No weather today (OK – it is -10 degrees Celsius here) but instead a review that I have wanted to write for a while – a review of the Pilot/Namiki Bamboo. A pen that fast made it to the regular rotation. I like it a lot, but have tried to give a balanced view on it – even if it is hard to find other than positive things to say about it. And – as always with reviews – this is my personal view on it.
Intro & Appearance and Design
Until about a year ago Pilot was a gel pen brand for me. I’ve used a huge amount of their disposable V-pens (rollers) during the years and been happy with that, but hadn’t really considered Pilot as a fountain pen brand – in the higher divisions – until I set my eyes on their M90 and Myu701/Murex which I instantly fell for. After that I gradually began to open my eyes for other Pilot pens as the Vanishing Point and then I found the Bamboo, which I fell for in almost the same fashion as the M90 and decided that I had to have. The Bamboo was designed by a French designer – Juliette Bonnamour – and I believe that she has succeeded in creating a special pen that has a strong Japanese feel to it. Sometimes “outsiders” have a better eye for the main characteristics of an aesthetic culture than those who have been born into it. One of the Swedish iconic 20th century architects that managed to capture and develop the Swedish every day architecture was originally a Brit – Ralph Erskine. I think Juliette Bonnamour might have succeeded in something similar by interpreting the Japanese aesthetics into the Bamboo by both grasping something fundamental of Japanese aesthetics and adding something new and original of her own.
It is just something about the simple and original design, the frosted nib and the curve of barrel and cap. It is very different – just compare them size wise – from the über simple M90, but still share some fundamental similarities with it. It is, like the M90, very shape focused – no blingy ornaments; perfection through shape and no unnecessary details. I really like the knurls in the middle, that breaks the glossy sleekness of the barrel and cap. The cap walls are thick and have a solid metal lining that adds something extra to the overall impression when the cap is off or posted.
The M90 has become my icon of the perfect shape and it would be unfair to the Bamboo to judge it by the M90 standards, but since it is so shape oriented it is hard not to. What I like is that the design doesn’t affect the function – it goes well along with the purpose it is intended for. The only real flaw I see design wise is actually more of a manufacturing flaw – there are steps/edges in the surface of each end. I would have preferred the simplicity of perfectly flat end surface.
When I should capture this flaw in a photo I realized that the photo – instead of showing off the flaw – turns the flaw into something rather beautiful. But, I still think that flat, non-framed ends would have been better. One thing I particularly fancy is that the nib is partly frosted – it is original and very beautiful and goes well with the overall idea. The asymmetry doesn’t make it disharmonic – it only contributes to its organic feeling. It is hard to give this pen less than 9/10.
Construction & Quality
This is a pen that is very well put together. It is solid. I particularly like that the cap is lined with metal and that the threads thus are of metal. It is very nice that it is not only a nice pen to look at, but that it is also has a solid and very pleasant feel to it. I was a little bit afraid that its asymmetric design should make it hard to post, but it posts very well and securely – to my slight surprise. The plastic feels very solid and unfragile. The clip functions well and it unscrews and screws easily, but it is so well constructed that it doesn’t unscrew by accident – the cap sits firmly and tightly on without using any extra force capping the pen. Again – if the finish – on the ends had been flat (the surface, not the shape of the ends) it might have gotten a full point, but I knock off a point and thus give it 9/10.
Weight & Dimensions
The Bamboo is a rather substantial pen, but well balanced and not clumsy.
Weight: 35 g
Lenght capped: 14.5 cm
Length uncapped: 13 cm
Length posted: 17 cm
Nib & Writing Experience
This is – naturally – a crucial part. No good writing experience – no good pen. I’ll begin with the beautiful, frosted nib. The writing experience is actually similar to the M90. Very precise, distinct, smooth. Perfect for notetaking and margin notes – as well as for journalling, letters etc. It has not flex to it, but is not a numb nail either. The flow is excellent – maybe a bit on the wet side. Even so it lays down a line, that – even with Japanese standards – ought to be considered as on the verge to extra fine. It is an F, but lays down a line similar to the Sailor Sapporo EF and definitely more narrow than the line of both the Vanishing Point F and the M90 F. I don’t mind that – I had hoped for a precise nib with a true Japanese fine – but was surprised too find that it is more of a Japanese EF. So – this soon turned out to be one of my workhorse pens. As it is very well balanced – both posted and unposted – it doesn’t feel as big as it really is and sits very comfortable in my hand. I know that some people has had problems with the rather huge step between the barrel and the section, but I have had no such problems – I hold my pen pretty close to the nib. In all the overall writing experience is excellent – not divine (but I have yet to find that) but excellent. 9/10
Filling System & Maintenance
The Bamboo fills via a cartridge/converter. The CON-70 is a clever kind of press filler that holds a huge amount of ink. It is easy to clean and easy to replace if the converter breaks. The big drawback is that Pilot has their own, proprietary, cartridges and converters. There is nothing wrong with any of them, but I prefer international standard cartridges/converters because of their interchangeability. Since I am not a purist I don’t mind that it is a c/c filler. Since the proprietary part knocks off points the verdict is 6.5/10
Cost & Value
I bought my Bamboo used – in very good/excellent condition – from a member of the FPN for a very reasonable sum. I believe they are to be found at eBay for around $200. I think $200 would be fair to pay for this pen and consider myself lucky to get mine for a substantially lower price. Since it is a pen that makes me in a good mood when I write with it and I see it as one of my long time keepers I give it 9.5/10
This is a original and beautiful pen that is a pleasure to write with. As all pens it has some flaws, but they are – on the whole – easy to neglect. The quality is top notch and the attention to detail impeccable. Some might dislike the distinct and precise nib, but for me it is what I want from a F/EF pen. The total verdict is: 43/50~8.6/10, which I think is quite adequate and just.