In this 4K video I review the Pilot Custom 845 Fountain Pen. This is a high-end fountain pen with an urushi lacquered ebonite body and a solid 18kt gold nib. For a while this was the top of the line pen in the Pilot Custom Line.
Danitrio is perhaps the biggest name in Maki-e pens outside of the main three Japanese makers (Pilot/Namiki, Platinum/Nakaya and Sailor).
Danitrio Maki-e pens are not an entirely Japanese product. The company is based in California and the pens, as far as I know, are manufactured and painted in Japan but use Bock nibs from Germany…so it’s a multinational effort to put one these pens together.
I have been eyeing a Danitrio for a while as they offer very good value for money. While they are by no means cheap, they are considerably less expensive than most comparable Japanese pens.
One of the great things about Danitrio is that they offer their pens in a large number of shapes and finishes.
Despite having similar dimensions to a Montblanc 149, the Hakkaku is one of Danitrio’s smallest models measuring 13.5cm long and 1.5cm wide.
The ebonite body has a faceted flat top design. The dark Midori-dame finish softens the look of the facets. A lighter color would do a better job of accentuating this pen’s shape.
The clip is sprinkled with gold flakes and painted in the same midori-dame finish as the body. I am not a big fan of flowers but I kept coming back to this ancient flower design.
It is very well balanced and looks great against the green background.
This pen (I am told) uses a Togidashi Maki-e technique.
The finish quality of the Hakkaku is comparable to Nakaya. It’s not perfect like a Namiki pen; it has more of hand made look and feel to it. The threading is smoother than on my Nakayas and unlike my Nakaya Naka-ai Negoro the design always lines up when I put the cap on.
The section is signed with the artist’s signature.
The #6 size nib is solid 18kt gold and produced by Bock in Germany.
The fireball design looks great. The nib has a fine point and is considered one of their “soft” nibs. The nib is soft and if you apply some pressure you can get some line variation but for me with a light hand I don’t notice much.
The fine point is smooth and writes with a medium line width (typical Bock). If you want a true fine you are better off with an extra fine nib. The nib doesn’t have as much character as those made by Pilot or Platinum but it’s a good performer and if you like a smooth soft nib this one is very nice.
The Hakkaku takes standard international cartridges and comes with a Bock converter.
The feed is plastic (and out of alignment, the dealer has since remedied the problem).
This pen has a retail price of $1,900 and I was able to get it for a bit less than half that. By comparison, a plain urushi lacquer Namiki Yukari Royale runs $1,500 and a Maki-e versions range from about $4,000-$10,000. I am not saying this pen is the same quality as a Namiki (it isn’t) but it is a more affordable way to get your hands on a good quality Maki-e pen.
At the end of the day I am really happy with this pen. It looks and writes great and it was reasonable enough that I don’t worry about using it everyday.
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.