|WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
||EF, F, SF (Soft Fine), FM (Fine Medium), SFM (Soft Fine Medium), M, SM (Soft Medium), B, BB, C (Coarse), PO (Posting), FA (Falcon), WA (Waverly) and SU (Stub) nib.
||Capped Length: 148.3mm
Uncapped Length: 131.3mm
Posted Length: 162.6mm
Cap ∅: 15.7mm
Barrel ∅: 12.9mm
Section ∅: 10.6-11.5mm
||$234 from Engeika
Today I’m going to be reviewing a very interesting pen from Pilot, the Custom 743. If you read my review of the Custom Heritage 912 from last week you’ll notice a few similarities, especially because this one has the FA nib as well, but it is the larger #15 size. Like the 912, the Custom 743 is not currently available in the US, but it’s still very easy to get your hands on. Visit Engeika.com and be sure to sign in to view the best pricing. Before we get started, I’ve gotta thank Pilot North America for sending me this review unit and getting one with the FA nib I requested. Alright, let’s get into it!
There’s nothing too thrilling about the way Pilot presents their pens and there’s nothing really wrong with that. These pens aren’t at the price point where I expect to be wow’d by the packaging and, on the plus side, the cheaper the packaging, the less you’ll pay, hopefully. What you get here is a black paper sleeve, a faux-leather covered clamshell-style case, and a clear window on top that shows off the pen. The tray pops out and underneath you’ve got a single cartridge and some warranty papers and instructions.
If you’re familiar with the Pilot lineup you’ve probably noticed how similar this pen looks to the Custom 74, a pen that is available in the US. The 743 is basically an oversize version of the 74. It features the classic black and gold color combination and that timeless cigar-shaped profile.
It really looks good no matter what angle you’re viewing it from. The ball on the end of the clip is rather large and detracts from what is otherwise a smooth, streamline pen.
Although, it does aid in functionality. The clip has quite a bit of tension in it and the large radius of the ball makes it easier to slip the clip over thicker edges like the elastic bands of a pen case, the edge of a pocket, or the thick cover of a notebook. One thing I do really like about the clip is how unadorned it is with it simply saying “PILOT” near the top.
Centered under the clip on the cap band is the phrase “CUSTOM 743” and around the back is “PILOT MADE IN JAPAN.” The letters are crisp and clear and perfectly filled with a black lacquer.
The Custom 743 is a large pen. In the images below, from left to right we have the Montblanc 149, the Pilot Justus 95, the Custom 743, the Pelikan M805, the Custom Heritage 912, the Custom Heritage 92, the Pilot Falcon, and the Pelikan M200. You can see the 743 is the same length as the 149, but much thinner.
Uncapped, you can see that it compares more closely with the M805, especially considering their similar nib size. The section design is very similar to that of the 912 and features a subtle flair at the base of the nib before expanding in a uniform fashion on its way to the barrel.
One thing I really like about the 743 is its size, whether it’s posted or not. I find it to be very comfortable in either position and whether or not I use it one way or the other really depends on the mood I’m in.
It sits in the hand well and definitely feels like a featherweight pen, weighing in at only 16.1g uncapped. If you often experience fatigue, many of Pilots pens are excellent choices due to their lightweight resin construction. Usually, I prefer a little more weight to my pens and that’s one reason I’ll post the cap. Thankfully, the cap is also pretty light and sits far enough down the barrel to not shift the balance of the pen too noticeably. It adds a bit of length and fullness to the pen while remaining very controllable.
And with a nib like the FA Falcon, you definitely need to be in control to get the most out of it. It requires a very light touch to maintain a fine line with no variation and if you apply too much pressure when flexing it, you’ll make it railroad, but I’ll get into that in more detail during the writing sample. The Pilot Custom 743 uses the large #15 nib and comes in 14 different widths: Extra Fine, Fine, Soft Fine, Fine Medium, Soft Fine Medium, Medium, Soft Medium, Broad, Double Broad, Coarse, Posting, Falcon, Waverly, and Stub. The only one that isn’t available is the 3 tine music nib. All the nibs are made from 14k gold but the Falcon is the only one that features this unique design. The large cutouts in the shoulder of the nib increase flexibility and aid in the nib’s soft feel.
For the writing samples in this review I used Iroshizuku Kon-Peki, but I did use several other Iroshizuku inks along with some Diamine and Noodler’s and obtained very similar results from each. Kon-Peki is one of favorite blues and one of the my favorite inks in general. The Custom 743 comes with the CON-70 pump converter installed and is my preferred way to fill the pen versus using the squeeze or twist converters. I think it’s much easier to get a full fill with this converter, which should net you around 1.0mL of ink.
Like the FA nib in the 912, this one can easily be used as a daily driver. It’s incredibly smooth with a wonderfully soft feel to it. I preferred to write in cursive with this nib because I was better able to control the line width, whereas with print I’d find myself making thicker downstrokes and less uniform letters. It’s not a problem with the nib, just my lack of control.
One of the big differences I noticed between this nib and the one in the 912, is that this one didn’t have near the hard starting issues or sensitivity to oils on the paper. On some of the lines you can see where there’s a fraction of a millimeter where the nib doesn’t lay down ink, but it still makes a stroke. It did have the same flow issues as the 912 when flexing the nib. The feed just can’t keep up with what the nib is capable of and despite its larger size, I didn’t notice it being much more flexible than the smaller #10 FA nib. You can see that pushing the nib too far too fast will easily make it railroad and unless you give it time to catch its breath, the flow will give out completely.
The FA nib in the 743 wasn’t plagued with the hard starting issues or sensitivity to oils on the paper as the 912 was.
After using the pen for a while I was better able to adjust my writing to keep it within the limitations of the feed. After slowing down the speed of my strokes and resisting the temptation to really flex the nib, I was able to get predictable, consistent performance from the feed. One thing I learned to keep an eye on was the flow of ink between the tines as they’re flexed. When you start pushing too hard or writing too quickly you can see the stream of ink between the tines start to thin which tells you the flow is about to be interrupted.
Pushing the nib too far, too fast easily results in railroading and interrupted flow.
Reducing the speed of the stroke and width the fines were flexed resulted in far fewer instances of railroading.
It appears the general performance of the #15 FA nib in the Custom 743 was much better than the #10 FA nib in the Custom Heritage 912. But, that’s not entirely true. While the specific 912 I used was definitely more finicky, that doesn’t mean it’s going to be true of every FA nib out there, but I did experience the exact same flow issues in each pen, I was just better able to control it with the 743 after practicing with it. And I’ll get into a more side-by-side comparison in an upcoming review.
The thing to remember is that Pilot has designed the FA nibs with Asian calligraphy in mind. Asian calligraphy uses more short strokes and has more pauses between writing each character compared to the long flowing lines seen in many styles of writing in the West. Keeping in mind what the nib and, more appropriately, the feed were designed for, you can see that the FA nib is well suited for the task.
I think that once people have a better understanding of what the FA nib is and isn’t capable of they’ll have more appreciation for it.
So, if you think you might be interested in purchasing the Custom 743 with the FA nib or any one of the other 13 different nibs, be sure to check out Engeika.com where you can find this pen for $234. I think the Pilot Custom 743 is an all-around solid pen but I’m not sure it’s worth the premium over the 742, which is identical, only slightly smaller and uses the smaller #10 nib, but it does have the 3 tine music nib as an option and sells for about $165. You could get a couple of bottles of Iroshizuku with that savings.
Pilot Custom 743 Fountain Pen w/ FA Nib Review