Shibui Kibo metal/urushi fountain pen

A little bit of history  The history of urushi pen-making is probably beyond a quick piece on United Inkdom – but Mick has had a go at covering it in his review below! Our focus is perhaps more on the remarkable person trying to bring that tradition to new life on Tyneside. Ruth has studied in Japan and can read the manuals in the original, but she is determined to make something in her own style – and the results are truly extraordinary.

How it looks  The Kibo resembles… nothing else on earth. It’s a big hunk of hand-turned metal with urushi finishing which looks like it grew there over decades on another planet. Picking it up for a closer inspection is irresistibly tempting.

How it feels  The copper prototype we tested feels darned heavy, no doubt about it. If you like very substantial pens, this is splendid news. If that sounds a little intimidating, opt for aluminium – which looks just as remarkable. The urushi-derived finish also has a pleasantly tactile quality and lends a bit of extra grip, too.

How it fills  There’s room for a long international cartridge or a standard converter there, which should suit most needs.

Crucially, how it writes…  The Kibo takes a Bock #6, so how it writes is up to you! We popped a red lacquered steel unit on for this test, but if you prefer something less garish, the options are extensive. The weight of the pen is actually just right for writing.

Pen! What is it good for?  Signing weighty contracts, writing journals on robust paper (don’t use Tomoe!) – or, in extremis, defending yourself from marauders. In between, you might just find yourself staring at it in wonder.

VFM  The current Kickstarter has this individually-made artisan product for the ludicrously modest price of £120 for bare metal, or £150 for the yaketsuki finish. That’s a bargain, in our books. Everyone who has tested the prototype so far has found themselves putting in an order for a Shibui pen, which probably tells you all you need to know.

The only way is ethics  Ruth’s the real deal and we’ve got no qualms about materials, pricing or packaging here.

If this isn’t quite your cup of tea, but almost…  Talk to Ruth and work out a custom design. There are plenty of variations possible on the theme.

Our overall recommendation  If you like the idea of a Japanese pen-maker plying here trade on these shores, now might be the time to back this new brand. The Kibo is a remarkable writing tool at an extraordinarily reasonable price point, and it should be start of great things to come, too.

Where to get hold of one  Right now, Kickstarter is the place to be if you want one of these.

This meta-review references:

Thanks to  Ruth for letting us take part in the birth of a beauty!

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