Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Platinum 3776, A Sure Treasure

In the mid-1930s Platinum Pen Company began making maki-e fountain pens. Maki-e is an original Japanese technique for decorating
lacquerware, first used sometime between the years 710 and 794, and perfected over the centuries. The beautiful traditional patterns are enhanced by elegant touches of gold and silver, then finished with a natural varnish called
urushi.


1978 saw the arrival of the Platinum 3776, a landmark fountain pen designed by Haruo Umeda. The numbers refer to the height of Mt Fuji in meters, and the process of taking this pen from prototype to release is an interesting story that bears telling.


When he was finally satisfied with a prototype design, Mr Umeda gave models of the pen to fifty different writers for testing. Each of these writers (as working professionals) wrote a minimum of thirty pages per day. At the end of this testing their suggestions were then weighed and considered in finalizing the Platinum 3776 design.


Four basic design concepts came out of the testing: (1) The pen’s barrel must be thick; the 3776 measures 14.8 millimeters. (2) The nib must be on the large size, 14k gold considered durable and suitable for heavy writing. (3) The design must never be boring, but something the owner-writer can treasure. (4) The pen must fit the hand well.


The Platinum belief in nib design has determined that gold is best because it is flexible, durable, and will not be corroded by the acids common to most inks. Iridium, an alloy next to the diamond in hardness is used at the tip of the nib. And what I think is a fascinating gem of trivia… With an iridium-tipped pen you should be able to write from 5-6 million characters (Japanese), which would stretch to a distance of 60-70 kilometers (37-43 miles). Writing 1,000 characters a day, the nib should last no less than ten years.


My own Platinum 3776 (in the photos) is one with a Chinese bellflower design by an artist whose Japanese signature reads ‘Eastern Cloud.’ It is identified as Platinum 3776 PB30000A and has a broad 14k nib. It came in the paulownia wood box seen in the photo.


It is a very, very special fountain pen and certainly one this writer-owner can treasure.


1 comment:

  1. It has taken a long time for me to get to know how to post a comment. My friend has not figured out how to sign in yet.

    I have not know the Platinum 3776 has such a long history. Usual gold or silver colored decoration on the body of the pen is faded away from repeated use. But urushi decoration will not, just like your memories of Japan.

    ReplyDelete

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Oak Hill, Florida, United States
A longtime expat relearning the footwork of life in America