The Platinum 3776 and the Pilot Custom Heritage 91. While I normally prefer to review one pen at a time, I feel like these pens brought me to the same conclusion, with the latter hammering down a lesson I began to learn with the former.
I won the Platinum 3776 off the 'bay for cheap a few years ago. It was my first attempt at finding a fountain pen to truly match the micro-tipped gel pens I used for so long. I had high hopes for the "Ultra Extra Fine" gold nib, so much so that I paid no attention to the actual pen I was buying.
This was a mistake on both fronts.
The 3776 arrived with tines set so tightly together that ink wouldn't even creep through to the page. I tried gently flexing the tines outward against paper, then more directly with my fingers. It was eventually enough to allow some chicken scratch. I tried several different inks, then gave up in disgust.
Several months later, I decided to try some Waterman Havana in the Platinum, since it's always been a free-flowing ink for me. [Don't ask why it wasn't used out of the gate. Thematic issues. Let's not get into that kind of OCD here, alright?] So sure enough, the Havana/3776 combo allowed half-decent performance for a brief period of time. Eventually, the nib's iron grip overcame the lubricity of Waterman and we returned to ink whispers.
The Platinum 3776 was benched again, not to see the light of day for about a year. That's when I finally picked up some brass shims and Flossed.Those.Tines! For such a cheap and easy remedy, shame on me for waiting so long. Seriously.
So now the pen was actually writing. Awesome! Time to start using and evaluating it. Wooo, right?
Enter the second problem - the 3776's body. It's small and light. The Platinum 3776 is 7 mm shorter than the Pelikan 200 series; the Pelikan 200 is already my lower threshold for an unposted pen. An open pen that's only 11.8 cm is Not comfortable to hold. And my hands are only man-medium. A large hand would necessitate posting (& I irrationally dislike posting).
So I don't have a kitchen/mail scale, but it feels light. Not just light, but fragile. Cheap. Flimsy. Extra hollow. An internal filling system would certainly help remedy this problem. It would also justify the street price. But you know what the Platinum 3776 doesn't include? A jacuzzi. Nor an integrated filling system.
Nibs.com says the 3776 is 18.3 grams closed, which should leave it around 10-12 grams open and unposted. Clearly that's also below my threshold.
Now to be fair, I should have done more research before picking up the 3776 instead of the 3776 Century. The Century is a quarter inch longer and 6 grams heavier. That might have been enough to make itself comfortable in my mitts.
But this isn't a story about should-haves and educated decision making.
So at this point, I found myself paying for a nice nib that came poorly out of tune and a pen body that was unsatisfying to hold. This experience with the Platinum 3776 got me thinking that the pen body might be as important to me as the nib.
The Pilot CH91 took a less direct route to my attention. While I was aware of the Custom Heritage offerings from Pilot, there were too many similar variants for me to rationalize purchase of a specific model.
Jump to earlier this year when I was on a big writing kick with my Pilot (Metal) Falcon. I really love that pen, but the softness of the extra fine nib isn't always my jam. This got me thinking about picking up another Pilot with EF nib, and not a retractable model. Specifically, I wanted increased ink capacity (like the Con-70 yields) and I was also vibing on a more conventional pen styling.
I toyed with the self-filling CH92 until I noticed that there was no stock Extra Fine nib option. I went toward the CH912 until I randomly remembered the Karas Kustoms Ink. That pen, when it finally shows up on my door, will be equipped with a German #5 nib unit (Schmidt). The Pilot #5 nib is roughly the same dimensions, and can be swapped in with some elbow grease (and sometimes an exacto). Thinking more about this, it really made sense to go with the 91, knowing that if I don't like the body I can still utilize the nib.
Yes, it's true. I ultimately bought the Pilot Custom Heritage 91 because I knew the nib would succeed in some form (TWSBI 580 or KKINK), already assuming that the rest of the pen would fall short.
Pygmalion, is that you?
Sure enough, I was let down by the Pilot Custom Heritage 91 before I even put it to paper. It was the Platinum 3776 all over again - too short, too skinny, too light. What am I doing?!
The Pilot Custom Heritage 91 is barely longer than the 3776, whether open (12.3 cm) or posted (15.5 cm). It's of virtually the same barrel diameter (10.5 mm). And it's very very lightweight.
Despite being virtually the same pen, there are a few key differences that ultimately allow the Pilot to rise above. The aesthetic choices are the first to point out - silver trim and flat ends. Those are my jams. Second, using the Con-70 allows for increased ink capacity and a little extra weight, helping reduce the gap between C/C and piston fillers. Thirdly (birdly), the extra 5 mm help towards the CH91 feeling "almost adequate." While the Platinum has an appreciably larger (#6) nib, that's not enough to compensate for its shortcomings.
And it's certainly worth mentioning that my Pilot arrived with a properly tuned nib that wrote a joyous extra fine line. With ink flowing!
"Sooooooo How does all this apply to real life and usage?"
Great question! I honestly tried to like both of these pens. In the face of all my personal dislikes, I put each of them into regular rotation for several months. Using the Platinum 3776 felt like a chore at best and a punishment at worst. It's just a diminutive pen in my hand and it never felt comfortable. After tuning, that Platinum nib was really impressive. YES - that Ultra Extra Fine is a very fine line! Mmph! I heartily recommend the nib itself to fans of microscopic lines. But I'll leave how you get to the nib up to you.
By comparison, I would reach for the Custom Heritage 91 more often but I could never stick with it. I'd think to myself "oh man, you should get some of that Pilot-y goodness all over this paper." Then the in-hand experience would slowly decay my pleasure and I'd find a different pen suddenly appearing in my mitts.
"Alright. So you don't use these pens anymore. Why did you write this and why am I reading it?"
First, I wanted to provide a story of pen self-discovery. Everyone takes a different path to finding what works for them and not every heralded pen is a guarantee for You. I thought that an amazing nib could trump most other pen stats. It turns out that Short And Light AND Narrow is very difficult for my hand to overcome.
Second, while I don't technically use either of these Pens, I use both of these nibs regularly. I pulled the Platinum 3776 nib out and fit it into my TWSBI Micarta. It was a relatively simple pull-and-switch, and the Platinum nib has elevated the Micarta to 'Supreme Marginalia Editor and Schematic Detailer.'
And the Pilot #5 EF nib? Baby is killin' it in the Karas Kustoms Ink...but that is another story.
R E C A P : Why you should entertain buying either of these pens:
I think the unposted 3776 looks pretty uncomfortable in my hand. It certainly feels uncomfortable. If you prefer to post your pens, both of these chaps are easier to recommend.