One of the most talked-about products at least year’s TIPS was a new kind of dip pen, called Drillog, from Gifu-based precision engineering company Shion. Unlike traditional dip pens, Drillog’s nibs have glass nib-like grooves and ink channels and hold more ink.
Few people had even heard about Drillog before the show. There was no website and the company had no social media presence. Drillog’s Twitter account was created on the very same day as the show.
Drillog’s table garnered a lot of attention. We talked about it in Tokyo Inklings episode 18, live from TIPS, and Alesa (Inky Rocks) mentioned Drillog in her TIPS video. Even monolettering celebrity Bechori stopped by and picked up a pen.
The product lineup currently consists of a number of barrels and two nibs: 0.5mm and 0.8mm. A Shion representative told me that the broader nib was designed with shimmering inks in mind.
This is a major selling point, as shimmering inks are popular in Japan. Glass pens often have problems with both pigmented and shimmering inks, as recently pointed out by venerable glass pen maker Sase in a tweet that caused a lot of stir.
While I was tempted to buy a Drillog at TIPS, the price put me off at the time. However, I kept following Drillog on Twitter. In May, they announced that they would participate in Japan’s Hometown tax program, in which taxpayers redirect residence tax to rural areas in exchange for “gifts”. So, I decided to participate, did the paperwork and chose a Drillog as my “gift”.
Last week, I finally got my Drillog, an orange Classical Spiral with an 0.8mm nib. This is one good-looking pen. The twisted, faceted barrel looks a bit like a metal version of a Nakaya Decapod Twist.
However, unlike a Nakaya, this Drillog doesn’t have a section. You grip the faceted barrel directly. It is possible to find a grip that works, but in hindsight, perhaps the Classical Material model would have been a better choice for me.
This pen is also quite short and does not post. If you have big hands, you may want to consider a different model.
The 0.8mm nib has noticeable feedback. I tried to write with a light hand and would still describe it as at least pencil feedback. Personally, I enjoy toothy nibs, as long as the feedback is consistent and doesn’t vary with stroke direction. Drillog’s feedback is of the right kind, I think, but some might even consider it a tad scratchy.
The entire pen is built like a tank. If you want to bring a dip pen to a pen meetup, this would be a great choice. It also has removable nibs. While there are only two nibs widths to choose from at the moment, Shion representatives have already hinted that more is coming.
To test how much ink my 0.8mm nib could hold, I dipped it in a bottle of Itoya Cocktail Evening Rose and started writing in a B5-ish notebook. At first, the nib laid down a wet, almost 3-dimensional line, as is typically the case with glass nibs too. A few lines later, it looked closer to something written with a fountain pen nib. After writing about half a page, the lines were getting faint. I then rotated the nib a few times and got a bit more ink. Finally, with only about 1/6 of the page still blank, the nib was dry.
While I didn’t have a real glass nib to compare it to, I did have a cheap and cheerful Moonman N6 with an acrylic “glass nib” of similar width. So, I repeated the experiment with this pen, and to my surprise, I could write even longer with the Moonman. I did this experiment twice, with both pens. Then I did it again, this time with Pilot Blue Black. Same result.
Update: After doing additional tests, I have found that certain inks let me write longer with the Drillog and with a more controlled ink flow. In particular, Pelikan Blue Black. According to Shumi no Bungubako vol 40 (Kindle Edition), page 49, Pelikan’s and Pilot’s Blue Black inks have almost the same viscosity (0.95 vs 0.97 mPa·s) but Pelikan’s has significantly higher surface tension (63.03 vs 48.51 nM/s). My theory is that the light, watery Tono & Lims inks that are so popular in Japan also have relatively high surface tension, and that this 0.8mm nib may have been tested with and optimized for such inks.
While Drillog may not be for everyone, it is certainly an interesting pen. It’s easy to clean, built to last, has pleasant feedback, doesn’t choke on shimmering inks, and frankly just looks so cool. This particular model is just a bit too short for my taste.
Drillog pens are currently only available from the official online store and select retailers, including Kingdom Note. There is no easy way to order from overseas yet.
Fortunately, there is a Kickstarter campaign coming up soon. You can sign up and get notified when the campaign starts.
- 2021-07-01: New paragraph about inks and surface tension.
- 2021-07-12: Link to Kindle edition of Shumibun vol 40.