By Michael Wakin
Those of us who have taken the plunge into the world of fountain pens have likely encountered that pen: the one that we absolutely love using despite its flaws. It can be a beautiful, leaky heirloom piece or a cheap workhorse that simply will not break. For me, that pen is the Pilot Custom Heritage 912.
While it isn’t perfect, this is without a doubt one of my favorite pens. It’s comfortable, elegant, and is an absolute pleasure to write with. At the same time, it probably annoys me more than any of the pens I use on a semi-regular basis.
Before I get to all the ‘what’s and ‘why’s, let’s look at that box.
I don’t usually comment on packaging and presentation, but Pilot does a nice job with their higher-end offerings. The pen arrives in silver-colored cardstock that holds a textured, black plastic box; this inner box looks nice but, in my opinion, feels a bit cheap. Inside, though, under a glossy silver liner, the pen is held in gray velvet ridges.
The 912 comes with Pilot’s large CON-70 converter; for those not familiar, the CON-70 uses a push button instead of a piston or lever to fill a pen.
I think the simple and elegant look and feel of this pen are just right for me. The body and cap both have a subtle barrel-like curve and are made of a lightweight black (and only black) resin with rhodium-plated accents. Both ends are lopped off and slightly rounded. The flared section is fairly short, but although my personal grip places my fingers on the body’s threading, I don’t find it uncomfortable at all.
The dagger blade clip slides easily onto notebooks or pockets and holds securely. The cap’s band bears the brand and model names. This is a screw-on cap that requires 1½ turns to remove. As with any other Pilot pen I’ve used, the cap posts very securely and doesn’t throw off the pen’s balance.
The 912 is a good size for me: just a hair shorter than the Lamy Safari when capped but a good bit shorter posted.
And now to the business end of this instrument, the flexible Falcon nib, or FA, really is the star of the show. Pilot offers their Custom Heritage 912 with no fewer than 15 nib options, and the FA seems to be the biggest draw among enthusiasts. It isn’t right to call the FA a “flex” nib in the historical sense; I don’t get the line much wider than with, say, a Jinhao X750. What makes this one special is how soft the nib is and how easy it is to flex it. The tines can spread a tad during normal writing, and then pressing down with my index finger like I would with a dip pen broadens the line nicely and responsively.
For those who don’t care for line variation but have a light enough touch when writing, the pen is simply, wonderfully soft. Its 14kt-gold nib glides along the page, dotting ‘i’s and ellipses with a feather’s touch. For the right person, it is an absolute pleasure to use.
With that said, the main issue I’ve had with this pen is its inconsistent inkflow. Out of the box, I couldn’t trust it to put down a line each time I touched it to the page. When it would write, I could expect it to keep writing; skipping was always unheard of, and even railroading was pretty rare. These days, I can trust it more, and I know there are ways I can modify the feed to remedy the hard start problem for good, but I do like when a pen works right from the start.
That is really the only issue I have experienced with this pen, though, and in my opinion, I would only not recommend this pen for matters of pure preference: color, weight, etc.
Overall, I feel this is wonderful pen. It has been one of my go-to options for as long as I’ve owned it, and while some may call me cheesy, pens like this are prime examples of what so many people find in the fountain pen writing experience. Each line the pen puts down is controlled by, or else takes control of, the personal movements of the writer, and each pen can seem to have a personality of its own.
This isn’t a low-maintenance pen but is absolutely worth the patience of those who want to make it work.