• A Fleeting Ripple

a tale of two pens: pilot 823

Everything seems to hang in air for a moment. Then, the rain starts pouring down. People giggle outside, exclaiming in surprise, scrambling to the nearest awning. Rain pounds on the roof tiles. The wind slaps drops on the windows. The neighbour’s newly hanged laundry gets soaked. She runs out to save them. Then the rain stops as suddenly it began. The sun starts shining again. The world shines like it got another coat of fresh paint, still wet.


Due to unforeseen circumstances, I got to get myself a “grail pen”, a pen that I couldn’t even let myself dream about before. I had to make a quick decision before they came to their senses, so I dragged my companion to the nearest pen shop to take a look around.


Usually when I enter a pen store, I know exactly what I want. My impulse purchases are pretty much non existent, I tend to research everything pretty thoroughly before I buy them. This time the only thing I knew was that I wanted to try out a Pilot 823, but I wasn’t sure if I’d like it. I tried it, fell in love with it and decided to ask for something different. A little unusual. I have a decently sized collection at this point, and I know what I like, so I described my preferences and let the lady there work her magic. She came back with a nice tray. I tried many things, asked for variations, tried again. Nothing seemed as exciting as the Pilot 823. But then where does the second come into this story?


The lady said “I don’t show this to everyone, but I will pull it out for you. It arrived yesterday with a pair, and the other one is already sold.”


She went around the counter and to one of the displays.


She brought another Pilot box out.


She took the pen out, and dipped the pen into the ink bottle below the counter.


She gave it to me barrel first, “Try it, I think you’ll like it. It’s something special.”


I looked at the pen. I looked at the lady. All I could think was “This cannot be happening.”


I had a Pilot M90 in my hands. A fine nib, slightly stubbish. It fit my hand and writing perfectly.

Please don’t make me choose.


Please (don't) take it from me.


I was so afraid that I would get butter fingers from excitement. I love inlaid nibs, and it doesn’t get much more inlaid than M90/MYU.


I spent close to 10 minutes scribbling back and forth between the two Pilot’s, M90 and 823. So long that the lady told me she’ll go and help some of the other customers and come back later.


I chose the 823.


It wouldn't be a lie to say it broke my heart a little when I had it in my hands and gave it back. So close, yet… It’s only a pen, an object, they said, you’ll find another one. It didn’t make it easier.


In the end, after using 823 for a month, I am more convinced than ever that I made the right decision. The giant ink capacity fits my writing habits much more. I think I would’ve been afraid to use the M90, afraid that I’ll harm it in any way. I use my 823 every day. I don’t take it to school and I’m not in a writing-intensive semester, so I only used half the fill. But even my grocery lists are written with it.

The nib is wonderful. I have two other Pilot pens, a 912 with a soft fine nib and a Vanishing Point with a fine nib. It’s closer to the nib of the Vanishing Point. Wet and smooth. Not smooth like writing on glass, more like a hot knife through butter. It’s much less controlled than what I’m used to, but it doesn’t need much guidance to write beautifully. The weight seems to be balanced towards the back, probably due to the filling system. It doesn’t bother me, though it’s not as light as what I’m used to. Even though I prefer flat top pens, there is something in the curves of this pen that I like the torpedo shape. Amber is the best colour in my opinion, the light plays on it almost like how it plays in a glass of cognac. It’s pretty basic brown acrylic, but it seem to ripple, break the light.


I understand why Neil Gaiman is a big fan of Lamy 2000 and Pilot 823. They’re both my favourite pens, they make me feel like I can hand draft a novel too. For now I guess I’ll stick to blog posts though.

I thought the “gift box” of 823 came with a blue Pilot ink bottle, but they couldn’t find anything except black. It wasn’t a problem, I got the blue ink later on, but I was quite surprised. Though at the time, I had gotten a bottle of Pilot Iroshizuku Tsuki-yo to go with it. I had a sample a while ago and wanted to get a bottle. It’s amazing in the medium nib of 823, it shades on pretty much every paper and doesn’t feather as far as my limited testing goes. I generally dislike how finicky it is to clean vacuum filling pens, so I doubt I’ll change the ink. I doubt I would ever want to.


I love this pen. It reminds me of an extremely kind gesture and has a funny story to tell. I will also never forget the M90 and will probably try my best to get one in the (far) future.



Thank you for reading! I took a lot of photographs of this pen, so I hope you enjoyed looking at them as much as I enjoyed taking them.