The Pilot Custom 823 is the mid-range to high end fountain pen from Pilot. It cost around USD $170 to $220.
This pen is kinda difficult to find in the western market, while it's plentiful on Amazon Japan.
The main feature of this pen is the vacuum ink filling mechanism. Yes, it refills just like the TWSBI 700 which cost a few times less.
If you're not interested in the vacuum filling mechanism, I suggest you check out the Pilot Custom 74 which I think is an even more beautiful pen and is cheaper.
To refill, you release the knob at the back, pull the plunger and push it back down again. The pull and push will create a vacuum inside the body, and when the vacuum is broken, it will cause ink to rush into the body. It's interesting to see how the ink gushes in. Typically, I take 2-3 times to fill it almost full. The ink reservoir is huge and can hold a lot of ink.
For cleaning, just twist the body in an anti-clockwise manner to detach the grip section.
This is a big pen, measuring 15cm with cap, and 13cm++ without cap.
I love the design of the pen. There are the top and end black resin. In between, there are gold trimmings at top, middle and bottom. Construction quality is top notch. Everything is nicely smoothed and curved out.
The pen is available in several bodies. There's the solid black, clear demonstrator and Amber demonstrator.
Here's the big cap. The clip has a ball at the end.
There's this black piece of plastic inside that covers up the nib when the pen is cap. When capped, it looks like the ink from the body extends all the way up to the top of the cap, that's assuming you're using black ink. Pretty interesting look.
That's the gold trimming band across the circumference of the cap with "CUSTOM 823" stamped beautifully in black.
Here's the beautiful large 14K gold nib that measures about 2.5cm. It's quite a pleasure to use such a big nib for drawing or writing. The nib's quite smooth. Ink flow is great and lines come out dark.
One thing to note about the ink flow. When you twist the knob at the end back in, it will block off the nib's access to the ink. The nib will still write but it will write until all the ink inside the grip section is used up. To write for extended period, it's best to release the knob at the back and have the nib access the huge reservoir of ink. That's the one inconvenient thing about this pen.
Here are some sketches I drew with the pen.
The nib's good for drawing. Lines are uniform though with no variation in thickness. I like that the lines are dark because the ink flow is good.
When you release the knob at the back, you can draw for long periods of time without refilling, can fill up a whole A3 or larger illustration without refilling. That's how much ink there is in the reservoir.
The Pilot Custom 823 is a great pen. Pricey but great.
So is it worth the USD $170 to $220?
You've to consider that you can get the TWSBI 700 at $70, which is another vacuum filling pen.
The thing is, the design of the Pilot Custom 823 is better. It's more streamlined. It has a huge 14K gold nib. It writes well.
If you're only into the vacuum filling mechanism, I would probably recommend you get the cheaper TWSBI 700. Yes the Pilot Custom 823 looks better, but is it $100+ better in looks? The TWSBI is the better deal if you don't care much about the design and just want a good working pen.
Without comparing with other pens, the Custom 823 is a good value for the money, but I won't say it's the best value. But that's the thing with pricey fountain pens, the value is in the eye of the beholder.
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