(Susan M. Pigott is a fountain pen collector, pen and paperholic, photographer, and professor. You can find more from Susan on her blog Scribalishess.)
I've been wanting to buy a Danitrio fountain pen for a long time. I love their beautiful designs, and while I own several Nakayas, I wanted to try out a different Japanese brand. Joke's on me. Danitrio is not a Japanese company. They make pens using Japanese techniques and many (if not all) of their craftsmen are Japanese, but they are headquartered in Newport Beach, California. The company was founded by Mr. Bernard Lyn (read an interview with Mr. Lyn here).
Danitrio pens exude Japanese aesthetics. The pen I now own, the Sho-Hakkaku in Ki-Dame Tamenuri, is made of ebonite coated in Urushi lacquer. It is an octagon shape, and it is one of the smaller Danitrios you can buy.
I chose the Ki-Dame (yellow) color because (a) it was in stock and (b) it is very similar to Nakaya's discontinued Shiro-Tamenuri color. It is a rich red-brown over a yellow foundation which will show through more as the pen ages.
My Sho-Hakkaku is clipless, which suits me fine. I only use clips as roll stoppers, and the Sho-Hakkaku doesn't roll easily because of the octagonal shape.
The pen is simple and uncluttered–the only ornamentation is the artist's signature in gold and red kanji on one facet of the barrel. I love this small, beautiful detail.
The portion of the barrel where the cap screws on is black, and I like how that contrasts with the rest of the pen.
The Sho-Hakkaku comes with a big, gorgeous, ornamented #6 18K nib.
I opted for the soft stub because I heard that it was a delight to write with. And it is. The stub offers nice line variation without any pressure, but when you apply pressure the lines really pop.
The nib writes smoothly, and the feed has no trouble keeping up with the stub's ink demand even when flexed.
The pen is a cartridge/converter. I wish it were one of Danitrio's eyedropper pens, but the converter holds a decent amount of ink and is well made.
Like Nakaya pens, the Danitrio comes packaged in a soft wood box lined in red velvet. Unlike Nakaya, there is no kimono. In all honesty, I rarely use my Nakaya kimonos, but I missed that added special touch. The pen did come with a polishing cloth.
The Sho-Hakkaku is one of Danitrio's smaller pens. It measures 5.31 inches capped and four inches uncapped. The cap cannot be posted. The barrel width (0.6 inches) makes it fatter than many other pens, but it's not uncomfortable to hold (the grip section is .45 inches). The pen weighs only 27.5 grams so you don't notice its size at all, despite the barrel's girth.
The only negative comment I have about this pen is the purchasing experience. Apparently, ordinary people cannot order directly from Danitrio nor can they contact the company directly. I went through Classic Fountain Pens (nibs.com) to purchase my pen.
Unfortunately, it's impossible to know what pens you can actually order using the nibs.com website. Unlike Nakaya, there is no availability chart for Danitrio pens. Consequently, I had no idea which pens might be in stock for purchase. After searching through all the pens on nibs.com as well as on the Danitrio site, I tried to purchase a pen. This led to a long, confusing email exchange over a period of three weeks, during which the nibs.com folks mediated between me and Danitrio. All I wanted to know was which pens Danitrio had in stock. At one point, a nibs.com representative told me you "can't ask them too many questions at once because they get confused." Seriously? The Danitrio people get confused if you ask them which pens they have in stock?
In any case, it took a long time to place an order for my Danitrio, and that was for one they actually had in stock. If you order something not in stock, be prepared for a three to eight-month wait or longer. I think this girl needs some Zen patience if she ever orders another Danitrio. I drove the longsuffering people at nibs.com crazy.
As impatient as I was, it was worth the hassle. The Sho-Hakkaku is absolutely beautiful. I've read that some people think Danitrio's ebonite pens aren't as well crafted as Nakayas. But I'm completely satisfied with mine. It seems every bit as beautiful as my Nakayas.
If you like Japanese-style pens and are unfamiliar with Danitrio (as I was), you ought to check them out. Although you can't buy directly off the Danitrio website, it's fun to go through all their models, especially the $20,000 ones (none of which I will be purchasing).
My Sho-Hakkaku was by anyone's standards very expensive ($960). Danitrio does not make inexpensive pens, but neither does Nakaya. Expect to pay a premium for Urushi pens, regardless of the company.
- A stunning pen in unusual colors.
- Gorgeous, huge nib with multiple nib size options.
- The soft stub is a fantastic writer offering smooth writing without pressure and wonderful line variation with pressure.
- The kanji signature adds a nice touch to an otherwise unadorned pen.
- The octagonal shape accentuates the foundation color of the pen and the Urushi makes the pen glow.
- Almost weightless in the hand, making the pen comfortable for long writing sessions.
- Difficult and confusing to place an order.
- Some might not like the cartridge/converter system.
- Expensive. Very expensive.