Boy, this thing’s gorgeous!
Many of you may know that Platinum is my favourite pen brand. Despite their rather narrow range of pens, models like the President, #3776, and Preppy represent some of the best pens at their price point, ever.
This brings me to a rather unique pen, and one that could only come from Japan, the Maki-e, which was sent to me by Massdrop.
For those of you that don’t know of Massdrop, it’s a site that curates a bunch of superb products that are suggested by users. Each product must receive a certain number of votes from the community, and once it does Massdrop will get in touch with the brand to organise a group-buy. The best thing about a group-buy is that the higher the quantity, the lower the price, like buying in bulk. So, you get to vote for the products you want, then buy them at a reduced price. Win-win, right? International shipping is also very competitive, and can be as little as a few dollars for small items like pens.
The Platinum Maki-e
Maki-e is an ancient Japanese technique of painting layers of Urushi lacquer onto a surface to give the art a three dimensional look. Not only this, but by layering different colours and textures you get some incredibly unique patterns too. Like any ancient Japanese technique, it is incredibly precise and must be done by hand by artisans, often the descendants of maki-e masters.
The technique gives an incredibly detailed and unique appearance to the designs, whilst also making them very durable, but we will get to that a bit later.
Measurements are as follows:
- Body (sans nib section) – 3g
- Nib section – 9g
- Cap – 7g
- Together – 19g
- Capped length – 135mm
- Uncapped length – 123mm
- Cap length – 62mm
- Posted length – 150mm
- Width at widest point (base of cap) – 12mm
- Clip length – 42mm
- Clip width – 5mm
- Left/Right handed – Both
- Body Texture – Gloss with shimmering urushi lacquer
- Crown details – Plain black
- Materials – Gold (nib and trim I think), plastic (body, grip section, cap), plastic feed
- Filling system – Proprietary Cartridge/Converter
- Retail price – 12,500 yen (about $130AUD/$100USD as of May 2015)
- Available colours – Black, but other Maki-e designs are available
- Cap system – Pull type
- In production – Yes
- Other features – None
- Markings – PLATINUM JAPAN on cap band
- Number of pieces – 5 (cap, body, grip section, feed, nib)
- Removable nib/feed – Yes (I haven’t tried but it looks to be easily removable)
In the Box
This is a premium product, so you can expect the box and contents to match the price tag. Inside you get the pen itself, a platinum cartridge (with black ink), a gold-trim converter, warranty papers, and a booklet explaining the maki-e technique, which you can read below. The box itself is very nicely designed, and looks very oriental indeed. The inside is lined with a nice red velour, which complements the premium aesthetic of the whole package.
This is a fairly standard package for pens over $100, so there’s no surprises, but it’s good to see that Platinum haven’t skimped on the accessories here.
Going into this review I expected the pen to be nice. The end result is a mixture of good and not so good, but let’s start with the good stuff.
This pen is beautiful, there’s no dancing around that fact. The Urushi lacquer is presented on a black plastic body, and it looks and feels three dimensional, entirely unlike a printed pattern. The mild imperfections let you know it’s done by hand, but the precision in the layering and strict borders to each element are a serious wow-factor. You could spend more time looking at this pen than using it, and that’s not a bad thing.
The art, I assume, depicts a golden Pheonix, surrounded by sakura (cherry blossom) flowers. The bird is coloured in shades of gold, transitioning from a pale yellow to a deep gold, finished with a scarlet-red eye. The cherry blossom flowers are a nice reddish pink colour with silver glitter over the top. The intricacies of the entire design are marvelous, and extra care has been taken to ensure that every part of the bird is carefully separated, and light dances across the surface of the lacquer as a result. This is something you’d never see with more common printing techniques.
The clip is very similar to the Platinum President’s and is nice and firm, smoothly clipping onto a shirt or blazer pocket when not in use.
– Writing Ability
The nib writes very well, with a fine, consistent line. Flow is very consistent, and the pen writes extremely well, even with no pressure on the nib. There is some feedback consistent with a finer nib, but out of the box the nib was perfectly aligned and quite smooth.
The line is also consistent in all directions, a characteristic of a ball-shaped tip (versus a stub or italic). Thanks to its 18k gold construction, pressing down on the nib opens the tines slightly, giving a little bit of line-width variation if you prefer. Overall, I’m very impressed.
– Size and Weight
The Maki-e is well balanced and very light, weighing under 20g total, with the included cartridge. This is a pen that can be used for hours on end without fatiguing, and its medium size should be a great fit for any hand size too.
Posted, the story is much the same. With my large hands, I prefer the length of this pen with the cap posted. Unposted it’s still very usable and would suit medium to small sized hands perfectly.
The Not So Good
– Design Details and Construction
Whilst the Maki-e art is spectacular, the rest of the pen leaves a little to be desired. The nib in particular is a little plain looking, despite the fact that this is a premium pen and the nib is 18k gold. Platinum know how to make beautiful nibs, but this isn’t one of them unfortunately, and is reminiscent of a gold Preppy nib.
Also, the pen itself is made of rather thin plastic. Whilst this does make the pen nice and light, it doesn’t give me a whole lot of confidence with regards to its longevity. No doubt this is a quality product, but I wish they would have used a higher grade material. I’m certainly not saying it will fall apart in your hand, but I wouldn’t expect it to survive a bad drop onto a hard floor.
Finally, the cap is push/pull style, and doesn’t screw on like most premium pens. This is a fairly minor niggle, but I like for my more expensive pens to have a twist-on cap. However, the cap does stay on firmly and comes off smoothly.
Conclusion and Recommendations
So who is this pen for? Well, if you’re the sort of person that enjoys the form of a writing instrument just as much as the function, this one is perfect for you. The Maki-e art is really the selling point of this pen, as without it it would just be a plain black cylinder that writes rather nicely, but it is a compelling reason to pick this pen over, say, a #3776 or President, which fall around the same price point.
I guess I’ve just brought up a reason not to buy this pen too. At around $130-$150AUD, it costs about as much as the Platinum President, one of my all time favourite pens and an arguably superior one at that. However, it is a completely different pen, a much larger one without the Maki-e design, so you’ll have to take that into account.
Comparing apples to apples, both the Maki-e and President both write very well, but the President’s nib writes thinner and is a little drier than the Maki-e. In terms of looks, the President is a very masculine pen, and doesn’t have the beautiful Maki-e design.
Personally I would buy the President, but given I already own one, this pen would definitely be the next one on my list. It’s a gorgeous piece of art, and would look great even as a desk ornament, if that’s something you fancy. It writes very well, falling well into line with similarly-priced pens, and the nib has a little bit of flex and spring to give your writing some character, but the whole pen is a little unremarkable in its construction. I probably haven’t helped your decision at all, so you’ll have to decide if the positives outweigh the negatives.