Posts filed under Pilot

Pilot Custom 823 Fountain Pen Review

The Pilot Custom 823 is a pen that inspires, and for good reason. The amber colored barrel with brown end caps and gold furniture is striking, and noticeable from a distance. The vacuum filling system seemingly holds an entire bottle of ink, making it perfect for writers, even Neil Himself. The 14 karat gold nib is flawless and glides across the page, as you would expect from Pilot.

This is a grail pen for many. Deservedly so.

In the few weeks I spent with the 823 I can see why so many people love this pen. It has a feel unlike any other Pilot I own. The barrel is slightly longer and larger, and the added weight of the filling mechanism gives it that just right feel. Put it in your hand and start writing and it is magical.

Vacuum filling sytems are not that common so my experience is limited, but the way the 823 fills is incredible. Pull the plunger out, dip the nib up to the section in the ink bottle, and push the plunger back in until it snaps down. In one shot, the barrel was at least 3/4 full. It was so cool and impressive that I emptied the ink back into the bottle and plunged it again. Same result as the first time. So much ink!

Generally speaking, you cannot go wrong with a gold nib from any of the Japanese big three - Pilot, Platinum, or Sailor - but Pilot nibs are my personal favorite. I’ve never had an issue out of the box, and that was the case with the fine 14k gold nib in the 823. From the moment it touches the page it is good to go with clean, smooth lines. I used Pilot Blue Black ink exclusively with this pen and it was an excellent choice.

Looking at pictures of the pen online I somehow overlooked the fact that the end caps were brown, not black like I thought. They match the pen perfectly, and actually made a big impression on me and my perception of the pens looks.

And that is the kicker for me with the Pilot Custom 823. Aesthetically, there is no arguing its beauty. But it’s not for me. I was actually hoping to fall in love with it while it was on loan to me, and while it is an elite writer, I never bonded with it visually. For the price, around $288 which includes a gift box and a bottle of Pilot Blue ink, I need to bond with a pen.

Even though it isn’t for me, I think the 823 could be the one for a lot of fountain pen users. And by the one, I mean that this pen could conceivably be the only fountain pen you own. It does everything well, with no flaws, and no downside. It’s expensive, sure, but if you aren’t like me and NEED a ton of pens, then I’m not sure there is a better choice on the market.

(Goldspot Pens provided this product at no charge to The Pen Addict for review purposes.)

L to R: Pilot Custom 92, Custom 91, Custom 912, Custom 823

L to R: Pilot Custom 92, Custom 91, Custom 912, Custom 823

L to R: Pilot Custom 92, Custom 91, Custom 912, Custom 823

L to R: Pilot Custom 92, Custom 91, Custom 912, Custom 823

Posted on November 16, 2015 and filed under Fountain Pens, Pilot, Pen Reviews.

Pilot Acroball 4 Multi Pen Review

(Jeff Abbott is a regular contributor at The Pen Addict. You can find more from Jeff online at Draft Evolution and Twitter.)

It took me a while to give the Pilot Acroball a shot. I'm a fairly committed Uni-ballb Jetstream fan, and I just didn't have a need to try anything else. Fast forward a bit, and I'd heard enough good things about Pilot's hybrid ballpoint offering to give it a fair shake.

What I love about the Jetstream is how smooth and dark the ink is. It's a fantastic experience for a ballpoint, and it's also my go-to pen for ballpoint situations. They're work horses — dependable and well-made. So, that leaves Pilot with a lot of work to do from the start.

I decided to try one of the multi pens first so I could try several colors at once without having a lot of extra pen bodies lying around. Yeah, I could have ordered one pen with several different refills, but the multi pen is way more exciting. They always bring back the nostalgia of using a Bic 4 pen from childhood, except these write much better.

Look and feel

Let's take a look at the outside of the pen first. My first observation is the clip on the Acroball 4. It's a sturdy, spring-loaded clip that feels really nice. That's one thing about the Jetstreams that I don't care for: they have weak clips (especially in their multi pens). When I clip the pen to something, I don't want to worry about it falling off, and the Acroball makes me feel nice and safe.

Another thing that I love about this body is the grip. It's a fat, textured grip that feels good in my hand when writing. It also does a really good job of resisting lint and dust.

The "knocks" for each color are a bit weak, but that's normal for any multi pen. There just isn't much space to include high-quality, sturdy knocks for each cartridge. Yes, some more expensive multi pens have much more sophisticated designs that feel and work great, but they don't cost less than $10 like the Acroball 4.

I went with a clear body, which I'm really happy with. I have a soft spot for demonstrators, and this one fits the bill. There are a few other color options, but most of them feature a partially clear body. The colors only take over the grip and clip pieces on most options. The black one is, and the blue one has a blue transparent body.


The Acroball is a great writer. Pilot has a really great cartridge here, and I'm happy to use it. But, it just isn't as nice as the Jetstream cartridges. In my experience, the Acroball skips a bit too much when compared to the Jetstream. The colors work well, but the black is a little lighter than I prefer.

To be honest, I can only notice this difference when writing with them on the same page. When I'm just using the Acroball, I don't notice any differences.

Another thing to note in my pen is that the green cartridge is exceptionally scratchy compared to the other 3. I'm not sure if I have a dud cart or if this is normal because of the color and properties of the ink. Who knows. All I know is that I don't use the green cartridge because of the scratchiness.


The Acroball is a fantastic pen that I highly recommend. Fortunately, this is a pen that most big-box retailers sell, so that means more people are being exposed to it. I'm happy it's out there, but I'm also more happy with my Jetstreams.

I chose the clear model of the Acroball 4, but there are also several other color options.

(JetPens provided this product at no charge to The Pen Addict for review purposes.)

Posted on September 16, 2015 and filed under Acroball, Pen Reviews, Pilot.

Pilot Parallel Calligraphy Pen Review

(This is a guest post by Nick Folz. You can find more of Nick and his work on Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr.)

The Inkiest Pen

The Pilot Parallel is one of those pens that will turn heads. It doesn't look like any pen I have ever used and it doesn't write like anything else either. It is mainly a calligraphy pen, and I must admit my ignorance and tell you that I am not really a calligraphy person, but more of an illustrator who's a fan of handwriting.

The concept is simple, the flat blade (I am using the 6mm model) drops a super thick line when pulling it perpendicular to the blade line, and a super thin line when pulling it parallel. The result is a line that can vary wildly and makes the special lines required if you are doing calligraphy. It comes with a pocket guide for some starter calligraphy, but the most fun I had with the pen is when I was pushing it in a wildly sloppy manner and getting unreproducible results.


This pen is not for looks: plastic body, plastic cap. The cap has a bit of a fin to it, screws on tight to the tapered, brush-shaped body. The nib screws into the body and takes ink cartridges. The pen can go through a cartridge in a few sittings, to be expected when you are laying down such a thick line. The nib is flat, built out of what looks like a folded over piece of aluminum, but is actually two parallel pieces of metal that have tiny, interlocking teeth at the tip. The pack it comes in has one black cart, one red cart, one converter (for cleaning) and a cleaning sheet.

The Ink Problem

Look, no one likes buying tons of cartridges, especially if their favorite ink isn't sold that way. Even if you do like the convenience of the cartridges, you are going to be burning through them. The solution is pretty easy, just body fill the damn thing. What you'll want to do if you are body filling the pen is grab some plumbing tape and wrap the threads of the nib section (not more than twice) to make sure you get a good seal on it. It will act as a gasket and, boom, tons of ink, no leaking.

I've seen it as a detail note on several ink reviews, "I'm testing this ink with a Pilot Parallel." There is good reason, if an ink has facets revealed through different volumes drying at different times (I'm looking at you Emerald of Chivor) and you don't have any fancy dip nibs, this pen should be your go-to. The ink supply is slightly inconsistent, leading to the variation of how much ink is dropped even on one stroke. Sometimes the top of a line will be super saturated and dryer at the end, sometimes the opposite. I actually like this about it and don't consider it a drawback. It lends itself to a more interesting set of lines in the end.

Pilot makes of big deal of being able to blend inks by touching the tips of two Parallel Pens together to make gradients. That would probably be cool, but I just have the one pen and probably wouldn't do it that often even if given the chance.

Where It Fits

Look, I'm a Pilot fanboy. The pen that got me into pens in the first place was the Precise V5, which will always have a place in my heart and messenger bag. I have long been a fan of their products and have yet to find a sub par item they make. The Parallel is no exception, it works wonderfully and besides some minor issues (leaky body when body filling which, admittedly, it is not made for, and some sub-par aesthetics) I would easily recommend this product. The problem is, for what? Outside of the calligraphy enthusiast, the ink tester, and the font fanatic, this pen would be hard pressed to find an audience among the office supply crowd.

When I got this pen it was the one I was most excited about, but found myself pulling it out, doodling for a few minutes and then switching to something else fairly quickly. So I tossed it into my bag and would often grab something else when I sat down to draw. The problem seems obvious: I'm an illustrator, not a calligrapher. But here is when I started clicking with this pen. I often add some lettering to an illustration near the end. Sometimes it's as simple as a thought bubble with a "!" in it. Sometimes it is someones name or a label. I would dig this out of my bag and it can do what no other pen or brush can do. I like the smooth, block style lines it can do but I LOVE the distressed, unruly script you can get out of it. I feel like a hat's off is in order for Pilot mass producing such a niche pen, and in multiple sizes. You can find the Pilot Parallel at JetPens in four sizes from 1.5mm to 6mm.


Nothing else like it, at least that I have seen. Works well right out of the box. Comes with one black and one red cart, as well as a converter and a cleaning sheet. Also has a robust care and calligraphy tip sheet. Can be used many different ways, clean and crisp or loose and rough.


Designed for carts and have to mod for body filling. Plastic body and cap, aesthetics not a strong point. Will use all your ink.

When I think of drawing utensils I also think of what verbs they give me. My pencil's verbs are Start, Sketch, and Erase. My roller ball pen's verbs are Line, Detail, and Finish. My brush's verb is Vary. My Sharpie's verb is Fill. What the Parallel really does that makes it worthwhile for me is it gives me a verb that my other pens could do, but not as well. Letter.

(Disclaimer: This product was provided for me free of cost but I am not otherwise being compensated for this review. The opinions contained are my own.)

Posted on September 2, 2015 and filed under Pilot, Pen Reviews, Calligraphy Pens.

The Pilot Explorer, Revisited

(Jeff Abbott is a regular contributor at The Pen Addict. You can find more from Jeff online at Draft Evolution and Twitter.)

The Pilot Explorer is one of those pens that we've probably all seen if we were of writing age through the 80s and 90s. From what I remember, it was an easy pen to find in the day. Any big box retailer that sold pens probably had the Explorer on the shelf, and probably also sold it in boxes of a dozen if that's the kind of thing they were into.

But today, alas, the Explorer is a dying breed. These pens are seriously difficult to come by. Unless you have a personal stash, know someone with a personal stash, or come across some at an auction or random store, you're pretty much out of luck. From what I've seen, there aren't any retailers that knowingly stock this pen.

That being said, why does it matter? Why should a discontinued pen be something we talk about? Well, it's a unique, quirky design for a pen, but it's also one heck of a writer. Yes, there are many, many pens that can out-perform, out-class, and appeal to larger groups, but this is acknowledging something that was a great product that vanished for unknown reasons. We're reliving the glory days, man! "I lived through the Explorer era — you know, before they were famous and celebrated." If that's you, you know exactly what we're talking about.

More importantly, this is one of those pens that excelled over the standard offerings in the retail stores at the time. This is pre-Signo 207, and I'm pretty sure pre-Pilot Precise days, so you can imagine what else you had to choose from at the stores. That's right — Bics and PaperMates. Ick.

Anyway, by today's standards, this pen doesn't win any awards, but it's still a well-performing pen that can keep up with the best of the retail offerings out there today.

Look and feel

This is probably the category that will polarize the most people. Two things: it has a grip style built into the body, so if you use a "non-standard" grip, it might be uncomfortable or unusable for you. Second, it has a unique look that people either love or dislike. I kind of lean toward the dislike fence, but view it more as an ugly duckling. This bad boy paved the way for other well-functioning but better looking pens.

The pen is fairly light, which makes it comfortable to use. Lucky for me, I use a fairly standard grip when writing, so this feels right at home. One thing I've noticed with this pen and refill is that you have to use a light touch when writing. If you start pressing down at all, it will dig into the page and get scratchy really quickly.

The knock has a really nice click sound when you click it down or release it with the integrated clip. For being a pretty cheap pen in the day, it's built really well. I don't know if they're refillable, but I'd feel pretty safe guessing that they're not. I'm sure some people could figure out a way to refill them, but it's not easy. I mean, Pilot put the pen together at some point, so it's only logical that you could take it apart without destroying it.


Like I said before, and like you can see in the pictures, this pen has a suggested grip for writing. If you use that grip, then that's great. If you don't, well...let's hope you can work around it. Just like Lamy, the Pilot Explorer is pretty opinionated on the grip topic. Once you get past that, you realize that this pen writes really well. The ink flow is great, but not too wet, and the lines are dark yet crisp. On different papers, I haven't noticed much (if any) feathering or show through.

The blue in this pen is extremely dark for a stock blue. It looks more like a blue-black to my eyes. The writing experience with this pen reminds me of using a Pilot Precise V5, which is a very good thing.


The Pilot Explorer is a fine pen. It writes really well, and it feels good in my hand. If I could buy these off the shelf today, they'd be high in my list of "best pens you can buy from big box retailers." Instead, it's now a treasure item that people stumble upon in random places, which has its own merits and rewards.

Growing up, it wasn't uncommon to find these pens lying around in a parking lot, at the bottom of a locker, or attached to a clipboard that someone gave you to fill out insurance paperwork at an office. It was ubiquitous. And then, for some unknown reason, Pilot decided enough was enough. It was an unwise decision, and one I hope they rectify at some point in the future. Great pen, great refill.

Posted on August 5, 2015 and filed under Explorer, Pilot, Pen Reviews.