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.

4 thoughts on “An unexpected house guest

  1. Julie

    Understand the uncertainty over such a large pen. Glad to read the long section is accommodating, once you find the sweet spot to grip. “Very organic in character” is hard for me to resist… Cheers to you and your guest!

  2. quinden

    It looks fantastic, Karlo – great photos! The blue-green stone finish looks like granite from another planet. 🙂

    I totally agree on the plated vs. unplated soft nibs – my rhodium-plated soft fine is much less flexible, but still a delight to use.

    • Karlo Tatad

      It wasn’t the easiest pen to photograph but I’m glad the surface was adequately captured. The nib is good and I like it. I still like the unplated variants if softness is the key consideration.

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