Ohnishi Seisakusho Tortoise Shell Celluloid 0.5mm Mechanical Pencil
Here are the last vestiges of a once booming industry of some 500 pen makers in Osaka, producing hand-turned celluloid pens from the 1920s onwards. We feel proud to present to our customers the pens of Mr Kato and his apprentice Mr Ohnishi, who have been safekeeping this craft single-handedly for the last few decades.
Legendary Mr Kato Kiyoshi, affectionately nicknamed in the trade "the Father of Pens", began producing pens at age 19, after his father, also a pen maker, passed away shortly before WWII. We are told Mr Kato kept a large quantity of celluloid rods buried in his back garden; when the war was over, he dug these out and established his own pen company, eponymously named the Kato Seisakusho Company.
The many colourful stories about his escapades selling pens around the globe and in particular in the Middle East - including anecdotes of camel-riding and bribing jail officers with Japanese fountain pens - would have us believe Mr Kato was as talented a salesman as he was a master pen maker! During the 80s onwards, as one of the few remaining expert celluloid hand-turners, he was called upon by luxury pen brands such as Visconti to produce small runs of celluloid special editions.
Indeed celluloid, one of the earliest thermoplastics, is becoming an extinct base material for pen making - regretfully as it has beautiful density, shine, weight and of course features the most vibrant and sometimes psychedelic patterns. Today, it is used only in a handful of industries including luxury spectacle making. The production of celluloid in Japan has nearly now entirely stopped; Mr Ohnishi, who succeeded Mr Kato after his passing at the age of 85 in 2010, continued to work using materials in limited supply.
Unfortunately, due to the end of production of celluloid in Japan, acetate cellulose has had to step in as a replacement for the obsolete material. The result is not unlike celluloid, and possesses the feel of an antique from a bygone era with tremendous nostalgic appeal. This pencil is one of few made from the remaining celluloid.
Here photographed is Mr Ohnishi at his lathe, hand turning every piece with no machine calibration, using only his experienced eye to gauge each component.
Body material: Celluloid
Mechanism: Retractable push button
Refill type: Takes standard 0.5mm leads
Dimensions: 12cm long
Included: presentation box