Pocket Size Review 40: Deep Pockets with the Wancher True Urushi Dream Pen

I spent two months with the same pen in my pocket every day. I realize this isn’t such an uncommon claim to make, even in our little corner of the world where people rotate through their favorite pens regularly. What is slightly less common, though, is that the pen that spent two months in my pocket was a pen coated in Japanese urushi lacquer; a highly prized lacquer that involves an artisanal process that dates back over 9,000 years, and takes almost as long to cure on the pen before it is ready for sale.

I won a contest in November, with the prize being a month long Wancher True Urushi Dream Pen experience. Part way through the first month, for reasons that I will get to, Wancher extended the experience to two months. I was able to choose between a medium or broad nib, but the rest was Wancher’s call. They sent me a beautiful red urushi pen, with a matching red ebonite feed, and an 18k gold medium nib.

It was an impressive pen to behold. Comparable in size to a Montblanc 149, albeit with a smaller number 6 nib. The nib wrote smoothly, and the ebonite feed (the real star of the show) supplied its with ample ink. I went through my first fill of Troublemaker Petrichor in a week, as it was the only pen I used. After that I allowed myself to switch pens around a bit, taking three weeks to finish a fill of Papier Plume Heart of Gild, and the remainder of my time on a fill of Troublemaker Abalone. The pen takes a standard international converter.

The finish on the pen, unfortunately, had a few places where it felt like it could have gone further. The urushi work under the lip of the pen cap did not fully cover in spots, which admittedly lends a handcrafted charm, but also provoked fears of the lacquer chipping if it were to catch on something. The spring loaded cap seal, intended to keep the nib from drying out, had a “stuck” feeing to it much of the time, and if the pen were inserted at too much of an angle the nib would catch between the outer wall of the seal and the inner wall of the cap, which prompts additional fears. Still, though, for an urushi pen, the price is quite impressive; this fully loaded model with 18k nib and red ebonite feed only sells for around $500 (compared to closer to $1,000, if not higher, for many of the other urushi pens out there) so you are getting a great value out of this pen. If you opt for a steel nib and/or plastic feed, it becomes ever cheaper (and as it takes a standard Jowo number 6 nib housing, you could always upgrade later.)

Unfortunately, I hit a larger snag than just a sticky inner cap seal a few weeks into my experience, when the threads on the body of the thread came loose, with their adhesive drying up. Luckily I discovered quickly that in addition to adhesive, there was an additional set of threads on the other side of this piece that screws into the barrel, but I still contacted Wancher to be safe. I cannot speak to their warranty of repair experience, as their response to me was that I should keep the pen for a second month to make up for experience, but I can say that they were very quick to respond to me, considering the in our time zones, and were easy to communicate with in this matter.

Despite the disappointment of having an awesome pen that I was just getting used to “break”, this did at least give me an opportunity to see a little deeper into how the True Urushi Dream Pen is constructed. Considering the fact that it saved me from having to cut my pen experience short, I really do appreciate the fact that the threads on the barrels are screened in, not just glued in. You may wonder why a separate piece is needed here at all. The reason is because to urushi lacquer over these threads might cause the threads tone come too think so that the cap could not properly screw back on to the pen anymore. One option is to use a single piece of material and just leave a line where you’ve stopped lacquering, but another is to lawyer the full exterior of the barrel, and employ a separate piece for the threads, as has been done here.

Overall, I enjoyed my time with this pen and I’m sorry to see it go, $500 is a lot of money to spend on a pen, and I’m not sure that this one would be the first on my list if I had that kind of a budget, but I do find myself longing to pick up something else with the smooth warmth of urushi again to add to my collection. Then again, if I had $500 to spend on pens, I might just buy myself ten red ebonite feeds to upgrade some of my other pens, because above everything else, that really was the star of the show.

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