An unexpected house guest

A whale of a pen surfaces for air.
A whale of a pen surfaces for air.

When Leigh asked if she could take the Long Piccolo home, she charged her Dorsal Fin to keep me company. I was a little unsure about the big pen as my love affair with the Dorsal has been tragic at best.

Is it that big? From L to R: a Century, a #3776 Celluloid, a Vacumatic Long Major, a Naka-Ai, the Dorsal Fin, and a Pelikan M1005 Demonstrator
Is it that big? From L to R: a Century, a #3776 Celluloid, a Vacumatic Long Major, a Naka-Ai, the Dorsal Fin, and a Pelikan M1005 Demonstrator

I was fatally attracted to this model from the time I saw one at a Nakaya clinic. As much as I lusted after its shape and size, the very girth that drew me in would inevitably hurl me from the saddle. It felt just a little too huge for my hand.  I wondered if this unexpected visit would change things. And so with equal measures of skepticism and hope, I shoved the pen into my Corbo and brought it home.

The midori ishime kanshitsu is very organic in character, more so than the mirror-gloss tamenuris. Stone is an accurate description and the cratered surface reminded me of volcanic rocks from my childhood science classes. Ishime kanshitsu is not photogenic but up close, it is actually charming. It feels really good in the hand and the small recesses make keeping a handle on the Dorsal easy, even after hours of use.

Patience and a craftsman's touch shape the fin.
Patience and a craftsman’s touch shape the fin.

The fin from where the pen gets its name is not machined from ebonite. It is painstakingly built up using urushi and shaped by hand. Coupled with its complex finish, it can take at least half a year to complete one of these beauties. A bit of a pain for those in a rush but if these things were easy to get, we’d all be living like monks soon enough.

The Decapod and the Naka-Ai seem to shrink....
The Decapod and the Naka-Ai seem to shrink….

The section is long. I mean really long.  It will embrace most any hand size if you ask nicely. It took several hours to figure out how she wanted to be held but once I cracked the code, I appreciated how effortlessly one could write with this pen. The Dorsal Fin is heavy for a Japanese pen but like any Nakaya, it balances close to the web of the hand. Neat, huh?

The nib is a rhodium plated Soft Fine. I’ve heard tell that plated Soft nibs are less pliant compared to their monotone variants. This one is still softer than a firm Fine and the snapback remains good, but not as stellar as the plain gold version on the Long Piccolo. The ace up its sleeve is that absent pressure, the rhodium plating imparts a smoother writing feel. Almost like the Century that I love for hurried notes.


I think I will get along famously with my new guest. I hope Leigh is not rushing to send the Long Piccolo back.


Grails and celebrations

My grail list grew considerably shorter once my tastes settled down. I wanted to stick to a dozen pens, give or take a couple, and this resolution has helped keep my wants in check.

I get along best with Japanese nibs and it is no surprise that what I’ve really lusted after comes from the land of sake and shoguns. All of the stuff on my grail list come from Nakaya and the Decapod is number three on that roster of four.

Chiseled she is. And pretty too.

The pen takes its name from the ten flats that comprise its form.  The faceted shape is not unique to the Japanese as iconic pens like the Wahl Doric and the Omas Paragon prove. Round shapes are more organic but the geometric silhouette of the Decapod creates an uncommon appeal.

A Naka - Ai in heki tamenuri. A Long Piccolo in aka tamenuri and the Decapod in kuro tamenuri. Am missing a shiro but am working on it.

Wajima-nuri urushi finishes are striking in any of the round bodied Nakayas. But only in the Decapod and it’s more flamboyant sibling the Twist, do the tamenuri coatings shine unabashedly. The edges showcase a dramatic shift between underlayer and topcoat. It is a bold expression that is otherwise impossible to achieve on a completely radiused surface.

You don't get this variation from a round body.

I originally wanted an aka tamenuri but both Mottishaw and Aesthetic Bay had none in stock. With Matsubara-san in his 80s, I could not expect Nakaya to make delivery quickly. Kuro tamenuri tends to be boring in a Piccolo or Portable Writer but in a Decapod, it is quite elegant. I decided to bag it and the only question requiring an answer was nib choice.

I was hoping to score a BB as it would give me a wide range of regrind options. Sadly, Aesthetic Bay had none but they offered me a Music or Elastic Music instead. I was not sure that I wanted a Music. I was definitely certain that I did not want an Elastic Music.

On Midori MDNote paper, the combination of nib and ink is delightful.

We dip tested the monotone Music nib and it proved pleasant. Unlike the one I previously owned, this wrote on the narrower side of wide. Downstrokes were closer to 0.9mm and flow was just shy of juicy. Leigh suspects that this is one of the older nibs and it is possible that Watanabe-san, Shinichi Yoshida’s mentor, was the one who finished this tip. And so, credit cards cringed and giddy smiles ensued.

Each grail has a story, a reason that compels one to covet it. In this case the ten facets celebrate the present and look forward to a future.

Ten months. Ten years. Ten lifetimes.