Sunday, October 4, 2015

Product Review: Pilot Parallel Pens

Pilot Parallel pens
Ever since that teaser post a couple weeks ago when I mentioned I had gotten a set of Pilot Parallel pens, I’ve been giving them a full-tilt trial. And what fun! They aren’t for everything, but I sure love them for some things.

The nib has a unique design: two parallel plates with a straight-across, slightly serrated edge. JetPens describes the purpose of this design as follows: “This allows it to distribute ink more evenly than conventional metal italic nibs while also being crisper and far more durable than a felt-tipped calligraphy pen.” The feed is also slightly different from conventional fountain pens. After installing a cartridge or converter (it takes Pilot’s standard of both), you can’t simply let gravity or capillary action pull ink toward the nib as you can with other fountain pens. You have to give the cartridge a squeeze or twist the converter a bit to push ink between those parallel plates. (It takes quite a push – the puny converter is half empty by the time the ink is flowing.)

The Parallel comes in four sizes
ranging from 1.5mm to 6mm.

Apparently the parallel plates also require additional maintenance compared to most fountain pens. A small piece of thin plastic is included with the pen, which enables “flossing” between the plates. I haven’t experienced any problems so far, but according to the instructions that came with the pens, paper fibers can get caught in there and clog it up. In addition, a special cleaning bulb is included to flush water thoroughly through the nib (I use a syringe as I do with all my fountain pens, and it works just as well).

I’m having the most fun with the largest 6mm size because of its extreme width, but it’s probably the least versatile. I found it easier to sketch men’s angular features with it rather than the softer lines in women’s faces. On the other hand, it is terrific for sketching trees of all kinds.

The smallest 1.5mm size is the most versatile; I use it to sketch people, trees, chickens, whatever. It reminds me of the Franklin-Christoph music nib that I also love, and its nib is about the same size.

The 6mm nib on its flat side.
The corner of the 6mm nib writes like
a conventional fine-point fountain pen.
However, there is one important difference between all of my music nibs and the Parallels of any size: Both nib types can make a wide stroke when held with the flat edge against the paper and a medium stroke when that edge is pulled in the perpendicular direction; that’s probably true of all italic or stub nibs. The key difference with the Parallel, though, is that you can also use the corner of the nib – which will draw or write just like a conventional round nib (comparable to Pilot’s F nib, such as a Metropolitan or Petit1). That’s because ink flows between the whole width of the nib’s plates, not just a single center point as on music nibs. I doubt the Parallel nib was intended to be used on the corner, so perhaps I’ll eventually trash it (I’ll let you know if that happens!). I wouldn’t say drawing with the corner is particularly smooth, but it isn’t intolerably scratchy, either (I’ve certainly used worse). But what I like is that by being able to use the corner as well as the edges that are supposed to be used, my 6mm Parallel makes the widest range of lines in a single pen – bar none. I can make bold chisel marks and make conventional lines, too. After my months-long Epic Search to find the grail of variable-line-width fountain pens, this is an interesting and unexpected turn of events. J

9/24/15 Private Reserve Velvet Black ink, Pilot
Parallel 1.5mm
Is the Parallel a new grail? Certainly not. For one thing, its dang cap will not post! Arrgghhh! This is one of my biggest fountain pen peeves: If a cap doesn’t post, I am bound to lose it eventually, and without a cap, a fountain pen is useless. For another, that range of variable lines is really three distinct points – small, medium, large – and not a gradation like my Sailor fude.

I think the Parallel might be more than a novelty, though. It encourages me to sketch loosely and quickly, which is almost always a good thing. It’s also made by Pilot, and I’ve been continually impressed by the overall quality of its pens at any price point. Ask me in six months or a year whether I’m still using the Parallel, and that will be the real answer. But in the meantime, I’m having tons of fun.

Edited 12/22/15: What happens when the Parallel nib gets modified? Even more fun!

9/25/15 Parallel 1.5mm
9/25/15 Sailor Tokiwa-matsu ink, Parallel 6mm 

9/18/15 Diamine Autumn Oak ink,
Parallel 2.4mm, colored pencil
9/19/15 Parallel 1.5mm

9/20/15 Parallel 1.5mm, watercolor
9/24/15 Parallel 6mm and 2.4mm
9/18/15 Parallel 6mm and 2.4mm

9/25/15 Parallel 1.5mm
9/20/15 Parallel 1.5mm, colored pencils

9/20/15 Parallel 6mm

10/2/15 Parallels 6mm, 2.4mm, 1.5mm


  1. Love the sketches, Tina. And good review of the parallel pens.

    A couple things. I know that at least a few of the Singapore folks have taken sandpaper to the corners of these pens, creating what amounts to a 'stub' edge, smoothing out the corner use of the pen.

    I got out my parallel pens. I have only two of them (1.5 and 3.8) and discovered that I've been doing a long-term (6 months?) study in how to clog a parallel pen as I've had my 1.5mm full of ink for that period of time. I suspect the ink was Pilot Black as it's a cartridge and the one from the package is missing. The significant thing about this, other than what a stupid thing this was to do, is that the pen wrote immediately, suggesting that the cap seals VERY well.

    Oh, and one small thing, you can somewhat post this pen. The rubber seal inside the cap seems to accommodate the narrow end of the pen. Give it a try. --- Larry

    1. Good to know that the caps seal so well! That seems to be something Pilot does right. As for posting. . . I've tried forcing mine, and no dice. :-(

    2. Well Shazaam...this is interesting. I wrote what I did about posting because I tried it with my 1.5 and it worked. I just tried it with my 3.8 and it doesn't work. A bit of investigation with a flashlight and I found out why. My 1.5 has two O-rings imbedded in the cap insert walls that don't exist in my 3.8. Can't say for sure but I suspect these are also why it's done so well with the 'forget you have ink in it' test. It's hard to tell for sure but it looks like there are grooves for those O-rings in my 3.8 as well. They're just not there. ?????

    3. Whaaa. . .?! No O-rings in any of mine!

  2. Good review. Not a pen I'm likely to use. I have a Lamy 1.1 italic nib I use for writing. I did notice recently that Daniel Smith Seattle has these in the store. They might also start stocking better ink as Jane Blundell left them with her bottles of De Atramentis document ink! :)

    1. It would be great if D. Smith started stocking DeAtramentis Document!

  3. I like the variety of edges you seem to get with this pen. Nice review!

  4. cut the pen handle at the perforated line and the cap will sit snug when posted on the handle :D and makes it pocket friendly!

  5. Love this post! I had a spare gel pen with removable grip (the slightly sticky rubbery type of thing), and cut some rings. I slipped one of them into the long tail of a Parallel pen and it worked to keep the cap in place, while looking nicer than a wound up rubber band.


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