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The Anatomy of the Pilot 1971 Metal Striped Capless

A deeper look at the Pilot 1971 Metal Striped Capless

Not everyday do you see these two, especially not together. In 1971, Pilot began to reinvent their design language with the arrival of the Pilot Custom series. Along with this, Pilot released the follow up to their 1968 Gravity Capless with the 1971 Metal Striped Capless, reintroducing the push knock system to the Capless lineup which saw 3 years of absence in the market. This Metal Striped style was a clear indication of a company wide design shift, and was notably apparent in the Pilot Custom K and the famous Pilot Myu. This model was denominated as C-400SS / C-400BS, SS being the white stripe, which I am assuming to stand for 白ストライプ Shirou Sutoraipu, and BS for プラックストライプ Burakku Sutoraipu. These stripes were made by etching the steel and filled with black chrome plating, which was a technique proprietary to Pilot.

From my experiences in the second hand market, it seems that the Pilot Custom was the primary recipient of this Metal Striped design, with those showing up in Yahoo Auctions and Mercari the most often. However, Black Metal Striped Myus are also not so uncommon, with a listing every few months.

That being said, I am not a personal fan of neither cartridge/converter pens nor steel nibs, so the Pilot Custom and the Myu are not of interest to my personal collection. However, the Capless, with the push knock mechanism, made the pen interesting enough for me to snag one for myself. Unfortunately, these almost never appear on the auction sites.

At the June Pen Trading Event, which was technically not a Wagner event, but run by Wagner head honcho Mori, I managed to catch Mr Niikura and snag a pair of Black and White Metal Striped Caplesses.

These pens come with gold nibs, which were also yellow gold in colour, and have a different construction versus the modern Capless nib units. They are wrapped at the bottom of the nib to the unit, whereas modern units feature a friction fit slide on style.

1971 Capless disassembled

The inside of the unit that holds the Cartridge is also different, with the 1971 version being slightly narrower at the opening, therefore giving the metal sleeve a nice snug fit. My first question when I got this pen was: “Can I fit a modern unit into this pen”?

The simple answer is yes, but the more complex answer is yes but.

The sleeve of modern units seem to fit slightly deeper than that of this 1971 model, due to a wider opening, but the basic construction is the same. Therefore, when replacing with the modern unit, the nib does extend, but looks visually shy, with the breather hole still hidden in the nose.

A modern nib unit with a shy nib

Functionally, there is no issue, but I have to admit that it does look funky.

However, I discovered that I could simply reuse the 1971 metal sleeve in the modern unit, even if the fit is slightly looser. Due to the small notches in the sleeve, there is no issue with using functionally.

Once the sleeve is replaced, the nib unit extends perfectly, comparable to the 1971 unit.

Modern nib unit vs 1971 nib unit

Interestingly, the nose of this model can also be removed by simply unscrewing. Therefore, the clip can be removed with ease, making this a potential urushi makeover candidate. However, years of gunk may result in some stickiness, so caution is advised.

The nose and clip removed from the pen

I took the white one for a friend, but the black one had a funky knock when I bought it. It would get “stuck” sometimes and fail to engage on occasion. I bought it with the assumption that Pilot would be able to replace the knock, so I was not so concerned with the issue. To test the problem, I tried clicking it a few more times until the knock would fail to engage at all, but since I would be taking this to Pilot anyways, it didn’t matter.

I was wrong.

I brought the pen to Pilot’s HQ in Kyobashi, but the repair technician told me that it was impossible to fix because they didn’t have any parts. My disappointment was impalpable.

I asked him if he could at least disassemble the knock, thinking of perhaps getting a custom one made by a pen maker, but he refused to do that too, informing me that the knock was pushed in and not designed to be removed.

However, I was undeterred, and I decided to DIY a solution.

First, I cut the plastic on the mechanism from inside the back piece. Then, I fished out the now brutalised parts. You can see below how the plastic of the knock had yellowed with age, becoming weak and brittle.

The original knock, dissected and removed by me, with a functional knock harvested from a later generation FCN-500R Faceted Resin Capless

The offending part, however, appears to be the spring, which has rusted and snapped into 3 pieces, which caused the failure of the knock. You can also see that the original design seemed to have the bottom gear detached from the top gear, with the spring holding them into place. This probably allowed the spring to shift and deform in ways that it shouldn’t, causing the breakage.

You can see from the new knock, right underneath, that the bottom gear here is connected to the top gear, with the spring in the entwined on the connecting piece. This piece appears to be affixed to the top gear through some kind of snap fit, and the bottom and the top cannot be separated.

I took this replacement part and cut the plastic corners on the top gear just slightly at an angle where the plastic meets the metal, so that the snap fit into the back barrel can be slipped in without damaging the rest of the parts. Then, I took the metal rod that I use with my knock out block and slipped it underneath the bottom gear, inserting the whole thing into the back barrel.

This is where things got scary, as a bit of force is required. Taking the back barrel, now inserted with the new knock and the metal rod, I needed to push the knock back through the end hole. I placed the back barrel on my knock out block, with the cushion in between the barrel and the block itself of course. Firmly, but carefully, I used a hammer to hammer the metal rod, pushing the knock into place until I heard a audible click sound.

This new knock works, although slightly different from the original in some subtle details. I cannot say with 100% certainty, but it appears that due to the construction of the knock itself, detailed above, the length of the knock differs when the mechanism is engaged, which becomes apparent when compared side by side.

New knock versus original knock

In this sense, I surmise that this new knock that I harvested must be very similar in design, if not the same, as the current production models, whose knock also protrudes less deeply compared to the original.

Although the white one is not for me, I did have fun swapping the parts around.

Black and White Metal Striped Caplesses, Tokyo Station Pens originals

Overall, I really enjoy this pen. I really wish that Pilot would bring back this kind of design language to their product lineup. It has a wonderful texture on the hand, and I am absolutely addicted to stroking the back barrel where the black stripes are recessed into the stainless steel body. The entire thing looks like a futuristic space ship to me. Speaking of the body, the pen feels very light in hand, yet does not feel insubstantial. The nose cone and the back barrel appear to balance the weight of the pen, and in my hands does not feel unnaturally weighted in either direction. The knock works well after replacement, and my modern SU that I ground to an Oblique Broad Italic is very responsive.

Although I wish this had a more fun filling system, the Capless itself is complex enough for me to enjoy the pen, even with a cartridge. I find myself reaching for this pen at work and in meetings, for the quick engage mechanism that so many people have come to love about the Capless.

For many, this is a grail status level pen, but I do just love how durable it is. I keep it in my work bag, where it jostles around. I don’t take particular care to baby the pen, and it holds up spectacularly. I believe that constant use will help prevent the kind of rusting and yellowing of the original knock. In storage, one should take care to not expose the pen to to humidity to protect the integrity of the knock.

Do you have one of these? What do you think about the Metal Striped Capless? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!

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