Pilot Parallel Pen Test

We test out the Pilot Parallel Pen, a unique calligraphy fountain pen designed for broad nib or broad edge lettering. One of us considers this her favourite pen and the other two have tried it for a few days. Makes for an interesting mix of impressions.

Reviewing the Pilot Parallel Pen

Samir: Welcome to Stationery Test Drive with Inky Memo.
Today we’re going to be looking at the Pilot Parallel Pen.
I’m Samir.

Minjal: This is Minjal.

Vishal: And I’m Vishal.
Just before we start, let’s talk a little about what we’re doing. Samir?

Samir: I’ve currently been working on a bunch of botanical illustrations. Just drawing trees that I saw while I was growing up, around me.
I’m @SamirBharadwaj on Twitter and Instagram, and at SamirBharadwaj.com

Vishal: Minjal?

Minjal: So, I’ve been exploring some abstract calligraphy designs, that I hope to eventually use on some merchandise. I’m hoping these are out by gifting season. You can check more of this on my Twitter and Instagram, which is @MinjalKadakia and my website as well.

Vishal: Isn’t every season gifting season? I don’t think there should be a special season, certainly not for our products.
And I’ll just throw this up on the screen, since I don’t have it on hand with me, but I’m currently colouring through a 120 character designs that I did over the course of 2020 and 2019. I think I’m up to about 30, so it’s a long way to go, but I’m well in there …

But today, let’s not talk about colouring or anything else. Let’s talk about the Pilot Parallel Pen. Samir, and Minjal, you guys are the stationery experts here … I’m just the … the sex appeal.

Samir: Just the art expert.

Vishal: No, I’m just the sex appeal that shows up for … look my hands are there for … so tell us about this.

What is the Pilot Parallel Pen?

Samir: So today we’re going to be talking about the Pilot Parallel Pen, which is this very unique and beautifully shaped pen. But more importantly, it has a very, very unique nib which is made up of two parallely placed metal …

Minjal: … plates

Samir: … plates

Vishal: Hence the name.

Samir: And this gives you a flexibility and a variety of line, which your regular fountain pen or calligraphy pen just cannot match.

Our test pieces using the parallel pen

Samir: Our aim with this series is to try to come at a particular tool with our various different creative directions and see what we can do with it. So let’s start by seeing what we’ve all come up with. Minjal, what have you done?

Abstract calligraphic patterns made with a Pilot Parallel Pen

Minjal: So, I’ve kind of stuck to the more conventional use of the Pilot pen, which is … There’s this floral calligraphy design. And the other thing that I’ve done is, I’ve deconstructed alphabets, and placed them in a square … to make it maybe make a design which can go on a t-shirt or key-chain …

Vishal: So these are the Roman alphabet? The English alphabet?

Minjal: These are actually the basic strokes for Gothic Calligraphy.

Vishal: Okay.

Minjal: So these are just strokes I’ve kind of just arranged to look like alphabets.

Vishal: Okay.

Minjal: So it also looks like a nice abstract design, but somebody could actually see that this is a ‘K’.

Vishal: Ah, right, right …

Vishal: So this is Minjalese?

Minjal: Something like that. Yes.

Vishal: So, this one, I noticed that this one is done in a … an almost like an emerald green.

Minjal: Right.

Vishal: Here there’s shades of blue as well …

Minjal: So what I’ve done is to use the Ecoline colours and blended two colours together to give it this gradation.

Blending with the pilot parallel pen

Vishal: How do you blend two colours together? Do you use two separate pens or do you use two different times?

Minjal: Well, you could use two different pens, but what the parallel pen let’s you do is that it’s very easy to just dip into different colours.

Detail view of colour blended calligraphy strokes with the Pilot Parallel Pen

Vishal: Ah, okay. Let’s just show this to the people, because … first of all it has a very unusual closure in that it is a screw top … Most fountain pens that we use certainly have a pull (cap), right? Is there any reason, do you guys know, why this thing is (a screw top)? Or it’s just a stylistic thing?

Samir: I think it’s purely a stylistic thing and it’s … it also seems to be a big division in the fountain pen world. Because you actually do find people discussing the difference between pull-tops and screw-tops. I’m guessing it’s very much a choice that people have and feel strongly about.

Vishal: Because my experience with fountain pens has always been that you pull to use the pen and you unscrew to refill the cartridge, like you see here. But you didn’t use it with a cartridge in there, you just kept an empty thing (barrel)?

Minjal: That is optional, you can leave the cartridge in and you can blend the colour that’s in the cartridge with something that you put in a palette.

Vishal: That’s an interesting way of using it. It’s not the usual … but then this is an unusual pen, that’s why we’re talking about it.

Samir: in fact, one of the recommended ways … because the Pilot Parallel Pen is very much sold as something where you can blend colours. One of the recommended ways you will find mentioned in a lot of places is to actually fill two different pens with different colours, and then at the point where you want them to mix, you just pass ink between the nibs. Because of the very loose design of the nib, you can actually do that.

Minjal: And that actually works quite well.

Which paper to use with a pilot parallel pen

Vishal: Samir, you and I used a pen with Sepia ink in them We used Sheaffer Sepia coloured ink. This is just a very rough, probably a 180 or 200 gsm, drawing paper. That’s the one that we used. Minjal, used something specifically made for calligraphy?

Minjal: The Rodia pads are very famous with lettering artists across the world. They’re easily available, not very expensive. And the dotted structure helps.

Vishal: And it’s a nice smooth one though?

Minjal: Yeah, it is.

Vishal: Okay. So the problem that, I think, both Samir and I had is that the pen really fights you on …especially for drawing. This is a test sheet of mine, which I just keep at the side, whenever … So you can see all sorts of pens are on it … but again, mostly the parallel pen in this case. We’ll show you our stuff as well, but … I think the paper choice is a major factor in how smooth an experience you’ll have.

In both our cases, I think it was fighting us. Samir, why don’t you show us what you have.

Samir: You can show yours as well because I think it’s …

Vishal: It’s similar.

Samir: … in our case we’ve both used the same ink.

Vishal: So we both did illustrative things. I did a portrait. And Samir did a cactus, I think. Or some kind of marital aid

Samir: Cool Internet Art? I don’t know.

Vishal: But you’ve used copy paper?

Samir: Yes.

Vishal: So that’s just a standard 80 gsm, you can almost see it going the page.

Samir: It does go through the page a little, but not bad to use.

Pilot parallel pen cleaning

Vishal: That wasn’t the problem here but it was fighting me basically throughout the thing (drawing). I could almost never pull a vertical stroke the way you’ve done here, so I was was always doing these scratchy … which is interesting. It gets you this almost etching like look.

Details of Pilot Parallel Pen sepia ink strokes in a portrait drawing

Samir: But I think having used this a little now … in Vishal and my case, we both used a single pen … the Pilot Parallel Pens do come with a plastic strip, which you use to pass between the nib and clean out any of the debris that’s left over.

Vishal: Yes.

Samir: And I think that’s something we might have missed out on because we’ve tried various different coloured inks over time and eventually …

Vishal: Eventually there’s a build-up.

Minjal: There is.

Samir: You have build-up and dried up pieces, so in our case it might be that we just need to physically clean it a bit more.

Vishal: So there’s this reservoir here, right? It’s not just going directly from the ink cartridge to the nib. And there’s this whole mechanism here …

Samir: Which gives a more steady kind of flow, but that also leads to areas where it can dry out and clog.

Using different inks with a parallel pen

Vishal: Which is always a problem with these. Have we tried other inks on them? I think we’ve stuck to fountain pen inks. The thicker things like Sumi ink, or any of those, will be too gritty for this.

Samir: From what I read about it, any fountain pen ink is what’s recommended for it. And if you do find an acrylic based or a pigment based ink like a Sumi ink, then they recommend that you just use it as a dip pen. Because the reservoir just doesn’t work very well with pigmented inks.

History of parallel pens

Vishal: So, what’s the history of these? They are obviously modern pens, but they try for a very classic style, let’s say. Are parallel pens something that has been around for a long time?

Samir: I think in this present form it’s very much a modern design … I know Vishal and me have only seen this over the past 10 years or so … this particular design. As far as the history of it … I think the actually history of pens that use two metal plates to produce a line is extreme old.

It’s just that the traditional calligraphy pen that uses that technique is a folded pen. Which is a single piece of metal, that you fold this way [gestures with palms hinged along one edge], and therefore you have the two plates. This is kind of an innovation on that technique.

The folded pen was very much a dip pen because you couldn’t have a reservoir that could pass ink into this kind of structure. What they’ve done is to get you the flexible line of a folded pen, but with a very traditional fountain pen reservoir.

Vishal: So this is mostly down to just capillary action?

Samir: Yes. And gravity, I guess.

Vishal: Well, yes. Gravity. Gravity helps us all.

Calligraphy using the Pilot Parallel Pen

Vishal: So I think that’s covered mostly what we can do with it. In terms of the kind of line quality, clearly you can get a variety of lines, depending on how … how face-on it is. Are there any things that were surprising to you when you were using it?

Minjal: I’ve been practicing calligraphy for almost 15 years, and I have to say this is my most favourite writing instrument.

Vishal: Okay.

Minjal: Purely because it is really easy to use, and as Samir mentioned, very easy to clean. They now have some 6 nib sizes, which let’s you get that flexibility between thick strokes and thin strokes. So it works really well whether you are a beginner or a professional artist.

Vishal: It’s Dussehra right now, so you will hear some people, banging drums outside. That’s just India. That’s where we all are … it’s a festival, so apologies for that, if that … if we’re getting in the way of that actually, because you know, because maybe you’re not used to those things, but …

Minjal, you’ve done some other work with this pen, so show us more of that. You showed it to us in the beginning. We might as well look through and see what you can do … like this is just plain black ink right?

Samir: The good thing here is that Minjal is someone who uses this pen regularly, and Vishal and me have pretty much never used it before so it’s two very different ways of looking at it.

Vishal: Complete novices, so …

Minjal: So, what I’ve been doing … how I actually work on designs, like I mentioned earlier … is I take alphabets, deconstruct them, break them up into basic strokes. And what the Pilot Parallel let’s you do is, you get these really thin, fine strokes that you contrast with some really thick strokes, and that makes it visually also very good to look at. So that’s the kind of work I’ve been doing.

Thoughts on the parallel pen for illustration

Vishal: Okay, so I think the festivities are getting closer, so we might as well wrap up for a bit. this episode at least. Any other thoughts about this pen? Other than to go and get it, I guess?

Samir: It’s absolutely a joy to use I did a lot of portraits and general drawing with felt-tip calligraphy pens and there’s something so much more characterful about a fountain pen like this rather than a felt tip, which kind of looses some of that organic quality.

So it’s absolutely something I’d use again, but I think paper choice and ink choice is extremely important when you’re playing with this.

Pilot Parallel pen stroke details in a sepia ink sketch

More about paper choice for the parallel pen

Vishal: I think the thing that a lot of people discount is the paper affects you very much as to what …because you can get this, even art paper … and you will see in upcoming episodes, the same paper and how it reacts to … it takes to some mediums wonderfully.

But clearly for this one, maybe if you want to do artwork, maybe go all the way up to a smooth Bristol board. Copy paper is certainly fine. Clearly, these notepads are great for it and we love them. But for finished work, certainly if you want to have the nice clean look … And that doesn’t mean that you can’t fight with it and get this nice, really scratchy thing. Like Samir said, there is an organic quality to it, and at the same time you have this precision, which you wont get in a felt-tipped one, I think.

Samir: I think that’s about all we have. Do we sign-off?

Vishal: Yeah, just before we go again, just tell us where you can find you online for more.

Samir: Subscribe to the Inky Memo YouTube Channel. We will be producing more of these and other stationery videos as well.

Vishal: And you have a newsletter as well.

Samir: We have an email newsletter that you can sign up for, which you can find at InkyMemo.com
Turn on your notifications and all that stuff that people tell you to do on YouTube, because …

Vishal: Like, subscribe, hit that bell, all that stuff.

Samir: We will be producing more of these and it would be nice if you could see them when they come out.

I think that’s about it for this time. Vishal, what do you have to say to all those stationery hoarders out there?

Vishal: Use your stationery, please! Don’t just keep them in a box like I do.

Get the Pilot Parallel Pen

1. Pilot Parallel Pen 2-Color Calligraphy Pen Set, 6.0mm Nib https://amzn.to/333oSBh
2. Pilot Enso Parallel Pen Hand Lettering Calligraphy Set https://amzn.to/31AePD2
3. Pilot Parallel Calligraphy Pens, 6 Assorted Point Sizes and Colors https://amzn.to/3IphPms

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