Nakaya Piccolo fountain pen-7

Brand Nakaya
Model Piccolo Writer
Nib Material 14k gold
Nib Sizes XXF-BB, 1.15mm Music
Filling System  Platinum cartridge/converter, International adapter available
Dimensions Capped: 129.3mm
Uncapped: 115.1mm
Posted: 160.1mm
Section Ø: 10.5-12.6mm
Barrel Ø: 15.1mm
Weight 23.5g
Notes Available with or w/o clip, and in multiple finishes.
Price $550

I’ve had more fun using the Nakaya Piccolo Writer than I’ve had with any fountain pen in a long time. The combination of quality craftsmanship, gorgeous heki-tamenuri finish, and a hand-ground cursive italic nib by yours truly makes for a fountain pen that has caused me to forget about everything else in my collection.

Let me start by saying that I, unfortunately, do not own this pen. It was sent to me by Lisa Miyako (her Daily Carry is the definition of ‘eye-candy’) to have the nib worked over to something of a fine cursive italic. She was gracious enough to allow me to hold onto it for a few weeks to review it, and for that, I thank her. Although, the more I think about it, maybe I should be cursing her for the post-pen depression I’m sure I’ll fall into once I send it back.

Nakaya Piccolo fountain pen-5-2As with all Nakaya fountain pens, the Piccolo starts from a solid rod of hard rubber (ebonite), turned down to that familiar shape we all know and love, then many layers of urushi (Japanese lacquer) are applied. When I asked John Mottishaw at about the process, this is what he had to say:

I watched as the Piccolo was hand turned on a lathe in the factory outside of Tokyo by Kohsuke Matsubara.  But as I understand, He now does the work at home, only coming out to demonstrate to show visitors.  He has amazing hands and is surprisingly quick, cutting the overall shape as well as cutting the threads!  I was surprised as he fit a cap to a barrel using only a hand guided thread cutting tool, resting on a post.

The entire process from beginning to end takes about 3 months to complete. I think that makes the asking price of $550 a lot easier to accept, especially when compared to pens from Italy or the UK that are turned out on a CNC lathe where the most manual process is blindly throwing a dart to pick the arbitrary number for their limited edition run.

Nakaya Piccolo fountain pen-10

The hand-cut threads of the Nakaya are as tight as any machine cut threads on any other pen.

It’s quite evident the high level of quality craftsmanship that went into the Piccolo. The finish has been polished to perfection and provides the kind of depth that can only be achieved by using multiple layers of lacquer. If we take a close look at the gap under the clip, or the lack of one, it’s clear that Nakaya pays more attention to the details than other companies. Most manufacturers just cut a giant notch out of the cap that’s much larger than the thickness of the clip and it leaves an unsightly gap under the bend of the clip. On the Nakaya, the notch has such tight tolerances it looks like the clip has magically sprouted from the cap. There’s really nothing I can complain about regarding build quality as you’re definitely getting what you pay for.

Normally, here’s where I’d mention how the best part of the pen is the nib, but with the Nakaya, the heki-tamenuri finish does an excellent job competing for that title. The green and brown urushi offer excellent contrast, yet complement each other exceptionally well. This is probably most well shown when uncapping the pen and revealing the section, where more of the green can be seen. If the heki-tamenuri doesn’t do it for you, there are many other options to choose from.

Nakaya Piccolo fountain pen-12However, the nib is quite stunning, as well, mostly due to the fact that I customized it. I hate to toot my own horn here, but having a nib customized to suit your writing style just makes the whole experience so much better. I apologize for not being able to comment on the stock nib performance. If you’re buying this pen new in the US, it most likely means you’re buying it from John Mottishaw at (they’re the exclusive US distributor for Nakaya), so you can be assured it’s going to write perfectly when you get it.

The 14k gold nibs are excellent writers. They’re not rigid, but not flexible, either. They provide just enough ‘give’ to provide a soft, smooth writing experience. All Nakaya nibs come standard in yellow gold and are available in three different finishes, rose gold, rhodium, and ruthenium, for an additional $50. Seven different nib sizes are available from XXF to BB and a 1.15mm Music nib. On the nib you’ll notice the imprint says “NAKATA” instead of Nakaya. Nakata is the family name of the founder of Nakaya, who is the grandson of the founder of Platinum Pens.

Nakaya Piccolo fountain pen-6-2

Nakata is the name of the founder of Nakaya, Toshiya Nakata, who’s also the grandson of the founder of the Platinum Pen Company.

Nakaya Piccolo fountain pen-17Nakaya Piccolo fountain pen-16

Just looking at the Piccolo, I would have thought it much too small to use when not posted. It turns out it’s rather very comfortable and I was easily able to embark on 15 minute writing sessions without any discomfort. Posting the cap (don’t worry, I asked permission to do so!) results in a longer pen, obviously, and one that does a better job of filling your purlicue, but didn’t actually make the pen any more or less comfortable. Also, while the cap didn’t move while posted during writing, it didn’t feel all the secure either, which makes sense as the Piccolo was not intended to be posted. If you need a longer pen, then take a look at the Portable and Long models.

The Piccolo comes in two versions: Cigar (w/o clip) and Writer (with clip). I find the Cigar to be more aesthetically pleasing but it’s hard to ignore the functionality of the Writer and how useful the clip is. Of course, if this pen would never leave its case, then, by all means, go with the Cigar model.

Nakaya Piccolo fountain pen-18The Nakaya Piccolo is truly an amazing pen. There’s no doubt that my next big purchase (over $500) will be a Nakaya. In a market where brand image and “limited editions” seems to be the driving force behind prices, it’s refreshing to know that the Piccolo costs as much as it does because of the manual labor involved and the resulting quality craftsmanship. If there was ever a fountain pen that was ‘worth it’, it’d be a Nakaya.

This pen was provided for review by Lisa Miyako.

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  • Will Platt

    Beautiful! I didn’t realize the threads were hand made!

  • Tim Hofmann

    What a lovely piece of work. You’re a fortunate man, Dan. Next one won’t be a loaner.

    • Dan Smith

      Thanks, Tim.

      Next one won’t be a loaner.

      You got that right!

  • El Esquire

    Aesthetic Bay sells the Piccolo Long model that’s just an extended version of the Piccolo. I’d recommend that for folks who prefer longer pens. The Piccolo’s uncapped length is 116 mm (4.57 in.) and the Piccolo Long is 128 mm (5.04 in.). I wish I hadn’t tragically lost mine. :(

    • Dan Smith

      I would cry for days if I lost a pen of this caliber. My condolences.

  • Michel_de_Montreal

    Gorgeous! :)

  • EveryPenny

    That heki-tamenuri is all-over sweet. One of my favorite Nakaya finishes!

  • Kai S

    Only if I could find a place near me to test write one of these…
    They are so tempting!

  • snedwos

    I want to see the results of Dan’s nib customisation! Writing sample, please!

  • ethernautrix

    What a thorough review with beautiful photos. I am so glad this is my pen, cos your review makes me want to have one. And did I mention the beautiful photos?

  • ethernautrix

    Loren linked to this review from facebook (SF Bay Pen Posse group), because we switched Nakaya Piccolo bodies! Now his ruthenium-plated B (or BB) nib is in this heki-tamenuri body, and this amazing nib that Dan reground is in a matte black Piccolo with a silver clip, hahaha! (Laughing cos Loren has a silver nib with a gold clip, and I have the reverse now).So that it isn’t lost in the review or comment, Dan did a superlative job regrinding the nib (it was tried by others at Pen Posse, to acclaim!).

    • ethernautrix

      By the way, the tactile delight of the matte black adds another dimension of beauty to the Nakaya experience.

  • glee

    Dan…great video. Can you tell me what nib you started with to end up with the fine cursive italic?

  • Mark

    Dan, have you purchased your Piccolo yet?

    • Dan Smith

      No, I haven’t. Why? Got one to sell me? ;-)

  • Keith Plunkett

    Hi Dan. Thanks for your review of this pen, I’ve watched it a number of times (amongst other reviews by you) and I’m in love with the Nakaya Piccolo. Unfortunately I can’t order through as I’m in Sydney, Australia. Consequently I order through dealer in Singapore.
    One of the things which I really like is the color…..which is bloody fantastic! As such, what is the exact description and color of this pen (I get confused with the Japanese terms and mixed English) so that I can order it from my dealer.

    Thanks again!


    • Dan Smith

      Keith, congrats on deciding to purchase one of these pens! When ordering this exact pen, tell them you want the Nakaya Piccolo Writer witih the Heki-tamenuri finish. Heki-tamenuri can be described as brown on top of a blue-green layer where the blue-green shows through.

      • Keith Plunkett

        Thanks Dan for the info.
        I checked with the supplier I use in Singapore; he has picture of same pen but looks so much darker. He explains that maybe due to camera effect, but that even so, the color would lighten over time (which is part of the beauty). He said it looked more like Shiro Tamernuri than HekkiTamenuri.

        But it looks great anyhow.