Wednesday, August 28, 2019


Wancher's Dream Pen True Urushi project left quite an impression on the community last year. For a very good reason of course. A way to get your hands on 'affordable' urushi fountain pens? Count me in! 

I reviewed one of the early prototypes of the Dream Pen Urushi back then (you can find this review HERE). But I wanted to revisit my original thoughts about it in a follow-up once the production pens that my father and I ordered, arrived. At this point I've had the Dream Pen with me for about five months, and it's been inked ever since it got here -that on itself is already quite a testimony to how much I like it. 
"...if Wancher can make their promises true and deliver a product as good as the prototype I have in my hands right now, this can become a game changer for the Urushi fountain pen industry..."
Back in early 2018, judging by the prototype they sent me, I knew Wancher had a great product in their hands. But of course at that point they still had to prove that they could provide the prototype-level quality on the final production version.
Now having those final pens in hand, I think it's safe to say they succeeded in creating a quality product. The urushi laquer is perfectly applied, and the level of craftsmanship is easily on par with that of a Nakaya or Danitrio. The finish is smooth and consistent, perfectly polished, and the colors are vivid.

The pens come with a certificate on who actually did the urushi work: a laquerware studio in Wajima called Taya Shikkiten. Wajima is regarded as the capital of Urushi laquer, and has a high reputation for the quality laquer that comes from this region. 
So how did Wancher manage to cut costs? I have a theory: Judging from my dad's Aka-Tamenuri ("Aka"=red, "Tamenuri"=pooled laquer) , and comparing it to a Nakaya in the same finish, the Dream Pen seems to have fewer laquer layers. Aka-Tamenuri is created by covering a red base color in many layers of semi-transparent smoke-grey laquer to create a darker finish. By sanding each layer, the edges reveal more of the red base, creating the effect of a pooled liquid on the surface of the pen. So in the case of the Dream Pen, less semi-transparent top layers create a more transparent finish and thus a lighter overall color. On the Shu ("Shu"=red) finish of my own Dream Pen, the fewer layers also show on the edges, where the black ebonite of the pen shows through slightly. 
While this is just a hypothesis (read: I do not know if what I'm saying is actually true!), it would make sense. Urushi takes up to months to apply because many consecutive layers have to be applied, dried and sanded one by one. Cutting the amount of layers in half for example, would translate into twice the production capacity and half the cost. At the same time, I think the sacrifice of a few coats is relatively harmless and not at all detrimental to the quality. Urushi laquer is incredibly durable when it hardens, so the Dream Pen -regardless of how it was actually made- should last a very long time.

So what else is new? 

For one, the cap threads were updated since the original prototype. I already discussed this in my review of the Dream Pen Ebonite. The block threads are smooth and easy on the fingers. The step behind the threads is a considerable jump up from the section, and it's definitely noticeable. Although the edge is not super sharp because of the rounded edges that the urushi finish provides. Despite being a larger pen, I still find this a really comfortable writer. The section is nicely shaped and the ebonite construction is lightweight. 

Having had this pen inked up continuously, I can say the spring-loaded inner cap works great. I haven't had any issues with the nib drying out, and it starts up as soon as it hits the paper. 
Left: Wancher 18k gold nib, Right: JoWo 18k gold nib.
Talking about the nib, this is really the highlight of the Dream Pen I think. After the Kickstarter there was some fuzz about Wancher not being able to outsource all nibs from JoWo, and they would reside to using their own, new 18k gold nibs on some orders. Some people were not at all pleased that this would mean their original nib choice would change....

Well having received one of Wancher's nibs (made in-house, which is pretty awesome), I can say I'm VERY glad that they took the decision to go this way! 
The nib is fantastic. It's a straight-out perfect nib in almost any way. Like most Japanese nibs, it runs about one size finer than Western nibs, so my broad is more like a medium. However unlike most Japanese nibs, it's very smooth, has almost no feedback (compared to something like a Sailor, which has more of a pencil-like feedback) and provides a rather wet ink flow, regulated by the same custom ebonite feed from Flexible Nib Factory that we've seen before. It also has a distinct bouncy softness that adds some character to your writing. Wancher warns not to put too much pressure on it, but there is certainly some line variation with mild pressure.
The only thing I don't like about it is the laser-engraving. For some reason it looks a bit fuzzy on my Wancher nib, whereas on the JoWo nibs it's perfectly crisp. Overall though, I think they made the Dream Pen even better by complementing it with their own gold nibs. If you order a True Urushi dream pen from their website now, they will automatically come with their own Wancher gold nibs.
So that's it. I was a bit wary to put a final conclusion on Wancher's Dream Pen Urushi project, as I wasn't sure if they were going to be able to live up to the hype. Now I'm completely certain: Wancher created a beautiful pen with a fantastic nib to boot. Even at full retail price, they managed to keep the cost about 300$ below a comparable Nakaya. Even though a 450$ pen (480$ with ebonite feed) can hardly be called inexpensive, it's a great deal for the quality you get, and it serves as a fantastic gateway into Urushi pens! 

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