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: 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

A Bit About Platinum and Nakaya

Nakaya between Platinum 3776 nibs

On resizing my collection into something personally meaningful, Japanese pens have taken over half the available nine slots in my pen box. There are two reasons for this: craft and the characteristics of the nibs. The three major Japanese pen makers (Pilot, Sailor and Platinum) still make their own nibs. As a lover of nibs with fine points, Japanese nibs are far finer than their modern Western cousins (i.e., Bock, JoWo, Pelikan, Montblanc).

A pen pal has waxed often about her Nakaya pens, “Ah the nibs, the nibs…” Yes. The Nakaya nibs are superb. That’s an opinion, of course. Some people love Sailor nibs. Not moi. Give me more Nakaya nibs! As I’ve written many times before, fountain pen choices—the heft, shape, material, nibs—are immensely personal.

My second urushi fountain pen was a Nakaya Piccolo. The broad nib on that pen was customized into a medium/fine-ish stub by John Mottishaw. The nib is a unique writing experience in that while the nib is quite smooth there is a tactile feeling. It is a pleasant, joyful “hello,” not a scratchy quality at all. You can feel the paper as you write. What I would describe as a “butter nib” is one that feels silky as you write and you do not have an impression of the paper you are writing upon. Properly tuned Omas and Pilot Vanishing Point nibs fit in the butter category.

Often I wondered how much the quality of the Nakaya nib was due to Mr. Mottishaw and how much was due to the manufacturer of the nib. Nakaya pen prices continue to zoom upward and thus comparisons by the average vandal are not likely unless visiting a pen show. And so one wonders, given the familial nature of Nakaya to Platinum, how the more affordable Platinum nibs compare.

The company known Platinum Pen LTD began in 1919. The Japanese company did not use the word Platinum until 1924. Interestingly one of the original company names prior to 1924 was “Nakaya Seisakusho.” (Seisakusho translates to “works; factory or plant.”)

Today there are two Japanese pen companies many people believe to be the same: Platinum and Nakaya.Toshiya Nakata, the grandson of Platinum’s founder, created the Nakaya pen company in 1999 while he was working for Platinum. Later on, Mr. Nakata became President of Platinum as well.

The companies share family history. They also share similar pen components and manufacturing machinery. Nakaya, however, turns and finishes fountain pens one at a time by hand. Platinum does not.

Are Nakayas really “bespoke” Platinum pens? Perhaps. They are separate companies with a close family ties. You have to dig below surface similarities to get at the differences. For example, certain nibs, such as the elastic nib, are only found on Nakaya pens.

Platinum #3776

A used Platinum #3776 from another collector came my way. It met my curiosity penchant as well as fulfilling the brown pens jones. The nib was described to me as Extra Fine but in translating the kanji on the nib it turns out to be Soft Fine, also known as Fine Flexible. The nib is 14K and the barrel material is made from celluloid (the cellulose nitrate kind). Writing with the 3776 nib also gave that same tactile feeling that came with the Nakaya nib. Nice. The nib point size being fine, I use it mostly for note-taking and not for long term writing sessions. I can imagine it is quite suited for writing kanji.

I liked the Platinum #3776 so much that when a fellow collector put a 1980’s flat-top resin version up for sale, I bought it thinking it would make a great gift for a friend. It will, if I can figure out how to part with it.

The medium nib is as superb as the Nakaya and the celluloid #3776 nibs. The resin material however felt plastic-y in that cheap kind of way that plastic can feel…like an Autopoint Big Cat. Yet the construction of the resin pen is solid and that first shock of touching the pen quickly dissolved.

The #3776 and the Piccolo
The Nakaya and the #3776 pens are c/c style and all use the same Platinum converter. All three pens have metal components in their sections making them unsuitable for eyedropper conversion. All can use Platinum cartridges and the Platinum cartridge adapter for use with international carts.

The #3776 is meant to be a writer’s pen and the details about its development are widely known. I do not know how my two #3776s compare to present day production of these pens but suspect the differences to be minor. As of this posting, a current production flat-top model is only available in the ribbed model.  The original #3776 was ribbed (a nod to the 100 year Waterman fountain pen) and had a flat-top cap. 

The resin #3776 is quite comfortable in my small hand. The section is long and has a lovely curve to its tapering. The cap is not a screw-type. It is a snap-on cap.

The celluloid #3776’s cap is a screw-type. In comparison with its older brother, the celluloid section while friendly, is not as sweet to hold. Celluloid, a much coveted pen material, has remained unappreciated by moi (though not for lack of trying). Many pen pals have described the depth and warmth of their celluloid pens yet much of said pens have, uh, left me cold. It wasn’t until the celluloid #3776 that I understood: The pen feels pleasantly warm in my hand. That gave me a light bulb, “ohhhh that’s what they mean by celluloid being warm,” moment.

The Nakaya Piccolo is the shortest of these three pens with the Piccolo barrel being the widest. The heki-tamenuri has been a popular choice among many of my pen pals, me included. Nakaya’s true calling, however, is that you do not have to settle for “off the shelf” and can choose unique urushi and maki-e for your pen.

If pressed to choose between the celluloid or the black resin #3776, it’s difficult to choose. I like them both for different reasons. The celluloid has the remarkable warm brown marbled celluloid material. It is a small size and makes a good pocket note-taking pen. The black resin version is a classic looking pen that is very comfortable to use and the nib is suitable for both notes and long writing sessions.

Choosing among the three pens, the Nakaya Piccolo is the pen I will keep. No question. Not only does it have the impeccable nib, it presents a handsome color palette in heki-tamenuri urushi. The Piccolo is the pen that’s most often in my pocket, at the ready for a quick note or two. The ink supply doesn’t last very long, especially using the medium/fine-ish stub, but the pen is comfortable enough for long writing sessions. There is nothing fragile about the Piccolo, yet when uncapping there is a quiet porcelain-like sound the pen makes. The urushi craft makes me feel connected to centuries of artists. When you are always working a muse any little bit of connection helps.

Sizing and Weight

Weights below are for pens inked with a converter. A Platinum converter weighs 4g by itself without any ink. A Platinum cartridge weighs 2g.

  1. Resin #3776
    •  Capped is 5 1/2″ long and weighs 24g. Uncapped length is 4 7/8″ nib to barrel and weighs 14g.
  2. Celluloid #3776
    • Capped is  5 3/8″  long and weighs 24g. Uncapped length is 4 5/8″ nib to barrel and weighs 14g.
  3. Nakaya Piccolo
    • Capped is  5 1/8″  long and weighs 21g. Uncapped length is 4 5/8″ nib to barrel end and weighs 16g.

The Platinum #3776 still offers an affordable entryway to a fountain pen with a gold nib. In the USA these pens  are carried by many online vendors and brick and mortar stores. And remember I bought both my #3776s in great condition through other collectors!

In the USA Nakaya pens on the other hand can only be bought new through Classic Pens aka Nibs.com or from Nakaya directly. Outside the US, pens can be bought (for example) through Aesthetic Bay, Nakaya, or in a brick and mortar shop in Japan. Occasionally these pens are offered up for sale used via eBay. From time to time collectors put them up for sale on FP Classified and other pen forums. Take care purchasing a used Nakaya. One pen pal was sorely disappointed in the very worn condition of a pen she bought which had been presented as in good condition. While urushi is hardy, it can be scratched. Repairing urushi can be costly, if at all possible. When ordering a new fountain pen from Nibs or Nakaya expect to wait anywhere from three to six months for delivery. Remember: Nakaya hand-makes pens one at a time!

Note added 2013 Aug 24: While Nakaya nibs are pressure or friction fit against the feed into the section, the nibs are set using a particular method requiring steam. If you are repeatedly removing your Nakaya nibs, you will lose the special fit to the feed.

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Just A Starting Point

Platinum

Nakaya

A Bit About Differences

Updated 2013 Aug to include:

Updated 2013 Oct:

Updated 2014 Jan:

Updated 2014 July: