May 03, 2015

Nobuyoshi Nagahara

  , master pensmith.

Nagahara looking at the nib on this pen.

       I met and talked with Nagahara, through a translator, on just two separate occasions. The first was at the 2002 Chicago pen show. He fine-tuned the nib on one of my Rossi Centennial Eternals, and then afterwards we had a discussion about his various styles of nibs.  I also showed him my black Parker Centennial Duofold and how it came apart, and also my two orange ones, in order to make my two Rossi Centennial Eternals.  Later, at the 2003 Washington pen show, while walking around the show and looking at the pens on all the tables, he stopped and looked at the humble selection on my table.  The actual pen he is looking at in this picture is my above-mentioned black Centennial Duofold.  And as he stood there, Jimmy Tom, a fellow Canadian, came over with his camera, basically to take some pictures of Nagahara, but in a couple of them, he snuck me in as well.  And on this 13th anniversary, did you notice whose name appeared last in the Waterman’s Autograph Album, on May 3, 2002?  It’s Nagahara’s, and it’s written with one of his brush-like, many-tined nibs.  When I spoke with him in Chicago, he likened the separate gold strip on the top of his nib, which acts like an ink-collector, to a butterfly’s proboscis with its retractile, curled-up tip.  At a couple of points in our animated conversation, all it took was a few hand signals to explain the reasoning behind his nibs.  We were like old friends who couldn’t speak a common language.  At other times, it was like we were speaking to one another in haikus.
        Some people use a razor blade to spread the tines of a nib with stingy ink flow, but there is always the chance that the razor blade can slip, and the harder metal can scratch the softer gold nib.  He showed me how he used a spare butterfly collector that he kept as a special tool for this job.  It’s just a thin, tiny, little sliver of gold sheet metal with rounded edges and no sharp corners that’s perfect for the job.  Most people aren’t aware of it, but he held at least five Japanese patents, at least the ones I could find.  Here are the two pages of his patent for the nib with the butterfly collector, page 1, and page 2.  He also told me that he made his own various polishing-wheel stones by mixing different grades of abrasive materials with a type of urushi lacquer.  I told him that it was his own pensmith-toolmaker’s version of maki-e.
        I haven’t gone to a pen show since that 2003 show, and twelve years later, I learned of his death in some messages
on Pentrace, on the Estilofilos blog, and on Anderson Pens.  Here are 
the two official releases from Sailor Pen and ITOYA.  And here are some more online articles.

George Kovalenko.