December 26, 2013

Pilot Decimo Fountain Pen: Capless Wonder

I usually begin a post with a catchy phrase like: "I recently acquired _____________, and it's awesome." I can't do that here because my Pilot Decimo fountain pen came into my possession more than six months ago. Unfortunately, it will be tough to write about "first impressions" because my memory sucks and I've been using the pen almost daily since I got it. On the plus side, I'll be able to reflect on six months of consistent use.

The Decimo is one of Pilot's capless fountain pens. For those wondering . . . "capless" = "retractable" in this context. The capless mechanism is identical to that used in the well-known Vanishing Point fountain pen by Pilot. I acquired a dark blue version with silver (rhodium) trim; ordered from an online vendor based in Japan. I've seen these offered on the Internet within the range of US$120 to US$260, and I can't explain the price variation. I suspect that the lower prices may reflect a product with a lower quality nib component, that the higher prices may reflect a limited edition version, or both.

I'm glad that I ordered the dark blue version. The blue is deep and slightly shimmery, without looking cheesy or tacky. The silver trim is brightly plated, and it matches the plating of the nib. If I'm being honest, I think a satin silver or nickel trim would look better with the blue body, but then the exterior trim wouldn't match the nib. The fit and finish of this pen is very good, and I have no complaints in that regard.

I chose the Decimo over its famous cousin (the Vanishing Point) because the Decimo is a little more compact in size and I thought it would be a better fit my child-like hand. I don't own a Vanishing Point and, therefore, can't do a hand-by-hand comparison, but my online research (which is always 100% accurate because everything found on the Internet is the truth) indicates that the Decimo is, in fact, less bulky and thinner in the grip area.

Speaking of the grip area, the pocket clip is attached to the nib end of the pen so that the nib doesn't leak during pocket carry (unless the carrier likes to walk on his/her hands, is a trapeze performer, or is an astronaut). Some users complain that the clip interferes with their fingers, but the clip doesn't bother me at all. In fact, I like how the clip also serves to align the pen in the hand such that the nib is properly oriented for writing.

The retractable nib mechanism is an engineering marvel. OK, it's not up to par with the Hoover Dam, but it's still pretty slick. The Decimo works just like a typical clicky style ballpoint pen: click once to extend the nib; click again to retract it. This is great for use at work, where I often jot down quick notes and annotate documents. In that typical workplace scenario, it's a hassle to frequently uncap and recap a traditional fountain pen to prevent it from drying out.

The following picture shows the business end of the Decimo with the nib retracted. The picture doesn't reveal the trap door thingy that covers and seals the nib inside the body of the pen. The door really works well . . . the nib has never dried out on me (although I haven't let the pen sit unused for more than a week).

A click of the button causes the nib unit to advance, which causes the door to open, which in turn allows the nib to extend into its locked position. Simple.

After doing extensive research, I decided to get a fine nib. My choice was influenced by the fact that I do most of my office work on standard copy paper and cheap notepads, both of which exhibit a fair amount of feathering and ink spreading. I also read that there is a considerable increase in nib size when stepping from fine to medium nib units. In hindsight, I'm glad that I got a fine nib. It works great for my routine office work.

Speaking of the nib . . . the nib units of Pilot's capless pens (including the Decimo and the Vanishing Point) are interchangeable, and are offered by several vendors. I might obtain a medium nib unit if $70.00 magically appears in my wallet some day. The nib unit includes the nib, the feed, and a tube that accommodates Pilot ink cartridges (which only fit Pilot fountain pens) and certain Pilot ink converters (Pilot's CON-70 converter does not fit). The pen also comes with a metal sleeve for use with ink cartridges. The sleeve protects the cartridge and provides support for the actuation mechanism.

Nib Unit + Ink Cartridge Sleeve
I've used the Decimo with Pilot's CON-20 squeeze converter, Pilot's CON-50 piston converter, a Pilot ink cartridge, and a Pilot ink cartridge refilled with different ink. The converters work fine, but I found myself refilling them too often. Pilot's cartridges hold a little more ink, and it's easy to refill them with my own ink (using an ink syringe).

After more than six months of almost daily use, I can honestly say that I love this pen. The nib is rhodium plated 18 karat gold, and it has a little bit of give. I can't say whether or not it is "soft" per se, because I've never written with a truly soft nib. I do like the feel and smoothness of the nib, and the unusual shape/size of the nib has little to no impact on the writing experience. The performance of the nib is right up there with my other "good" fountain pens.

Moreover, the size and weight of the pen is nearly perfect for me, and the retracting mechanism works as expected and without any problems. I don't have any legitimate complaints about this pen, other than the high price. If it were less expensive, I'd already have another one for my home office.

Here are some writing samples that I created soon after I received the Decimo:

Sample 1
Sample 2
Sample 3
And here is a nice parting shot of the pen.

This will probably be the last post of 2013. Happy New Year!

December 16, 2013

Christmas Lights: Second Place = Loser!

I was the first one on my block to put up lights this season . . . they went up the weekend BEFORE Thanksgiving. I actually planned to merely lay out the new lights and do some pre-wiring, but the project gained momentum and I went ahead and set up everything. As I mentioned here, I wanted to step things up and try to catch up to my neighbor, who is the clear leader on the "Best Lights on the Block" list.

I admit that I was rather pleased with my lights after firing them up. The modern LED light strings and the sheer number of lights are quite impressive. In fact, I was the block leader for eight days. The next weekend, however, I was put to shame by my neighbor. I think he added a few items to his arsenal from 2012, and my light display is still deep in the minor leagues relative to his big league arrangement.

Oh well, this is only a friendly competition that we both hope will encourage other neighbors to light things up. I wasn't planning on adding anything else this year, although I had been considering how best to improve things for 2014. In fact, I actually went out and bought an extension ladder to measure the roof line and eaves for next year's light strings, and recorded all of the pertinent dimensions last weekend. While taking the measurements, I noticed that my neighbor was adding more stuff to his house. He obviously knows that I'm trying to catch up, and he's intentionally upping his game just to see me sweat! It's really tough to keep pace with the guy.

So, I'm writing this post because I terminated my delayed 2014 light deployment plan this morning. While drinking a tasty cup of Ethiopian coffee, I stumbled upon this website devoted to LED Christmas lights. The website isn't very polished, but it lists some items that I had been considering for next year, and the prices are decent. One thing led to another and my shopping cart was full before my coffee cup was empty.

Impulse Purchase
Today's acquisition will be used to adorn the upper roof line of the house, and to replace some of the old dim lights that I've been using. In my opinion, lights on the upper deck really separate the serious players from the run of the mill amateurs. It's time to join the ranks of the ridiculous. I'll still be in second place by a huge margin, but Rome wasn't built in a day.

I know that pictures would be nice, but I'm not about to take pictures of my neighbor's house and post them. Moreover, my point and shoot camera sucks and doesn't like to take pictures at night. I'll try to take some pictures of my lights after the aforementioned products arrive and get installed.

December 14, 2013

Quick Update: Too Much Going On!

I haven't set aside enough time to write more posts. I have a number of items teed up, but things are a little hectic with the holiday season and everything. I'm waist deep in a couple of "projects" that have kept me in the cycle of researching, wish-listing, over-analyzing, and rethinking. Once I get out of this rut, I'd like to blog about the projects. As a preview, I've been dealing with my 2013 Christmas lights and some audio/video gear. And some work getting done to the house. Let's not mention holiday shopping.

Stay tuned for details!