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Customized Elabo Review

Posted in Fountain Pens, and Reviews

Of course, just after telling you I was going to scale back on the blog posts, two pens arrived, so you’ll get 2 posts a week for a little longer so I can do my reviews. Plus I have two more pens on order, and there’s BWIPS in two weeks, so… yeah. Lots to write.

Anyway, a while back I came across a very interesting pen on Instagram from Penwing Stationery. At first, I thought it was a Japan or China exclusive. However, it turned out to be a customized Pilot Custom 74. I showed Jim, and we ended up ordering three different pens, including that first one I saw.

It took about a month to actually ship our order, but they they arrived in only 4 days. We eagerly unboxed our pens. Jim’s Pilot Custom 91 is good. Of my two (the Custom 74 and a Pilot Elabo — basically a Falcon) one was lovely, and one was a disappointment. I’ll be reviewing the latter today. Save the best for last, and all that.

Before I jump into the review, I want to make it clear I’m not reviewing the pen, I’m reviewing the aftermarket work. Because of that I’m judging the work based on the price difference. An Elabo goes for $171.50 on JetPens; the pen I bought cost $320 at full price. That means Penwing Stationery charged $148.50 for their work. FYI, our order hit a discount and free shipping threshold, so the total was a bit lower for me.

To start, this pen is decorated with “sticker urushi” and gold-colored powder — I don’t know if it’s actually gold dust. I wouldn’t be bothered by either of those things if it weren’t for the fact that the artisan layered the powder over the stickers, making some of the sticker edges very obvious. It would have been better to layer the stickers over the powder.

showing the stickers under the gold colored powder

Even the stickers that aren’t under the powder, though, have fairly visible edges. You don’t have to look to closely to see them. It definitely disappoints me that it’s so obviously “sticker urushi.” The product photos are very well done so as not to show noticeable edges, except in one photo in the middle. I didn’t notice the obvious edges in that photo when I purchased the pen.

On top of the obvious edges, the barrel edge near the threads looks — and feels — a bit rough. When considered in conjunction with the obvious sticker edges, it serves to cheapen the work in my eyes.

I realize that this is a matter of personal preference, but with the barrel so decorated and the cap left plain, the pen feels unbalanced. I think it would look much better with either some gold or a sticker or two on the cap as well.

I will, however, acknowledge that the pen is well-polished. It’s nice and shiny, with no obvious bumps or flaws on that score.

showing the full pen polish

Overall, though, one good point does not outweigh the bad. While I will likely keep this pen for a while because I like the nib, I would not buy it again if I could go back and do things over. I also wouldn’t recommend it. The workmanship is not, in my opinion, worth nearly $150.


So, there’s my sadly negative review. Based on my photos, what do you think of the décor? Would you buy one? Let me know in the comments.

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