It’s late 2020 and like most of us nowadays, I don’t get out much. So after indulging in a rare mid-COVID set lunch (sushi!), I decided to take a post-prandial stroll – always a little dangerous when the proposed route takes me past one of my favourite places in Hong Kong. The Pen Shop is a tiny, hole in the wall in the Central district that has been serving pen lovers since 1977. I’ve walked past it many times, often stopping to window shop and be impressed by just how much inventory can be stuffed into a space smaller than my closet. But I’d never really been inside (insofar as there is an “inside”); mostly because I had serious reservations as to whether I would fit.
But on this particular day, something special caught my eye. I could say I was not really looking to buy a pen or in the market for something new – but we all know that wouldn’t be true. I am never not looking for something new. It’s part of the disease of pen collecting… But to get me interested, and I mean really interested, it has to be something a little bit rare or coveted.
For some time I had been looking to add a Platinum pen to my collection. In particular one from their #3776 series of fountain pens. I very much admire the limited edition #3776’s that Platinum release every year. Admittedly, some more than others. For instance, I can’t say I am a huge fan of the 2020 edition known as the “Shiun”. In reading reviews of the #3776, the one that had caught my eye was the 2018 edition called the “Shungyo”. I loved the blood-red colour, which is tremendously deep but still retains an admirable degree of transparency; but what really caught my eye was the delicate engraved linear pattern on the barrel and cap.
The Shungyo was released in 2017 as a limited edition of 3776 pens. I had been scouring the internets for a reasonably priced one for some time without success. Sold out everywhere. Except, that is, The Pen Store! Where they happened to have for sale pen number 2165. I stifled my glee, not wanting it to compromise the delicate negotiations about to take place. Stony faced, I “complained” about the dusty condition of the pen; the haggle commenced and quickly culminated – in me getting just about nowhere. Nevertheless, the price was reasonable and less than the pen retailed for on release. I’ll go ahead and put a mark in the “Win” column.
Not only was I the proud owner of my first Platinum; but I had found one of my “white whales”. I was quite chuffed, to say the least. Even happier, it looked so much better in the flesh (or resin) than in the countless photos I had seen on the web. Platinum is an interesting brand. Perhaps the lesser known of the Japanese “Big Three” pen houses, it nevertheless has an enviable reputation for both technical innovation and impeccable manufacturing. Founded in 1919 in Tokyo by Syunchi Nakata, Platinum started development of fountain pen design and manufacturing, culminating in Nakata’s creations winning first prize in the pen product category at the 1948 World Expo. Platinum is also credited with the invention of the fountain pen cartridge refill system.
Platinum is closely related to the very high end Japanese pen brand, Nakaya; and has garnered a stellar name for its nibs (in particular the #3776). The #3776 is probably the cornerstone and best known of Platinum’s range. In truth, apart from some mass market, cheap and cheerful fountain pens and some exquisite high end, hand crafted maki-e models, there is not much else in Platinum’s FP range as far as mid-priced or “enthusiast” level pens (whatever that means).
Maybe when you have something like the #3776 in your line-up there isn’t a whole lot of need for much else. The model name, incidentally, is a reference to the height of Mt Fuji – 3776 metres. As indeed many of the models in the #3776 range are homages to Fuji-san and its surrounding geography.
Our hero, the Shungyo, for instance, pays homage to early spring dawn scenery at Mt Fuji, described by Platinum’s marketing department thusly:
Shungyo, the 1st color in the Fuji Shunkei series. The Fuji Shunkei series features a lineup of fountain pens inspired by the seasonal scenery of Mount Fuji. Shungyo is inspired by the dawn of early spring, when the freeze has not yet passed. Sunlight is diffused through the silent air, turning the sky red. Shungyo expresses this seasonal scenery in which the dawn sky and the silhouette of Mount Fuji harmonize by using a red color on the barrel with irregular fine lines and a matte finish.
I couldn’t have put it better myself…
Aesthetically speaking, it has become one of my favourite pens. That red certainly stands out in my pen drawer. I really can’t say enough about how pretty it is (without descending into “pictures don’t do it justice” tripery). The light play on the engraved patterns adds more than an extra dimension to the pen’s look. It’s a very clever addition by the Platinum designers, I think. It levels up the pen from being just a pretty red demonstrator to something unique.
The nib is great looking too. Simply adorned with some border engraving and bearing the model name, #3776 and the Platinum “P” logo. The nib is polished to within an inch of its life and I especially enjoy the heart-shaped breather.
So, to look at, faultless. I absolutely love it. What of the writing experience? Welllllllll… Look, this is an extremely subjective topic (duh) and my #3776 is still fairly new. I guess I am hedging because I REALLY wanted the Shungyo to be the complete package – both form and function. But for me, it’s not. Don’t get me wrong. The nib, insofar as it’s possible to describe these things objectively, is a beaut. Super well made, not jumpy or temperamental at all.
Where the nib suits me less is in what I will call its directness. Platinum nibs are known for being a little on the firm side and for providing a tremendous amount of feedback. I think this is absolutely true. But what that translates into for me at least, is a slightly less than ideal writing experience. The Platinum has a firmness that I find a little too direct. I prefer a little more butter in my nib. And whilst I don’t want to call the Platinum stiff, compared to pens like the Lamy 2000 or my Delta Titanio, that is unfortunately the word that springs to mind.
What ends up happening is the #3776 nib setup affects the quality of my writing (and I hear I don’t mean what I am writing, but rather the look and legibility of the words on the page). It just doesn’t give me as natural a pen-in-hand experience while writing as some of my other pens. It is, for sure, a super sophisticated and accomplished nib. Like I’ve said, there’s no hint of scratch, flow is great, it’s wet but not gushy; it’s just not my jam. I will continue to use it in some heavy writing sessions over the next few months to see if it’s the case that an extended break-in period makes things better. If it does, I’ll let you know!
The barrel is on the short side for my great big bear paws. So I find the pen way more comfortable to use posted. I also find the Medium nib fitted to my #3776 to be on the fine side of things. Which is neither here nor there really, just thought it worth mentioning.
Another slight niggle, this one again for those of us with more generous sized hands, is that my writing grip tends to land over the threaded part of the barrel, rather than the smooth section. For short time periods, this isn’t really a bother; but after a time I find it can get uncomfortable.
Putting things into perspective, these are really minor issues and niggles. There is sooooo much to like about this pen that I am really looking forward to spending more time with it to see how things pan out.
Platinum also have a couple of cool party tricks that are definitely worth mentioning. The first is what Platinum calls its “Slip & Seal” mechanism. Essentially it’s a small plastic liner in the end of the cap that prevents ink from drying out in the pen. You can feel the seal engage during the final quarter turn of capping the pen. Platinum claims that the “Slip & Seal” mechanism can prevent ink from drying out in the pen for over two years. After owning the #3776 for a couple of months, I can certainly attest to the fact that even after leaving if for two weeks, it starts up straight away – as if I just put it down a moment ago.
The second (and I have admit I found this one a little confounding initially) is the use of a tiny metal ball bearing in their ink cartridges. At first I thought the rattle was a defect or something loose inside the pen. Several attempts at dismantling the pen completely to identify the source turned up nothing. That’s the confounding bit. Turning to Dr Google, I learned that instead of being a defect, the rattle is actually designed to keep the ink mixed and moving, thus improving ink flow. I know a few people on Reddit have complained that the rattle is annoying or gives the pen a “cheap” feel. But now that I know what it’s for, I kinda like it.
IMHO, there is nothing cheap looking (or feeling) about the #3776 Shungyo. Speaking of cheap or not, at its price point of around USD200, I think it represents great value. If you’re curious and you can find one, I highly recommend it!