Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Platinum 3776: Japanese, gold, and (relatively) inexpensive

I wasn't expecting this and I'm still not quite sure how it happened: I had no Platinum 3776s, and now I have six.

The Platinum 3776 at first sight is a conservative sort of pen, at least, it is if you get it in black. It's a cigar shaped pen, distinguished by a prominent cap band (on most of the pens, one very thin band and one thick and rounded one), with a quite plain but solid and well formed clip, and on most of the pens a tail ring as well - but no bling, all quite classical. It's not an oversize - set it next to an Edison Collier, say, and it looks a bit overwhelmed.
Cap bands of my 3776s

But then, you don't have to buy it in black. There are demonstrator versions, and wooden versions, and there are coloured resin versions, and there are celluloid and maki-e versions which I covet, but can't afford (unless I'm very lucky on eBay). I particularly like the Chartres Blue and Bourgogne translucent versions, as the resin is so dark that in dim lighting it does look black - but hold it up to the light and you see the wonderful saturated rich colours of stained glass and old wine. (I have a Pelikan m200 in transparent blue -  set against the Chartres Blue 3776, it looks rather weak and light. The Chartres Blue is a really wonderful deep colour.)

The 3776 also comes with a Japanese gold nib, and given the price range, particularly if you're lucky enough to get a good deal on a second hand pen, it's an inexpensive way to get a gold nib and try out the famed Japanese fines, extra fines and Ultra extra fines.

I'd better qualify 'inexpensive'. This is a pen that comes in a range of different finishes and materials and at widely varying prices. You can run a basic black to ground for around £50, and Chartres and Bourgogne I've seen for around £80 fairly often, but the (incredibly pretty) celluloids sell at over £200 and the demonstrators also pull in above-average prices.  I've been lucky on eBay with a few of mine (and since Luck is not always a Lady, I've also seen quite a few escape my clutches).

So - how is the pen?

These are comfortable pens to use. They are reasonably heavy in the hand (the demonstrators less so than the other pens), and there's a tiny lip on the section to stop your hand slipping on to the nib. In the case of the briar wood and 'gathered' versions there's a gentle taper and flared lip. They're cartridge/converter pens, using Platinum's proprietary converters (not always included with the pen - annoying, for a pen in this price range).

These pens also benefit from Platinum's slip-and-seal system. That's a boon for someone like me who always has too many pens inked. I can leave a pen for a week and still pick it up and write with it. I shouldn't, but I can.

And the nibs? Well, I have to say they got some getting used to for me, as they write with more feedback than I like, and also rather drier than I like, so it took a little tweaking for me to be happy with them. If you like flex, and buttery smoothness, don't get a 3776.

But I have come round to the delights of fine writing - that is, Japanese fines. If I want to write big and bold I've got my Pelikans and my Lamy 2000s, and those are ideal. But if I'm taking notes on a document, or want to write a lot in a small space, the Platinums come into their own. Even the medium is pretty fine: the XF is really, really, tiny. (That came through an FP Geeks forum appeal for a nib swap. I'm so happy I swapped my spare fine - to my great surprise I really, really enjoy the extra fine, and it doesn't feel any scratchier or have a narrower sweet spot than the F.)

Here are four of my pens: the gathered (ribbed), Briarwood, Nice, and Chartres blue. (I also have Yamanaka and Bourgogne, but they're not with me at the moment.)

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Playing the game of favourites. I may upset one of these nice pens...

My least favourite is the Nice. I like the rose gold fittings, but the decorative fluting seems, to me, to negate what a demonstrator is about - that is, clarity. I also find, to be honest, that the Platinum slip-and-seal system, while a boon as far as using the pen is concerned, doesn't look all that good in a demonstrator. (It's a fairly simple concept, one of those ideas that are so simple when you hear about them that you wonder why nobody ever did it before: using a spring to push the inner cap over the nib. I think it's the sight of the spring that I dislike most.) It's also a little annoying that in a pen this nice looking, the injection moulding seams are still visible on the section. Attention to that small detail would have made this a much better pen.

The ribbed pen is a bit of an outlier. It has a different cap shape, with a flat tassie instead of the rounded end of the other pens, and it has a clip-on rather than screwed on cap. It reminds me of the Waterman Hundred Year Pen with its mid-barrel ring and ribbing - really quite a striking pen. The ribs, if you count them, are arranged 3 on the cap, 7 and 7 = 14 on the barrel and 6 on the tail section of the barrel, spelling out the name of the pen. I can't quite decide whether that's cute or corny.

The briarwood pen I got from another FPN member. Like the ribbed pen it has a clip cap not a threaded cap, and has no 'tail' ring, but otherwise it's similar to the Nice and Chartres. It is a delightful pen. The feel is silky smooth and the burl wood is beautifully swirly. The gold furniture really glows against the brown. I have probably had more joy from this pen than from any of the others in this series.

Finally, the Chartres Blue and Bourgogne (burgundy to Anglophones) are translucent resin pens. Warning to the more obsessive amongst us: they are absolute fingerprint magnets. I cannot, cannot, cannot, keep my Chartres Blue immaculate, no matter how hard I try. But in compensation, I think these pens have the loveliest colours of any demonstrator or quasi-demonstrator.

I spend a lot of my time in a French village about an hour's drive from Chartres. I know Chartres cathedral pretty well. I know the stained glass windows from which Platinum took the inspiration for the Chartres Blue - and I've seen the famous blue glass in all weathers, with bright sunshine behind it or in overcast November. (I have even played bagpipes in Chartres cathedral, but that's another story...) I am amazed that Platinum has managed to get the same saturation and depth of hue that the medieval glaziers did.

As for the Bourgogne, I'm not an expert on the colour, as I don't drink much red wine. But it's got that same depth and saturation. I should also add that both these pens feel nicely dense and heavy in the hand - nothing lightweight about them.

I am quite happy with my mini-shoal of Platinums. But so far, I only have nibs from XF to medium. I really want to try out a C or a music nib on on of these pens. Alas, Platinum have made that difficult for me by having a rather odd policy of only offering certain nib options with particular pens. For instance the Soft Fine isn't an option on all 3776s and nor apparently is the music nib. (Goulet Pens has a good guide to the options.) And Platinum has also decided not to sell the nibs separately (something Kaweco, Lamy and Pelikan are all happy to do). So I'm either going to have to find someone who wants to swap, or buy another 3776.

Where to get more?

Platinum doesn't seem to be as well distributed at retail in Europe as Sailor and Pilot, but Iguana Sell has most of the 3776s and has a good reputation. Alternatively you can try ordering direct from Japan via either Amazon or eBay.

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