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.
In the last few years a lot of interesting pens have come to the market via Kickstarter and one of the most appealing pens launched is the Render K by Karas Kustoms. I am a bit late to the game on this one but nonetheless it remains a simple and beautiful pen that is worthy of your attention.
The Render K is an American-made pen crafted out of solid aluminum. The original (Kickstarter launched) Render K utilizes Parker-style refills that provides customers with an enormous range of refill options. The Render K G2 is designed to take the ultra popular Pilot G2 refill. Without modification I have been able to use Montblanc rollerball and fineliner refills in the the Render K G2.
The pen is sold without a refill because the manufacturer want’s you to choose the refill that suits you best. The pen comes with a piece of plastic tubing that is designed to be cut to accommodate other refills that maybe a bit too short for the Render K G2 unmodified.
The Render K’s metal body and knurling on the top of the cap reminds me of the Retro 51 Tornado Lincoln Copper fountain pen I reviewed earlier this year. The Render K’s minimalistic design is very attractive; there is no ugly branding or unnecessary fluff to clutter the design…it’s pure function.
Capped the pen measures just over 5″ long and weighs 34.4 grams with a Pilot G2 refill installed.
On many pens I find the clip to be a weak point; I have bent dozens of them by clipping them to my pants pocket or notebook. The stiff stainless steel clip on the Render K is ultra strong and because it is secured by two exposed screws it can be easily replaced if you happen to damage it.
I have been using the Render K for a couple of days now and it’s a strangely satisfying pen. Screwing the cap onto the body reminds me of screwing a nut on to a bolt; the feel is very similar and I love it.
I am also quite fond of how tight the cap fits on to the body when fully screwed on…it’s lovely.
The standard aluminum Render K G2 sells for $45 and comes in various colors. The Render K G2 is also made in solid brass for $65 and solid copper for $95. Overall I am impressed by this pen, it’s enjoyable to use and built to last. It’s not cheap but for a high quality piece of American craftsmanship, it’s not hard to justify the price.
Please note: this pen was provided to me at no charge by Karas Kustoms for purposes of review.
Here are some great reviews of the Render K (original and G2):
(I have no affiliation with the sites linked below)
The Pilot Custom 743 is the only pen to use Pilot’s full line of #15 size nibs. In the store I tried three of the more unusual nibs: a music nib, a Waverly nib and a falcon nib. I ended up picking the falcon nib, which is a soft flexible nib.
Like most pens in the Custom series, the 743 is a very traditional and classic looking executive pen with a black plastic body and yellow gold furniture. The trim level is the same as you get on the Custom 823 and they look almost identical. The trim ring on the bottom of the body is closer to the end of the pen than on the 823 (the 743 has vacuum mechanism to accommodate) but otherwise they look the same.
The cap has a rounded top with a clip that starts broad and narrows ending with a ball; this is the classic Pilot/Namiki clip and I think it looks great. The gold band at the bottom of the cap reads “* * * CUSTOM 743 * * * PILOT MADE IN JAPAN”. The letters are filled in with black (paint?) just as you would see on the Custom 845 and Custom 823. The large 14ct gold #15 nib is plain, with no decoration to speak of. The cuts on the sides of the nib help to increase flexibility and in my opinion make up for the lack of decoration.
The gold trim is much more yellow in color than the 14ct gold nib. This is quite apparent with the cap posted. I would like to have seen the gold match a bit better but it’s not a big deal.
All things considered, the Custom 743 is a clean looking pen with no strangeness to its proportions. It’s not going to score any points for originality but it’s a nice looking pen nonetheless. Score: 3/5
The build quality like most Pilot products is quite good. The section (as on the Custom 845) has two big seams that just look cheap on a $300 pen.
Unlike the Custom 845, the 743 also suffers from seams on the body as well. They are clearly defined in the threading on the body and then they disappear about a quarter of an inch in on the glossy part of the body. You wouldn’t really notice any of this unless you are looking closely. The fit and finish is otherwise quite good and I suspect this pen will last a long time. Score: 2.5/5
Size & Weight
The Custom 743 measures about 5.9” capped and about 5.2” uncapped. At its widest point it is about 0.6” and weighs about 25.6 grams with a converter full of ink. Like the 845, the 743 is a good sized pen similar in girth to a Montblanc 146 but closer to the 149 in length. I find the 743 to be well balanced in my hand. It looks quite long posted but it remains comfortable. Score: 4/5
I think it is fair to say that this pen will not be for everyone. I was lucky enough to try it in a store in Japan before I purchased it. It would be a mistake to think you are getting a new pen that is going to write like a vintage flex pen; it does not and I haven’t seen a modern flex pen that does.
The falcon nib is a bit on the scratchy side, not unpleasantly so but there is a good amount of feedback. With little or no pressure the nib writes with a pretty fine line, definitely an extra fine by western standards.
If apply some pressure you can get the line to become broad but this will require more force than you would need on most vintage flex pens. I find that with nib flexed and writing slowly (as you should) the pen has a tendency to railroad by which I mean produce two thin parallel lines instead of one fat line. The feed seems unable to keep up with the pen.
I have been experimenting with different inks and I have found Diamine inks to work the so far. I tried Noodler’s Blue Eel as I thought that might help with the railroad situation but alas it performed the same as the Waterman and Pilot inks I tried.
In normal writing there are no real performance issues and I can get some nice (not huge) line variation with medium pressure without causing any problems but if you want to make extra extra fine lines and triple broad lines the Falcon nib isn’t going to cut it. With a careful hand (sadly not something I possess) I have seen some beautiful western writing with the 743 Falcon. Score: 2/5
The Custom 743 uses Pilot’s top-of-the-line Con-70 converter that is considered by many to be the best converter on the market. It holds a good amount of ink and is quite easy to use.
The 743 has the standard metal Con-70 which is not quite as nice as the black one you get in the Pilot Custom 845 and most Namiki pens but the function is the same. Score: 3.5/5
I bought my Custom 743 in the low $200s, which I think is a pretty reasonable price for this pen. The retail price is 30,000 Yen (approximately $295 USD) is pretty high. If the pen had no seams and the gold trim matched the nib nicely I could easily justify a $300 price tag for the 743. Score: 3/5
The feed prevents the 743 Falcon from living up to its full potential as a “flex” pen.
The Custom 845 is Pilot’s top of the line fountain pen (limited editions and Namiki branded pens not included). The 845 retails for an eye-watering 500,000 YEN (approximately $495 USD) and has received some mixed reviews. People have questioned whether it should command a price near an entry-level Nakaya.
What do you get for $500?
You get Pilot’s largest (Pilot branded) #15 nib in two tone 18kt gold with a large “gem” carved ebonite body and urushi lacquer finish. You also get a black painted Con-70 converter and an upgraded box.
While in Japan I was able to play with a number of Pilot/Namiki pens and I ended up loving the Custom 845. Now that I have had a few weeks to put it through its paces let’s see how it stacks up.
The Custom 845 is a classic looking executive pen with a black body and yellow gold furniture. The cap has a flat top with a clip that starts broad and narrows ending with a ball.
The gold band at the bottom of the cap reads “* * * CUSTOM 845 * * * PILOT MADE IN JAPAN”. The letters are filled in with black (paint?) so they look nice and crisp. The back of the cap has “URUSHI” in gold letters.
The large two-tone #15 nib looks great and features some nice scrollwork on the silver center. I really like that Pilot puts a date stamp on these nibs. The left bottom corner of the nib is stamped “813” which translates to August 2013.
It’s hard to look at a pen like this and not think about Montblanc. The 845 with its flat top clearly isn’t a Meisterstück but it clearly is a Japanese take on a German style pen and that is definitely not a bad thing.
Many people, including myself, rave about Pilot’s build quality. I hadn’t spent much time with the Custom line before these last three weeks and while I still maintain that Pilot builds exceptional quality pens I do have some issues with the Custom 845 and the Custom 743 (review to come later).
To start let’s talk about the body of the 845. Above I said this pen has a lacquered ebonite body and it does….mostly, except for the section, the end of the body and the ends of the cap, which are plastic, or “resin” if that sounds more appetizing.
The plastic parts are not painted with urushi lacquer but nonetheless they do blend together well. The section has two visible seams and this to me is just wrong on a $500 pen.
To be fair these “issues” aren’t actual build quality problems but more an indication that this pen was built to a price. If you could build this pen without plastic and paint the entire pen in lacquer why wouldn’t you?
Other than the seams the fit and finish are flawless. The pen is sturdy and does not have the delicate feeling that a Nakaya has. With the 845, Pilot took a very practical design and really brought it to the next level by adding multiple coats of urushi lacquer. It is a wonderful pen to touch.
I compared the 845 to my Montblanc 149 and based on superficial fit and finish alone the Montblanc wins. The engraving on the ring of the 149 to me looks nicer and the Montblanc has no seams on its body despite being made entirely out of plastic.
I suspect that in the long-term the Pilot will hold up better than a 149 as the lacquer is much more scratch resistant than plastic and I have seen real problems with Montblanc quality. I have had plating issues with Montblancs as well as nib issues on brand new Montblanc pens; both things I have yet to see with any Pilot.
Size & Weight
The Custom 845 measures 5.7” capped and about 5.2” uncapped. At its widest point it is about 0.6” and weighs about 28.8 grams. The 845 is a good sized pen similar in girth to a 146 but closer to the 149 in length.
The 845 posts well and does have a good balance posted but for long writing sessions I prefer the 845 unposted. I believe most people would find the 845 to be a comfortable pen.
I sampled the fine, medium and broad nibs and found that the medium to be my favorite. Being Japanese, the medium is closer to a western fine. The Pilot-made # 15 18kt gold nib writes beautifully. I haven’t had any issues with skipping, hard starting or poor flow. The nib is somewhat soft for a standard nib and it is ultra smooth and responsive. It writes like a $500 pen should. The feel is phenomenal; in fact I believe it’s the best writing stock round tipped nib I have come across on a modern pen.
The Custom 845 uses Pilot’s famous Con-70 converter which is considered by many to be the best converter money can buy; despite this, the 845’s cartridge/converter filling system tends to receive some criticism as many people feel that the $200 cheaper Custom 823 offers more value with it’s vacuum filling system.
It is true that the vacuum filing system holds more ink and it is likely a more expensive mechanism but as a cartridge/converter lover the black Con-70 is pretty much perfect. The Con-70 holds more ink than most converters and has a unique push button mechanism that you push four times to fill.
The problem here is what do you compare the 845 to? At $550 a Nakaya is a great value and I know that because there are a lot of similar pens to compare it to.
The 845 is different, it’s more usable, it’s more solid feeling than a Nakaya, to me it’s an urushi Montblanc sans the status and for someone who wants that there aren’t many alternatives in this price range. I think $495 is about right for this pen. You will be hard pressed to find another high quality urushi fountain pen for less money and while it’s hard to call the 845 a steal it’s also hard to call it overpriced.
My ratings for this pen have been pretty harsh but I would like to mention that when I bought this pen I tired a TON of pens at the store including much more expensive Namiki pens with #20 and #50 nibs as well as a number of Sailors and Platinum pens. I liked the feel of the 845’s nib the best and I think I would pick the 845 again given the chance.
If a Montblanc and a Nakaya had a baby it would be the Pilot Custom 845.
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)
The Pilot Precise P-700 has been one of my favorite hybrid gel roller balls for quite a while now. The benefit of a hybrid gel roller ball is a smooth writing experience with a low resistance liquid ink, making it a great pen for writing in cursive. The line is clean and smooth and the ink is ultra fast drying making it a great pen for lefties. The ink is permanent and unfortunately the pen is not refillable.
The Precise is an old pen and to my knowledge the design has never been updated and as a result it doesn’t really look like many other pens on the market. The body has a marbled appearance that to me looks like clouds. The ribbed grip is comfortable but not soft. I haven’t been a fan of the looks of this pen in the past and my opinion hasn’t changed; it’s ugly.
The Pilot Precise comes in two widths 0.7mm (P-700) and 0.5mm (P-500) and five colors, black, blue, red, green, and purple. At $2.42 it’s quite affordable and if the looks don’t bother you I highly recommend it.
Here are some great reviews of the Pilot Precise P-700 / P-500:
(I have no affiliation with the sites linked below)
The Pilot Vanishing Point is an extremely popular fountain pen with a click mechanism that retracts the nib. I have had mine for several years now and while it’s frequently inked it’s far from my favorite pen. To me the Vanishing Point is purely a tool; it’s reliable and can be operated with one hand for quick notes but it’s not fun to write with. My VP has a brown lacquered brass body with rhodium accents weighing in at 30.9 grams with a full converter. The VP measures just under 5.5″ long and is about half an inch thick at its widest point. The Vanishing Point is a pretty ugly pen; it’s definitely not a show piece. The VP looks the most dignified in matte black and unfortunately for me it was released well after I purchased my brown one.
The stiff 18 carat gold medium point nib has no personality but is smooth and reliable. The medium point is a bit finer than most European mediums and the flow is pretty average.
Depending on how you hold your pen the clip may be an issue because it is so close to the tip. Having a pretty standard grip it does not bother me but this pen definitely wont work for everyone. Also, I do not find the VP to be comfortable for long writing sessions as the grip area is relatively wide and the pen is quite heavy. The Vanishing Point comes with a converter, a cartridge and a metal cartridge cap (that prevents the click mechanism from crushing a plastic cartridge). The VP offers a lot of pen for the money with an average street price $140. The build quality is excellent as with all Pilot products and it has held up well quite well for me. The nib has a lot of tipping material so I may have it ground down into a stub to give this great pen some character. I recommend trying the Vanishing Point in person before purchasing.
Here are some great reviews of the Vanishing Point:
The Pilot Down Force is a pressurized ballpoint pen that is designed to write at any angle. I don’t have any need for a pressurized pen but I liked the loud yellow body so I bought it as an impulse buy. My favorite thing about this pen is the satisfying click it makes, apart from that and the bright yellow body I didn’t find much else to like. The plastic body is a bit too fat for my taste and the 0.7mm refill is okay, not as nice as what you find in a Pilot Acroball. The line is darker and sharper than a Fischer Space pen’s and it’s cheaper but at $8 its not cheaper than a Uni Power Tank. The Uni Power Tank is writes better, is pressurized and costs less than half the price of the Down Force. If you really enjoy clicking pens the Down Force might be worth a look but if you just want a nice pen don’t bother; this one’s crap.
Here is another review of the Pilot Down Force: (I have not affiliation to the site linked below)