Namiki Yukari Royale Vermilion Fountain Pen Review

Namiki Yukari Royale

The Yukari Royale is an oversize fountain pen similar in size and shape to a Montblanc 149. Despite it’s oversize form the Yukari Royale sits mid-pack in the Namiki line-up; there is the standard full-size Yukari and the comically enormous Emperor.

Namiki Yukari Royale with Namiki Nippon Art (same size as a non-Royale Yukari)
Namiki Yukari Royale with Namiki Nippon Art (same size as a non-Royale Yukari)

Earlier this year in Japan I tried both the Yukari Royale and the Emperor in person. I quickly ruled out the baseball-bat-sized Emperor but the Yukari Royale I struggled with for a little while.  I thought “how could a pen so big and heavy be so comfortable?”; ultimately I decided not to take the risk on such an expensive pen and I bought a Platinum Izumo Yagumonuri instead.

Fast forward a few months and I was still thinking about the Yukari Royale and at the same time feeling disenchanted with the Izumo (the Izumo has a long section with a large step down that causes me discomfort in long writing sessions).

I ended up going for the Yukari Royale (thank you to Pen Chalet for making this possible).

The Yukari Royale has a large brass torpedo-shape body covered in vermilion (red) urushi lacquer (also available in black). The cap has Namiki’s (Pilot’s) ball clip and a very thin gold band at the end of the cap. The simple shape and minimal trim make for a very elegant pen.

Namiki Yukari Royale

The fit and finish of this pen is flawless. It really is perfect to the point where I genuinely question if it is in fact hand painted. Next to a Nakaya the difference is night and day. That is not to say that there is anything wrong with a Nakaya, there isn’t, a Nakaya has more of an organic beauty.

This pen weighs a hefty 45 grams but it is so well balanced in my hand that I don’t feel any fatigue from its weight. My other Namiki pens, a Nippon Art and a Yukari (non-Royale) share this same wonderful balance.

The Yukari Royale measures 5.8” capped. You can post this pen but it becomes too long for me. The grip section is about .4” in diameter which is thick but not as thick as a Montblanc 149s which measures over half an inch.

Namiki Yukari Royale
Yukari Royale next to Montblanc 149 (notice how much fatter the Montblanc section is)

Here you can see the Royale with a variety of Pilot/Namiki pens:

Namiki Yukari Royale
Left to right: Namik Yukari Royale, Pilot Custom 845, Namiki Yukari Nightline, Namiki Custom Impressions (same dimensions as Pilot Custom 74)

The Yukari Royale is the only pen pictured above to feature an urushi painted metal section.  All of the other pens (even the more expensive Yukari Nightline) have unpainted plastic sections with visible seams.

The Yukari Royale (using Pilot’s sizes) is a #20.

Namiki Yukari Royale

Interestingly, it is the same size as a Pilot #15 but with a different shape and an oblong breather hole as well as a red plastic feed.

Nibs left to right: Pilot/Namiki #20, #15, #10, #5
Nibs left to right: Pilot/Namiki #20, #15, #10, #5

The nib is made of 18kt gold and is quite soft.  The performance is excellent.  No skipping no hard starting; this pen just works.  Out of all of my modern pens this is by far my favorite stock nib in my collection; it’s character is unique and lovely. Compared to my other Pilot and Namiki medium nibs which are butter smooth, the number 20 has a small amount of feedback which I love. It sort of reminds me of the feedback from an Aurora Optima nib with the softness of a Montblanc 149 nib…in other words this is a dream nib (for me at least).

With it’s large nib and feed this is a thirsty pen.

Namiki Yukari Royale

It uses a Con-70 converter that holds 1.1ml of ink and even with this large capacity I find that I run out of ink rather quickly. I also must admit that I am not as huge a fan of the Con-70 as I once was.

Namiki Yukari Royale

While it holds a lot of ink, it is the most difficult to use and the most difficult to clean converter on the market. I fill and clean mine with a blunt tip syringe.

So what about the price?

As I said earlier this is an expensive pen. The street price is $1,200 ($1,500 full retail).  I get a lot of enjoyment of the Yukari Royale and while I have a lot of wonderful pens this is the only one that I have refilled six times in a row…I just don’t want to put it away and to date I haven’t yet.

Is it worth it for you? Rationalizing a pen this expensive is a fool’s errand (though I have tried in past reviews, see Nakaya Naka-ai).

Namiki Yukari Royale

The Yukari Royale is a wonderful jewel of a pen to behold.

A special thank you once again to Pen Chalet for making this review possible.  If you buy a pen as nice as this you will want to purchase from a reputable authorized dealer with great customer service like Pen Chalet.

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Montblanc Meisterstück 136 Fountain Pen Review

Montblanc Meisterstück 136 Fountain Pen

The 13X series of pens were the first Montblancs to feature a piston filling mechanism. The 136 was the senior size pen just as the 146 is today in the current Meisterstück line.

The 13X series was produced in the mid 1930s to the end of the 1940s and possibly into the early 1950s as there was a brief point when the 13X line and 14X were sold simultaneously.

There are several variations of the 136 which I won’t cover here other than to say that my version is a later model with the shorter ink window.

Montblanc Meisterstück 136 Fountain Pen

The differences between the 136 and the original 146 were mostly in design. The 146 had (and still has) a streamlined cigar shape where the 136 has more of a flat top.

Montblanc Meisterstück 136 Fountain Pen
136 cap with a star that has turned ivory in color over the years

They both had the same telescopic piston filling mechanism but if you look at the end of the barrel on a 136 you can see two knobs…the one at the very end is the regular piston filling knob you use to draw ink into the pen and the one below that is used to remove the actual piston filling mechanism…this makes repairs slightly easier.

Montblanc Meisterstück 136 Fountain Pen

I am quite fond of vintage Montblancs because they were very well made and have wonderful nibs. Unfortunately, these pens are expensive today, despite being mass produced.  Montblanc is now very valuable luxury brand name and this has had an effect on the prices of their vintage pens.

Like most pens, the larger the size in a given series the more expensive the price and that is certainly the case here. The oversized 138 and 139 are the most valuable and the 132 is the least. A 136 in black celluloid can range from about $400-$1,000 depending on condition. Most will be in the $600-$800 range.

All piston filler Meisterstücks that I have owned are suitable for daily use; they are reliable workhorses. With the older celluloid models, however there are a couple of things to look out for: 1) The cork piston seal. If the cork dries out there will be no seal, meaning you won’t be able to draw up ink.  The best thing you can do to prevent this is to use the pen regularly.  Alternatively, you can store your pen with water but be advised this method is not foolproof  2) Celluloid shrinkage. Many old Meisterstücks suffer from this and sadly there is no cure. The good news is that this rarely causes functional problems. Shrinkage on the cap can cause the cap rings to come loose and you may see subtle dips and bulges on the body and cap. On my pen there is some shrinkage on the section. You can see a little bump in the middle of it.

Montblanc Meisterstück 136 Fountain Pen

My 136 is fitted with a beautiful OB nib.

Montblanc Meisterstück 136 Fountain Pen

This nib is very soft and is wonderful to write with. These nibs were hand made and most I have come across are very soft. I have seen some Meisterstücks with flex nibs but these are considered extremely rare and generally command a small fortune.

Modern 146 on top and the 136 on the bottom
Modern 146 on top and the 136 on the bottom

You can see that the 136 has a larger and more shapely nib compared to what is currently used on a modern 146.

Again, modern 146 on top and the 136 on the bottom
Again, modern 146 on top and the 136 on the bottom
A view from the side shows that the feed is practically flush with the nib.
136 nib from the side

The 136 has a flat “ski-slope” ebonite feed that provides a generous amount of ink to the nib.

Ebonite "ski-slope" feed...looking ready for a deep cleaning
Ebonite “ski-slope” feed…looking ready for a deep cleaning

Montblanc Meisterstück 136 Fountain Pen

You will notice that unlike modern Meisterstücks the cap band is English, not German, and reads “MONTBLANC MASTERPIECE”.  This signifies that my 136 was an export model.  There is some debate about whether pens with “MASTERPIECE” on the cap band are more or less common than those that read “MEISTERSTÜCK”.  Based on what I have seen for sale on 13X and early 14X pens the cap bands in English are the most common.

Montblanc Meisterstück 136 Fountain Pen

The 136 weighs approximately 24 grams and measures 13cm long (or about 1.5cm shorter than the current 146). The 136 feels nice in hand and is a very comfortable size.

Montblanc Meisterstück 136 Fountain Pen

If you are looking for a vintage Montblanc I highly recommend a 136.

TWSBI Eco Fountain Pen Review

TWSBI Eco Fountain Pen

The highly anticipated TWSBI Eco is the company’s most affordable fountain pen to date at $28.99.  The Eco features a clear demonstrator body with a piston filling mechanism; these attributes combined with its low price make for a very enticing pen.

The Eco is a full size pen at just under 14cm long capped.  The Eco comes in only two colors white/clear and black/clear.  I opted for the black.

Like most TWSBIs, the Eco’s design offers a lot to digest.  The cap and piston knob are made of a faceted black plastic while the body is made of a round clear plastic allowing you to see the internal piston mechanism and the feed.

TWSBI Eco Fountain Pen

The Eco features a small stainless steel JoWo nib (the same that is used on the TWSBI Mini and Classic).   For a full sized pen the nib is on the smaller side but at this price point it’s a pretty minor gripe.  I ordered my pen with an extra fine nib and it is a delight to use.  I was surprised how smooth it was; in fact it puts my medium nib Safari to shame.

TWSBI Eco Fountain Pen

The Eco does post but the cap doesn’t seat very far down on the body making it a bit too long.  The pen feels solid in hand and overall the pen is well finished.  A Lamy Safari by comparison looks a feels cheap.

TWSBI Eco Fountain Pen

The Eco is designed to be user serviceable and as such comes with silicon grease and a wrench along with directions for servicing your pen.

TWSBI Eco Fountain Pen

This is my new favorite entry level pen.  To me is far better than the Lamy Safari and Kaweco Sport.

Namiki Nippon Art Flower Basket Fountain Pen Review

Namiki Nippon Art Flower Basket Fountain Pen

The Nippon Art series is Namiki’s entry level line of maki-e pens.  The pens are screened and on my Flower Basket version I do not believe any of the artwork to be done by hand. It’s “Hira” or flat maki-e and it really is flat to look at. I also see no gold sprinkles which makes me question if it should actually be considered “maki-e”, which I am told translates roughly to “sprinkle picture”.

Namiki Nippon Art Flower Basket Fountain Pen

The body of the pen is plastic covered in urushi lacquer and has a gold plated clip and thin cap band.  The pen is very simple and elegant; it looks great despite the dull hira maki-e.  The section has a seam on it and I do not believe it to be painted with urushi.  The pen is signed “Kokkokai” which is not a specific artist but rather a group of artists.

Namiki Nippon Art Flower Basket Fountain Pen
“Kokkokai” signature

The pen is very well balanced and feels great in hand.  It weighs about 32 grams with converter and measures 5.6” long capped.  This is a full-sized and very comfortable pen despite being the smallest in Namiki’s lineup.

Namiki Yukari Royale, Namiki Nippon Art
Nippon Art pictured with a Namiki Yukari Royale

The inside of the cap has a soft fuzzy material near the lip.  This is done so that when posted the cap does not scratch the lacquer body (a very nice touch).  Like the Pilot Custom 743 , the Nippon Art’s gold nib is lighter in color than the gold trim.

Namiki Nippon Art Flower Basket Fountain Pen

The pen has a #10 size nib and despite the different decoration, I believe this nib to be the same as a standard Pilot #10 (I am going off of a appearances only, so please correct me if I am wrong).  The Namiki #20 nib is the same size as the Pilot #15 but has a different shape and breather hole.

Namiki Yukari Royale nib above the Nippon Art nib
Namiki Yukari Royale nib above the Nippon Art nib
Namiki Nippon Art Flower Basket Fountain Pen
You can see the date stamp “a405” on the side of the nib. The “a” refers to the welding machine used at the Hiratsuka and “405” refers to April 2005.

The 14kt gold medium nib is ultra smooth and soft. It’s a wet nib and I find that it is a bit wider than your average Japanese medium.

Namiki Nippon Art Flower Basket Fountain Pen

 

Hiratsuka

The Nippon Art comes with the Pilot Con-70 vacuum fill converter.  The Con-70 holds 1.1ml of ink (more than twice as much as an average converter).  After using a good number of these Con-70s I have found that some work better than others.  I always fill them with a syringe for this reason.  I also find them more difficult to clean but the huge capacity outweighs any of these of these drawbacks.

Namiki Nippon Art Flower Basket Fountain Pen

This is my favorite Pilot/Namiki fountain pen I have used so far…the elegant design, balance, and wonderful nib have won me over.

Namiki Nippon Art Flower Basket Fountain Pen

The retail price for these pens is a staggering $750!  That is quite a lot of money for this pen.  I paid around $200 for mine second hand.  In my opinion these pens are a good buy at around $200-$350.  Some designs are more attractive than others and some have more handiwork.

Marlen Rainbow Over Hong Kong Fountain Pen Review

Marlen Rainbow Over Hong Kong Fountain Pen

Marlen is an Italian pen manufacturer that doesn’t get much attention.  They make weird pens…not sure how else to put it.  Their designs are unconventional and polarizing.  I never had much interest in them but early one morning while fighting off some jet lag I started perusing fountain pens on eBay and I came across the pen I am reviewing today, a Marlen Rainbow Over Hong Kong.

It was new old stock and had an 18kt gold nib for a bit over $50…I figured why not?  Some background on this odd pen.  First of all, this pen was sold in a set of seven pens (yes seven pens!) in the colors of the rainbow.  These pens were produced to celebrate the return of Hong Kong to China in 1997 and as such they made 97 sets in 1997.  Not surprisingly, few people bought the sets (who wants seven of the same pen?) and now today you can purchase new individual pens from the set for very cheap.

My pen is made from a beautiful red plastic and has a tapered shape that continues from the end of the barrel through to the cap.  The end of the barrel is threaded so that the cap can screw onto the back.  It’s not a brilliant look if I am honest but it’s functional.

Marlen Rainbow Over Hong Kong Fountain Pen

The cap features a solid sterling silver clip with a Greek column design.  The cap band is done in rainbow colors with sterling trim and looks a bit sloppy, the colors are not very uniform and in some spots overlaps the sterling silver.

Marlen Rainbow Over Hong Kong Fountain Pen

Unscrew the cap and you will see a small bulbous grip section and a small gold nib.  This is the only pen I have owned where the threading on the grip section is used to secure both the barrel AND the cap.  I could be wrong but this seems like a cheap shortcut.  The downside is you end up with a small grip section and nib.

Marlen Rainbow Over Hong Kong Fountain Pen

The nib is 18kt yellow gold which does not match the other metal furniture.  The nib has a column design with what to me looks like an ear of corn on top (if someone knows what it actually is please let me know).

Marlen Rainbow Over Hong Kong Fountain Pen

The nib is unbelievably soft and springy.  The only other semi-modern pen I can think of with a nib like this is the first year of the Pelikan M600 with the mono-tone 18kt gold nib.  It’s an amazing nib.

Marlen Rainbow Over Hong Kong Fountain Pen

Empty this pen weighs a comfortable 23 grams and measures 14cm long capped.  I found the small grip section to be comfortable enough though I found myself gripping the pen on the barrel which this pen doesn’t like.  Because of the cheap single threading when pressure is applied to the nib from the barrel the section moves slightly and clicks occasionally…this is annoying for sure.

My apologies for the poor picture I had trouble photographing the engraving.

The pen is numbered and I have number 81 of 97.  The red plastic has a bit of translucency to it and you can see on the cap there is a line where some of the color has worn away.

See that dark line going around the cap?
See that dark line going around the cap?

Marlen Rainbow Over Hong Kong Fountain Pen

So what do I think of this pen?  It’s not made very well but it has a fantastic 18kt gold nib and can be had for around $50-$80 new old stock…if you can get past the design and it’s quirks it’s not bad.

Waterman Carene Black Sea Fountain Pen Review

Waterman Carene Black Sea Fountain Pen

Mild curiosity mixed with a very good deal got the better of me and I now have a Waterman Carene.

Waterman Carene Black Sea Fountain Pen

The Carene is one of the older pens in the Waterman lineup and features an inlaid nib like their flagship Edson pen.  Carene in French means “hull” and the literature for this pen states that the Carene is inspired by “luxury yacht design”.   The ends of this pen do bear resemblance to the bow and stern of a yacht but other than that there are no cues to signify a nautical theme.

Waterman Carene Black Sea Fountain Pen

The pen has a metal body covered in black lacquer and weighs a hefty 33 grams.  The Carene measures 5.7″ capped and is a nicely balanced pen posted or unposted.  I did find that you have to push the cap onto the barrel with a bit of effort for it to stay posted. The real star of this pen is it’s beautiful inlaid nib.  It is solid 18kt gold with a stub point made in house by Waterman.  The nib is a nail but performs very nicely.  It is on the finer side for a stub and is quite forgiving on paper.  The downside is that you get a little bit less flare but more usability overall.

Waterman Carene Black Sea Fountain Pen  nib

The Carene like all modern Watermans uses a cartridge converter system.  The pens comes with a Waterman branded converter as well as a box of 6 Waterman ink cartridges.

Waterman Carene Black Sea Fountain Pen

The build quality of the pen is excellent.  There are no flaws in any of the materials.  The section has two rubber o-rings on the threading and I found that these made it difficult to get the nib in line with the gold tail of the barrel.

Waterman Carene Black Sea Fountain Pen

Amazon UK (no affiliation) had this pen for sale brand new for 60 GBP (approximately $90 USD) and at that price I couldn’t pass it up.  Even though this is an excellent pen by all accounts, I didn’t end up bonding with it; it’s boring.  If this pen had some personality it would be a home run.   With a street price around $220 it’s definitely a pass for me.  At $90-$100? It is a lot of pen for the money but I get more enjoyment out of pens like the TWSBI Vac 700  and the Pelikan M200 even though they are not made as well nor adorned with gold nibs.

Waterman Carene Black Sea Fountain Pen

 

Here are some other great reviews of the Waterman Carene:

(I have no affiliation with any of the sites linked below)

Pen Classics – Waterman Carene

Leigh Reyes. My Life As A Verb – Waterman Carene, now with stub

TWSBI Vac 700 Fountain Pen Review

TWSBI Vac 700 Fountain Pen

TWSBI is a Taiwanese fountain pen manufacturer that has been around for about half a decade now and for some reason they never really called my name.  While in Taipei earlier this year I wandered into a fountain pen shop and walked out with a couple of TWSBIs, a Vac 700 and a Micarta.

When I picked up the Vac 700 for the first time I was impressed with how nice the pen felt.  The body is made out of a laminated polycarbonate and compared to my other plastic and even celluloid pens it feels much nicer; more sturdy and more satisfying to interact with.

TWSBI Vac 700 Fountain Pen

The design of the Vac is a bit of a pigs breakfast, mixing a bunch of different materials and shapes and yet somehow it actually looks pretty good (maybe not elegant but attractive in it’s own way).  The polycarbonate is ultra clear and as a result the pen looks quite beautiful when filled with ink.  The cap and the blind cap have a sort of diamond shaped faceting to them while the barrel is rounded with a slight taper to accommodate the vacuum mechanism.

TWSBI Vac 700 Fountain Pen

The section and blind cap are made out of a translucent grey polycarbonate and all of the furniture except the clip is chrome.  The clip has a very rough almost sandblasted aluminum look to it.  It is rough to the touch but feels quite solid.  The finial has a red jewel with the TWSBI logo.  The cap band has big inelegant branding on it.

TWSBI Vac 700 Fountain Pen

The vacuum filing system holds a good amount of ink and with some practice you can get about 2ml of ink into the body which is four times the capacity of your average converter.  With the blind cap screwed down tight, air is shut off from the filing system making it airplane friendly. So far I have flow with it on eleven flights and can report that there have been no problems.  It doesn’t leak and it works beautifully at altitude.  The downside to the air shut off is that if you wish to write more than a couple of pages the blind cap needs to be unscrewed to keep the ink flowing.

TWSBI Vac 700 Fountain Pen

The Vac 700 is  about 14.5cm long and weighs a hefty 32.6 grams.  The pen posts nicely but for my smaller hands it throws off the balance so I use it uncapped.

TWSBI Vac 700 Fountain Pen

The large Jowo nib is nicely proportioned with the rest of the body.  The 1.1mm stub point is a joy to use.  No performance issues to speak of.

TWSBI Vac 700 Fountain Pen

I LOVE this pen.  This is my new favorite sub $100 pen that I have tried and I am hard pressed to think of a $200 pen that I like better.