Pen nib maker Nobuyoshi Nagahara working o every detail. Yes, he does make pen nibs and repairs them, until today!

The God of Fountain Pens

Oh, it’s Tuesday, so usually no Ping post. However, from today, every first Tuesday of the month we will feed you with some of the loveliest bits from our sweet little sister, PingMag MAKE. As starter, we serve you our long-time favourite about The God of Fountain Pens: As computers become more and more prevalent, writing has become a synonym for typing on a keyboard. But there is a man, known as the God of Fountain Pens by pen aficionados, who still continues to handcraft pens nibs even now. PingMag MAKE went to meet Nobuyoshi Nagahara, to find out about a lifetime pursuing the perfect writing instrument. PingMag presents PingMag MAKE!

Interviewed by Takafumi Suzuki

Fountain pen nibs.

Could you describe briefly exactly what your work is?

Nowadays my work is repairing pen nibs. Repair orders come in from shops all over the country. I’m the one who makes them. Normal fountain pens have a long sword-shaped nib. You have to sharpen them. Also I’m working on a series of bamboo fountain pens. I keep working on them, even though I’m actually retired now, but before I retired I also used to develop all sorts of other products.

A fountain pen is a fairly expensive thing, but just what exactly goes into making a pen nib?

In general making a fountain pen nib goes something like this. First you need to melt the metal and compress and stretch it until it’s a uniform thickness. Then you apply the ball for the nib tip, and polish it. Next you must split the nib with a saw cut. The cut is what determines the nibs flexibility. Then finally the nib is checked for quality, and finished by being fine-polished and cleaned.

Making delicate adjustments on the polishing wheel.

The crosspoint nib

The naginata emperor nib

And how did you first enter the world of fountain pens?

Actually my uncle used to work here (at The Sailor Pen). That’s how I came to join the company. But in fact about 25 people joined from my junior high school. For the first 3 years, all I did was the rough shaping and rough cutting to prepare the balls that make the pen tip. I had to polish the nibs very carefully to make them symmetrical. Then one of my seniors said he’d like me to do the rough cutting. So, every day, day in day out, that’s what I did. It was really tough, and I was always complaining to my mother that I wanted to quit, but in the end that’s how I learnt the basics of the trade. So I’m grateful for it now.

I guess having that base helped you to reach such a high level of expertise.

As far as technique goes, foreigners are always really amazed. In American cities like Chicago, New York, or L.A. they hold these pen shows. Around 230 companies gather together and put on a kind of display for fountain pens. One time the boss of the magazine Pen World came over to me with a fountain pen he’d been using for about 8 years, and said “The nib’s bent.” So I just straightened it for him, right there in front of him. Over there, you take it in for repairs and it will take a week or even ten days or so before you get it back. “It writes beautifully. And you did it right there, in front of my very eyes! I’ve never seen that before.” He was flabbergasted.

A lot of people draw with fountain pens.

A huge model pen nib helps explain.

So when you adjust a nib, you can make it write that much more comfortably.

Yes, of course. One time an artist came to see me. All his drawings ended up looking the same, he said, and he asked me if I could make him a fountain pen that was easier to draw with. So I asked him to show me some of his drawings. “Your drawings don’t have any fullness to them – all the lines are the same, they’re boring.” Well, I just said what I thought. So he says “Then please see what you can do to adjust my pen.” So I took his drawings home and studied how each line flowed, every single one. His drawing style used lots and lots of lines. So, to make it easier for him to draw so many lines, I made him a nib in a V shape. And he was so surprised. “What!?” he said “With a pen like this I’ll be able to draw beautiful big, full-bodied nudes…” And off he went home with a big old grin on his face. I guess when you get two dirty minds together, nothing of much worth is ever going to come out of it (Laughs). But seriously, seeing just how close you can come to the customer’s dream – that’s what makes work so interesting.

The workbench.
Mr. Nagahara has worked for 50 years at the Sailor Pen Tenno Factory

You are known as the God of Fountain Pens, and have developed lots of original nibs and hit products, right?

Yes, that’s right. For instance, the nib of the Crosspoint pen has one more nib attached right at the end, compared to other pens, with the gutter cut in a cross shape to hold the ink. So it feels like a hair brush to use, and you can even write smoothly on paper that really absorbs ink, like Japanese washi. I like brush writing, so I thought it should be possible to develop a pen that writes like a brush. But even the Crosspoint has evolved over the last 10 years. That’s a proof of my own growth, so that’s what makes it interesting. And then there’s the Long Sword Emperor, an improvement on the Crosspoint, which came from something a customer said to me. “When I write fast, the ink runs dry and the letters won’t form properly. Isn’t there anything you can do?” That’s what the customer wanted. New, flexible ideas often come from listening to customers’ wishes, or complaints.

It’s wonderful to have worked on something for over 50 years, and to still find it interesting and stimulating.

The thing that’s so interesting about this job is, the things you dream up in your head become real. If I do this, it’ll be like that… if I try that, I’ll get this, that kind of thing. The thing about fountain pens is, every single one of them takes on the character of the person who uses it. There are a lot of repair people who say “You’re writing with it wrong.” I don’t ever say that. Even if the owner can write with it beautifully, the next person might not be able to write with the same pen at all – that’s just the way it is. So you shouldn’t even lend your pen to your own wife. If it’s pushed on and written with in the wrong way, it’ll be ruined. Some people come to me with a fine nib and say something impossible like “Make it fatter.” But even then I’ll do everything I can to find a way. Then when I manage, they say “Mr. Nagahara, you’re amazing.” But the thing is, if you go to another repair shop they’ll tell you the pen is too old, or something.

A great line of fine pens…

… and the holders.
Mr. Nagahara heads to the workspace he made himself, at the back of the factory floor.

You must need a lot of patience to deal with each customer with such care.

The thing that makes me most happy doing this work is being able to help people with their worries and unhappiness, thanks to fountain pens. Nearly all of my repair jobs come to me with a letter attached. I once made a pen nib for a junior high school girl. She was a quiet, unhappy girl. But when I made her a new nib, I suppose she must have practiced writing really hard. She won a calligraphy award. And thanks to that she brightened right up. Or, I get a lot of repair jobs from people who have a pen that belonged to their father. Those times, I tell them just what I think. “Your father must have been a great father. In those days it was no joke to get hold of a pen as good as this one. This is your father’s medal as a man.” Even a simple fountain pen can be seeped in deep family relationships, you see.

Bamboo fountain pens.
And these ones are gold lacquer.

Your life experience and your work together….

Well, I’ve been doing this for over 50 years now. I quit the company, but I can’t quit the job. I think I’d probably fall down sick if I gave this up (laughs). Even at the weekends I find myself at it. It just suits me, coming up with new, original ways to repair and fix each pen. There was one time, though, that I thought, I like cameras, maybe I’ll quit this job and set up a camera shop (laughs). But just at that point fully automatic cameras started coming on the market, so I gave up the idea. There’s nothing interesting in work that doesn’t need fine craftsmanship.

The Sailor Pen, Tenno Factory
2-1-63 Tenno Saijo, Kure City, Hiroshima

Nobuyoshi Nagahara.
Born in Kure City, Hiroshima, 1932. Fountain pen craftsman.

Thank you, Nobuyoshi Nagahara, and especially thank you, PingMag MAKE for letting us know about this extraordinary guy! Until Tuesday in a month, don’t be shy and have a look over at PingMag MAKE for more of these delicacies…

  • Marlise

    Hi, I’m a South African artist and I use nibs (my mom used them at school, she is 63…) for some big drawings that I make, and would like to know how I can get my hands on some of Mr Nagahara’s nibs?

  • god


  • Romain

    Wasn’t this article already posted some time ago ?

  • skytradeinc

    We have to give some level of respect to craftsmanship..

  • Bohdan

    Amazing work. And what’s more amazing – people like Nobuyoshi gift a part of their soul with every pen, or any other hand-made.

  • irara

    agree bohdan, too bad not so many nagahara-san in their respective field of work today – fine craftmanship are alwals beautiful..

  • moriza

    I need to get one of these beauties.

  • bhumika

    Thank you so much for this article…i have many sweet memories associated with the fountain pen…this article made my day!

  • giz

    Say…I had a Sailor gel pen in lower school during the milky pen craze!

    Awesome article!

  • Pingback: A craftsman of fountain pens | refractal

  • forex

    blog, your very good health effort::))

  • seks

    agree bohdan, too bad not so many nagahara-san in their respective field of work today – fine craftmanship are alwals beautiful..

  • cctv kamera

    I wanna say thanks for this nice technique, it is neccessary for us… and helpfull

  • best 3d animatin software

    Great web page easyto navigate and good source of information:)

  • wii backup manager

    It would be a shame to lose precious expensive games, however with this tool

  • 激安ブランド市場


  • raising rabbits

    I look to expand my raising rabbits knowledge.

  • Children Yeast Infection

    I was looking for a quick treatement for my child’s yeast infections and I stubbled upon this website. It offers natural cures, as well as over the counter medication, great website.

  • Lightyear wireless

    Wow great stuff. I love what you have here.

  • Taking Vitamins

    I have been searching all over the internet for something to give me the correct advice. This is not exactly what I was looking for but it helped a lot. You have a great site. Thanks.

  • marketing tool

    I like your site. I’m checking to see what marketing tools are best for my business.

  • gout cure

    Gout is the most painful thing I’ve ever felt. Your website is a godsend! Thank you.

  • Modivational Intervention

    Building a new set of programs that may be of value to you.

  • innovative healthcare

    I want to see the many development of this site.

  • clean acne

    I like the website and hope to find more positive information later on keep up the good work

  • QuickSendSMS

    Nice Website! You should promote it from the messaging console at Easy to use, nice and quick and you can text friends about it for free.

  • energie rinnovabili

    Turbine Idroelettriche

  • Ransford Taylor

    Am glad I found a site like this, very resourceful and easy to navigate.

  • online dating tips new york

    Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Maecenas viverra luctus commodo. Mauris semper, felis ut lacinia facilisis, arcu nulla mollis turpis, non laoreet nibh orci vel tellus. Vestibulum in.

  • Internet Strategy

    Good topic..keep the good content coming

  • simmons

    I am so glad you guys showed me where to find a great deal on a simmons mattress.

  • Soccer

    If u like soccer visit us!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Affiliate Marketing Reviews

    Who cares about NFL football, USA Debt limit, or News Corp.

  • goruntulu sohbet

    haydı sende gel super sıte

  • Affiliate Marketing Reviews

    There is no subject that is so old that something new cannot be exposed about it

  • goruntulu sohbet

    buyrun siteye mukemmel haydı sende gel

  • face acne treatments

    I like your website. It has a very good design. At the moment, I am looking for a good face acne treatment product.

  • Fence Philadelphia

    50 years of fountain-pen crafting. He is indeed a master.

  • Wedding Video Philadelphia

    The artist of the artist’s weapon!

  • Pergola New Jersey  

    An artist comes up to him with his boring drawings and he redesigns the tool to make it work. How brilliant is that???

  • Video Production NJ

    So how come fountain pens are expensive? Never really mentioned why.

  • Free Facebook Like’s

    You’ve got great insights, keep up the good work!

  • Pingback: crazy days « EraserGirl

  • raw food diet

    Thank you for your article/s of which I found to be most informative and more importantly, relevant to what I was looking for, plus I will return to catch your updates, sincere best wishes.David

  • Health Natural Products Database

    This read was interesting to read. I am interested within the matter so I used to be blissful to come back throughout this article.

  • Perfect Pitch Recognition

    I really would like to learn more information about your business, what is it and why is it important.

  • Hyderabad

    Search for job postings – Find your new job today. Indeed�

  • Χριστουγεννιατικα στολιδια

    Χριστουγεννιατικα στολιδια,Χριστουγεννιατικα δεντρα,ειδη,xristougenniatika

  • χριστουγεννιατικα δεντρα
  • christian louboutin

    I enjoyed studying this post. I am completely satisfied to search out this put up as a result of I’m interested within the topic.

  • χριστουγεννιατικα ειδη
  • Kindle

    Very Good content. Its excellent for design world and Japan.

  • iMac Black Friday

    Good content.

  • professional bra fitting

    Thanks for the interesting post. I swear, you learn something new every day.

  • อาหารเสริมนาตาลีเดวิส

    จากประสบการณ์กว่า 20 ปี เกี่ยวกับธุรกิจยา และอาหารเสริม พร้อมความมุ่งมั่นที่จะพัฒนาอาหารเสริมของไทยให้ทัดเทียมกับระดับสากล เพื่อตอบสนองทุกความต้องการของทุกกลุ่มผู้บริโภค ทั้งเรื่องของคุณภาพ และราคา จนได้รับการยอมรับจากกลุ่มผู้บริโภคจากหลากหลายสาขาอาชีพ ไม่ว่าจะเป็น กลุ่มนักธุรกิจ พนักงานออฟฟิศ แม่บ้าน นักเรียน นักศึกษา ไปจนถึงกลุ่มศิลปิน ดารา นักแสดง

  • Canon Black Friday

    Thank You FYI.

  • Movies and TV Series

    wat a nice post

  • Travel Trips

    Travel Trips has been succesfully catering to travellers across the globe with its well established and secured Global Hotel Reservation System. Our 24X7 customer care support is there all along to help people with their hotel reservations, cancellations and other related issues. Featured are some interesting testimonials from our valued customers vouching for the credibility of Travel Trips.

  • อาหารเสริม

    สารสกัดจากธรรมชาติต่างๆ ที่นำมาเป็นอาหารเสริมเช่น กลูต้าไธโอน,แอลคาร์นิทีน, น้ำมันรำข้าว, กรดอะมิโนต่างๆ และอื่นๆ นั้นมีประโยชน์ต่อร่างกายของเราอย่างไรบ้าง

  • The Visayas

    Thank you so much for this content, Im so lucky and glad that I found this website, Please keep this website going and I will keep

  • المرأة

    I always visit your blog and retrieve everything you post here but I never commented but today when I saw this post, I couldn t stop myself from commenting here. Fantastic article!

  • roll up awnings

    Hey this is awesome blogs. Keep posted usefull information. Thank you

  • zayifla

    Thank you. O like this post. I would like to share at my facebook account.

  • ηλεκτρονικο τσιγαρο

    Online Store ego-T

  • free girl games

    Hi Very informative page, I will be back to view more. Keep up the good work.Play free flash games at ,It is a place for one who cannot live without gaming.

  • illslick

    Thanks for this post. It is very useful. I hope you will write an article. This issue again.

  • Malaysia’s Online Marketplace

  • Polnische Russische Hochzeitsband MOTET MOTET GbR- Band f�r Ihre Feier
  • günlük kiralık

    Aylık kiralık residence fırsatlarımızı takip edin, beş yıldızlı otel konforunda, SPA, türk hamamı, açık ve kapalı havuz ayrıcalığına 96 TL ye sahip olunuz

  • الخرج

    {…} i like {…} Thanks for the good works

  • Watch Any Movie Online

    Your business sounds very interesting. It is great to have businesses that can contribute to so much to our society these days.

  • ηλεκτρονικο τσιγαρο

    Thanks for usefull site

  • garden furniture

    I get a lot of useful information in your blog, and of course I hope I can continue to enjoy the articles are informative