Tale of a Vandal Pen Collector: I’ll Take the Moon with a Wabbit

Over the years, there have been several entry level maki-e fountain pens that caught my attention. By the time I got around to seeking them out, these pens were inevitably discontinued. If they could be found, the pens often cost far more than their initial offerings.

Pens once available at a reasonable cost sometimes grow more expensive when they go out of production. Although, also true enough, sometimes these discontinued pens become deeply discounted. Often these discounted pens, however, no longer sport their original gold nibs but steel ones in their place. One can’t predict which way the prices will go.

And so, mindful of potential future regret—hmmmm, is that even possible?—I purchased a Platinum Kanazawa-Haku “The Moon and a Rabbit” fountain pen at a very good price. We do know how silly regret can be, especially when it comes to pens.

Platinum Kanazawa-Haku Rabbit/Moon 18K nib
Platinum Kanazawa-Haku The Moon and a Rabbit, 18K F nib

Kanazawa-Haku is a special art—it requires beating gold into into very thin sheets, then applying thin gold leaf to objects ranging from pottery to watches to clothing to buddhist alters. In Japan 99% of the craft is done in Kanazawa, and dates back to the 16th century.

Platinum released five versions of their Kanazawa-Haku fountain pens in 2012. (Platinum catalog #PTL-15000H.) The five pens are:

  • Moon and Rabbit
  • Red Mt. Fuji
  • Autumn Leaves
  • Goldfish
  • Cherry Blossom

The Kanazawa-Haku’s thin gold leaf pieces are applied by hand.

What makes the Kanazawa-Haku pens or any silk screened maki-e an entry level or at the “low-end” of the maki-e range?  The designs are machine produced with some hand-finishing applied. Perhaps just a single layer of lacquer is applied over the finished product. The pens are usually made of resin.

The Kanazawa-Haku pens are not the only entry level Platinum maki-e offerings, as there are  other silk screen printed pens in the catalog.  In fact there are many kinds of maki-e pens in the Platinum catalog.

The Danitrio Fellowship is an example of hand applied maki-e on an ebonite pen:

Danitrio Fellowship Fountain Pen
Danitrio Fellowship Fountain Pen

Differences between these two pens, other than the pen material and type of maki-e used? The crispness of the rabbit is not as crisp in detail as in the Fellowship leaves, as one example. There is real sparkling raden in the Fellowship maki-e. The Rabbit on the Platinum gives a hint of raden, a trick of the eye (or my eye) because the pen has none. The Rabbit and the purple flowers are flat in comparison to the Danitrio. My Danitrio has no metal furniture to detract from the artwork. The Platinum maki-e must compete with the clip, and various metal rings.

It’s not at all fair to compare these pens, is it? I do so only because people often ask about low-end vs higher-end maki-e. The pens are obviously different, yet I find great delight to be had in either type of maki-e fountain pen. “Delight” is “worth it.”

On its own merits the Platinum pen provides consistent writing pleasure, with a bonus of a lovely Rabbit running through the grass and flowers in the moon light.

Close-up of Rabbit
Close-up of Rabbit
Close-up of purple flowers.
Close-up of purple flowers. While I love the story of the rabbit on the moon, it was also this touch of purple that drew me to this pen.

The raised gold leaf on “The Moon and a Rabbit” gives a tactile aspect to the pen.  There’s also a hint of purple with three tiny flowers, and the simple, white rabbit which sparkles in a gold leaf outline. The pen’s gold leaf is not fragile, and touching the raised gold design doesn’t cause it to flake or ruin.

Having tried these rather spear shaped Platinum nibs before, I knew the nib alone would be worth the purchase. The Kanazawa-Haku pens come fitted with either a fine or a medium nib. The nibs are 18K, and pleasantly soft.

Platinum Kanazawa-Haku 18K F nib
Platinum Kanazawa-Haku 18K F nib, at work inked with Sailor Sei-Boku

IMHO, these spear shaped nibs have more in common with each other, across brands (Platinum, Pilot, Sailor), then they do within their own brands. That is, this nib is nothing like the one on a #3776 pen, but more like a spear shaped Sailor, Pilot, or even a generic spear shaped steel nib. I’ve found these nibs to be smooth writers. Some are soft like the 18K pictured above. Some are hard as nails.

The Moon and a Rabbit fountain pen weights and measurements:

  • weighs 22 grams – capped and inked with Platinum converter
  • weighs 15 grams – uncapped and inked with Platinum converter
  • 137mm closed
  • 124mm nib to barrel end (no cap)
  • 152mm posted
  • 13mm in diameter

To ink the pen, you need to use a Platinum converter or ink cartridge (yes, proprietary!). The converter or the cartridge are the same as those used for the Platinum #3776 and President series of fountain pens. An empty Platinum converter weighs 4 grams, and will hold .6ml of ink. A Platinum ink cartridge weighs 2 grams, and holds 1.1ml of ink.

Platinum does provide an adapter to use international ink cartridges with Platinum pens. I’ve tried the adapter once, and found it unsatisfactory. But I’m not much of a cartridge user. YMMV. Be aware the adapter, once in place, can sometimes be extremely difficult to remove.

My pen has been inked most frequently with Sailor Sei-Boku. Just because.

The Platinum Kanazawa-Haku has given my Pilot MYU 701 quite a run for the “best notetaking pen” title. Both pens have slip caps, write without fail, and have thin profiles.

Platinum Kanazawa-Haku, Pilot MYU701
Platinum Kanazawa-Haku, Pilot MYU701—these two pens get a lot of heavy use!

While I haven’t found the maki-e to be fragile, the lacquer on the resin barrel can scratch. I might have, uh, absently put my Moon/Rabbit pen in a pocket with something well I won’t say what it was, and the pen did come out with a bit of lacquer scratch. My Moon/Rabbit pen gets a lot of use.

Close up of inadvertent scratch. The pen does NOT scratch so easily. I had to try really hard to be stupid. Or maybe not so hard to be stupid?
Close up of inadvertent scratch. The pen does NOT scratch so easily. I had to be rather negligent to do this…

So… not a pocket pen in quite the same way as the sturdy Pilot MYU. However, the Platinum pen is still pretty hardy. I just make sure to carry it in my pen roll, or in a pocket all to its own.

Is this pen a keeper? Certainly.

As I continue to struggle with wrangling in the tiny pen hoard, it’s hard to say if the pen has a permanent place. The Moon and a Rabbit may be a fun pen “for now.”

[Of course, “struggle” = ridiculous pen problem, AKA not a real problem. ‘Tis a beautifully fun ponderation.]

More Photos

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Some Reading

English translations of the Japanese version of the Rabbit on the Moon story

Platinum Kanazawa-Haku Blog Posts
  • Goldfish, Leigh Reyes, 2012 Mar 4
  • Maki-e Pens, Ink Nouveau, 2012 Mar 4 – exquisite photos of the Kanazawa-Haku series by Brian Goulet
  • Cherry Blossoms, East West Everywhere, 2013 Mar 16
  • Cherry Blossoms, Ms Logica, 2013 Apr 15
  • Rabbit/Moon, Pen Shots and Thoughts, Jose Prieto, 2014 Jan 12
  • Anyone have a review of the Autumn Leaves or the Mt. Fuji version? Share your link in the comments!

Danitrio Fellowship Fountain Pen

Pilot MYU 701

Tale of a Vandal Pen User: What Remains

Current storage box with 9 pen slots.

There is no magic number of writing instruments, no magic bullet to relieve the desire to have things you don’t have, no magic pen to make you a better writer. No magic except in the creation of new worlds—lost in writing, pen to paper, or even fingers to keyboard.

For many of us, the search for the perfect nib and pen combination is a rabbit hole easily fallen into, and difficult to climb out of. Some of us enjoy the hunt more than the pens themselves. A few years ago, my thought was simple enough—to have a writing instrument that endured; something un-disposable. The answer seemed simple enough too—an inexpensive Esterbrook SJ. Naturally, complications ensued with additional preferences evolving: something not a lever-filler, something that could last more than four or five pages, and something more comfortable in my hand. Changing pens and focus over time from Esterbrooks to Pelikans to Conklins to Visconti Ragtimes to Wahl-Eversharps, including various squatters among them. Forgive me if I repeat myself from post to post, eh? *sigh*

Pens now gone top to bottom: Pelikan 150, Original Visconti Ragtime, Aurora Mini Optima, large Danitrio Cumlaude, Pelikan 200, vintage Pelikan 400s

Since the pen culling began, 2 pens have survived the last 3 years: a Levenger True Writer and an Edison Huron. The former a gift from my love, and the latter a gift to myself. In 2 years time, 3 additional pens arrived and have survived the downsizings: all Danitrio fountain pens. Two are urushi pens from maki-e artists and one is a out of production Italian celluloid model. Should it be any surprise the last 2 pens making the collection are an Edison of the Hakumin variety, and yet another urushi Danitrio?

To obtain the 4th Danitrio some modest sacrifice has been required. Gifts cannot be sacrificed. Gifts are connections to lovable people. Gifts will always, I hope, survive any crazy plans regarding re-homing pens. When I considered my cigar box goal of 9 pens, I did wonder about declaring my gift pens (the Levenger and a Sheaffer Tuckaway) un-countable. Or possibly counting 2 as 1 pen. The Tucky is so very tiny, you know.

Although an Edison Mina was once sacrified for the Hakumin Mina, no Edison was considered give-upable. Nor any Danitrio, despite my concern about the similarity of the base urushi between the Fellowship pen and the Short Octagon. Apparently it was not this similarity that was the true “problem” (because don’t ever forget these are pens we are talking about, not real problems). The problem was the heki-tamenuri Piccolo with its tiny c/c nature.

Did I love the Nakaya Piccolo more than I wanted this Danitrio pen? No. Nor did I love the PiloTWSBI, and the Pilot Decimo enough to spare them. The Nakaya’s absence is shocking some of you, n’est ces pas? But remember it has a tiny c/c nature that some of you adore, and some of us, well, don’t. Truthfully, I prefer Danitrio’s urushi. Plus the Danitrio allows me to “ED” it and fulfills the desire for “core writing pen” status. Okay, I could have reached 9 pens without adding a 4th Danitrio, but then the Nakaya’s sacrifice would have been in vain, no? Uh, right?

A simple way to find out how easy or painful it is to let a pen go is to write a classified ad with it. Two pens chastised me terribly when I did this:  the Sailor Realo and (shudder) the Sheaffer Balance. The Balance ad never saw the light of day, as I quickly remembered the folly of losing it. The Realo took a good 48 hours before that mistake was rectified. I do not love the Realo so much as I love writing with its delicious, smooth EF nib. While the Decimo has a comely, slim profile as a notetaking pen, the Realo seems a perfect notetaking pen despite its fatter, business-like profile. The cap can be quietly unscrewed in a dark performance hall, and it’s light enough to clip to my shirt when running errands. The PiloTWSBI was fun while it was here. Yet it was never seriously here for the long haul. The Nakaya, well, as I stated, there are other pens I love more.

One of the things I enjoy about the Danitrio and the Edison section of the tiny pen hoard, is knowing that my purchase (however small) impacts individuals involved in the pen making. There’s an artist behind my modest urushi Danitrios: Tatsuya Todo (his signature is Kosetsu). Behind Edison is Brian Gray and his family. Ernest Shin behind Hakumin.

And so the tiny pen hoard shifts again to include (soon) 4 Danitrios, 2 Edisons, 1 Levenger, 1 Sailor, and 2 vintage Sheaffers. That adds up to 10 pens. As close to 9 as I believe I’m going to get. A pen is always inked, so only 9 others need to lay in the cigar box at any one time, right? In fact 2 pens are usually inked (as I write this post, the Cumlaude and the Realo). The new line re-drawn to 10 pens. Yes, 10 feels good. The perfect nib to pen combination? Well, that’s a future post.

Beauty, which is what is meant by art, using the word in its widest sense, is, I contend, no mere accident to human life, which people can take or leave as they choose, but a positive necessity of life. The Beauty of Life (1880)—William Morris

PW Retrospective:  Past Header Photos

From 2009 top to bottom: Bexley Sherazade, Pelikan M200, Visconti Ragtime LE, Aurora Mini Optima
From early 2010 top to bottom: Eversharp Skyline, Visconti Ragtime ver 2
From mid 2010 left to right:  Edison Huron, J. Herbin ink bottle, Wahl, Wahl ringtop, Visconti Ragtime LE, Visconti Caravel, Sailor ink bottle. All sitting on G. Lalo Verge de France stationery.
From 2011 top to bottom: Sailor ink bottle, Nakaya Piccolo, Edison Mina, Platinum Preppy all sitting on Rhodia No. 18 notepad.
From mid 2012 top to bottom: Hakumin Edison Mina, Sheaffer Streamlined Balance, Edison Huron

Tale of a Vandal Pen User: State of the Hoard

Current state of the collection

Earlier this year I drew the line at the number of pens to keep at nine. Curiosity about Platinum nibs eeked me over the line. Plus there was the second Danitrio Cumlaude that came my way. I’ve contemplated a lot about retreating to last year’s goal of twelve pens. I’m at eleven plus one Edison/Hakumin Urushi Kobo that’s been in the making since April. I’m feeling a little like the old woman living in the shoe. I know, I know, quite laughable, isn’t it? Look at all my cool pens!

I’ve learned my collection comfort level, however. Nine pens or less means all pens get used without neglect. Nine pens or more means pens get neglected and sit without use and that causes me discomfort. Weird, huh? Of course that’s my truth and I don’t expect it to be yours. The number could be five, yet that would deplete some of the fun and diversity of the collection.

Two pens in the collection are very similar:  the Danitrio Fellowship and the Danitrio Short Octagon. The base urushi is the same: tame-murasaki. Both bear the same artist signature. Of course one has gorgeous maki-e. I’ve thought about letting the Short Octagon go. I use it more often, though, than the Fellowship pen because I worry a bit over ruining the maki-e. Then again, both are urushi pens so why give one up?

The cigar box holds nine pens. How to take the eleven plus one-not-yet-here back down to nine? Each pen has its merits and it is not easy to decide. Brutally putting emotion aside, cartridge converter pens that do not convert well to eyedropper mode become the criteria.

The collective wisdom in the fountain pen community is that metal sections will corrode with prolonged exposure to ink. Four pens have metal sections: the two Platinum, the Nakaya and one of the Cumlaudes.  I seriously considered modifying these pens to accommodate eyedropper mode. The idea is to shield the metal sections by painting them with nail polish and using a cut off converter for the inside of the section. (See the FPN thread where this method is discussed.) I tested the idea on one pen, using silicon grease instead of nail polish. (I figured I could commit to nail polish later.) Although the conversion worked quite well, it seemed a lot of work to make a pen into something it is not meant to be.

And so, the two sweet Platinums and the original style Danitrio Cumlaude make the cut for pens needing new homes. The Nakaya of course was never on the chopping block. One metal section urushi fountain pen is easy to live with, eh? The Levenger True Writer has not yet received eyedropper conversion. Sometime, though, I’ll give it a go to see how it fares. All remaining pens are used predominately as an eyedropper. They can still be used with a converter if need be.

Nine pens remains the line for the collection.

Eyedropper Conversions of Modern Fountain Pens

Today there are a number of Japanese pens made specifically as eyedropper style pens. These pens have a valve to assist regulating the flow of ink to the feed. There are vintage eyedropper pens, too. I dunno nuttin’ about such things. My eyedropper pens all started life as cartridge/converter pens.

Edison Huron

Logic holds that any fountain pen with a single piece barrel that does not leak can be converted to eyedropper mode. The “how to” is essentially the same for any pen, whether a Preppy, an Edison or a Danitrio.

Collective wisdom holds that pens with metal sections or metal in the barrel should not be converted and you do so at your own risk. It’s your pen, after all.

Converting a fountain pen to be filled with ink directly into the barrel:  it’s easy. You need a little pure silicone grease for the threads. (It’s important that your silicone grease not have petroleum additives.) If you are queasy about the grease, then you can use an o-ring. If you use o-rings, keep a supply on hand because they can break over time or from over-tightening.

Issues with converting? Platinum Preppies aside, I’ve not had any issues with any converted pen in my hoard, past or present. Eyedropper filling is the method I use more frequently than not. If I don’t want to use this method, it is easy enough to insert the converter back in and fill the pen from that.

As simple as the filling method is, eyedropper conversion’s probably not for the casual pen user. My own nib points run fine. I fill only two or three pens at a time, don’t change inks often, write for hours at a time most days of the week, write my pens dry (no “leave it 1/3 filled” for moi), and know my pens very well. You cannot see how much ink is left in the barrel unless you have an ink-view window in your pen. (No ink-view windows here.)

Just because I don’t have issues, doesn’t mean you won’t. Issues some people report:  ink flow being too wet or two dry, leaking, burping of ink when ink is low, burping of ink when pen is warmed by hand, burping of ink in humidity, dripping ink into the pen cap, filling process messy. Did I mention “burping ink?” You can decide this for yourself. Read up on FPN. All you gotta do is search for eyedropper burp, eh?

One thing to be aware of: ink will likely stain the inside of your pen barrel. If your pen’s material is translucent you may not want to convert it. I did not convert a beautiful Bexley because of I didn’t want to stain the beautiful acrylic which had a lot of nice transparency.

Some of the more inexpensive ebonite pens I’ve read about seem to be prone to burping. And so I’ve avoided those pens and cannot say from first hand experience how such pens fare.

I’m keeping an eye on a recent conversion: a resin Pilot Falcon. I’m watching for inconsistencies in ink flow, too much or too little. The feed on this pen is an unusual design and is made to provide optimal ink flow for flexing or with fast writing. The nib, by the way, on this pen is a Soft Fine. So far so good with this conversion, but it still needs to bang around with me awhile to know for sure. The resin Falcon holds 3ml of ink as an eyedropper, as compared to the .7 or .8ml of a converter or the .9ml of a cartridge.

I like converting pens to eyedroppers. There are no pistons to worry about failing, levers breaking, or fancy pumps breaking down. My one concession seems to be a barrel brush for occasional cleaning.

Things do not change; we change.
from Walden, by Henry David Thoreau