

Pilot surely doesn't check its pens. do not buy the higher range models based on a good experience with the cheaper models. yes, some Pilot steel nibs write way better than the custom series. probably the Custom series is obnoxiously customized for Asian characters. due to the dry flow in many of the finer nibs, I cannot use many inks.

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When you received them were they brand new?

 

I like to buy direct from japan because the pens are brand new and usually good OOTB, instead of something used that runs the risk of being tinkered with before hand.

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to be fair, I cannot put the blame entirely on the manufacturers. I am convinced some vendors absolutely sell returned/tinkered/factory-rejected pens.

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The good thing about the Pilot Vanishing Point and Fermo fountain pens if the nib is scratchy or if it doesn't have a good flow is that it can be replaced with another brand new nib. You cannot do that with the other Pilot fountain pens without taking apart the nib feed from the barrel. The Vanishing Point and Fermo fountain pens have readily available nib units if one needs to reply them quickly.

Edited by FountainPenGuru
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When you received them were they brand new?

 

I like to buy direct from japan because the pens are brand new and usually good OOTB, instead of something used that runs the risk of being tinkered with before hand.

 

The Sailor was sealed in plastic so no question there, but I was a bit suspicious about the 3776 only because it looked like it's been out of the plastic and put back in. They both shipped from Japan, but the good news is that the return should be straight forward. I thought I was being paranoid so this is making me feel slightly better. Also, it's not keeping me from buying Japanese pens I should point out. LOL.

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My 1st Japanese purchase was a custom 74 from Amazon: GOOD, Sealed, unopened, Great OOTB, shipped in an envelope.

 

2nd purchase was Custom 823 from Ebay: GOOD, Same, shipped in envelope

 

3rd purchase: Pilot Custom 912 from J-Subculture: GOOD, Same, shipped in a very well packaged box (preferred).

 

4th purchase: Went back to Amazon Vendor from 1st purchase for a Custom 91 SFM: NOT GOOD, Not sealed, no plastic wrapping at all, was a tad feedbacky and had ink all over the nib-----> I returned it, but since I couldn't use Paypal on amazon I had to pay for the returned shipping they wouldn't.

 

5th purchase was immediately after from J-subculture for a Custom 91 SM since I fell in love with the Pilot Soft nib but wanted the smoothness of the Medium. ON THE WAY.

 

__________________________________________

 

That's my sample size and experience.

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I guess I've been lucky. Every single one of my Japanese pens has been good. I have 6 higher end Pilots...all good. Various Platinum 3776's, Platinum and Pilot 14k desk pens...all good. Purchased either from Amazon or Ebay. I will not mess with stupid North American markup prices for Japanese pens (with ONE exception).

 

That exception being the Anderson Pens Slate Blue Sailor Pro Gear. Paid the $288...and the MF nib, while good, was a tad dry for my tastes. opened the tines a smidge and now it's perfect.

 

I wish Pelikan nibs were as good as my experience with Japanese pen nibs, to be honest.

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My 1st Japanese purchase was a custom 74 from Amazon: GOOD, Sealed, unopened, Great OOTB, shipped in an envelope.

 

2nd purchase was Custom 823 from Ebay: GOOD, Same, shipped in envelope

 

3rd purchase: Pilot Custom 912 from J-Subculture: GOOD, Same, shipped in a very well packaged box (preferred).

 

4th purchase: Went back to Amazon Vendor from 1st purchase for a Custom 91 SFM: NOT GOOD, Not sealed, no plastic wrapping at all, was a tad feedbacky and had ink all over the nib-----> I returned it, but since I couldn't use Paypal on amazon I had to pay for the returned shipping they wouldn't.

 

5th purchase was immediately after from J-subculture for a Custom 91 SM since I fell in love with the Pilot Soft nib but wanted the smoothness of the Medium. ON THE WAY.

 

__________________________________________

 

That's my sample size and experience.

 

Mongoosey - can you tell me about your experience with using J-subculuture. Did you use them as a purchasing agent?

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to be fair, I cannot put the blame entirely on the manufacturers. I am convinced some vendors absolutely sell returned/tinkered/factory-rejected pens.

My thoughts exactly.

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I bought 6 Japanese pens (Platinum/Pilot) in Europe. All but one had garbage nibs.

 

I bought 3 Japanese pens in person on my trip to Japan. All wrote perfectly - and I do mean perfectly - out of the box.

 

 

It's a small sample size, but I see a pattern. I am 150% certain most vendors resell returned pens and nibs that were already tinkered with. Not only because of the state some these nibs arrive in, but also because in Japan, they will not sell you a pen and exchange a nib. Ever. You either buy the pen and nib combo that is in the box, or you can not buy it. Also, tester pens are not sold - you can only buy what is in stock in box as sent straight from factory. This is not true for European vendors. They will happily swap and "tune" nibs for you.

 

Also, you can not test a nib until you buy the pen. They have sets of tester pens with all nibs and you can try them with, however.

Edited by invisuu
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Mongoosey - can you tell me about your experience with using J-subculuture. Did you use them as a purchasing agent?

 

So far, the 2 pens I've ordered from J-subculture have been shipped later than the estimated shipping date using Standard shipping. They've taken their time with that, unfortunately, but none have arrived after the estimated arrival time so far. Though it does motivate me more to pay for expedited shipping.

 

The recent pen was even in stock when I ordered it last week (Pilot Custom Heritage 91-SM), estimated to be shipped yesterday, but it's still only being "handled".

 

I'm not particularly sure how J-subculture operates, if it's one store or collection of vendors like Amazon, or a hub like Ebay, but they seem to operate as 1 vendor offering 1 option for each product (Pilot Custom 91 Soft Medium).

 

I like using J-Sub because they guarantee a brand new unopened pen, they ship it well packaged in a box, and they use paypal, which offers paying for return shipping. J-Sub may offer return shipping for defective products, though I'm not certain.

 

I researched on the various forums (reddit, FPN, fpgeeks), which avenue/agency was best to purchase Japanese pens from, and the big three were Amazon, Ebay, with J-subculture seeming to be mentioned and praised at the highest frequency.

 

Due to my recent poor experience with Amazon, the lower availability on ebay, and the competitive prices and my previous positive experience with J-subculture, I was inclined to make my recent purchase of the Pilot Custom Heritage 91-SM at J-Sub.

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When you received them were they brand new?

 

I like to buy direct from japan because the pens are brand new and usually good OOTB, instead of something used that runs the risk of being tinkered with before hand.

 

Brand new, the box it came in was still sealed within the factory plastic, unopened.

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I could have bought my pilot decimo cheaper from eBay Japan (not sure what shipping and taxes to UK would have been though).

I decided to get mine from the writing desk as they check and test their pens and know what they're on with. Peace of mind and s great pen, no affiliation just a satisfied customer.

It's always a gamble buying from overseas eBay sellers

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I don't want to be THAT GUY but I've never returned a nib due to scratchiness or flow. Usually a very minor nib adjustment will take care of that. That shouldn't let the product retailer or producer off the hook as far as quality control goes, but it does save the buyer a bunch of time and heartache in the long run.

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Ironically, the Japanese pens (primarily Platinum and Pilot) that I've had issues with were from vendors who adjust the nib prior to shipping; the OOTB ones were perfect.

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I received a Platinum 3776 Century UEF that wouldn't write out of the box, but more importantly I received a Namiki Urushi Vermillion No. 20 with very slight baby's bottom causing an occasional skip... fixed with less than a dozen strokes of 8k micromesh, then I also got a Sailor King of Pen that if I was not on the sweet spot the pen was like fingernails on a chalkboard, nearly slicing through paper. This pen also would snag if writing too vertically. Luckily it appeared worse than it was... a bit of rounding out slightly around "the foot" of the nib and the issues went away and this nib is now the best writer in my collection.

 

The onlyJapanese pen I've gotten with no issues in the last year was a Pilot Metropolitan.

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