A string of fleeting moments

23 Mar

So this blog has been forced to remain silent for a while. I apologize.

I’ve been meaning to review a few pens that came my way but time has been scarce and some of these writers are actually leaving my box fairly soon. They are great pens for sure but other events have made it necessary to create space in my rather cramped pen chest.

The Pilot Justus is a gift that keeps on giving. Adjustable nibs may sound like pure gimmickry but the one on the Justus lives up to the hype if you choose the Fine. I loved every bit of mine and I even managed to overlook the quirks of the CON70 that came with it. But Leigh wanted a Spencerian Pilot and I figured if anyone could do justice to the Justus, it would be her. I can’t wait to see what magic she will weave once Mottishaw is done with the pen. (Note to self: check back in 8 months.)

A Conway Stewart 58 reissue with an Italic Fine regaled me with its passive aggressive looks and its exquisite nib. Modern English pens often get a bad rap but this one seems to have been granted pardon by the Crown. No chokes or stalls and the stub is quite springy to boot! My meeting notes never looked so dashing and the 58 helped me earn my keep for a few months. This one has earned its freedom.

I wrote of the Pilot Half Stealth not too long ago and it too must seek better hands. I loved the idea of the Capless, and the Broad on mine was as lush as I could ever want. But it never really found its way into my daily grind and I couldn’t stand to see it suffer in storage. Someone else will put this pen to good use and give meaning to its design and creation.

Traffic has not been exclusively outbound though. Leigh is also making room for some new adoptions and has entrusted a Piccolo to my care. It’s one of the new Carbon Graphite models with a rhodium played Soft Medium. I’ve only had it for a day but I’m sensing it will be a favorite. Besides, there is something so inherently cool about having a pen made out of pencil lead. I hope I can find enough respite to write about this novel Nakaya.

Pens come and go, and this is to be expected. What you do with them while they’re around is perhaps what matters most.

White for an Asian Christmas

13 Jan Some things do look better in white.

 

Some things do look better in white.

Some things do look better in white.

I wanted to gift myself with a Nakaya for Christmas 2013 but since you don’t always find what you want on the shelves in December, I placed my order in May and let both time and lay-away do their work.  Not long after November ended, I was extracting a blue silk kimono from a telltale Paulownia box.

Unboxed and waiting for its first fill. Leigh's Carbon Graphite Piccolo insisted on joining the fun.

Unboxed and waiting for its first fill. Leigh’s Carbon Graphite Piccolo insisted on joining the fun.

Most of Nakaya’s pens are offered either as Writers (with clips or roll stoppers,) or Cigars (clipless.) Only one thus far is exclusively available as a Writer – the Neo Standard.  This model came to be around 2009 when a German client placed a bespoke order. Very shortly thereafter, it became a regular and rather successful offering. In standard dress, it is confidently elegant. Lavished with maki-e art such as the Nine Tailed Fox or the Ascending Dragon, it makes the heart skip a few beats.

Taken alongside a heki tamenuri Naka-Ai. Shiro is noticeably brighter.

Taken alongside a heki tamenuri Naka-Ai. Shiro is noticeably brighter.

Many of its traits are undeniably Nakaya: the deep Wajima urushi gloss, the smartly peaked ends, and the signature border-cut pocket clip. But if you look hard enough, you’ll see Western influences shaping its silhouette.

Section shapes and sizes compared.

Section shapes and sizes compared.

The section is distinct from the variants that preceded it. On pens like the Piccolo, Long Piccolo, Portable and even the more recent Naka-Ai, the sections are identical in shape, length and girth. The Neo’s is long, visibly more tapered, and quite accommodating of chunky fingers. Friends who prefer the handling of Western brands have found the Neo Standard easy to approach.

The Neo's cap is slightly longer. The pink gold trim is a subtle departure from the standard yellow gold fittings.

The Neo’s cap is slightly longer. The pink gold trim is a subtle departure from Nakaya’s standard yellow gold fittings.

Shiro tamenuri is not an easy finish to express. The white base takes skill and patience to render, as natural urushi is never perfectly white. Instead, it ranges from a slightly off-white tone to a more custard hue. This natural variation paints a broad range of possibility. Some samples will sport a terra-cotta glow while others will be like flan. Each Nakaya is in itself unique, but the shiro tamenuri pieces are even more so.

The nib is a Soft Medium. It initially dragged a bit during anticlockwise strokes, but a month of daily use soothed that minor ache. This is not a flex nib and it doesn’t have to be. It is entertaining in use and provides a subtle gateway to the nuances of flex and hand pressure. With a bit of coaxing, it will kiss the limits of a Western Medium while absent any stress, it lays down delicately fine lines.

Writing samples done on the fly. The Soft Medium can flex just a bit more, but I decided not to push it.

Writing samples done on the fly. The Soft Medium can flex just a bit more, but I decided not to push it.

December in Paris or New Year’s in Times Square may be chic ways to savor winter. I’ll take this over snow any time.

It really was the most wonderful year!

It really was the most wonderful year!

(Pardon the less than stellar pictures. I used an HTC One to take the photos.)

Silent this Christmas

3 Dec

I thought of resuming posts this month but so many people in my country remain in need of aid and it doesn’t help that the government intends to stop distribution of relief packs by the end of the month.

Luckily, the citizens have decided to boldly go where their leaders fear to tread. Initiatives like Project Santa are now bringing toys and cheer to the kids in devastated towns. Efforts like the Peter Project are raising money to replace the boats lost by thousands of fishermen in distressed coastal villages. And of course, the Philippine National Red Cross continues to work heroically even after the camera crews and politicians have gone home.

It will take decades to revive all the places that Haiyan hit. Those of us who were spared her wrath have every reason to be thankful, and all of us have the duty to contribute to the recovery of our people in whatever way we can.

Please keep the Philippines and her children in your thoughts and prayers this holiday season.

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Lighting more than a candle

14 Nov

Lighting more than a candle

Last week, super typhoon Haiyan ploughed through the Philippine provinces of Samar and Leyte. The destruction it inflicted is beyond words and even the most eloquent international news anchors are speechless as they cover the conditions on the ground and train their lenses on the plight of the survivors.

Aid has been slow in coming but as more international humanitarian groups converge on the Philippines, we are hopeful that relief will soon be in full swing. Everyone in this country is doing whatever he or she can to help. No measure is too small. No effort too modest as we race against the hunger pangs that claw mercilessly at the survivors with each passing day.

We light a candle for our dear departed and pray that we can soon lay them to rest. But with the same fervour, we struggle to fan the embers of hope and work feverishly to bring our distressed brethren the relief that they need.

If you can, donate to the Philippine Red Cross. For the pen people out there, Leigh has organised a pen sale with all proceeds going to the Philippine Red Cross. Visit her blog (leighreyes.com) for more details.

What a way to start November

1 Nov
Good things come to those who wait.

Good things come to those who wait.

Main Street Pens finally mailed the pens they repaired for me and I should have them in hand soon. These were away for seven months so I’m looking forward to a lively reunion.  Thank you, Ron and Robyn!

Meanwhile, a Conway Stewart reissue is hogging my time, and I love its sweet factory Italic Fine so much that I released my trusty Masuyama – stubbed President just a few days ago. The Platinum promptly found a good home and its new owner is absolutely delighted by his new acquisition.

Lastly, my favorite B&M emailed this morning to say that the Neo Standard I ordered last April is now safely in their care. I can’t wait to see what the Nakaya craftsmen put together. This is my second to the last Nakaya (honest) and I can hardly sleep knowing it awaits only my arrival.

I love it when long waits finally end. Blog entries and photos to follow in a couple of weeks.

Half Stealth

23 Sep

2012 was the year of stealth pen and while many makers jumped on the matte black bandwagon, Pilot proved they were still top dog. Their modern flavor of the Stealth Capless became the pen du jour, and I have to admit that few writers looked so good alongside a MacBook Air 11 or a Mission Workshop messenger.

For 2013, Pilot decided to ditch the polished chrome accents on the gunmetal gray VP and fit stealth trim instead. Looky! It’s pretty…
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The packaging is different from what housed the black carbonesque VP I once owned. It’s less box and more escape pod in execution. I love how the Japanese devote such attention to even the smallest details. It just pushes the ownership experience from “what do we have here?” to “that’s how you do it!”
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The nib is a rhodium plated Broad that writes as wide as its Western counterparts and flows about as wet as Hannover’s fulhalters. The tip hydroplanes with ease on paper and though I usually like to feel the nib as it works, I could get used to this. It’s also a tad springy, which gives a cushioned albeit hardly flexible feel.

I spent a rainy afternoon fussing over an ink that would suit the VP and decided on Diamine Graphite. It seems to match the pen without seeming contrived and would not raise eyebrows if I chose to sign office papers with the Pilot. Given how much ink is on tap, you’d forgive me for confining this writer to signature duties.

Anyone who’s owned a Capless bewails the modest capacity of the CON50 converter. Cartridges hold enough ink for a day’s ride but none came with the package. I’d be lucky to go half a day on one tank. It isn’t a fatal flaw but something to keep in mind if you’re considering one of these pens.

I’ve seen several modern Stealth VP’s earn scars after a few months. Not pretty, as the underlying brass practically screams against the matte finish. The clicker thingy also picks up character marks in time, and gouging the clip or the nose is bound to create a homely looking beast. The gunmetal barrel seems more forgiving of rough play, so this pen should age like Obi Wan more than Palpatine.
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It may be half a Stealth , but I think it’s twice as good!

Waiting on the post

19 Sep

I have a new writer coming in the mail and the wait is killing me.

Two other pens are with Ron Zorn and they should be making their way home sooner or later.

Waiting is part of the experience when it comes to this cursed affection but we all learn to live with it.

Blog posts resume when the postman cometh….

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