Platinum Century with SF and UEF nibs

I have always wondered how similar are the Pilot Falcon and Platinum Century soft fine (SF) nibs. This curiosity was left on the back burner for several years because many fountain pen enthusiasts commented on how Platinum’s SF nib does not flex as much compared to Falcon. Curiosity kills a cat. More than a year ago I purchased a Platinum Century with SF nib on Amazon on a whim and it is a road with no return.

Both Platinum Century SF and Pilot Namiki Falcon have 14K gold nibs and they do shape slightly different. Falcon, as its name indicates, resembles a falcon’s beak, while Platinum Century has a rather normal looking nib, sweetened by a heart-shaped breather hole. The Platinum SF works right out of the box and seems to be easier to use compared to Falcon. This perception can be skewed since I have more exposure to flex nib now than five years ago, but it is amazing how easy it is to achieve line variation with Platinum SF than Pilot SF, probably because the Platinum nib is stiffer. In my opinion, the Platinum SF nib is more beginner friendly, since users can easily control a hard nib than a soft one. The hardness of the nib also discourages one to press down further. It is significantly easier to write normally, without flexing, with a Platinum Century than a Faclon. When I used Falcon for the first time, it took me awhile to print or write cursive normally without flexing; in fact, I adjusted how I hold the pen and slow down significantly to get a hang of the pen. In contrast, I can write with a Platinum SF nib at a normal speed without skipping and with a finer line.  In this light, Platinum SF nib is a bit more versatile if your end goal is to be able to print normally and add a bit of flourish from time to time.

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Platinum Century on the left and Pilot Falcon on the right. Century is definitely bit chubbier in comparison but still comfortable to hold
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Side-by-side comparison of Platinum Century and Pilot Falcon (Paper: Brownie planner)

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Nib choices with the Platinum Century series also make the pen a salient choice. The body shape may remain the same, but one can choose from UEF (ultra extra fine) to Music. It also comes in a variety of standard as well as limited edition colors (Have you seen the newest release?) Because I had such a great experience with Platinum Century (and because I am such a sucker for colors), I picked up another Century with a UEF nib while going home in 2016. With the exchange rate at the time, the pen cost roughly $84 USD and it came with a cartridge, a converter, as well as a complimentary One over One Studio ippitsu-sen (short correspondent paper; Sola has written a post about this uniquely Japanese stationery here) made with bank paper. UEF is favored by many artists and illustrators for its crisp and delicate line. In addition, the UEF nib allows one to write legibly in a small space. One note of caution, finer the nib, scratchier it may feel on paper because the point of contact between the nib and paper is minuscule. The nib also picks up paper fiber easier given how sharp it is, so when using a UEF nib (or a finer size for that matter), use smoother paper to be on the safe side.

When I first picked up the UEF, I was afraid that I have fallen into the pitfall of “the finest nib quest” but my doubt was quickly dispelled. Compare to other Japanese F or EF nib, UEF feels significantly firmer. Since it is a harder nib, when writing quickly, you can hear the sound of nib gliding over the paper surface.  A notable concern for a fine nib is that it is prone to clogging, especially when one uses a metallic ink (J. Herbin 1670 series, for example). Though I have not yet inked the UEF with any shimmering ink since Platinum’s nib can be easily removed in the same fashion as a Lamy (with a piece of tape), deep cleaning would be a non-issue.

From the pictures below, one can observe the similarities among Platinum Century UEF, Preppy .2, and Pilot Kaküno EF. I would recommend a Preppy .2 if UEF has been on the wanted list, but you are unsure whether you would love it. The downside of Preppy is its flawed body material; the plastic seemed very brittle that cracks start to show even though the pen has never been dropped. Kaküno is far more superior in terms of material, but the nib can be dry because Pilot does not have the famed slip and seal mechanism. UEF has the most feedback among the three and pair with paper such as Midori or Tomoe, is a heavenly experience.

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What is the finest nib of all?

While I have picked up standard black for SEF, I opted for Chartres blue for the UEF. As its name suggested the material is translucent and when one holds it to the light, it evokes images of the stained glass from Chartres Cathedral.

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I have thoroughly enjoyed my experience with Platinum Century, and you can definitely call it “love at first write.” For the combination of price, nib options, and performance, it can easily fit the criteria of a grail pen for enthusiasts with a budget in mind.

What is your recommendation for the next-step pen?

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Perhaps I should add more to the color spectrum? 🙂
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Platinum Carbon Black and Sailor Nano Ultra Black

One might notice that I rarely mention black fountain pen ink (or other colors that are suitable for work environment for that matter).  This omission is entirely intentional when I realize that I have an abnormal high standard for an ideal black.  You might recall from the past posts that I used to practice Chinese calligraphy daily while in elementary school, and the ink I used for the purpose, sumi-e ink, was not only as dark as ebony, but also had a captivating sheen when you looked at it at an angle.*  Most black fountain pen ink I have used in the past are disappointing.  At the first contact of paper, it may appear jet black, but once it dries the gray hue surfaces, so the color looks dull and lifeless.

Earlier this year, I wanted to find a nice black ink that fits my standard on a whim (sounds like Don Quixote battling the wind mill, isn’t it?), partly because of the nostalgia I have for sumi-e ink. While ranting incoherently about how most black ink are not black, my friend Gentian suggested both Sailor Kiwa-Guro Black Nano and Platinum Carbon Black.

Platinum Carbon

At first sight, both ink appears darker and thicker than conventional fountain pen ink in their vials.  Usually after tilting an ink vial back and forth, ink drops generally does not coat the surface of the vial and rejoin the majority of the ink, but this phenomenon does not happen with these two ink. It is difficult to tell the actual ink level in the vial because of their thicker consistency [the fact that these vials are topped off with ink does not help :)]

Besides the obvious thickness, both Sailor Nano and Platinum Carbon flow a lot better than regular fountain pen ink; they both help alleviate the common nib dryness problem in fine Japanese fountain pens.  I have tried both ink in HighNeo Ace and the ink definitely transforms the overall writing experience in that less resistance is felt while writing, and the nice flow and lubrication also remedies any possible skipping of a dryer nib. 

Going from my earlier comment on how it is hard to discern ink level for both Sailor Nano and Platinum Carbon, they are very saturated ink.  They both appear jet black with no wiggle room for gray, and there is no shading for both.  However, Platinum Carbon appears comparatively darker than Sailor Nano . When look closely, Sailor has more of a brown undertone than Platinum Carbon

Both Sailor Nano and Platinum Carbon are specially formulated pigmented ink that can be safely used with fountain pens (please do not attempt any other pigmented ink with fountain pens, they will clog the feed!) Unlike the sheen observed in J. Herbin Hematite, where the letters seem to outline with gold trim, both ink have shine and gloss when looked at an angle, as if a coat of clear nail polish is applied.  The gloss is readily visible in Platinum, while Nano’s is more subtle.  The lightfastness of both ink is most likely more permanent than other fountain pen ink.

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picture taken without flash and the ink is completely dry.  Does it not look dewy?
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Does not have high gloss as Platinum, but Sailor has its own luster.
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The feathering is significant in Platinum, but not Sailor
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The back of the same sheet. Though both experience bleedthrough on 20-lb printing paper, Platinum is definitely more penetrative.

Because both are pigmented, both Sailor Nano and Platinum Carbon are water resistant.  In the water resistance test, Platinum Carbon withstands water a bit better than Sailor Nano in that in contact of water, it does smear minimally, but the written word still remains intact.  As in Sailor Nano’s case, the intensity of the written word lessens with more water introduced to the surface.  Both ink do not feather or bleedthrough as easily as regular fountain pen ink.  Sailor Nano comparatively is less selective when it comes to paper; Platinum’s feathering and bleedthrough is apparent in regular 20lb-printing paper.

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See all the little gray dashes?  Those are the “carbon imprint” that both ink leave when you write on both sides of the paper

An interesting observation made while testing both ink is that there is a slight transference onto the opposite page when both ink are used.  My speculation is that since both ink contain pigment, so when apply pressure on the backside, it works similarly to that of carbon paper; the pressure from the pen tip transfers some of the ink to the opposite page.  Such transference does not bother me much personally, but if you are slightly more heavyhanded and want to use both sides of a paper, maybe that is a factor to be accounted for.

I am thoroughly impressed by both ink in their flow and saturation.  They made the tip of the fountain pens glide gracefully and easily, and the sheen in both ink is mesmerizing.  When you need to grace an important document with your John Hancock, consider these two ink.  They will make it beautiful and long lasting.

What is your favorite black ink?

* most sumi-e ink I have used appears dark gray if no ink stone is used in conjunction, but when the two are used together, the consistency of the ink becomes thicker, the ink is less likely to feather on cotton paper, and it gives a beautiful sheen.

Other reviews on these two inks:

Beginner Fountain Pens: Part I

The choice for a beginner fountain pen is particularly difficult because a pen can leave a lasting impression.  By beginner, I mean either someone who has not used a fountain pen before or someone who is eager to try out a new nib. If I have shared my impression on the pen previously in this blog, click on the title of the pen to see a full post.  Here are some of the fountain pens I have tried and gifted, and hopefully it will be helpful!

1.  Platinum Preppy
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Price range:  $2.95-$3.95
Do not be fool by its unassuming appearance, Preppy is one of the easiest fountain pens for anyone who has never used one before.  In fact, I have somehow converted some friends to fountain pen with it.  It writes as smooth as a medium nib, but it delivers a fine and precise line.  It is not selective on ink, even with Noodler’s Bay State Blue.  It can be taken apart easily (without plyers and drills), so it makes cleaning an easy task.  Here is another reason why I recommend this pen, it can either be used with a cartridge (for those who do not want ink-stained fingers), or it can be converted into an eye-dropped pen. Here is one known issue for this pen is that it cracks easily, even without using brutal force or dropping it. Because the nib unit can be easily taken out, if you fall head over heels for this pen, try out its more durable sister, Platinum Plaisir.

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2.  Pilot Petit1 IMG_1840
Price range:  $3.75-$3.85
Looking for a “toss-around” fountain pen?  Pilot Petit1 might be a good choice.  Though it is compact, it has almost a full-size nib.  Unlike the scratchiness presents in some fine nib fountain pens, Petit1 writes quite smoothly, even for a heavy-handed writer.  It is a reliable fountain pen and can fit in any purse and bag.  In fact, it is my usual pen of choice while traveling.  One downside about Petit1 is that its compact size might cause discomfort to those with larger hands.  The color range for Petit1 is also diverse for those who want to try colors besides standard blue and black.

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3.  Plumix
IMG_1841 Price range:  $7.25-$9.16 Plumix encapsulates an idea that “fountain pen is for calligraphy.”  It has an italic nib so it is capable of calligraphy, but one can also write normally with it.  Because of the broader nib, a new fountain pen user can have a greater contact ratio between paper and nib, hence can ease the transition from a gel pen to a fountain pen.  The good news is that Plumix’s nib can be swapped with a Pilot Prera’s, which can add more variety to those who just start a fountain pen collection.  It is also available in major stationery vendors or general good stores (I got mine at Target), so it is accessible to most of us.

Plumix

Granted that people often associate fountain pen with status symbol, a pen will not be useful if it is not accessible to most of us.  The above three pens are economical in price, so any of them can be a great stocking stuffer.  They are also suitable to start a child from using one.  Compare to ballpoint pen, fountain pen has more traction while writing on paper, hence provides more control to the writer, especially a young one.  By having that extra control could help with letter formation and steadiness.

Have you spread words on fountain pens to anyone around you recently?