Pen Review: Pilot Custom Heritage 92

You may know Andi from her former blog, The Fountain Pen Physicist. While she still reviews stationary products and tools, she now has a new home for her writing; The Purl Bug. When Pilot Pen USA sent this pen to be reviewed I felt that Andi had more experience with pen reviews and would do a better job of putting the pen through its paces. Let's see what she though of it.

This is another pen where I have mixed feelings about it.  Full disclosure, this pen is on loan to me from a friend for this review, and the fact that I did not buy the pen myself factors into my overall feelings later on.  But for now, let’s break it down a bit:

Physical Presence

As is my custom, I won’t list any hard numbers here because there are plenty places that you can find that information online.  Rather, let’s talk about some things that are less tangible, because those are what makes all the difference.

Pilot Custom Heritage 92

Pilot Custom Heritage 92

There’s no denying that the 92 is a real looker.  I would describe the aesthetic of the pen as “modern but classy” and I think all the parts really fit together well, from a design standpoint.  If you aren’t a fan of demonstrators then this is probably not for you, but I am.  I especially like the black plastic used at the top of the cap (finial?  I’m never exactly sure what part of the pen that is) and on the piston knob.  These parts seem minor but to me they give a sense of the boundaries of the pen.  

I also appreciate the silver colored hardware, since I find gold hardware on pens to be a bit stodgy.  

One of the first things I noticed about this pen was how light it is.  The pen is (obviously) plastic, so it would be unreasonable to expect it to be very heavy.  Still, I think I subconsciously equate weight with quality and that is simply not the case most of the time with fountain pens.  This is also the first pen with a premium price tag that I have used which is made out of plastic and so I was surprised when I held it and it felt just like a Lamy Vista.  I would assume that the quality of the materials that go into the 92 is higher than a $30 fountain pen meant for children, but I don’t know anything for sure about that.

Left to Right: TWSBI Vac700, Pilot Custom Heritage 92, Pilot Vanishing Point, Lamy Vista

Left to Right: TWSBI Vac700, Pilot Custom Heritage 92, Pilot Vanishing Point, Lamy Vista

Left to Right: TWSBI Vac700, Pilot Custom Heritage 92, Pilot Vanishing Point, Lamy Vista

Left to Right: TWSBI Vac700, Pilot Custom Heritage 92, Pilot Vanishing Point, Lamy Vista

Another thing that contributes to the light weight of the 92 is the fact that it is a relatively small pen.  It’s both slightly shorter and slimmer than a Safari, especially when uncapped.  It can be posted, but I find it comfortable enough to use unposted.  The weight when posted is slightly shifted toward the back, but is still comfortable. 

Writing Experience

The nib on this particular pen was a F and boy is it fine!  Below you can see the line width compared to some other writing instruments I had on hand:

Though the nib lays down a quite thin line, I did not find it to be unreasonably scratchy.  I also have experience with an F from a Pilot VP and I found the performance to be similar.  In my limited experience with Pilot’s nibs (5 pens), I have never been disappointed and I would expect that to be the case most of the time.  Though this is a gold nib, I didn’t find it to be at all flexible or springy, and especially with how fine it is I would suggest making an effort to keep a light writing pressure.

Of course, the writing experience is not just about the nib.  You can have a great nib on top of a poor section and the result is a pen that doesn’t get used.  The section on this pen is short but there is nearly no step between the section and barrel so you can hold the pen as far back as necessary.  The threads are fairly shallow and I do not find them uncomfortable to hold at all.  The nib end of the section flares out just slightly and prevents fingers from slipping down too far onto the nib.

Filling System

As far as I know, this pen is Pilot’s only piston-filler, at least in the American market.  I found the piston on this pen to be very smooth to operate and the knob at the end of the pen is large enough to turn easily without needing lilliputian fingers.  While I, again, do not have an exact number for the ink capacity of the pen, it seems like it would be fairly large, definitely over 1 mL.

Otherwise, the filling system is not all that noteworthy.  That may sound like a bad thing, but I prefer a filling system that doesn’t require much thought beyond filling and cleaning because in between those times I would rather think about writing!

2015-04-23 15.15.16.jpg

One thing I noticed while using this pen was that there seemed to be a bit of ink seeping past the piston seal.  I’m hoping that the previous pictures show this, but without a dedicated macro lens it’s a bit difficult to photograph.  I’m confused as to how this happened, since the pen never left a safe spot on a flat surface in my apartment.  It certainly isn’t enough of a problem to cause concern, except that the pen seems to be unable to be taken apart.  As far as I can tell the body and section are all one piece, which means that it is tough to take the pen apart to dry after cleaning.  I found a hint that the piston can be removed using the same wrench that comes with TWSBI pens, and it certainly looks like this could be the case.  However, given the cost of this pen and the fact that it’s a loaner, I don’t want to start disassembling the pen.

Closing Thoughts

If I did not know the cost of this pen, I would be all over it like a monkey on a cupcake.  It writes well, looks snazzy, and has a high capacity filling system.  But, the fact is that price is a factor for those of us trying to live within our means, and that’s where I find the problem with this pen.  As of the writing of this post (spring 2015), you can find the 92 for ~$130 on eBay and Jetpens, and $220 on Goulet Pens.  

Facing a price tag greater than $200 seems ridiculous for this pen, especially since the materials it is made from are not all that special.  You are either paying an extra $60 for a piston (92 vs CH 74) or an extra $150 for a gold nib (92 vs TWSBI 580, though I do know that this is roughly the cost of a gold nib).

The $130 price seems a bit more reasonable, but for that price I would rather have a Vanishing Point.  The VP is built like a tank and I never worry about tossing it in my bag and taking it with me anywhere.  The 92, being made out of plastic, feels a bit more fragile and I would feel the need to always keep it in a pen case, which is slightly inconvenient.  And, the fact that it has a screw top makes it far less useful to me than a click pen.

Overall, I think this a great pen with a high price.  I think that if you want this pen you should definitely hunt for a way to get it under $150, even though that might mean ordering it from a seller in Japan.  Or as for it as a gift from a rich relative, either way…

Solicitation Disclaimer

This pen was given to me, free of charge, by Pilot Pen USA for review purposes. I do not feel that the opinion of this pen's performance has been affected by the fact that it was received for free.