A Literary Crawl Through the World of Nakaya Fountain Pens

Nakaya Decapod Shiro Tamenuri

A Tale of Three Nakayas.

It was the best of times. It was the worst of times. It was the end of the summer. It was the beginning of fall. It was when I had the chance to use three Nakayas.

Nakaya Number One was a devastatingly attractive Decapod I got at DC, almost on a lark. It had only one issue: the nib. Yes, the nib was wonderful, but it was a very crisp oblique italic, so it was wonderful for someone who wasn’t me.

I sold it at San Francisco to an awesome person with artistic talent and great handwriting. It was meant for him. And I felt good about seeing it go to him. But I did love that pen. So I felt a twinge of … self-sacrifice, maybe? However, I knew that “It is a far, far better thing I do than I have ever done before.”

Then Nakayas Number Two and Three arrived, bringing us to …

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The 2019 Lamy Safari is Announced, and I Just Cannot Even

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My Lamy Safari-hating friend just sent me this, which, courtesy of the nice folks at Goulet Pens, is apparently what Lamy has cooked up for the 2019 Safari special edition.

😱

It’s taken me a few hours to figure out a nice way of conveying my reaction more subtly than just using “Munch’s The Scream” emoji, above.

If you know the television show The Good Place, you will understand my first reaction to this photo, which was a quote from the show: “Holy mother forking shirtballs.”

It’s fair to say that the Pastels are not my bag. I don’t really like the look, with that pen, because the color scheme doesn’t fit with the design, in my view. But that’s fine. Maybe they are better in person, and at least they are different, and not black. But my disappointment is more general. I’ve been a Lamy Safari fan since the first year of the Safari. And it’s as a fan that I say this, sadly: the annual editions have been more lackluster than not, for a while now.

This is just the capper. It seems like two out of three years I’ve been wondering the same thing: Is this where I stop, and give up collecting Safaris?

There was the tossed-off Neon Trio. Then the “Dark Materials” Trio of Dark Lilac, Petrol and All-Black, an obvious attempt to extend the market with Safaris for those who hate Safaris. Now comes the Pastel trio. I don’t know precisely which group the Pastel is meant to appeal to, but I’d bet that the genesis of those colors is a market study.

And then, not even one Pastel, but three at once. Why limit your bottom-line by putting out only one annual edition, when you can potentially triple revenues by putting out three? Which of course is reversed for consumers, as Slightly Unnerved, in the comment below, politely brings up.

That issue is much worse for those of us in the US, where a Safari, without converter, retails at just under $30 each.

I don’t know if there’s been new ownership or management at Lamy, and that’s what’s behind this — but I suspect so. But it does seem rather obvious that the annual Safari, and probably the Safari as a whole, is now seen as a cash cow. I think that’s understandable from a business perspective. I would never tell a business not to maximize profit. It’s just not the same, from the fan perspective.

The Safari used to be a quirky pen that a few of us loved. And you had to actually love it, to withstand the slings and arrows, because the fountain pen world was full of people who loved to put the Safari down. The Safari appealed to a very small subset of adults — those who liked contemporary design and fountain pens. And I think the Safari reflected what the Lamy company was — a home for risky products, designed products, that didn’t appeal to everyone, but were well-built and well-priced. Modern design plus affordability plus quality.

The new Lamy is obviously different. And the new Lamy is certainly reflected in the last five to seven years of annual Safaris. That’s fine — and I don’t own the company. But, as a fan, I think they’ve essentially lost what made me a fan. Or not so much “lost” as “abandoned.” I think now whoever runs Lamy has pivoted to squeezing out as much profit as possible. Which on an intellectual level I understand. The Golden Goose, and all. I do I wish Lamy well, and hope they don’t end up killing that Golden Goose. But I think, however, that I’m not really a fan any more.

Pen of the Day: Nakaya Piccolo in Polished Shu with Nick Stewart Randall Ink

Nakaya Piccolo Polished Shu nib with Nick Stewart Randall ink

Nakaya Piccolo in Polished Shu with fine nib. We’ve had a rainy and gray fall here, but this little pen has just added a shot of color. It’s a Piccolo in Polished Shu with a fine nib.

I really, really like the Polished Shu finish, and I especially like where you can see the darker underlayer showing through.

Nakaya Piccolo Polished Shu nib

This particular fine nib is very fine and it writes on the dry side, so it’s very precise. I chose to get a smoother writing experience, instead of the thinnest possible line, by matching this nib with an ink sample that’s very wet-writing, and very lubricated, and also new-to-me. It’s called “Randall” from Nick Stewart, and it’s made by Diamine. I got this sample from my friend Jon. Thanks, Jon!

Nakaya Piccolo Polished Shu nib with Nick Stewart Randall ink

 

How Fine is a Pelikan M600 Extra-Fine Nib?

How fine is the Pelikan M600 extra-fine nib? Not very! At least, not “very fine” in the sense of “narrow.” But “very fine” in the sense of “excellent.”

I happen to have a Pelikan M600 with extra-fine nib inked up at the same time as a Sailor 1911L with medium nib. The two pens have different inks, but here’s a comparison writing sample.

Pelikan extra-fine nib writing comparison

I’m not particularly surprised by this. I often use two modern M600 Pelikans with extra-fine nibs, and I always jokingly call those nibs “alleged extra-fines.”

Partly that’s because I tend to think of nib widths in line with vintage Parkers and Pelikans, and modern Japanese pens — all of which run narrower than modern Pelikan gold nibs. But also because I use a lot of modern Pelikan fine nibs, and I find those pretty darn close to Pelikan extra-fine nibs. In fact, I swear that a few of my Pelikan fines write a narrower line.*

Here’s another writing sample. The Pelikan gold extra-fine uses the dark green of Pelikan Edelstein Olivine, and the Sailor medium is inked with the lighter green of Sailor Waka-Uguisu.

Pelikan extra-fine nib writing comparison

I bring this up now because Pelikan has decided to start charging extra for their extra-fine nibs. They apparently implemented the price increase in Europe earlier this year, and it just reached the US with the M600 Vibrant Orange, which will cost $440 with fine through broad nibs, versus $476 with an extra-fine nib.

I’ve never bought many Pelikan extra-fine nibs. I tend to use vintage fine nibs and modern Japanese fine and extra-fine nibs when I want a finer lines. So my extra-fine nib needs are covered. But I don’t think Pelikan extra-fine gold nibs are bad, just because they may be wider. In fact, I think Pelikan’s gold extra-fine nibs are very good.

To me, what makes Pelikan’s gold extra-fine nibs good, and maybe a little special, is that they are extremely smooth and easy writers. I’ve noticed that people who don’t share my love of very narrow nibs always love my Pelikan extra-fines.

Modern Pelikan gold nibs are beautifully ground to almost float on the page, so you can write very fluidly with them, and they reward a light touch. That’s true for the extra-fine, as well. Sure, it may write wider than many extra-fine nibs, but it also writes wetter and smoother.**

Sailor gold nib also are beautifully ground, but at size medium and below, Sailor nibs feature a characteristic feedback. Instead of floating across the page, a Sailor nib feels more like writing with a pencil — it’s a different kind of smoothness. Or look to the extra-fine nibs of Lamy and Aurora: in those the extra-fine nib tends to have a smaller sweet spot and put less ink down on the paper. All these brands’s extra-fines will generally write finer than Pelikan’s gold extra-fine, but the experience is different.

So I can think of a lot of reasons why many fountain pen users prefer the Pelikan extra-fine.

And even though it’s not particularly narrow, I enjoy using it myself. I’m not sure it’s different enough from the Pelikan gold fine nib for me to buy another, given the price increase, but I’d heartily recommend it to those who don’t already own one, especially those who don’t necessarily seek the narrowest line possible.

Pelikan extra-fine nib writing comparison

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*Please note that I’m only talking about modern Pelikan gold nibs here. Modern Pelikan gold nibs differ from (i) the steel nibs found on pens like the M200 line, and (ii) vintage Pelikan nibs.

**There will be sample variations in any nib, so these are generalized statements based on my experience across a range of pens. Some individual extra-fine gold nibs from Pelikan may be narrower or dryer, than normal, or may exhibit other variances.

A Peek at the Pen Cup: Mean, Green, Certainly Not Lean

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Look at that: absolute chaos has descended on Fountain Pen Follies.

And. So. Much. Green.

It’s probably obvious just looking at that: these last two months have been insanely busy in real life, leaving no time for writing with pens. At the same time, I’ve been inundated with pens and ink. I’ve got a bunch of new inks, including some nice samples, and also a few new pens, to try out. Then I wanted to ink up testers for my Pelikan Hub. Then there’s the new Sailor 1911L in Key Lime. Everything has piled up. I’ve got close to 30 pens there, crammed in like commuters on an L train at rush hour.

That Sailor 1911L in Key Lime is the pen I notice most in that crowd. In the first photo, it’s the green pen near the top right corner. What makes that photo unusual is something that you might not notice: there was sun outside. See how nice and gleaming the Sailor looks in the sun?

Here’s an extreme closeup.

Sailor 1911L Key Lime in sun

Pizzazz.

In the sun, the pearlized material of the Key Lime really comes through. On the one I’m using, there are wavy shimmers, for a moire effect.

Here’s another shot, in which you can see the very subtle shimmers on the pen body:

Sailor 1911L Key Lime with comparison pens

Still in the sun, the Key Lime there is between the Pelikan Stockholm and the Lamy Al-Star Charged Green. That’s closer to what the Key Lime usually looks like. But it’s a smidge yellower in real life, which just doesn’t come through in photos.

I want to do a post on the many looks of the Key Lime, because it’s such a cool color, but also so different, and so hard to get a fix on. It’s fascinating.

What you can’t see is that inside all those pens is a lot of green ink. Too much green ink. I feel like I should be decorating for Christmas. Except, of course, it is only October. And in October we celebrate the biggest holiday season of all. The start of NHL hockey.

I’m sure we all feel “too much” at times. Right now, those crammed pen cups are nagging me, like a pile of laundry you haven’t folded for a week. So this Peek at the Pen Cup was the “no mas” edition. I’m going to spend some time cleaning out the pens I can do without, and getting back on track with the others.

I Resist Not At All: the Pelikan M600 Vibrant Orange

Pelikan M600 Vibrant Orange

It was only days ago that I heaped praise on Pelikan for making excellent quality pens, and supporting fountain pen fans, and suggested that all of us might consider supporting Pelikan in return, by buying one of their excellent pens before the next Hub.

I even suggested to a commentator that he make his next Pelikan pen purchase a “really special and splashy one.”

Well, now, Pelikan has come out with what to me the M600 Vibrant Orange. And I have taken my own advice. Which is not how this was supposed to work.

But I was never going to be able to resist the Vibrant Orange. It’s definitely my favorite type of fountain pen: fun. The Vibrant Orange looks to rival only the legendary M600 Pink in fun. It’s pedal-to-the-metal, absolute “I’m not a dork even though this is a fountain pen,” full-on fun. And in the M600 size.

The only thing that could have made this any better is if it were a Lamy Safari.

And/or not $440 in the United States.

Still, it’s the pen for me. As soon as I saw the earliest announcement from a European dealer, I ordered one from Dan Smith, the Nibsmith — before it was even up on anyone’s website, before I knew the US price. Oooh, pro-tip: if you have fountain pen dealers in your cellphone contacts, these things happen.

Candidly, I’ve been hoping for this pen for years, since I first saw a Pelikan M320 in this material.

I’m getting a broad nib. More seriously, I ordered from Dan because the Nibsmith is a US dealer, and he’ll grind the nib or just adjust the flow for free, which I appreciate. Plus he’s got a little pre-order package going, including free shipping. Plus he’s a friend of the blog. Plus, he’s in my cellphone contacts.

Though apparently, that is no mark of distinction, because his phone number is right at the top of his website. Hmph. On the other hand, opportunity missed. If I can order a pizza from Domino’s by texting 🍕 I should have just ordered this with 🍊✒️ 💸.

I will refine this by next year. Until then, no more pen purchases. 😇

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“Always Listen to Your Mother”: I Go to the San Francisco Pen Show

vintage Pelikan fountain pen

That is a pen.

I am starting out with a giant pen — Actual Pen Content — because after my inattention to pens at the DC Show, I vowed to be more on my game at the San Francisco Show.

That sounds so good! So of course it’s totally untrue. I said no such thing. And that pen hasn’t been within 2,000 miles of the San Francisco Pen Show. But it’s a pen.

And I did pick up a smattering of Actual Pen Content from the San Francisco show, which I will put at the very end, for loyal readers or those wasting time at work. Others, feel free to skip ahead.

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A Peek at the Sailor Professional Gear Shooting Star of Jonuma and the Sailor Medium-Fine Nib

Sailor Shooting Star of Jonuma fountain pen

So here’s my “I know I said I wasn’t going to buy any more new pens” new pen. This is the Sailor Shooting Star of Jonuma, from a retailer in Japan. It’s a full-size Sailor Professional Gear in a transparent, sparkling blue-green, with white end caps that remind me of pencil erasers, and a medium-fine nib. It’s gorgeous, and I couldn’t resist.

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