Tale of a Vandal Pen Collector: Three Pilots Full

pbox Once upon a time Pilot fountain pens left me underwhelmed. The profile of the Custom Heritage was too business-boring. More importantly, the nibs I encountered were rather scratchy.

Since that time I’ve learned that nibs of pens can reflect how they are handled by their owners. It’s not the pens’ fault if a user’s heavy-handed with pens, turning them into faulty, scratchy things.

Later on, encountering the Vanishing Point, I wondered how a company that made such an amazing nib for the VP did not make other equally delightful ones.

VP/Decimo nib unit
VP/Decimo nib unit

Then along came—you know who—@trhall to prove to me that Pilot did indeed make consistently good fountain pen nibs. The profile of the Custom Heritage series still seems kinda boring IMHO. Fortunately there are a few other options in Pilot pens for someone like me.

Two of my all-time favorite nibs come seated in very different Pilot pens:  the Pilot Justus, and the Vanishing Point. Sadly neither of those pens sit well in my picky hand; they are both too heavy.

Pilot Justus 95
Pilot Justus 95

While there’s no alternative to the Pilot Justus, the Vanishing Point comes in a smaller profile pen—the Decimo. It is, in the words of Goldilocks, “Just right…”

The Vanishing Point (and even the Justus) are available from Pilot USA dealers, and yet the Decimo is not! We in the USA have to buy the Decimo directly from Japan, or via the second-hand pen market.

Pilot Decimo - (re-homed)
Pilot Decimo – (re-homed)

As I work out which pens to keep, various Pilot pens have come and gone, and even returned to the hoard. The following four Pilots have made a great impression:

  • Namiki Sterling Turtle—received in a trade with a friend.
  • Pilot Decimo—a returnee in a different color. Bought from a friend who has too many black pens.
  • Pilot Custom Heritage 92—bought out of curiosity.
  • Pilot MYU 701—a gift from a friend, and my revered “go everywhere” note-taking pen.
Namiki Sterling, Pilot Decimo, Pilot Custom Heritage 92, Pilot MYU 701
Namiki Sterling, Pilot Decimo, Pilot Custom Heritage 92, Pilot MYU 701

As I looked at my collection, what seemed missing was the kind of fountain pen that wouldn’t cause too much attention in a meeting or a crowd. That “stealth” function used to be fulfilled by a black Autopoint Big Cat fountain pen. I gave that pen away a long time ago in my zeal to downsize the pen collection.

You might think the MYU fit the “stealth” category. However, the MYU can cause a lot of attention in crowds, and that was something I wanted to avoid. I wanted a pen to use in situations where the MYU might get too many stares or questions.

Pilot MYU 701
Pilot MYU 701

Pilot Decimo

A black pen seemed in order, and one without any gold trim. And so I contacted the aforementioned friend with too many black pens thinking he might have a black Decimo to spare. He did:

Pilot Decimo
Pilot Decimo in the wild

Having owned a Decimo previously (in the lovely violet color), I knew what to expect: a great nib, and a slim pen profile. The click action even fools people into thinking you’ve got a retractable gel or ballpoint pen. Because, frankly, most people don’t pay that close attention. Unless they are geeky stationery peeps.

I’ve used the black Decimo in many people oriented situations without anyone noticing. Mission accomplished! A keeper. Not in lieu of the MYU 701, but in addition to it. (The Decimo has that noisy click function rendering it useless in a dark and quiet theatre space.)

The nib units are the same as the ones used in Pilot’s Vanishing Point fountain pen. Both pens are capless, and the nib is exposed by clicking on the top of the pen much like ye old ballpoints of yesteryear. The Decimo, however, is considerably lighter than the VP. Inked up the Decimo weighs 21grams; the VP 32grams.

Namiki Sterling Silver Turtle

The Namiki Sterling Turtle came about as a result of a trade with the same trusty friend who gifted me my MYU. I wanted to gift him a pen that meant a lot to me, and that I hoped he would like. Of course, gifts are known to cause complicated acceptances. And so we ended up agreeing to a trade. The Namiki Sterling Turtle came into being as a result.

The Sterling was a fountain pen I never considered before. The MYU has softened my view of metally pens—yet the Sterling looked to be a big, heavy metal pen. The surprise? It’s not!

Namiki Sterling Turtle
Namiki Sterling Turtle

The Sterling Turtle weighs approximately 33 grams, inked up and capped or posted. Yet without the cap, the Sterling weighs about 20 grams—no more than my Danitrio Sho-Hakkaku weighs without a cap. Since I don’t post my pens, the Turtle is a good weight!

The Sterling occasionally gets taken out on the town for dressy events. Like the MYU, the Sterling’s cap snaps on and off the section. The cap can be removed quickly and quietly when needed to jot a quick note. The Sterling comes engraved with two turtles swimming under a night moon. What’s not to like about that?

Two turtles
Two turtles
Namiki Sterling Turtle
Namiki Sterling Turtle
Turtles on pens...
Turtles on pens…
Namiki Sterling Turtle - bamboo on cap
Namiki Sterling Turtle – bamboo on cap

The pen came with an 18K Fine nib. The nib sections are swappable if you can find any spares. I managed to acquire an additional Broad 14K nib. The Fine nib gets the most use. The Broad nib is great for writing to friends who have trouble reading my tiny F handwriting. Eventually I’ll have that broad nib modified to a stub by Deb Kinney. Just for fun.

Namiki Sterling Nibs Fine and Bold
Namiki Sterling Nibs Fine and Bold

Inset or inlaid nib? An inlaid nib, as I understand it was made by Sheaffer. The nib was set in the section, and plastic molded around the nib creating a nib unit that doesn’t come apart. Difficult to repair, people often replace the entire section of Sheaffer pens made with these kinds of nibs.

An inset nib, like in the Namiki Sterling, sits flush against the plastic, glued in place. These nibs can often be repaired because the nibs can be removed from the section without harming the pen. If ya know what yer doin’. Whether it’s good or not, many people refer to inset nibs as inlaid. So there ya go for confusifying things.

The Sterling Turtle always reminds me of my friend and our trade. That association alone makes the pen a keeper. The pen’s qualities makes the Sterling a pleasurable, desirable addition to the hoard.

Namiki Sterling sections are black with an inlaid nib
Namiki Sterling sections are black with an inset nib
from a 2013 Pilot catalog
from a 2013 Pilot catalog

Pilot Custom Heritage 92

For reasons unremembered—a pen for traveling? a pen in blue? I just could not help myself?—a Pilot Custom Heritage 92 was added to the tiny pen hoard. The pen with an 14K FM (fine-medium) nib in blue transparent acrylic, was not available from a USA dealer. I got the Pilot 92 at an amazing price directly from a dealer in Japan.

Blue, smoke, clear and orange colors are available in Japan, along with F, FM, M and B nibs. In the US, only the clear acrylic with F, M or B nibs can be purchased. Or at least these things have been true; times may have changed yet again.

Pilot Custom Heritage 92
Pilot Custom Heritage 92

The Pilot 92 has a lot going for it. The piston is exceptionally smooth in filling the pen with ink. The Pilot 92 holds approximately 1.2ml of ink.

The FM nib reminded me of a Pilot SF (soft-fine) nib in its writing qualities. The FM has a slightly bigger writing-line profile, obviously, than an SF. No matter what ink I put in the 92, the ink color looked really different with the FM nib, and there was almost always has some shading going on.

Note: Bruno Taut has written that the Pilot 92 with an FM nib is “rigid and uncharacteristic” even though it writes “thin, smooth, and with a nicely wet flow.” And so YMMV.

The piston can be removed with a TWSBI wrench. IMHO don’t remove the piston unless you really need to. Pilot uses some special grease to keep that piston running so smooth. How do I know? I removed the piston to clean a stain inside the barrel that I couldn’t get rid of otherwise… another reminder that demonstrators are not for everyone! It’s a bit of a spiritual exercise to let a transparent barrel “be.”

Pilot Custom Heritage 92
Pilot Custom Heritage 92

FYI: When cleaning the 92 with a 10% ammonia flush, the piston mechanism can feel dry. That dryness disappears once you ink up the pen again. The dryness after flushing is not peculiar to Pilot as I’ve had the same experience with Sailor, TWSBI and Pelikan. The difference: the Pilot 92 didn’t need any silicon grease after the cleaning.

Compared to the TWSBI 540 the Pilot 92 is a slimmer, lighter pen, and IMHO has a better build quality, and a far better nib. Of course if you’ve built a PiloTWSBI you’ve got a great nib, ay?

Compared to the Sailor Realo, the 92 has less bling and is more business-like in demeanor. These three piston-filling fountain pens—the TWSBI, the Sailor Realo, and the Pilot Custom Heritage 92 —are all good performers, IMHO. Of the three, my personal preference is the Pilot based on the smoothness of the piston mechanism, and the fabulous Pilot nib.

The Pilot 92 is a wonderful writing pen. However, it was the one Pilot among the four that I let go. Parting with the 92 was very hard… yes, it felt like one Pilot too many for moi. It might have been a good stealth pen in smoke or black instead of blue acrylic. De tels problemes, ay? The 92 choose a great home with another writer-soul out in the world.

I used to think piston pens were the end all be all. Now, the fewer moving parts, the happier a pen makes me. Less maintenance, as far as I’m concerned. If you’re looking for a quality piston pen, however, the Pilot 92 is an excellent choice.

Meanwhile, it’s surprised me to find my tiny hoard has a plethera of Pilot fountain pens. Well, three Pilots to be exact…not so much plethera as a tiny crowd.

The three Pilots tagged to remain in the pen hoard: the MYU 701, the Decimo, and the Sterling Turtle. Three nice nibs, all different: the hard as a nail MYU integrated steel nib, the buttery Decimo 18K nib, and the smooth Sterling 18K inset nib.

3 Pilot fountain pens
3 Pilot fountain pens
  • MYU 701
    • Discontinued — can be found from time to time
    • Steel integrated nib
    • CON-20 or CON-50 or Pilot cartridge
    • Slip cap
    • 21gr capped; 14gr uncapped
    • Length:
      • Capped 117mm
      • Uncapped: 104mm
      • Posted: 142mm
    • The Pilot M90 is the reissue of the 701; M90 heavier by at least 6gr
  • Pilot Decimo
    • Available direct from Japan, and various online sources
    • 18K – standard nib; 14K or Steel nibs can be found in Japan
    • CON-20, CON-50 or Pilot cartridge
    • Capless; retractable nib
    • 22gr inked up with a CON-50
    • Length: 140mm; 135mm w/nib exposed
    • Uses same nib unit as Vanishing Point pen; nib units are interchangeable
  • Namiki Sterling Turtle
    • Regular Pilot production pen, available from Pilot dealers in the USA
    • 18K inset nib with removable section; 14K nibs can be found
    • CON-20, CON-50, or Pilot cartridge
    • Slip cap
    • 33gr capped; 20gr uncapped
    • Length:
      • Capped – 135mm
      • Uncapped – 122mm
      • Posted – 145mm
    • Sterling series has numerous engraved Japanese themes: Hawk, Toki, Mt. Fuji & Wave, Turtle, Dragon. Out of production: Jaquar, Geisha, Tiger, Carp, Crane, Shogun, Plum Tree, Pine Tree, Butterfly, among them.
  • Pilot Custom Heritage 92
    • Clear demonstrator available in USA; transparent orange, blue, smoke colors in Japan
    • 14K Rhodium plated nib
    • Piston filler
    • Screw cap
    • 21gr capped; 13gr uncapped
    • Length:
        • Capped – 138mm
        • Uncapped – 123mm
        • Posted – 151mm

*weights and measurements approximate

Sidebar of Sorts: BTW I use a CON-50 converter in my c/c Pilots. The CON-70 won’t fit in an MYU, a Sterling or a Decimo.

I like the CON-50 (yes, over the squeeze bar CON-20). A lot of folks in the pen forums denigrate the CON-50 as not holding much ink. The converter holds .5 to .7ml of ink. With a Japanese Fine nib that’s a lot of ink especially for pens meant for a few letters or notes. With a Japanese Broad nib that’s not much ink at all, and you’ll need an ink bottle on stand-by.

Recently, I refilled a cartridge with Pilot Blue-Black ink. A popular method I once eschewed, it’s a pretty simple refill method. Not sure yet how long the cartridge will hold up to multiple refills. The cartridge holds approximately .9ml of ink.

Hey, for heavy inking writing I’ve got Edison eyedropper pensSidebar fini

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One thought on “Tale of a Vandal Pen Collector: Three Pilots Full

  1. I didn’t realize the Decimo and VP were different. The width of the VP is perfect for my hand, but it’s nice to know there’s a different style out there.


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