Pilot’s most famous fountain pen is without question the Vanishing Point (aka the Capless). This is the best selling and simply the best retractible nib fountain pen ever produced.
Many models have been introduced since the Vanishing Point’s inception in the early 1960s and the one I am reviewing today is a “Namiki” branded model with a faceted black plastic body and white metal trim. This body style was introduced in the 1970s stayed in production until the late 1990s. This particular Vanishing Point was made in 1997 right before the introduction of the current metal bodied Pilot Vanishing Point in 1998.
This older model (which I will refer to from now on as the “faceted VP”) is much more attractive with its elegantly integrated clip and slimmer faceted body. The current Vanishing Point has a much less harmonious design with bloated clumsy look to it.
The faceted VP is lighter and slimmer, weighing in at 18.5 grams and measuring just 11mm wide (clip not included). The current model weighs in at 31 grams. To my hand the faceted VP is much more comfortable to use.
The nib on this faceted VP is 14kt gold instead of 18kt gold on the current production model. The nib started life with a medium point and was ground into a butter line stub by Pendleton Brown.
This particular grind offers a great combination of usability and writing flair. I have done a number of custom grinds on medium nibs and this one my favorite so far. The nib is so smooth with just a hint of feedback…it’s luxurious.
The converter. These faceted VPs use a squeeze sac converter. It doesn’t hold enough ink so I always use cartridges with the metal cartridge cap.
The current model by comparison uses the Pilot Con-50 which is nicer to use and holds a slightly more reasonable amount of ink.
This is an awesome pen. You can find them used ranging from about $80 to $150.
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”.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
This is my favorite Pilot/Namiki fountain pen I have used so far…the elegant design, balance, and wonderful nib have won me over.
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.
About a year or so ago I saw the Pilot Super Ultra 500 on the Fountain Pen Network and I was blown away by its beautiful design. The hunt began and in September I was able to locate one in Italy.
The filling system needed a new sac so I sent it over to John Mottishaw for refurbishment. Now that I have had it in my hands for a few months I thought I would share my thoughts on this awesome pen.
Side note: It has occurred to me on a number of occasions that it is a bit silly to use a point rating system in my reviews as they are arbitrary despite my efforts to be objective as possible. I have found reviews of vintage pens to be the most problematic as the qualities of the same make and model can vary dramatically from one pen to the other and as such, it would be a mistake to fully extrapolate my experience (of one example) to another
The black plastic version is the most beautiful (and luckily the most common) 500. The ones with gold filled caps lose the wonderful mirrored design that make this pen so fantastic.
The inlaid gold nib is gorgeous and despite all of this beauty that I keep harping on about the pen is a reserved and understated elegance that I find very appealing.
This pen ticks all of the design boxes for me.
The majority of products that come out of Japan today are of a very high quality and I am certainly happy to pay a premium for a “made in Japan” product but in 1958 the sentiment was different; Japan was considered an emerging market that produced more affordable products. Does this have an affect on the quality of pens coming out of Japan in the late 50? I don’t know BUT I can confidently say that the 500 is of a high quality. Would consider it superior to a Montblanc or OMAS from the same time period? No, not really.
The black plastic body has held up quite well and the rolled 14kt gold trim is well done, though there is wear on the bottom of the cap ring.
From reading Bruno Taut’s wonderful articles on the 500 (please see the links to his site, Crónicas Estilográficas, at the bottom of this review) I learned that the 500 was considered to costly to manufacture and as a result was only produced for a couple of years.
Size & Weight
The 500 measures 14.1cm long capped and 12.7cm uncapped and 1.2cm at its widest point. The 500 weighs a comfortable 18.3 grams. This is a very nicely sized pen that I have had no problem writing with for extended periods of time.
The nib writes with an extra fine line by western standards but find the nib to be quite smooth despite it’s point size.
With a bit of pressure the solid 14kt gold nib does offer some line variation, though I am cautious not to push too hard as any damage to this nib would be a small tragedy.
I have not had any issues with hard starting or skipping. It is by all accounts a great nib.
The 500 has what is known as a “switch” or “quarter turn” filling system. To fill you insert the nib into a bottle of ink and move the notch 90 degrees, this makes the pressure bar squeeze the sac just like on a regular lever filler.
When I received the 500 I tested the mechanism and the sac had dried out. I asked a couple of well known restorers/nib meisters and to my surprise the first three said they wouldn’t work on the pen, not having worked on one before. John Mottishaw agreed to do the work and upon return the pen functioned beautifully.
When the pen ran out of ink I flushed it a few times and RATS! the pressure bar detached from the switch and back to Mottishaw again it went. This time he beefed up the internals a bit and it seems to be working.
This pen holds a good amount of ink but I wish the mechanism was more robust.
I picked up this pen for right around $600 and that is quite a lot of money for an old black pen. I have consulted with a few collectors and I was told that I got a decent deal.
The pen is beautiful but you really have to appreciate the design to justify spending the money. I want to use and enjoy this pen but if it breaks on me again I may have to let it go because what good is a pen that you can’t use?
The beautiful and rare 500 is a great writer that’s only hitch seems to be it’s fragile filling system.
Final Score 20/30
I would like to thank Mr. Bruno Taut for his excellent articles on the Pilot Super Ultra 500. Here are links to those articles (including disassembly instructions Ultra (III)).
The Pilot Frixion Ball 4 Wood is one of the many pens I picked up on my trip to Japan that I have yet to review.
The Frixion Ball 4 Wood is a multi-pen that features four erasable gel ball points, a wood grip and an attractive brown and black body.
This is one of the best looking multi-pens I have used and it has a very high quality feel, weighing in at 26.7 grams. It is a well built pen with a satin brown plastic body that is completely free of seams. The section is made of wood and metal and is what gives the pen its nice weight.
It is fair to say I love everything about this pen except for the way it writes. The erasable Frixion ink looks nasty. The colors are washed out and the lines aren’t particularly clean. It is a smooth writer especially for a 0.5mm pen but it’s not a winner for me.
The price is also prohibitive at 3,000 YEN (just under $30USD); that is three time the price of the Uni Pure Malt which while not as nicely made offers a better writing experience with Uni Jetstream ink.
I am quite smitten with the body so I am going to try and see what other refills will work in the Frixion Ball 4 Wood.
Much like the Pilot Precise, the Pilot Razor Point is a classic. The Razor Point is a simple felt tipped pen that (to my knowledge) has remained unchanged for at least a decade now. The completely opaque metallic blue plastic body and the thin metal clip are clues that this pen was designed quite a while ago. I personally find the design refreshing as I am so used to loudly colored pens with horrible branding and translucent bodies.
The Razor Point has an extra fine felt tip that writes with a smooth wet line and manages to stay true to its specified 0.5mm width.
There are a couple downsides to the Razor Point that its modern peers do not share. First off, the ink in the Razor Point tends to bleed more than other porous tip pens like the Copic Multiliner or the Staedtler Triplus Fineliner. Second, the tip is not particularly durable; in my experience the tip gets worn out before the pen runs out of ink.
While there are better felt tip pens out there, the Razor Point is really quite likeable and I think worth a try if you are curious about it.
Here are some great reviews of the Pilot Razor Point:
(I have no affiliation with the sites linked below)
The Pilot Precise Rolling Ball pen is the predecessor to the very popular Pilot Precise V5 (and V7) and has been one of my favorite roller balls for quite a while now. Compared to the V5, the Precise is more satisfying to write with; to me it provides the right combination of smoothness and feedback.
The basic beige plastic body wont turn any heads but its understated looks really appeal to me. The Precise features a durable tungsten carbide ball and stainless steel point as well as the same clip and overall shape of the V5. Unlike the V5, it does not have an ink window or a visible feed. You wont find the Precise in most office supply stores anymore but they can easily be bought online. I still highly recommend this pen.
The Pilot VBall BeGreen is a roller ball pen with a body made from “81.6% recycled content”. First off, this isn’t the VBall I remember enjoying years ago; the design is much better but the pen as a whole is worse.
I really love the clean and elegant design of this pen; the inset metallic branding and the blue plastic cap combined with the translucent body and feed are excellent. For a disposable pen the VBall BeGreen gets an A+ in design.
As for writing, the VBall is quite scratchy. I compared it to the Uni Ball Micro Deluxe (another traditional liquid ink roller ball) and the difference was night and day. The Uni glided across the paper with more ease and left a cleaner line on the page. As I spent more time with the Vball I noticed that some parts of the tip were smoother than others; by twisting I could find both smooth and scratchy parts of the tip which makes me think I may have gotten a bad one.
I haven’t come across many duds that were made by Pilot in Japan but this might be one.
Here is a great review of the Pilot VBall BeGreen:
(I have no affiliation with the site linked below)