Ohnishi Seisakusho Tortoise Shell Celluloid Ballpoint Pen
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 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 WW2. We are told Mr Kato kept a large quantity of celluloid rods, buried in his back garden, until the war was over when he dug these out and established his own pen company eponymously named the Kato Seisakusho Company.
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 and Conway Stewart to produce small runs of celluloid special editions.
Indeed celluloid, one of the earliest thermo plastics, 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 psychadelic 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 and Mr Ohnishi who has been continuing Mr Kato's work is using materials in limited supply, passed on to him by his boss after his passing in 2010 at the age of 85.
Perhaps this is why, with dwindling materials and only a handful of such craftmen, these pens feel like antiques from a bygone era and have tremendous nostalgic appeal.
Here photographed Mr Ohnishi on his lathe, hand turning every piece with no machine calibration, only using his experienced eye to gage each component.
Mechanism: Smooth twist mechanism
Cartridge type: Takes standard Parker-style cartridges
Sold in a presentation box including provenance information