Tale of a Vandal Pen User: Taking Note(s)

Left to right: Kaweco Liliput, Sheaffer Tuckaway, Pilot MYU701, Waldmann, Fisher Bullet
Left to right: Kaweco Liliput, Sheaffer Tuckaway, Pilot MYU701, and 2 ballpoints: Waldmann, Fisher Bullet

A long, long time ago (queue up Don McLean) the only pen I wanted was a reliable, tiny pen for taking notes. A pen that would be unobtrusive in my pocket, wrote on demand, and didn’t leak after being on an airplane like my favorite rollerball did. A pen I didn’t have to throw away when it failed or when it was empty. Back then, any serious writing was captured via a computer. Before computers, of course, a typewriter was employed. A pen was only for catching thoughts and snippets when I was away from my primary writing instrument.

That tiny pen ended up as a Fisher Bullet pen that could be worn on a chain around my neck. I used this pen for many years. It met the criteria…. except that if I had to take a note in the dark, as oft is the case, and I didn’t press hard enough, the notes were not always legible. And there was still a disposable element to it. (You know what I’m talking about—the metal ball point part that delivers the ink.)

Somewhere along the way, I began writing much more than notes sans keyboard, and re-discovered the mind, hand, paper connection for first drafts of projects. My quest for truly refillable, reusable pens broadened. Although not a tiny pen, I looked at Monteverde’s original Mega Ink Ball pen, a refillable pen in its own right. Trying to find some information about this pen lead me to “His Nibs” website, which in turn led me to Pen World magazine, and eventually to the Fountain Pen Network. Somewhere along the way, I rejected the Monteverde, and began exploring fountain pens. That exploration, as regular PW readers well know, extended way beyond a tiny note-taking pen into an evolving tiny hoard of writing pens.

Concentrating on creating a core group of writing pens—many of which are clipless and thus not always practical in certain carry situations—I almost forgot about the more sedentary note-taking pen and its requirements. While some of my friends spend a lot of pen time taking notes, my note-taking time is sporadic and often unexpected. Hence my need for an unobtrusive, reliable, tiny pen at the ready, and on my person. Truthfully, while I enjoy the variety of the core pens, I only want one serviceable pen for the task of notes.

Conklin 25p
Conklin 25p

Many wonderful pens have come to court the slot for the note-taking pen: a Pilot Decimo, the Sailor Realo and Magellan pens, various Platinum #3776s, a Visconti Viscontina, and even a Nakaya Piccolo. Vintage contenders included a Conklin pocket pen, a Wahl ringtop, and a piston filling Kaweco Sport.

Franklin-Christoph Pocket Model 40
Franklin-Christoph Model 40 Pocket

Recently I got to try friend’s Franklin-Christoph Model 40 Pocket fountain pen. What’s cool about this pen is that you can fill the tiny barrel with ink! Or if you insist, you can use a cartridge. Not a converter. The pen, as you can see in the photos, is “all cap” which means you can post it, turning it into a sizable writing instrument. The pen comes clipped or clipless. Based on its eyedropper filling feature, the F-C Model 40 Pocket might have been contender for my note-taking pen a year or so ago, but not today.

Sidebar: The other notable item about Franklin-Christoph fountain pens is that you can buy some of their nibs pre-customized by Michael Masuyama. The needlepoint nib is .3mm which is not very needlepoint at all to some of us, but in keeping with western-sized nib points. There also are variety of italics and stubs available for very little cost in a #5 or #6 steel nib. What a bargain! Mr. Masuyama is one of the great nib grinding masters. All of my Japanese style extra-fine points have been ground by Mr. Masuyama.

What I finally know for sure about what’s needed in my personal world for a note-taking pen (in no particular order of importance…each criterion is of equal value):

  1. must uncap and recap quietly
  2. must write on contact (aka no pressure) with paper without my being able to watch over it in the dark
  3. must write on any kind of paper
  4. must not leak
  5. must not become uncapped on my person
  6. must tolerate being uncapped for a few moments, and not dry out
  7. must have a clip for clipping to shirt, pocket, or some thingie
  8. must be lightweight
  9. must be reusable, refillable, repairable

Obviously, your own needs may be different. Perhaps you need something with more weight, or with lots of ink capacity. Perhaps you don’t concern yourself with that cannot-lose-it-or-die-inspired-thought that comes as you are speed walking the park, or waiting in line at the post office. (Maybe you never wait in line anywhere!)

The glorious Pilot Decimo met all the above criteria but one:  its clicking noise. Nos. 2 and 3 dismissed the Nakaya Piccolo. Nos. 5 and 6 dismissed quite a few trial pens. No. 4 ruled out most vintage pens.

The Sheaffer Tuckaway meets many criteria…yet being vintage there is the occasional, contentious ‘burp’ of ink, and currently the Tucky is in need of restoration. The Levenger True Writer can be difficult to uncap (cap very tight by design). On and on…kinda brutal, ay?

The Pilot MYU and Friends
MYU 701 and its cousin the Pilot Volex
Pilot MYU 701 and its cousin Pilot Volex

Japanese pocket pens have been around for three or four decades now. You can find such pens made in the 1960’s and 70’s by Pilot, Platinum and Sailor. They are small when capped, of course, and when posted turn into sizable writing pens. They use proprietary cartridges or converters. In many cases the current crop of proprietary cartridges and converters will work, but not always, and what you need in the way of a converter may not made anymore. Know what you’re buying so that you don’t get stuck with a pen you can’t fill.

Last fall, a pen friend came to visit, and I happened to try her Pilot M90 fountain pen. I have seen the MYU family of pens many times in person. The pens are cool looking, but they always felt very cold in their sleek modernity, and the nibs did not impress me. This Pilot M90 was an grand exception: it wrote as smile-producing as a Pilot Decimo. My friend told me that she’d dropped the pen, bending the nib. At a pen show, the aforementioned Mr. Masuyama fixed it for her. What a difference a properly functioning nib makes, ay? I was very impressed by the M90’s delicious writing experience.

Mentioning this surprise M90 encounter to my pal @trhall, he sent me his Pilot M90, a Murex, and an MYU 701 to visit. I’m fortunate he cannot help sharing his giddy joy over pens with me.

Left to right: MYU 701, Murex, M90
Left to right: MYU 701 (oops-not closed completely!), Murex, M90

The MYU 701 like its two successors—the full-sized Murex, and the M90—is stainless steel and sports an integrated nib. Nib size:  fine, medium or bold. This particular Pilot pen family is inked up using a CON-20 converter or Pilot cartridges. The Pilot CON-50, or the CON-70 does not fit the MYU.

Approx. MYU Weights and measurements

Comparing the three stainless steel Pilots, the M90 is the heaviest, followed by the Murex, and the MYU. The weight of the M90 is significantly more than the other two pens. Additionally, the M90’s barrel girth is slightly bigger.

  • M90 weighs 27g inked, capped or posted; 18g inked, without cap. Length:  Capped 117mm; Uncapped: 104mm; Posted: 138mm.
  • Murex weighs 22g inked, capped or posted; 15 g inked, without cap. Length: Capped 132mm; Uncapped: 117mm; Posted: 142mm.
  • MYU 701 weighs 21g inked, capped or posted; 14g inked, without cap. Length: Capped 117mm; Uncapped: 104mm; Posted (egads!): 142mm.

According to Russ Stutler’s article about these pens, the MYU was first released in 1971, followed in 1977 by the re-designed Murex, a full-sized pen. There were variations of these pens made with differences in stripes and color of trim. Production of these pens stopped in the early 1980’s. The M90 was released as a limited edition in 2008, and sold out in less than a year.

My Perfect Note-Taking Pen At Last

The M90 remained far too heavy for what I desired in a “always on my person” style note-taking pen. While I was hard pressed to choose between the writing experience of the Murex and the MYU 701, the latter won me over because of its smaller footprint when capped.  Yes, I believe I’ve found my perfect note-taking pen, the Pilot MYU 701. Wow!

Acquired last year from my aforementioned pen pal, my MYU was made in April of 1977 at Pilot’s Hiratsuka factory in Japan. How do I know that fact? By the date code imprinted at the base of the MYU’s nib section.

Pilot date code
Pilot date code

Pilot date codes indicate the factory, month and year the nib or pen was manufactured. The format of the date code is an alpha character followed by 3 or 4 numbers. Representing the factory, the alpha character will be, most commonly, “H” for the Hiratsuka factory. A “T” indicates Pilot/Namiki’s former Tokyo factory. If you find instead an “A” or “B” alpha code, the nib was made by the “A” or the “B” production line at the Hiratsuka factory. Kind of fun, huh? This simple date code system is still used by Pilot/Namiki today, although the codes are not found on all Pilot/Namiki pens or nibs.

Above the date code is the nib size, F, M or B. I have heard tell that the most coveted MYU or M90 fountain pen is the medium nib version. Thus the M nibbed pens can be difficult to find, or may demand a very high price. Go figure. Give me an F any day! Uh… somethin’ like that…you know what’s meant, ay?

Apr 8 ’13 Note:  Bruno of Crónicas Estilográficas posts in the comment section to tell us that the MYU 701 also was made with a FM nib. This nib is very hard to find. For those of you not familiar with the FM designation, the FM nib is between a fine and a medium. The M90 came only in F, M or B nibs.

The F nib on my MYU wrote rather dry at first. That was problematic for the need to write without pressure. When looking at the nib under a loupe, the nib appeared to be misaligned ever so slightly. These pens require a special tool to remove the nib and feed, and so I decided not to vandalize the MYU myself. Instead, I sent the pen to Dillon Ang an FPN member and pen repairer who knows a great deal about these Pilot integrated nib pens. He did a wonderful job, cleaning and realigning the pen. The pen came back to me as good as new, without qualification. While the steel nib is super firm, I experience it only as a smooth, gliding writing instrument.

The MYU is my constant companion. Ink of choice for this pen is Namiki Blue, using a CON-20 converter.  When the converter nears empty, the MYU begins to leave an inconsistent line, the only time it does so. I appreciate having a distinct indicator that it’s time to refill!

Unobtrusive, the MYU clips easily to a pocket, shirt collar, or slips inside a jean pocket. The pen doesn’t leak, skip, or hesitate when called upon to perform. The MYU has the same carry weight as the Pilot Decimo. Of course, the MYU doesn’t “click” ever so noisily when unsheathing the nib. While the average pocket pen user may post their pens, I use the MYU unposted. Why post a pen that’s for a quick note, ay? It’s completely comfortable in my small hand. I don’t use this note-taker for long periods of writing. There are other great pens for such undertakings.

A great deal has been written about the MYU and friends, and a few of those articles are offered in the Reading List below. There may be design issues to prefer to the M90 over the original MYU, after all the M90 is an improved upon MYU 701. Please explore the reading list to find those delineations.

My MYU experience may not, of course, mirror yours. Your pen may be fussy, unscrew at the wrong end, fall apart in your hands, or have a loose cap. My MYU was well-cared for prior to joining my tiny hoard. It will continue to be well-cared for, despite any pocket abuse the MYU may endure. The 701 is perfectly suited to my purposes.

As someone who originally dismissed these sleek, cold-looking Pilot pocket pens… well, it just goes to show you that sometimes first impressions are not set in stone steel. My tastes certainly have evolved over the years. It feels very good to have settled, finally, on this most important of writing pens for my tiny hoard. After many years of searching, my original quest for a reliable, tiny non-disposable pen has come to an end. *whew*

Begging forgiveness for the quality of the Pilot photos. Very difficult to capture within my photography limitations. As always, any corrections, additions, comments welcome!

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Informative Reading List

7 thoughts on “Tale of a Vandal Pen User: Taking Note(s)

  1. Congratulations, Julie! I have come to love the Pilot Myu series as well (and just got a black stripe Myu to join my crew). Now I just need the white stripe Myu, eh? 🙂


    1. Thanks, Josh! If I were a collector, I’d have ’em all too. Good luck on that elusive white stripe MYU.


  2. I had no idea that a “pocket note taking pen” was the impetus that got you into fountain pens. So neat! Glad to see you liking your Pilot MYU 701.

    –The Pilot Enabler


    1. You are indeed The Pilot Enabler! One way or another, all my Pilots are due to meeting you. Thank you, my pal! I like to think I have helped push you over onto some urushi pens. heh, heh, heh… Um, although it’s not my intention to enable anyone. 😎


  3. Thanks, Julie, for the links to my blog. I was not really aware of all I had written about Pilot Myu and related pens.

    One comment–the most elusive nib point for the Myu is the FM. I would not say M are easy, but certainly not that hard to find in Tokyo. FM I have seen only one, and in terrible shape. The M90 only came in F and M.

    On this text you described in an elegant way what I find a key element of the joy of writing with a fountain pen–_must write on contact_. Oh, so simple! I will borrow it, with your permission. I was struggling to first identify that; second, to describe it.

    Thanks again!



    1. And it seems so obvious, too, right? Something we should, IMHO, be able to take for granted that a pen will write on contact… such is the way of the pen sometimes, that it is not.

      Also: Often old pens require an adjustment & patience to restore them to proper writing function. Especially if they’ve never been inked, or haven’t been inked in many years. This was true for my MYU.

      Thanks for the information about the elusive FM nib. I forgot about that one! You always leave us with something informative. You honor me with your kindness. Borrow away, yet I’m sure I’m not the first to have said such a thing.


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