While I loved the EF nib on the Sailor Realo very much, I longed for a pen less formal, less business like. That fountain pen came in the form of a discontinued Sailor: a Magellan with an F nib.The used Magellan wrote very much like the Realo’s EF. A great plus—the Magellan came clothed in a gorgeous tortoise material.
The Magellan was produced in blue, green/jade, and tortoise colors. There was a Lapis Lazuli Limited Edition, and a Mojave Jewel made for Swisher Pens.++ I’ve even seen a green version of the Mojave Jewel made for Swisher—alas no photo to be found. There may have been other Magellan LEs made for Swisher or other companies. (Please post what you know in the comments! If you have a photo to share, I’d be glad to host it.)
NOTE 2013 Nov 13: The Sailor Magellan was given its name by none other than Michael Masuyama, revered nib man of MikeItWork.com.
Someone working for Sailor gave me the following information about the Magellan:
14K models of the pens first appeared in 1992:
Tortoiseshell – 1992
Jade Green – 1992
Lapis Blue – 1993
White (Imperial Sea Foam) – 2004
21K models were released in 2003 – 2004.
According to a post on FPN, the original Magellans released in Japan had TIGP (titanium gold-colored) nibs. These nibs are regarded as great writers, in addition to the 14K and 21K nibs.
The Tortoise acrylic material is stunning, IMHO. People tend to remark upon its beauty when they see it. The translucent material allows you to see the nib through the cap, the converter through the barrel. Like many Sailor fountain pens, the section contains a metal piece to it.
The filling system? Cartridge/converter. A Sailor cartridge holds .81ml of ink. A Sailor converter holds .61ml. Yes, the capacity is less than the 1ml of the current production piston-filler Realo. IMHO, the ink capacity of the Realo was not a reason to keep it—the nib was! My used, untuned Magellan wrote as beautifully as my nibmeister tuned Realo.
What more could I ask for? Gorgeous brown material, a great nib. A sweet note-taking pen! And yet…I recognize that many pens come to visit my cigar box. They stay for a time, and we have a fun writing dance. These dalliances help broaden my pen-ucation. What I’ve come to understand about my tiny pen hoard is that there is indeed a core group, with one or two slots for the occasional visitor.
Used Sailor Magellans shows up for resale on eBay, and occasionally on the fountain pen boards. Sometimes online sellers identify the pens as Sailors but not as Magellans, so do look closely at photographs if pen hunting online.
The Sailors are great fountain pens. Their nibs are among the best I’ve tried, and I’m glad to have met them. Yet they are not in keeping with what I want in my tiny stash. A note-taking pen for me is one I carry on me at all times without fear. The sweet Magellan caused a worry or two. The cap unscrewed twice or thrice while in my pocket.
After asking the constant question swirling around my tiny hoard—what pen stays and what pen must go in order to keep to a core of writing instruments?—the Sailors with their amazing nibs were—yeah, I’m gonna say it—set sail to new homes.
Curiouser and curiouser I grew: is there another Pilot pen with a silky smooth Vanishing Point nib? Spending some time discussing Pilot nibs brought forth a kind FPN’er and reader of the blog who gives the expression “stranger friend” true meaning. He sent me five of his own Pilot fountain pens for me to examine. An amazing act of trust and generosity that I will cherish for some time.
The five Pilots lent to me:
Custom Heritage 91 EF 14K nib
Custom Heritage 91 SF 14K nib
Vanishing Point Stealth F 18K nib
Bamboo F 18K nib
Custom 823 F 14K nib
The only one of those listed pens with a VP like nib is, oh yeah, the VP! It was great to be able to compare the VP F nib to the M and B nibs I’ve had the pleasure of writing with. A smaller sweet spot, of course, in the F but the same silkiness one expects from a Vanishing Point. (If you don’t know what a nib’s sweet spot is, please read Richard Binder’s informative article on the subject.)
Mind you, the Vanishing Point is not alone in fountain pendom in having a silky smooth nib. In fact, the VP as a sister called the Pilot Decimo. It is slimmer and supposedly lighter than a VP. The Decimo is not available from USA retailers. It can be found on eBay and commands a heftier price tag than your average VP.
Some Montblanc and Omas pens for example have silky smooth nibs. Some people say Sailor nibs are the best of the Japanese nibs. I’ve only tried 14K Sailor nibs and not the famous 21K nibs. The 14K I’ve sampled (from fine to an alleged Music nib) were smooth although did not impress me more than any other brand, say like an Aurora nib, for example. If you are new to fountain pens, please, any of these nibs could be to your liking! Don’t let this wretched blogger who can feel the pea under mattress dissuade you from whatever your pending purchase may be.
Of course, all nibs are in theory smooth. Yet nibs can exhibit different personalities. There’s glass-like stiff as a nail smooth. There’s silky can barely feel the nib on the paper smooth. There’s springy smooth, boring smooth, butter smooth, feedback smooth, and whatever floats your boat smooth. Then, of course, there’s the matter of your east, west, vintage, modern, fine, medium, bold, music, condor, zoom, or super-micro-eeny fine nib styles. Your nib choice effects the nib’s personality as does how you hold the pen, the paper you write upon, and how much pen pressure you write with. Finer nibs have that smaller sweet spot and many people often experience finer nibs as scratchy. Scratchy is annoying. Unless you are a scratchy nib fetishist. Hey! I know you’re out there! The importance of meeting up with a lot of different pens is that you form a reference point to compare what people say you should like and what you really do like in a fountain pen.
We cannot say, “This is the smoothest nib among all others.” Well, okay, we can say that. Very few of us, however, can say such things with any real authority. I know I can’t. Me, I can only say what floats my own boat.
There’s no mistaking a VP nib in a blind writing test (uh, somethin’ like that) against a Platinum or a Nakaya nib. For me the VP nib is not better, it is merely different exhibiting a quality not in my tiny pen collection. My American-made, German-nib wielding Edison Mina writes a smooth, luscious fine line with yet not as fine as the Japanese VP fine. Perhaps part of the VP qualities has much to do with the shape of the nib itself.
My pal sent the pens with the CON-70 converter which holds at least 1.0ml of ink. (Some people say up to 1.7ml.—I’m sticking with 1ml!) The CON-70 is a neat little instrument. You push a button a few times and ink gets sucked up. Cool for someone who is easily entertained like moi. The CON-70 doesn’t fit the Vanishing Point or the resin Falcon. The Custom 823 has it’s own built-in filling device so the CON-70 is pointless there. I had some trouble getting a good fill with the CON-70. Here’s a video I made to help other similarly beleaguered pen peeps:
Perhaps better than a piston-filling pen is the Custom 823. For those of us who care about ink capacity, this is a great albeit heavy option. For a piston filler there is the Pilot Custom Heritage 92 (not to be confused with the Heritage 912 a c/c pen). The only other Japanese piston-filling pen I’m aware of is made by Sailor who makes the Realo in both the 1911 and the Professional Gear series. The 823 holds 2.2ml of ink, the Heritage 92 holds 1.5ml, and the Sailor Realo holds 1ml.
I really—really!—wanted to love the Custom 823. It holds approximately 2mls of ink. To suck up that ink, the pen has a cool vacuum filling mechanism. Following DizzyPen’s filling instructions I got a perfect file the first time out with the 823. It’s one of the easiest pens to fill EVER. The amber 823 when filled with Sailor Sky High blue ink looked quite dark, almost black in appearance. That was a fun surprise.
Alas, the Custom 823’s heavy. I gave it a good writing go and the 823 remained too uncomfortably heavy in my hand. Inked up and unposted the Custom 823 weighs 21 grams. Posted or capped it weighs 31 grams. My heaviest pen is the Danitrio Short Octagon which just remains in my comfort reign, coming in 20 grams fully inked up as an ED (over 3ml of ink) and at 29 grams capped. On average, my pens are 15 grams inked and unposted. Even just a couple of grams in weight can make a difference for someone like moi.
I’ve read many raves about the 823’s nib. Lots of people love it. I found it to be a nice, serviceable smooth nib, with nothing special about it. In fact, excluding the Falcon and the VP nibs, I felt that way about all the Pilot nibs I wrote with. Very fine, very good, standard Japanese nibs. A great standard by all others’ accounts. Just one that doesn’t resonate with my pen-using-heart.
The Pilot Bamboo’s nib had some nice spring to it and I enjoyed writing with it. The pen body has a neat shape to what is, again, a hefty fountain pen.
The nib I liked the best (after the VP and the Bamboo) was a SF nib on the Custom Heritage 91. Inked with Sailor Sky High that tiny nib allowed some shading to come through on the paper.
The Custom Heritage 91 turns out to be a very nice user pen. Inked up and unposted the pen weights 15 grams. Capped and posted it weighs 23 grams. It’s got a classic pen shape, good balance and some nib choices. The black resin 91 has the widest range of #5 nibs. The non-black 91s come in F, FM, M and B nibs. Both the black resin 91s sent me had metal sections. I’ve not seen them myself yet have been assured by more than one source that the “Iroshizuku versions” of the 91 (such as the Tsukiyo) are usually without metal sections. That means there is some ED potential for some of the 91s. If I did not already have a serviceable pen or two I would get one of these 91s! The Custom Heritage 91 is not, I believe, available in the USA except via eBay or sources in Japan.
Pilot makes all kinds of fountain pens from the well-loved 78G (under $20) to the Sterling collection ($400+) to Namiki Emperor Collection ($10,000+). Several Pilot fountain pens can still be had with 14K nibs for around $100. Pretty good deal!
Handling these Pilot fountain pens made realize I don’t need another, good basic pen. I already have a couple of basics in other brands. If I were collecting Japanese fountain pens my focus would be on having a representation of certain pens, and of course I’d acquire at least one Pilot. Instead, my focus is on aquiring pens that serve as part muse and part writing tool. I’m at my pen storage/cigar box limit and to acquire any pen means one must be foresaken. And so I’m good for now, aren’t I?
The best advice I got when looking for a nib that’s like the VP nib was from a pen retailer who suggested I’d be happy with the lighter Decimo (even though she didn’t sell that pen!). Remember the VP’s little sister? Sadly also a c/c only pen.
With two pens in the tiny hoard that are c/c filling pens and not ED-able (that is able to convert into an eyedropper filling pen), my preference would be to add another ED-able pen. Or even a piston-filling pen.
The pens were sent rolled up in a couple of Exbpens pen wraps. These were neat, good quality pen wraps to discover, made by a woman in southern Indiana. Our Pilot pen friend has a passel of business friendly black pens. It was nice to see some color in his pen wraps choices. A lot of pen wraps I’ve tried are very thick, making them awkward when rolled up with pens. Still providing scuff protection, these were a bit thinner, making the closed roll a nice size.
The best part of getting to handle these Pilot pens was meeting another Japanese nib enthusiast, and being reminded of how often fountain pen users enthusiastically share what they have with each other. I’m honored by such company.
It’s about time these Pilots went home to their kind and generous owner. Thank you, Thomas!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Capped is 5 1/2″ long and weighs 24g. Uncapped length is 4 7/8″ nib to barrel and weighs 14g.
Capped is 5 3/8″ long and weighs 24g. Uncapped length is 4 5/8″ nib to barrel and weighs 14g.
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.
Please know this: whether the pen you use is modern or vintage, a Pilot, Noodler’s or Montblanc, the fountain pen you love and use is the better pen.
In less than two short months, five pens found new homes and two pens were acquired. A radical shift has taken place in the pen stable. One Ragtime remains: the Visconti Caravel.
An unexpected opportunity arose to acquire a Danitrio Fellowship Pen. The Fellowship pen has been beautifully photographed and chronicled elsewhere (see links at bottom of post). Suffice to say back in 2009 when the pen was in development I did not think I could ever afford one. What did this pen cost me? Three Ragtimes and a tiny Omas.
Having fallen for urushi fountain pens, I contemplated a maki-e pen. Being consistently drawn to maki-e by the artist Kosetsu (Tatsuya Todo), the decision to say “yes” to a Fellowship pen was easy. I’m honored to have one because it also reflects my feelings about some of the great people met through FPN.
My first urushi pen, a chocolate-y tame-murasaki Short Octagon Danitrio, is the same size, shape and urushi base as the Fellowship pen. The same artist signature flags both pens. The plain urushi pen has been a great friend yet I’m ambivalent about having two pens the same shape. However all thoughts of re-homing any more pens have been halted for the time being.
The other pen I added to my tiny collection was the small version of the Danitrio Cumlaude in brown marble. The pen came used and a little beaten up yet it satisfied the yearning for brown marble in a big way.
As the collection grows smaller, it becomes more intellectually easy and more emotionally difficult to re-home pens. Easy because I have a very good sense of what pens I like to use. Difficult because I love them all.
Of the Visconti Ragtimes, I kept the one most difficult to acquire and with the loveliest celluloid: the Caravel. The tiny Omas Extra Jr, in my coveted brown marble no less, had been usurped as my favorite pocket pen by the far sturdier Nakaya Piccolo (yet another pen in my favorite brown palette). The beautiful Visconti Pontevecchio remained too heavy for my liking. Alas, the last of my customized Deb Kinney stubs went with the re-homed Viscontis.
The fountain pen count has been as high as 35. Currently the count is at 10 pens. There’s one more pen, a new Edison Mina, coming in February. Eleven pens remains well below the line drawn in 2009 at 20 pens. (If you care to, read my post Collecting Pens on the Small Side.) I’ve re-drawn my arbitrary line to be no more than 12 pens for the collection. That’s the maximum number my current pen storage box will hold.
With the scaling back of the pen hoard, some sixteen 27 pens have been re-homed. In their wake, 3 new pens have found their way into the the collection.
One of these pens, made in 1951, is the Montblanc 342g. The pen is also referred to as the 3-42g. (In fact, on the piston knob on my pen the imprint is listed with this dash.) The 342 is a “popular price pen for those who want a genuine but inexpensive Montblanc.” (Source: Montblanc 1950 leaflet.) Today these pens can be found for $80-$200 or more.
Reason this pen was brought into the fountain pen herd: It’s a basic black piston-filling pen with a vintage nib. The Ragtime Black has its flair and poise yet the steel nib is quite uninspiring to use over long writing sessions. Vintage nibs… ah, vintage nibs! They are sweet to use.
I wanted to try a vintage Montblanc and the 342g seemed like a good entry level pen. The 1951 model was chosen because of the simple outline of Montblanc’s star imprinted on top of the cap. Additionally, the blue ink window gives the pen a bit of dignified color.
Later models have the white MB star instead of the outline. A 342 with a manifold nib has a blue cap with white star. Some 342s have steel nibs. There is even a glass nibbed 342. The 342 is an acrylic pen. Other variations of the 342 include body color: black, burgundy, blue, grey, green. Ink windows may be blue, amber or clear depending on the variation. (Source: FountainPen. de)
The surprise of the pen was its nib. While expecting the nib to to be flexible and smooth, I did not expect the nib to have a bit of an upturned nose. I noticed the KF imprint on the piston knob and soon discovered the KF stood for “Kugel Fine” nib. Kugel nibs were/are ball-point nibs with some flexibility. Both Montblanc and Pelikan had KF nibs (or larger) at one time in their histories.
Along with its wonderful ink capacity, the 342g is small and lightweight. Slightly smaller in length and width than a vintage Pelikan 400, the 342 fits my small hand perfectly. Capped the pen is 4 7/8″ long. Uncapped the length from nib to barrel end is 4 1/2″ long. Posted (for you nutty posters) the pen is 5 5/8″ long. Prior to inking the capped pen weighed 14gr—with ink 16gr.
Upon first inking, the pen would not write! Nib to paper left not a trace of ink. Before contacting my trusted pen dealer who sent me the pen, I decided to soak the nib overnight. I knew the pen had been dormant for at least a year, if not longer. A pal of mine says that ebonite feeds—when the pen has been sitting unused—sometimes need an overnight soaking before they are ready to hold ink. Sure enough, the pen has been writing beautifully since that initial soaking. (The nib was soaked in Rapido-Eze for an hour, then I inked it and laid the pen on its side overnight. There is no science to that formula; merely what I did.) (Update: my trusted pen dealer says that dipping the pen in ink should have been enough to saturate the feed. He suggested perhaps there was an air pocket that needed to work its way out. So there you go.)
In one form or another, Montblanc has been making pen for over 100 years.
The recent Webbie hubub left me pondering my fountain pen accouterments. Taking inventory, I discovered 35 bottles of ink. (Before a recent purge of unloved inks and colors, I had more.) Some pen pals have far more ink bottles than I and some have far less. For moi, however, the information that I possess 35 bottles means that my “less is more” lifestyle is in danger.
It happens easily enough, doesn’t it? In my case, I thought green was my favorite ink. Along the way of trying out inks, I discover the favorite color might be brown. Bottles accumulate because any given new ink may be the “one” ink that is more spectacular than all the others. And somehow I acquire a lot of blue when I don’t even really care for blue ink. Of course, the same phenomenon transpires with pen accumulation.
Early on in my fountain pen days I tried bright beautiful colors like J. Herbin Rose Cyclamen. A lovely ink but not one I choose to write with regularly. And then there’s Caran d’Ache Saffron, quite a lovely orange shade in a beautiful bottle, sitting unused. My first inks were Noodler’s Ink because, wow, it’s made in the USA and isn’t that special? Noodler’s has cool names and artwork on the boxes and the bottles, too. (I might be a sucker for packaging.) Eventually I landed on J. Herbin and Diamine inks because my vintage pens write the best with those. There’s something lovely about the tradition of J. Herbin (1670) and Diamine (1864) that make me feel like I’m writing with the ink that Alexandre Dumas, Collette or Radclyffe Hall probably used.
35 bottles of ink… the brands break down as follows:
Diamine 16 bottles (Twelve 50ml and three 30ml and one-sample size)
J. Herbin 9 bottles (One 100ml and eight 30ml)
Private Reserve 3 bottles (All 50ml)
Montblanc 3 bottles (All 50ml)
Caran d’Ache 1 bottle (30ml)
Sailor Jentle 1 bottle (50ml)
Sheaffer Skrip 1 bottle (60ml circa late 1990’s)
Waterman 1 bottle (50ml)
Private Reserve is a more recent experiment and I’m not sure yet about these inks. They are highly saturated and come in some interesting colors like PR Avacado and Ebony Purple. The Sailor Jentle was bought at the recommendation of Brian at Edison Pen and has been used exclusively in my Edison pen. The Waterman was a brown ink quest (Havana), the Sheaffer appeared mysteriously, and the Montblanc was bought for the bottle shape.
Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here? —Alice to the Cheshire Cat
That depends a good deal on where you want to get to. —The Cheshire Cat to Alice
Only unlike Alice, I care very much indeed where I end up. For a moment I wondered if I should sell bottles, trade bottles or give bottles away. Many of these inks I still like very much. The answer became clear: Use them up, silly! Isn’t that what you bought ink for? To write with?
Sometimes slowly, ya know? My last personal challenge was to take my pen collection to a maximum of twenty pens. The new challenge to myself: No new bottles of ink until I use up an existing 33!
I wonder how long that will take me and what will be discovered? Yes, of course, I’ve come to the end of an ink bottle before. Ink bottles, however, have always been coming and going.
First ink bottles up to be sucked dry: Diamine Florida Blue (30ml) and J. Herbin Cacao Du Bresil (3oml). The Webbie Ink Journal will record my progress.
Select Reading List on Referenced Ink Manufacturers