Monday, April 02, 2007

Platinum Maki-e Multi Pen Review

Platinum Maki-e Crane Multi Pen Review

Just for the record, and to be precise, I believe the proper designation would be Platinum Maki-e “Crane” Double Action Pen MWB-5000RM black + red ballpoint/0.5 pencil.

What is “Maki-e”? Well I’ve seen the term used quite a lot in reference to those fountain pens that are beautifully decorated in a Japanese or Oriental style. A quick bit of online browsing informs me that maki-e means “sprinkled picture” in Japanese and it is a method of decorating lacquerware with gold, silver and other powders. Originally of course the lacquer was real tree sap lacquer, the gold was real gold, and so on. Naturally if you have a few extra dollars burning a hole in your pocket you can buy “real” maki-e, but the rest of us generally get modern versions made with modern materials, modern manufacturing processes, etc which combine to produce a price more affordable to the average pencil collector like myself.

Platinum are a Japanese manufacturer of writing instruments. You can pay hundreds or thousands of dollars for their top of the range Maki-e fountain pens, or, like me, much more modest prices for their everyday pen and pencil ranges.

So, what does my maki-e “crane” multi pen look like. Well firstly this model was made in a number of bird related scene variants, e.g. Phoenix, Crane. The body is a shiney black lacquer resin with a very detailed beautiful scene of two cranes flying, with river and mountain scenery completing the picture. Very nice indeed. This artwork is slightly raised on the surface so it feels like an appliqué over the top of the base surface. For the price I paid, I don’t imagine this is fancy high grade real traditional tree sap and gold powder hand made maki-e, rather it’s the modern, automated version. I’ve got no idea about the durability of the finish. Will it wear quickly with use? But I’ll be honest and say, assuming this is the “cheap” maki-e, then the real stuff must be utterly fantastic!
The grip on this pencil is fairly good for something without any special grip enhancements. The resin body is smooth and shiny but the material is not slippery. It’s also about average weight for a multi pen, balanced fairly neutral, but a little towards the top. The pocket clip is quite strong, but easily usable. The gold trims are not particularly golden, perhaps a rather low gold content in the alloy?

Writing tip selection is achieved by a twist mechanism. You twist the top half of the pencil to extend the tip. It is marked “M <> B” on the centre band so you know which way to twist to get which tip. The ballpoints are very fine tips and they write well. The red ballpoint is coloured red on its tip for easy identification, but the black one is just plain metal. If you extend the pencil tip, then the lead advance is activated by a normal push top ratchet mechanism. Mine is 0.5mm lead. It is rather stiff and not “precise” feeling, but that seems to be common to many multi-pen pencil mechanisms. Actually, activating it is a bit of a pain. The lead sleeve is a short sleeve, obviously for general writing purposes. Equally obviously it retracts for pocket safety.
The instruction leaflet is in Japanese, but the diagrams are clearly understandable. However, there is no diagram for the multi-pen! Fountain pen, mechanical pencil, rollerball and so on, but not the multi pen. This really annoys me, because multi pens need proper instructions on how to disassemble them for refilling , etc. It’s certainly possible to ruin them if you don’t know what you are doing. I have figured this Platinum one out by experience with other brands and by looking at the diagrams for the other pen modes, but still, it really is second rate not to include the instructions.
There is a small eraser under the top cap. You unscrew the cap to get at it, so its certainly not quick and easy access! I only discovered this eraser by inquisitive investigation.

This multi pen comes in a plastic presentation box – nice enough, but plain and forgettable really.

  • Best Points – It looks great.
  • Not So Good Points – Poor instructions, slightly annoying lead advance.
  • Price Range – Mid.

Dimensions – Length 149mm, diameter 9mm. Balance point about 85mm up from the tip.

Footnote: To be honest, I ordered a black ballpoint/0.7mm twin combination, but received black + red ballpoint/0.5mm triple combination. Ahhh, the vagaries of online shopping! It really is a lottery, you order "X", then cross your fingers and hope that when "Y" arrives bears some resemblence to "X" that you ordered!

Photos = "Crane + Albatross & chick"and "Crane + Ducks"


Anonymous said...

hi, i am doing a paper on the manufacturing process of a mechanical pencil..i was wondering if u had any sites or links i could go to for the necessary info..thanks..

Al Baxter said...

Hey Dave, just wanted to say how much I'm enjoying reading your pencil reviews! Though I originally got interested in wooden pencils, you've really inspired my interest in mechanicals. I blog about them sometimes over at :)

Kiwi-d said...

"Anonymous" - sorry, don't really know any sites with much on manufacturing. There is a some downloadable pdf's and other stuff on the staedtler website which might be of some help.

"a.e." - well good to hear I've sparked your interest. I'll keep an eye on your site.

Anonymous said...

Can anyone tell me how to refill the lead in the Platinum double 3 pen? Thanks

Anonymous said...

Those are some very nice mechanical pencils. I love the detailed artwork.

Anonymous said...

Anyone tried the Platinum OLEeNU Pencil MOL-1000? Just found it by idly browsing Cult Pens site; their link is here: hxxp://

(http changed to hxxp in case link gets dropped)

- PointFour

Anonymous said...

Should have added, the MOL-1000 offers this: "the lead can be used down to the last millimetre or so."

Unknown said...

Can you tell me how to open this pen, look like your photo (

Kiwi-d said...

It just unscrews in the middle.