Ink & Pen Notes – Pilot VP Maplewood w/XXXF nib and Pilot black

Pilot Vanishing Point Maplewood XXXF writing sample with Pilot Black Ink

I wrote the Maplewood Pilot Vanishing Point dry faster than I expected, it was just over a month ago that I inked it up. These days my pens tend to stay inked longer than that. Especially considering the XXXF nib is miserly and puts down a ultra thin line so the ink lasts a long time. The Black ink cartridge is the option with the largest ink capacity for the Vanishing Point. (Although the con–20 aerometric converter can equal it if it gets a maximum fill.)

Despite the ultra fine nib this pen never had any hard starts or skipping. The Pilot black ink was dark enough to put down an easily visible line. The nib is thin so smooth is a relative term. I’m not sure any XXXF nib could be called smooth but I actually like the feed back I get from this nib and enjoy the writing experience it provides. I use the nib on a variety of paper that I encounter during the day and rarely have a problem. Some cheap or course paper can cause problems, such as fiber getting stuck in the nib, but luckily this is rare. Cheap paper doesn’t mean copy/printer paper, which this nib handles just fine.

I can use the nib in any pocket notebook no matter what the paper is since bleed and show through aren’t a problem with such a fine line. A thin line also means the ink dries quickly, so no smudging when I close the notebook right after writing the note.

While I don’t mind a little nib creep and even enjoy some ink splatter on the nib, this pen experience serious nib creep as can be seen in the photo. I noticed this when I went to swap the nib with my Cherry Bamboo VP and ended up with ink all over my fingers. (I ended up not swapping to avoid getting ink inside both pens.) This was my one complaint about this pen, although I didn’t flush out the pen because of it.

Pilot Vanishing Point XXXF nib custom grind showing Pilot black ink nib creep

Vanishing points are super easy to clean since the nib unit is removable. I used a bulb syringe to force water through to clean the inside and cleaned the ink off the outside of the nib unit in short order. There was ink inside the barrel in this case, thanks to the creep, which I cleaned with cotton swabs. I hesitate to use water or pen flush inside the VP for fear of rusting or corroding the trap door assembly. I’ll modify that policy if dried ink does eventually clogs the VPs trap door.

The functionality of the Pilot Vanishing Point is well served with this nib and ink. It’s very utilitarian and works consistently all the time. I tend to use the pen for notes, often quick one-sentence notes. With this pen and a notebook in my shirt pocket I’m less likely to reach for my phone to take quick notes since it’s faster.

I also use the pen for longer note taking sessions such as in meetings or training classes. As it happens, this combo is usually used when I’m emphasizing speed over almost everything else. My writing also happens to be generally smaller in these case, or maybe that’s because of the nib. While I do have a light touch with the nib, a trait that helps with ultra thin nibs, I sometimes find myself pressing a little harder when I’m concentrating on the subject of my notes rather than the writing itself. This nib also handles that without a problem.

I tend to not use this XXXF nib for pure writing sessions, such as the draft for blog articles or other long form writing. But I did try it out and found that it performed well and was comfortable for what turned out to be about a hour long writing session. Some of this is just because I used the VP a lot during the day and want to use a different pen. But while the line is very thin and immensely practical, it’s not very exciting.

This fountain pen, ink and nib combination is nearly perfect for what I use it for. In this case it’s less the pen barrel than the nib and ink, but I’ve grown to really prefer the wooden Vanishing Points over the metal barrels. The Maplewood is comfortable to hold and has a nice warm feel to it.

Despite being nearly perfect I decided not to immediately ink it up again. Mainly because I want to give my other pens a chance. I have two new pens due this week, one of which should be a very thin nib such as this one. While it won’t be as quick to action, it will serve much the same purpose.

I reviewed the Maplewood VP, but with medium nib, here. The nib is a custom grind from Richard Binder and has not been reviewed.

This Just In: Pilot Vanishing Point Cherry Bamboo and Left Oblique Nib

Pilot Vanishing Point Cherry Bamboo on my Roterfaden Taschenbegleiter

While not the only reason, I’ve been selling off my accumulation to fund some new purchases. While I like the metal Pilot Vanishing Points the metal feels cold and impersonal. This really became apparent to me the more I used the Maple Wood Vanishing Point. So when Pilot released two more models made of wood the only question was which one I would add to my accumulation first.

The two new models are Cherry Bamboo and Black Bamboo, both have rhodium trim. Both finishes called out to me. My last addition was a dark pen, the Stresemann, so this time I decided to go with a little color and picked the Cherry Bamboo. Besides, I do like red and black together and while mostly red this does have black in it.

Pilot Vanishing Point Cherry Bamboo closeup
Cherry Bamboo closeup

Despite the Bamboo name the pens are made of Birch Wood. While several sites say it’s Bamboo, enough say they’re made of birch wood that I’m convinced it’s birch wood. While it could be the varnish on the Retro 51 and the dye on the VP, my Bamboo Retro 51 feels and looks a lot smoother with less wood grain than the VP.

The pen is pricey and it’s not for everyone. But it is for me and since I sold enough of my accumulation to pay for the pen I went ahead and took the plunge.

I have plenty of VP factory nibs. I sold most of my VPs as empty barrels and have five nibs for two pens, so I ordered the pen from Classic Fountain Pens. This way I could have John Mottishaw grind the factory medium nib to a left oblique. More on the nib later.

The pen is even better looking in real life than in pictures. I’m really glad I picked the Cherry Bamboo. It arrived in a Russian Nesting Doll of boxes. The outer white cardboard sleeve covered a heavy cardboard black box. Inside that was a hinged presentation box for the pen, also black. Removing the presentation box revealed the paperwork and an ink cartridge. The pen sat in a bed of thin cloth and the Pilot name is embossed on the cushioned cover. Nice, but not overboard.

While I’ve been selling off my metal Vanishing Points barrels I’ve been keeping many of the nibs. I’ve been considering getting one of the medium nibs ground to a left oblique or stub. The left oblique fits the way I hold the pen perfectly, at least my Esterbrook left obliques do. The little rotation it needs is the way I want to hold the pen normally and one reason I have a harder time with italic or even stubs.

I was slightly concerned that the clip might prevent me from holding the pen comfortably with the right angle for the nib. Because of this I had intended to have one of my medium nibs ground at a future pen show so I could test it while it was ground.

Ordering the VP without a nib wasn’t an option and another factory nib was unneeded. I spent some time comparing my Esterbrook left oblique with the way I held the Vanishing Point. I was confident it would work for me and I went for the left oblique ground by John Mottishaw.

Pilot Vanishing Point Left Oblique Nib

I was extremely happy when the pen arrived. The left oblique, which is about 15° in this case, seems perfect for the Vanishing Point. The clip, which can bother some people, and the nib combine to give me a near perfect writing experience.

Since I naturally grip the pen correctly for the nib I can use this pen for notes since I don’t really need to concentrate on my writing. Still, this nib is more for sit down, longer form writing sessions such as the draft to this article.

I inked it up with the included blue cartridge rather than waste the cartridge. I like Pilot ink and I usually use cartridges in the VPs, although blue is rarely my color of choice. But why waste a cartridge. I’ll probably use the converter with this nib so I can pick inks that appreciate the left oblique nib.

The nib isn’t very wide (not a complaint, it’s my preference) so the line variation is subtle. But it’s noticeable and I like it.

I’m glad to have another wood Vanishing Point and I’m very happy to have the Pilot Vanishing Point Cherry Bamboo in my accumulation.

Ink and Pen Notes: Pilot Vanishing Point with Pilot Black Ink

Pilot Vanishing Point Maplewood with Pliot Black Ink cartridges

I inked up the Maplewood Pilot Vanishing Point the day before Halloween. I used an extra fine 18K gold rhodium plated nib and a Pilot Back ink cartridge. The cartridges makes it easy to get the most ink into a Vanishing Point and I like Pilot ink, at least the blue and black Pilot inks.
The pen was inked just over three months which surprised me when I updated the record. It seems like I’m always using the pen. But after some thought it does make sense. I carry the pen a lot, and I frequently use it for note taking. But the times I pick it are when I can benefit from a retractable, clickable fountain pen. It “uncaps” quickly, I make a couple quick notes, and I quickly “cap” it again. So while it’s true I frequently use the pen, I don’t do a lot of writing with it so in retrospect three months shouldn’t be a surprise. Especially using an thin Japanese extra fine nib.
Despite the thin nib, and three months of ink I never had any hard starts or skipping problems. I was tempted to simply pop in a new cartridge but I decided to give other fountain pens a chance so I flushed this one out.

Review: Pilot Vanishing Point Maplewood SE

Pilot Vanishing Point Maple Wood 2013 Limited Edition presentation box

Pilot celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Vanishing Point (aka Capless) by issuing a limited edition of Vanishing Points made of maple wood.
I acquired my First Pilot Vanishing Point in 2003 and if I remember correctly it was sold under the Namiki brand, although the pen itself says Pilot. I liked it so much I soon bought a second one. They’re practical for me and the design doesn’t bother me at all. Having the clip near the nib ruins this pen for some people, but not me. But my tastes have changed over time. The metal of the VP doesn’t actually bother me the but cold metal doesn’t pull me in. I use the VPs for their practicality but they stopped being picked when I wanted a “writer”. So I was immediately intrigued by a Vanishing Point made of wood.

Why I Got It

I like the Vanishing Point and was hoping the warmer maple wood would make the pen comfortable for long writing sessions and would be one I’d be reaching for. (spoiler: Mission Accomplished!)
There were also a good reason not to get it, namely the cost, which is about three times a regular metal Pilot Vanishing Point. That price difference is clearly due to more than the material and I’d be paying for the premium packaging and a limited edition fee. There were 900 pens world-wide. The matching wood presentation box is easily the most impressive of all my pen boxes, although not any more useful than the others. The box is a keeper, but the pen hasn’t been back to it.
I didn’t pre-order the pen and figured it would sell out and make my decision for me. But it didn’t sell out and I ordered it after some early reviews. This would imply it wasn’t a hot seller, at least not hot enough to sell out with pre-orders or on day one. I see some being offered at astronomical prices on eBay although actual sales seem to be in line with the retail street price.

What I Got

Pilot Vanishing Point Maple Wood 2013 Limited Edition engraving

I ordered the pen with the included 18kt gold medium nib. This is the only nib that comes from the factory in this pen although most Pilot retailers would substitute other Pilot nibs. I decided to keep the medium since I already had fines and extra fines and didn’t have a medium.
Even though I could use any of my VP nibs in this pen I’ve stuck with the medium nib through all three fills. I ordered the pen from Goulet Pens so the nib was not tuned and I hoped the LE nature of the pen meant it would be inspected. Inspected or not, the nib arrived in superb condition.
The pen itself is gorgeous. I received number 720 of the 900. The wood, which the included pamphlet says is Itoya Maple, is silky smooth but doesn’t feel like it’s coated with any lacquer or sealant. But the smoothness and sheen does make it seem like there’s a thin coating of lacquer. The gold furniture complements the maple wood nicely. The grain on both halves of the barrel also match up which enhances the pen. The rest of the pen shows the same build quality and attention to detail giving it a solid feel. I haven’t tested the durability of the wood. It seems soft enough to be gouged if enough force is used. (I don’t plan on testing this.) But it’s held up well with a few months of normal use.
My Vanishing Point came with two Con-50 converters and five Pilot Blue cartridges.

The Numbers

  • Length Retracted:  5.5360″  (140.61 mm)
  • Length Barrel Only):  4.7270″  (120.06 mm)
  • Section Length: n/a
  • Barrel Diameter (near nib, above gold trim: 0.4765″  (12.10 mm)
  • Barrel Diameter (near band):  0.5240″  (13.31 mm)
  • Weight:  0.9 oz (26g)

Using the Pen

Pilot Vanishing Point Maple Wood 2013 Limited Edition extended

I did immediately notice that the Maple Wood Vanishing Point feels both bigger and lighter than my metal Vanishing Points. It’s about 5 grams lighter and about 1 mm wider near the nib where I grip the pen. The difference seems minor, and maybe the wood enhances the effect, but the pen feels more solid and substantial when I write with it. It is truly a nice pen to hold, assuming the clip doesn’t bother you.
I stuck with Pilot cartridges since getting the pen since they provide the greatest ink capacity. I used Pilot Blue for the first ink.
The pen has a warm feel to it, unlike the metal Vanishing Points, and it’s lighter than it’s metal siblings. This is my first Pilot Vanishing Point medium nib. It puts down a lot of ink, at least compared to my typical thin nibs, and is a wet writer. I’ve kept the nib through several refills and while I prefer a thinner nib this nib has a good feel to it and makes for a nice change of pace. I have to stick to pads and paper where I can write larger, which for me means long form writing rather than notes or marking up a document.
I use the metal VPs for their practicality, the Maple Wood LE is one I use for the enjoyment of writing with it. The extra heft, even though only 1 mm, adds to the comfort when I hold the pen since I tend to prefer larger pens.

Cleaning the Pen

Like all Vanishing Points the pen is easy to clean. Remove the nib unit and flush water through it.

Inks Used

I stuck with Pilot ink cartridges. I used a couple blue cartridges and a black cartridge. Ink flow was consistently good with the medium nib. There weren’t any hard starts or skipping.

Wrapping Up

Once I used the pen any regrets I had about the price vanished (pun intended). This is one of my most expensive pens but it combines the practicality of a Pilot Vanishing Point with a very nice writing experience which makes the Pilot Vanishing Point Maple Wood 2013 Limited Edition a keeper.

Additional Reading

Reviewed on FPN

Review: Pilot Custom 823

Pilot Custom 823 not posted

I typically end the year with a “nice” pen purchase. I’ve purchased more than enough nice fountain pens during the year that this is really just an excuse, but one I’ll continue from years when I was only buying pens at year end, The Pilot Custom Series has been on my radar for a few months and I finally decided on the Pilot Custom 823. This ended up being the first of several year end purchases but this was my top choice when I had expected to pick only one.

Why I Got It

Pilot Custom 823 nib

I wanted a Japanese nib – Pilot, Sailor or Platinum/Nakaya. I ended up focusing on Pilots because I really like their nibs and of the pens that appealed to me they were also less expensive. If I didn’t already have several Sailors, including 1911s it would have been a harder choice. KMPN has a good comparison of the Pilot Custom line of fountain pens.

I picked the Pilot Custom 823 for it’s size, classic design, and the vac filling system. Generally I don’t like colored demonstrators and that was a concern here since it is translucent. I liked the amber color and think it gives the pen a bit of a vintage look so I took a chance.

I also like that it had a large nib and the Pilot #15 nib one of the largest in the current Pilot pen line. KMPN also has a good Pilot nib comparison. I like a nib that can be seen.

What I Got

It’s a Pilot Custom 823 Amber Demonstrator with a 14k gold fine nib. It’s a large pen that hold 2.2 ml of ink according to some websites (some claim 22 ml but I assume that’s a missing decimal as this is not an ink bottle).

The pen came in a large box made of heavy cardboard with a thin cloth interior. It’s nothing elaborate but it held the pen and the included 70 ml bottle of Pilot Blue ink quit nicely.

There’s also a prominent notice that the nib and feed unit cannot be removed and doing so will void the warranty. An internet search shows the nib/feed is removable but I haven’t proven this myself. Care would have to be taken to avoid cracking or wiping off the grease (not silicone) lubricant. I’ve also seen comments that warranty repairs are as costly as a new pen since Pilot replaces the whole pen rather than just the nib/feed.

In a practice I hate because it cheapens the pen, there was a sticker on the pen cap indicating that the piston needed to be opened a bit to allow ink to flow into the feed when using the pen. Getting the sticker and adhesive off without scratching the pen was a bit of a pain.

Pilot also included their typical pen care instructions along with a separate pamphlet with the specific filling instructions for this pen. The pamphlet also says only 70 ml bottle of ink can be used. The nib is large so this must be Pilot’s way of saying the ink must reach the section when filling. The included bottle of ink has an insert to allow the pen to fill when the ink gets low.

The amber color of the pen is gorgeous, I’m not a fan of gold trim or two-tone nibs but they work with this pen and complement it nicely. While I wouldn’t mistake if for a vintage pen, I think the color and classic shape give it a vintage look.

I ordered the pen from Richard Binder so the nib was checked and “Binderized” before shipping. So I can’t say how the nib works directly from Pilot. Richard seems to like wet nibs, wetter than I usually like. But I decided that it would be OK since a Pilot fine puts down a thin line. The nib isn’t a gusher but it is nice and wet. I like it.

The Numbers:

  • Length Capped:  5.8335″  (148.17 mm)
  • Length Uncapped:  5.1490″  (130.79 mm)
  • Length Posted:  4.488″  (164.80 mm)
  • Section Length:  0.7145″  (18.15 mm)
  • Section Diameter (near nib):  0.4205″  (10.68 mm)
  • Section Diameter (near threads):  0.4545″  (11.54 mm)
  • Barrel Diameter:  0.5020″  (12.75 mm)
  • Cap Diameter: 0.5970″  (15.16 mm)
  • Weight (empty): 1 oz.   (28 grams)

Using The Pen

Pilot Custom 823 Writing Sample

Since the pen was inked, tested and cleaned before shipping to me I immediately inked it up with the included Pilot Blue ink. Getting a full pen was remarkably easy. If the pen holds 2.2 ml as claimed, then I got 2.1 ml with one “plunge”. The vacuum filler is counter-intuitive since it fills on the downstroke. The Pilot ink bottle has an insert to keep the ink level high enough. This kept the ink covering the nib even as the pen filled. Granted, the bottle was full so it may become harder once the ink level drops. I’m always concerned and paranoid that I’m going to mash the nib into the bottom of the bottle while pushing down. The downstroke on the Custom 823 was so smooth and easy there was no worry there.

As the aggravating sticker on the cap warned, and like the TWSBI Vac 700, the vacuum filler has to be opened slightly so the ink can flow to the feed. The plunger opens with a couple quick twists of the blind cap and the ink can flow into the feed. This does have the benefit of sealing the pen shut when needed (such as flying).

The seal does not need to be opened to write a few lines. But if the pen is used throughout the day for a few lines each time the nib will eventually dry out. The seal is tight. But my experience is I can leave the blind cap open throughout the day and carry the pen around without any problems. This way the pen is always ready. I’ve also carried the pen in my bag with the seal open and there was no leakage or extra ink in the cap despite the extra jostling.

The 14k gold fine nib was nice and smooth as it put down a wet line. It’s wetter than I typically want but in this case I like it and the line put down is a consistent fine. This is not unexpected for a Pilot nib that was tuned by Richard Binder before delivery.

The pen doesn’t feel like common plastic. Officially the pen is made of resin, but plastic is a resin. It does look and feel like plastic, but good quality plastic so I’m willing to call it resin. The build quality is solid, with no seams in the plastic and a solid fit between the section and barrel. Unscrewing the blind cap and working the plunger doesn’t take any effort.

The pen is light despite its size and feels comfortable when I write with it. Because of the size and easy ink flow I don’t find myself subconsciously gripping the pen harder as I tend to do with light and thin pens. I wrote for over an hour without feeling any fatigue at all. I was also able to put the pen down for over 5 minutes and it wrote immediately when I put the nib to paper. If I hold the end of the pen and drag the nib across the paper the weight of the pen is enough to put down a consistent line.

I’ve seen this pen described as having a “springy” nib which is a good enough word but could leave the wrong impression. The 14k gold nib isn’t a nail and it has a soft touch on the paper. I can flex the nib a bit by adding some pressure, but to me “springy” implies it flexes routinely and easily. The nib does “spring” back after some pressure but there’s no change of line width and maybe just a little more ink. I don’t use the word “flex” to mean a traditional flex nib where the tines spread to vary line width and shading, This nib flexes up and down. I prefer to think of the nib as having a soft touch on the paper rather than springy.

The Pilot Custom 823 has never skipped or had a false start, even after sitting unused for 5 days. Well, it did skip once but that was when I forgot to unscrew the blind cap to open the seal after those 5 days it was sitting unused. I got a little over 1/2 page of writing before it skipped. Normal operation returned as soon as I opened the seal. I do make occasional quick notes without opening the seal, but usually I open the seal at the beginning of the day and leave it upon until the end of the day.

The pen can be posted although my preference is to not post my pens. The Pilot Custom 823 is still well balanced and light when posted. The cap stays on with friction but it doesn’t seem all that secure to me, unless it’s really pressed down onto the barrel. I’d always be concerned that that the cap would start cracking after years of posting. Those of you that post regularly may not share my concern. There is a cap band to help prevent cracking.

Cleaning The Pen

Pilot Custom 823 vac extended for ink

The pen holds a lot of ink and even though the nib is one of my wetter fine nibs, it is still a fine nib that sips ink. One fill lasts a long time. The Pilot Blue ink had been in the pen just over a month when it came time to write this review. There was a little ink left in the barrel but I decided to go ahead and clean the pen before it went completely dry.

I drained the extra ink first before adding any water. I did this by slowly lowering the plunger a few times. Then I continued the process but filling it with water then emptying it into the sink to avoid recycling inky water. After about 5 minutes the water appeared clear.

But a few “thermometer Flicks” into a tissue showed traces ink. So I held the nib in the ultrasonic cleaner and a small stream of ink came out. Then it was a few more flushes and thermometer flicks into a tissue to get all traces of the ink out. This was another 5 minutes. If I was refilling the pen, even with another color ink, I would have stopped before the ultrasonic cleaner as there wasn’t enough ink left to be noticed or affect the next ink. If I didn’t have the UC a few more flushes and flicks would have gotten the ink out.

There wasn’t any traces of staining around the seal or ink caught up near the blind cap. It does look like there are traces of ink on the grease that seals the section threads. I would expect this to stain a bit over time but not enough to affect the pen and I really have to look hard with a loupe to see it. Stains on the sealing grease wouldn’t bother me. Ink caught above the seal (plunger) is something that would annoy me and there wasn’t any ink trapped there yet.

Inks Used

The Pilot Blue ink, that came with the pen, is the only inked used so far. Despite being a blue ink, not my favorite color family, I like the ink and may use it as the regular ink for this pen. This is the same Namiki Blue ink that I previously reviewed. Since cleaning a vac filler can be tedious without dis-assembly I stick to inks that are easy to flush from a pen and this qualifies.

Wrapping Up

Not being able to take the pen apart (without potentially  voiding the warranty) is a downside, especially with a demonstrator. Some ink caught above the plunger could annoy me. I’d be blissfully ignorant on a solid pen, but I’d see it on the demonstrator. Even though cleaning could be easier with dis-assembly I try to avoid that anyway since it it would be only a matter of time before I was careless and lost a part down the drain or damaged the pen.

This is a pen that makes me want to thin my accumulation in the coming year. Not because I don’t like it, but because it joins a growing list of pens I want to use regularly. It was depressing to clean it up and put it back in the pen tray so that other pens could have a chance.

As I work to thin my accumulation this year I’m deciding if my pens are “keepers” or not. The Pilot Custom 823 with a fine nib is a definite keeper.

Additional Reading

The Dizzy Pen

Saint Austin’s Pub

Stylophiles Online Magazine