Three Pieces of Silver

Photo of my three sterling silver pens, and their current inksI had pulled out three Sheaffers, fully intending to fill them as replacements for my previously emptied Sheaffers. Then some tarnished Sailor silver caught my eye, and I grabbed a polishing cloth. But, if I’m going start polishing silver, I might as well polish all of it. So, I grabbed my two pieces of silver by Pilot (Namiki) and settled in for some polishing. And once they were polished, I had no choice but to ink them up. If I put them back in the pen case, they would tarnish again before I used them, making all that time wasted. So it was on to ink them up.

Keeping with the theme of three, I picked the three Iroshizuku inks that were closest at hand. The Sailor 1911 Sterling Silver was fed Iroshizuku Yama-guru. The ink level in the bottled betrayed that I had used the ink quite a bit, yet I couldn’t remember what it looked like on paper. I like brown ink, and it was a beautiful dark brown in the bottle.

photo of the Sailor 1911 Sterling Silver

Sailor 1911 Sterling Silver

The Sailor 1911 Sterling Silver came with a 21kt medium nib. I bought the pen in 2004 and had Richard Binder stub the nib at the 2013 D.C. pen show. The pen has seen infrequent use since them. One reason is that it tarnishes quickly, and polishing it up is a significant speed bump before inking it up. The pen hasn’t been used at all in the last two years and only three times since having the nib stubbed.

One of the end pieces, I forget which one, popped off, and I had to superglue it back on. It’s been solid since then, but I do hold my breath whenever I polish the pen.

Photo of the Sailor 1911 writing sample

Sailor 1911 writing sample

Photo of the Namiki Sterling Silver Hawk uncapped

Namiki Sterling Silver Hawk

The first of my Namiki fountain pens to get ink was the Hawk. I picked Iroshizuku Fuyu-syogun. (FYI – Namiki is a sub-brand of Pilot, just like Iroshizuku.) The pen has an 18kt gold inlaid fine nib. The grey ink can sometimes get lost on some paper when using a thin nib. If I had been thinking or paying attention, I wouldn’t have filled the thinnest nib of the trio with grey ink. I’m writing the draft of this post on Doane Paper, which has a blue grid pattern. The ink flow is enough to put a line down that’s consistent and dark enough to stand out from the grid. I do like the look of the inlaid nib as I use the pen. The pen was purchased in 2003 but rarely used. It was last used nearly 4 years ago.

The pen barrel has what appears to be a small circle with a dot in it. It faces me when I write with the pen and is out of place. Now that I’ve seen it, I can’t unsee it. There are a couple other small blemishes that didn’t come out with the polishing cloth. They probably just need slightly more aggressive polishing.

While there are several Namiki Sterling designs available as new, it appears the Hawk has been discontinued.

Photo of the Namiki Sterling Silver Dragon uncapped

Namiki Sterling Silver Dragon

The final piece of silver is the Namiki Sterling Silver Dragon. I purchased the Dragon in April 2004. Like the Hawk, it’s rarely used and not used at all in the last four years. The Dragon has an 18kt medium gold inlaid nib. I loaded the pen with Iroshizuku Shin-ryoku (autocorrect is killing me on the ink names, hopefully my corrections are “re-corrected”). The nib puts down a nice wet line, with “wet” defined by someone who likes nibs tuned to the dry side.

Both Namiki pens are using the discontinued Con-20 aerometric converter (squeeze sac). I’m pretty sure they’re the ones that came with the pen 15+ years ago. New models include the Con-40. The Con-20 is Pilot branded, and they refer to it as a “Press Plate” converter. The Con-20 was discontinued as 2017 began. The Con-20 is my favorite Pilot converter (which isn’t saying much). Even though I can’t see the ink level, I find that it’s the only Pilot converter that rivals the ink capacity of a Pilot cartridge in real-world use. (I don’t use the Con-70 which probably does hold more.)

Despite being metal pens, the Namiki Sterling Silver pens don’t feel heavy at all. They are certainly lighter than the Sailor 1911 Sterling Silver that does have some heft to it. The 1911 is also slightly bigger when capped. Uncapped and unposted, which is how I use my fountain pens, all three pens are the same size. All three pens are comfortable in my hand. They are postable, but I don’t post them. I did notice some hand fatigue after using the 1911 for a short time. This was most unexpected and may have been more to do with it being late in the day, and I’ve been using my hands a lot today (cleaning, scrubbing, moving stuff, but unfortunately not using pens). I didn’t use the Namiki pens until the next day. There was no fatigue when using them.

None of these pens are among my core pens, although the Sailor 1911 managed to make my Hangers-On list. Since it’s been unused as long as the Namiki Sterling so it shouldn’t have even made that list. Despite their dormancy, I probably won’t put them up for sale. All are excellent writers, and they’re probably worth more to me than someone else would pay for them. While none have been beyond writing the draft of this post, all have reminded me that they are trustworthy writers and enjoyable fountain pens.

This Just In: Pilot Vanishing Point Guilloche (2016 LE)

Pilot Vanishing Point Guilloche in BoxPilot releases a Limited Edition Vanishing Point every year, the limit being determined by the year. So this year brings 2,016 Vanishing Point Guilloche fountain pens. “Guilloche” is a ornamentation resembling braided ribbons. The pens are black with silver trim and the guilloche pattern slightly raised along the black portion of the metal barrel. It has the look of vintage chased hard rubber pens and when it was announced I had some small hope it would be rubber (or ebonite) as the initial announcement didn’t mention the material. I immediately signed up to be notified when it was available.

Of course and in stock notification isn’t the same as buying it. I ended up mulling it over for a couple days after getting the in-stock notification. The Vanishing Point clip has never bothered me but the metal bodies weren’t my favorites and I sold all but one of my metal Vanishing Points. Did I really want another one? Well obviously I did and I hoped the raised design would alleviate my distaste of the cold metal.

The Guilloche Limited Edition Vanishing Point lists for $240 although there’s the usual 20% discount from most online sellers. Despite being a limited edition I haven’t seen any out of stock notifications and two thousand pens seems like a lot, especially at this price point. I didn’t feel the need to rush the purchase, especially since the “Storm Trooper” Vanishing Point was now available in the US and would probably be more popular.

The Guilloche is only available with a medium nib, which is typical for the annual limited editions, although some retailers may offer to swap the nib unit. Mine has the stock rhodium plated 18-karat gold medium nib. Since the nibs are easily swappable I can use any of my nibs and was happy to take the medium. I prefer fines or extra fines but this medium is a nice writer and I’ve been using it since I got the pen. Plus, part of my calculation was that the standard nib would make it easier to sell if I didn’t like the pen.

For the record, I received #200 of 2016. The packaging is new and I like it more than the previous limited editions. It’s a nice design but doesn’t seem to be a huge expense for something I’ll never use again. The pen also included the new Con-40 converter which isn’t widely available here in the States.

As for the Con-40 converter – I was going to say “it sucks”, but the problem is it doesn’t suck up enough ink. The converter seems over-engineered, with three small agitator balls and a stopper to keep those balls in. When extending the plunger to expel the air in preparation to pull ink in there a full half-inch of air still in the converter where the plunger can’t reach thanks to that stopper. This leaves more air above the ink than the typical converter. I made a mess trying to get the last of the air out. A syringe would work of course but that seems to defeat the purpose of using a converter, although seems easier than repeated attempts to get the air out. Hopefully there’s a secret I’ve yet to stumble on. Here’s a thread on FP Geeks about the con-40 converter issues. Officially the con-40 holds 0.4ml of ink.

I picked Montblanc Toffee Brown as the first ink for this pen. The writing was nice a smooth, a typical quality Pilot nib. The ink didn’t last long and I didn’t want to deal with the converter so I popped in the blue cartridge that came with the pen and have been using that since. There hasn’t been any skipping or hard starts.

While the Vanishing Points are ideal for jotting quick notes on the go the medium nib doesn’t suit that purpose, at least for me. So I’ve been using the pen for longer writing sessions at my desk (or a table) and find it delightful to use. The raised Guilloche pattern gives it a nice tactile feel that eliminates the cold feeling I get from the typical metal VP. I like using it as much as my wooden Vanishing Points, although some of that may be due to the new pen glow. Some people hate the clip, I really like it. It fits naturally with my grip and provides some stability. With small or mostly hidden nibs such as this one I have a tendency to rotate the pen over time, the clip completely eliminates this.

I’ve seen some online comments that Pilot changed the internal design below the clip which has affected people who remove the VP clips. This isn’t something I’d ever do but if you do expect to remove the clip you may want to do some online research before buying the pen. The review linked below has photos.

The Guilloche pattern is subtle and very nice. Last year’s Twilight Limited Edition VP was a hit among the pen community and if memory serves, it sold out quickly. While I appreciated the looks of the Twilight, and it certainly caught my eye, I never considered a purchase. On the other hand, the Pilot Vanishing Point Guilloche 2016 Limited Edition was an easier decision once I knew the Guilloche pattern was raised. I’m very happy with the decision to buy. I like the simple design aesthetic along with the functionality provided by the raised pattern.

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Additional Reading

Pilot Guilloche Vanishing Point (2016 Limited Edition) | No Pen Intended

Ink & Pen Notes: Pilot Vanishing Point XXXF with Pilot Black

Pilot Vanishing Point XXXF Nib with Pilot Black ink cartridgesI inked up my Pilot Vanishing Point XXXF nib way back on Mach 11th, loading it with a Pilot black ink cartridge. The nib unit started in the Cherry Bamboo barrel and then moved to the Maplewood barrel after I inked up the left oblique nib.

The XXXF nib is a custom grind done by Richard Binder a couple of years ago. The nib is extremely thin, making it stingy with ink. It’s about as smooth as such a thin nib can be. It’s great on Rhodia or Tomoe River paper but I also use it a lot on “regular” paper too. It will catch a bit on coarse or fibrous paper.

A Vanishing Point with this nib used to be a regular carry in my shirt pocket, but this became less useful to me so now the pen is just part of my regular rotation.

Pilot Black is an ink I like a lot for everyday use and it’s dark enough for this thin nib. As usual it was problem free and easy to flush from the fountain pen.

There’s not much else to say about this fountain pen and ink combination. The Pilot Vanishing Point XXXF nib combined with Pilot Black ink to provide a consistently pleasant writing experience.

Ink & Pen Notes: Pilot Vanishing Point Left Oblique with Montblanc Bordeaux

Cherry Bamboo Pilot Vanishing Point Left Oblique nib with Montblanc Bordeaux ink bottleI inked up my Pilot Vanishing Point left oblique nib with Montblanc Bordeaux ink back on April 29th and refilled it once since then. One of the things I like about the Vanishing Points is that it’s super easy to swap the nib (filled with ink) between barrels. This one spent most of its time in the Cherry Bamboo barrel, but it did spend a couple days in each of my other Vanishing Point barrels.

While the click-action Vanishing Point is well-suited for quick notes, the left oblique nib is not. At least not for me. While the left oblique nib is perfect for my Vanishing Point grip, it does require a consistent writing angle. So the nib mainly gets used for longer writing sessions at a desk or table. The nib is a custom grind, of a factory medium, done by John Mottishaw.

There’s not much to say about Montblanc Bordeaux. It sits solidly atop my Favorite 5 inks list and will soon return in another fountain pen.

As for the Vanishing Point left oblique nib, it will be a regular visitor to my rotation but will take some time off.

Ink and Pen Notes: Pilot Vanishing Point with Pilot Black

Pilot Vanishing Point Maplewood XXXF nibThis pen and ink combo is a quiet but consistent worker for me. Actually, it’s the Vanishing Point XXXF nib and Pilot black ink (in a cartridge) that’s quiet and consistent. The barrel is interchangeable. It was inked up back on September 18th and I wrote it dry on Sunday. So it was just shy of four months of use. While it started and ended in the Maplewood barrel it did spend some time in the Red Bamboo barrel for variety. It’s one of the things I like about the Vanishing Points, the nibs are easily (and cleanly) swapped while inked.

I like using cartridges in the Vanishing Points since they have more capacity than the converters and are easy to handle. Since I’m not a fan of re-using cartridges this means I use Pilot ink. I like Pilot ink so this isn’t a problem at all. The black ink shows up nicely with the thin XXXF nib.

The pen performed perfectly over the four months it was in the pen. No skipping or hard starts. It was mainly a shirt pocket carry and was used for quick notes which explains the four months of use.

Even after four months there wasn’t any staining and the pen was easily flushed.

I’ve done this combination before so the pictures are repeats since my schedule and the weather didn’t cooperate for natural light photos.