After the initial surge in popularity of fountain pens a few years back, the three main Japanese fountain pen brands really managed to strengthen their market share in the west with Pilot being the main winner. Due to this, we often see a wide range of questions based around the Pilot range of fountain pens from people thinking of adding one to their stationary collection.
Although we see a wide range of questions, one of the main ones is based around a direct Pilot Custom 74 vs 92 comparison. With both the Pilot Custom 92 and the Pilot Custom 74 being very popular fountain pens from the Pilot range, we have decided to publish this article offering our thoughts on both pens to try and help any of our readers who are considering adding either to their collection.
In all fairness to Pilot, both pens are excellent bits of kit and well worth having in your stationary collection and the best option for you from the two may come down to personal preference rather than the actual build, design or features offered. As usual, we have our comparison table below going over the key features of the Pilot Custom 74 and 92 followed by our full breakdowns of each pen for any of our readers who want to know as much as possible about both pens.
The Pilot Custom 74 Vs 92 Head To Head
As you can see from our comparison table above, our primary recommendation to our readers is the Pilot Custom 92 but this is largely due to it using a piston filler system rather than a cartridge convertor. Although the Pilot CON-70 converter is one of, if not the best cartridge converter on the market right now, a piston filler system is still the better option in our opinion.
Thats not to say that the Pilot Custom 74 is not an excellent pen and should be disregarded, it will be the better option for some people but we just thing that the Custom 92 is ever so slightly ahead of it. As we work our way through our deep dives of both pens below, we will explain the various situations where the Custom 74 may end up pushing ahead of the Custom 92 but for the majority of people, the Custom 92 is going to be the better option.
Pilot 92 Review
Getting right in with our deep dives for the pens and starting with our primary recommendation, the Pilot Custom 92 so we are able to explain why we feel it is the better option for our readers from the two featured pens. As we work our way through the deep dive we will be talking about other pens from other brands at this price point in the market that also push ahead of the Custom 92 in certain areas too.
The Pilot Custom 92 Nib
Just like the rest of the premium fountain pens from Pilot, their Custom 92 comes with a rhodium plated 14 carat gold nib that offers you an excellent writing experience in the majority of writing situations that you may encounter. The nib has been specifically designed to offer a small amount of flex to mimic your hand movements while writing while also keeping the nib rigid enough to allow you to write with ease.
We would place the flexibility of the Pilot Custom 92 nib between the slightly more rigid Lamy 2000 and the slightly more flexible Pelikan m200. This secures the pen a nice niche in the market that many people new to using fountain pens, especially intermediate level fountain pens seem to like as it a goldilocks situation of not being too flexible or too rigid but being just right for many people.
At the time of writing, you should easily be able to source a Pilot Custom 92 with a fine, medium or broad nib size in the west and although the pen is available with an extra-fine nib, it does tend to be hard to source outside of Japan. The lack of a double broad or oblique nib option is not too much of an issue either due to both nibs being more of a niche choice for a very small number of people although it would be nice to see the extra-fine nib size widely available in the west.
As we mentioned above, Pilot or are Japanese fountain pen brand and their nibs do tend to be slightly smaller than their western counterparts as are the nibs from most Asian pen brands. If you are thinking of upgrading to the Pilot Custom 92 from a fountain pen from a western brand and you like the current nib size that you have, it can be a good idea to upsize your nib selection for your Pilot pens.
For example, if you currently use the Lamy 2000 with a fine nib size and want your Pilot pen to have a similar-sized font when writing with it, opt for the medium nib size on the Pilot Custom 92. This will counter the potential issues with Asian fountain pen nibs being slightly smaller than western fountain pen nibs even when they are both listed as “fine” and although it won’t be an exact match, it will be close.
The Custom 92 has a wet writing nib that has proven to be very popular amongst the fountain pen enthusiast community as it offers a very smooth writing experience in the majority of situations. This prevents you from having issues with scratch when writing with the pen and ensures that in combination with the design and engineering of the nib, the pen will glide over the paper that you are writing on.
On the flipside of this though, this may lead to some issues with feathering, bleeding, and ghosting, especially if you are writing on thin, low GSM rated paper. Thankfully, a quick and easy fix is to get yourself some high GSM paper and due to higher GSM paper being at a similar price to lower GSM paper these days, this should be easy for anyone to do. The thicker, higher GSM paper prevents the ink from your Custom 92 bleeding or ghosting while also helping to reduce the chances of feathering too while also usually improving your overall writing experience when compared to writing on low GSM paper.
A quick point to make for any of our left-handed readers would be that the wet nib on the Custom 92 may cause you to smear your writing, especially if you do tend to write fast. Thankfully, you are able to opt to use a fast drying ink with your Custom 92 to prevent this and allow you to write as if the pen has a standard or even dryer writing nib.
The Barrel Of The Pilot Custom 92
One of the main drawbacks of the whole Pilot premium price point fountain pen range is that the barrels of the pens are made from injection mold plastic and although this does offer advantages over a stainless steel or brass barrel, it does lose out to a resin based barrel. Although the chemical based plastics used are high-quality and have come a long way, many feel that the plant based resins still do reign supreme and we tend to agree.
That said though, the lighter plastic used in the Pilot fountain pen range does keep it as lightweight as possible helping to prevent fatigue build up if you will be writing for longer periods of time. On top of this, the plastic is still tough and robust and should easily be able to take any punishment coming its way during expected use of the fountain pen and be able to last you for a very long time.
As we mentioned back at our comparison table section of the article, one of the biggest selling points of the Pilot Custom 92 is that it uses a piston filler system for its ink supply and storage rather than a convertor. Depending on your preferences for your pens, this along can be enough to push the Custom 92 way ahead of the Custom 74 and make it your default choice between the two.
The piston filler performs flawlessly and is seamlessly hidden within the barrel of the pen with the barrel of the pen having a smooth, natural look to it, unlike some competing pens that can be overly bulky. Pilot really have done a great job of integrating their piston filler and ensuring that it is as easy as possible to re-fill whereas some fountain pen brands have a relatively complicated re-fill process that can be a pain to use.
The Pilot 92 Cap
The Pilot Custom 92 cap is made from the same high-quality plastics as the rest of the body of the fountain pen offering is the same advantage of being very light but also the disadvantage of not being as tough as a resin, stainless steel or brass cap. As we touched on earlier though, the plastic that Pilot use in their fountain pens is of the highest standards and surprisingly tough considering that it is plastic.
The lightweight of the cap on the pen helps to ensure that you will have no issues when writing with the pen posted either helping it to score points over stainless steel, brass, and poorly designed pens. Although back weighting when having the cap posted is becoming rarer and rarer, there are still some modern fountain pens in this price point that do have issues but the Pilot Custom 92 is thankfully not one of them.
All Pilot premium price point fountain pens use the twist to lock system to secure the barrel of the pen to the cap and we prefer it over the push lock system that is popular at lower price points. A twist to lock system helps to keep the barrel and cap of your pen secure when your fountain pen is not in use offering you some peace of mind that they will not accidentally come apart causing your barrel to fall to the floor and go missing or break.
Although the threads on the Pilot Custom 92 are made from plastic, the molding process has ensured that they are rigid enough to only have a minimal chance of cross threading when capping or un-capping the pen. Although cross threading can be an issue with cheaper, entry-level fountain pens on the markets that are made from plastic and have a twist lock system, we are confident that this should not be an issue with the Pilot range.
The Ink Reservoir Of The Pilot Custom 92
Due to the Pilot Custom 92 using a piston filler mechanism, it does have a traditional ink reservoir that has a maximum ink capacity of 1.2ml of ink for a full re-fill. This is 0.2ml above the 1ml average ink supply for a piston filler fountain pen offering your a slightly higher level of ink storage but in the grand scheme of things, this may not matter to you depending on your situation and what you need your fountain pen for.
Although the regular Custom 92 does not come with an ink view window, the transparent Pilot Custom 92 has a see through barrel allowing you to quickly and easily check the current ink supply in your pen and plan your re-fills. We really do with that the pen had a traditional ink view window to allow all users to check its ink levels but if you go for the standard solid barreled variant of the pen you have to manually check your ink levels making the process a bit of a pain.
Although Pilot do recommend that you use their Iroshizuku ink with their fountain pen range, you are able to go with the cheaper yet highly popular Noodlers ink and save a few dollars while also having access to a wider range of ink colors too. That said though, the Pilot Iroshizuku ink is an excellent product and well worth trying at least once if it has the colors you want to use with your fountain pen.
Pilot Custom 92 Writing Samples
Pilot Custom 74 Review
Moving on to take a more detailed look at the Pilot Custom 74 and as we said above, although it is not our primary pick for our readers for this comparison, the Custom 74 is an excellent pen and has been our pick for our readers for a number of previous articles going up against other pen models. The Custom 74 really is a solid little fountain pen but in our opinion, the Custom 92 is the better option and will meet the need of more people and offer slightly better performance.
The Pilot Custom 74 Nib
The Pilot Custom 74 uses the same rhodium plated 14-carat gold nib as the Custom 92 offering its users the same benefits when writing as those who opt to go with the Custom 92. That said though, the Custom 74 is actually available in a wider range of nib sizes than the Custom 92 including extra-fine, fine, soft fine, fine medium, medium, broad, and double broad. This means that if you do want a soft fine, fine medium, or double broad nib size for your fountain pen, the Pilot Custom 74 is the obvious option as the Custom 92 does not offer them as standard.
As we touched on earlier, the Custom 74 is also a Pilot pen just like the Custom 92 meaning that its nib sizes do tend to be a little smaller than their western counterparts. Our advice remains the same as we covered above and we would recommend that you opt for a size larger on the Custom 74 than you would with a western fountain pen such as the Lamy 2000 if you want a similar font size when writing to your current fountain pen.
One difference of the Custom 74 over the Custom 92 is that not all of the nib sizes on the Custom 74 are wet writers. Although the pens do use the same nib design, the feed is slightly different and tweaks the ink supply that the nib has to work with. This results in the larger nib sizes being wetter writers just like the Custom 92 but the smaller nib sizes tend to be a little dry.
If you are a fan of dry writing fountain pens then do with the Pilot Custom 74 as there is no dry writing option available for the Custom 92 unless you tweak the tines on the nib but we would not recommend that you try this yourself. Although the Custom 74 does offer more options when it comes to dry/wet writing nibs, this does present its own unique advantages and disadvantages too.
This is due to dryer nibs tending to be a little scratchier when writing than their wetter counterparts so if you do opt for the Custom 74 and go with a smaller nib size then we would highly recommend that you go with some high GSM paper as the higher grams per square meter of the paper helps to reduce the scratch when writing and keep it as smooth as possible. Please also note that it is very common for a brand new fountain pen nib to be scratch when writing with it right out the box due to it not having been broken in. Drawing figure eights with the pen for a few minutes can usually help to break the nib in quickly though and reduce the scratch.
On the flipside of this though, a dry nib tends to have minimal issues with feathering, bleed, or ghosting when writing on lower GSM papers due to less ink transferring from the nib to the paper. Dry nibs are usually recommended for anyone who is left-handed too as it drastically reduces the smearing possibility when writing without having to use a specific ink type.
The Barrel Of The Pilot Custom 74
The barrel of the Custom 74 uses the same high-quality plastic as the rest of the Pilot fountain pen range meaning that it offers the exact same advantages and disadvantages as the Pilot Custom 92 being lighter weight than a steel or brass barrel while also being less robust. This is where the advantage of a resin barreled fountain pen comes in as it is just as lightweight as a plastic barrel while being slightly tougher without a hike in price.
In our opinion, the main disadvantage of the Custom 74 is the lack of a piston filler and although the CON-70 converter that Pilot has perfected over the years is probably the best converter on the market at the time of writing, we still feel that a piston filler is the better system. Although the popularity of cartridge convertors is growing amongst fountain pen enthusiasts, it does seem that piston fillers are still preferred by most people.
The Pilot Custom 74 Cap
As you can probably guess, the cap of the Pilot Custom 74 is made from the same high-quality plastic as its body and offers you the same advantages as the cap on the Custom 92 with it being lightweight and not prone to back weighting when posted. That said though, although rare, some people have said that the have issues with the cap of the Custom 74 scratching the finish of the barrel when posting and un-posting.
Due to the very small number of reports, we would suspect that this issue is due to damage on the cap of the users pen rather than due to the design or a manufacturing problem with the pen. The vast majority of reports and reviews of the Custom 74 do not comment on this so we would not worry about it or mark it down against the Custom 92 but we did want to mention it so our readers are aware.
The Custom 74 uses the exact same twist lock cap system as the rest of the premium fountain pens in the Pilot range meaning that it helps to keep the barrel and cap of the pens together when clipped to your jacket pocket and not in use. Although rare, some push lock systems can fail causing the barrel of the pen to come lose from the cap and end up lost or damaged so we always recommend a twist lock cap system to our readers on any fountain pen over $100 even if they prefer the push lock system.
The clip of the Custom 74 is perfect in our opinion with it offering you the optimal amount of flex and rigidity to allow you to secure your pen when required while also keeping it in place. Some fountain pen clips can offer too much flex and spring allowing them to accidentally clip off your pocket or paper and potentially result in the pen going missing or falling and breaking but Pilot offer a solid little clip on their caps.
The Pilot Custom 74 Ink Reservoir
Due to the Pilot Custom 74 using the CON-70 converter system the pen has no traditional ink reservoir and the maximum ink capacity that the pen is able to hold is dictated by the ink cartridge that you choose to use with it. The official Pilot ink cartridges have a maximum ink supply of 0.9ml of ink putting the Custom 74 in at just below the average ink capacity for a fountain pen but this is unlikely to be a major issue for most people.
Although there are alternative official Pilot ink cartridges as well as third-party ink cartridges that can fit the Custom 74, we would not recommend that you use them. We would highly recommend that you just stick to the Pilot Namiki IC100 or IC50 cartridges as they have been specifically designed for use with the Pilot Custom range and alternative cartridges can have issues with leaking.
This is why you may see reports of the Pilot Custom 74 having problems with leaking ink but the pen is actually working fine, it is due to the user using a cheap, alternative ink cartridge that will not mount to the convertor correctly. Considering the Pilot Namiki IC100 cartridges tend to only be a couple of dollars more than the third-party ones, we don’t think that it is worth the risk.
Pilot Custom 74 Writing Samples
That brings our ultimate Pilot Custom 74 vs 92 comparison article to a close. We hope that you have found it helpful and as we have mentioned earlier in the article, although the Pilot Custom 74 is an excellent pen that has some niche situations where it is the better option, we feel that the Pilot Custom 92 is going to be the best choice for most of our readers, especially if you are wanting a piston filler in your fountain pen.