Review: Pilot Custom 74

A much loved pen in the online pen blogging world, I just had to buy it when a great offer materialised on Pen Chalet.

Evolving review

The following review began after two weeks of use of this pen. I didn’t publish it and, over time, my impressions of this pen have changed dramatically. This is now is a long term review of the Pilot Custom 74, Fine nib.

Two weeks

Right, the preamble. This is a difficult one. I will begin with a statement.

I like this pen

The rest of this part is my attempt to convince myself that this statement is actually true. Let’s see how successful I am. This pen came highly recommended. Of course recommendations are personal opinions, there is always a risk in following them. All sorts of things may happen; issue with the nib, dodgy convertor, etc. Not this time anyway, the pen arrived in perfect condition.

I like this pen

My main workhorse pen is the Lamy 2000 (I do love that pen). Perhaps this spoils me for other pens, who knows. What I like in the Lamy is the smooth nib and light body and it just looks fantastic. Well the Pilot has a smooth nib and is even lighter than the Lamy 2000 while a bit ordinary on looks. I think it’s the lack of weight that is putting me off; it is very light. Combined with the smooth nib it feels as if the pen is trying to get away from me. I just don’t feel in control without considerable concentration. When I do concentrate the writing experience is great.

Being a Japanese fine the line is very tight, much more so than a European extra-fine. It has great flow which can be a challenge on very fine nibs; I just don’t like a dry nib. As should be expected with a wet nib, the ink level does come down quickly. It’s not a problem as the included CON-70 convertor is quite large, certainly the largest I have ever used.

So there, I like this pen. I still have some hesitation given the concentration required to have clear handwriting but I enjoy the fine, wet line it puts down.

One month

Right, it’s a month later and the Lamy 2000 is still my workhorse* pen. Now that doesn’t mean that nothing has changed, it has and significantly so. My former workhorse, the TWSBI 580 with EF nib has been relegated to my green pen.** The Pilot is now #2 in the rotation after the Lamy 2000 and ahead of the KarasKustoms INK. I have adjusted to this pen. I’m not sure if it’s just my grip that has adjusted but I am much more comfortable with the pen now; it no longer tends to run away from me. I do get a bit scrawly when writing quickly with this pen but that’s a feature of my poor handwriting in general. It’s when I am deliberate with my writing, which in general I am, where this pen is a joy to use. Taking notes in a meeting is a wonderful experience as the pen does what I need it to do.

Two months

Right, a further month and, while not all that much has changed, the Lamy 2000 is getting a run for it’s money as my workhorse pen. This pen is great. My need to be deliberate and to concentrate in order to have a good writing experience is now gone; I am finally accustomed to this pen. I find that I can now write quickly and neatly and have lost that scrawly quality.

Nine months

This pen has become an extension of my hand, it writes like a dream. Gone is any issue with position and any issue of scrawliness. I use this pen most out of my collection on a daily basis. The Lamy 2000 is now (a very close) second. The key reason for this change is the finer nib on the Pilot. A Japanese fine is certainly sharper than a European extra-fine.


The pen is a blue demonstrator with dark (defined as smoke) ends. At first the body looked and felt cheap but it has grown on me. It doesn’t have the sophistication of the Waterman Carène or Lamy 2000 but it’s nice. That’s the best superlative I can come up with.

Platinum + Chrome

The nib, however, is beautiful. It’s 14k gold, platinum plated and is very well showcased by the overall look of the pen. The whole point of this pen is the nib; it’s functional body aims only to provide a grip. The clip, cap band and small ring on the body are similarly shiny and match well with the nib itself. The cap is light, so light that when posted it barely changes the balance of the pen. This is the only normal sized pen which I will occasionally post. The cap clicks into place when posted, it is secure giving quite a bit of confidence. To close, the cap screws on to the body and is surprisingly sturdy when closed. Multiple drops of this pen from desk height have not caused any damage to the pen.

The pen works only with Pilot’s proprietary system, which is not a problem since included it came with the CON-70, button filler, convertor. This convertor has a great capacity, an important point as the pen is a wet writer, a smaller convertor would require regular refills.

Ooh, bubbly

Writing that, I do get through a full convertor within three weeks, quite fast for me. I quite like the complex bubble structures that often arise within as the ink level drops.

Refilling the pen is great. Goulet Pens have published an excellent video demonstrating the method. You must fill the convertor when in the pen; I had a tendancy to fill convertors separately to the pens. One note of caution, on filling there is a lot of ink between the fins in the section and inside the opening through which the ink is drawn, any expressive hand movements while holding the recently filled pen can lead to splashes of ink. Consider this a warning. This is much more pronounced on this pen than on any other I use.

Another ink-related aspect is this pen’s tendency to burp ink, particularly on warm days. I assume that this is a consequence of the section design, where there is quite a large opening to allow the convertor to suck in ink during the filling process.

Burped ink inside cap

This burping often results in spots of ink within the cap. In some instances, a blob of ink will be left on the page on starting to write but this is uncommon. It’s an annoying behaviour.

The section screws into the body of the pen with plastic on metal threads. I do worry that if I over tighten when closing the body will crack. Perhaps it won’t but I’m taking no chances. On filling my pen for the first time I noticed that behind the end of the nib is a small collection of ink; I am yet to change the ink in this pen to an alternate colour so I am unsure of what affect this extra ink would have on another colour.


A body that feels cheap but excellent where it truly matters, the nib. Yep, I love this pen and expect that it will be in the rotation for a long time to come.*

*Update [June 2017]

Since writing this post, and over a year of heavy use, I decided to let it go. The pen lost its shine due to the acquisition of another Japanese pen, the Platinum 3776 with UEF nib. That pen, particularly with the incredibly fine nib, has relegated the Custom 74 to a second tier pen. I decided to sell to someone I knew would greatly enjoy the Pilot; he is. A similar faith has befallen the Sailor 1911.


*Workhorse – that pen I instinctively draw from my case when I need to write. At writing two week review this was the Lamy 2000. It’s now the Pilot Custom 74.
**Green pen – this is a pen that I use for dividing my notes within one day, usually to denote the separation between topics. Occasionally used for mark-up on documents. Not for general note taking. Click here for more.

Other reviews:

The Pen Habit – dark green with bold nib
The Pen Addict – orange model with medium nib – same model as mine, with excellent photos (as ever)


5 thoughts on “Review: Pilot Custom 74

  1. Pingback: 2016 | KurleyMcD

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