Review: Pilot Custom 823

The Numbers:
Weight: 29g
Length (capped): 15.3cm
Length (uncapped): 13cm
Price: USD$288 from Pen Chalet
Body Material: Plastic
Nib Material: 14K gold
Filling Mechanism: Vacuum
Colours: Clear, Amber and Smoke

Pilot makes a variety of different fountain pen models. Most are of the cartridge converter variety. The Pilot Custom 823 however is the only vacuum filling fountain pen that Pilot manufactures. It comes in a variety of colours but the amber is my favourite. The cigar shaped pen is one of the largest pen in Pilot’s line up. The warm amber plastic goes very well with the standard gold accents that adorned so many Pilot fountain pens.

When I purchased this pen it comes in a large black box. Inside the pen is nestled among satin like cloth and it comes with a bottle of Pilot Black. Now that’s proper packaging, though I would really prefer if the pen came in a smaller box. It would make for easier storage if nothing else.

The Pilot Custom 823 has a clear amber cap. The dark inner cap is quite visible. Aesthetically, it doesn’t make for a pretty picture but it gets the job done keeping the nib from drying up.
Size wise, the Pilot Custom 823 is a larger sibling of the Pilot Custom 74, it is the same size as the 743 and is just slightly larger than the 742. Check out this page for a better idea. Though the Pilot Custom 823 is a large pen, it is well balanced. Posting the cap on the end of the barrel does make it back heavy especially with the weight of the plunger at the end of the barrel. The cap posts deeply so you don’t have to worry about the pen becoming overly long and unwieldy.

The Pilot Custom 823 comes with the same clip that is shared by almost all other Pilot pen from the Custom 74 and upwards. The only difference is the size. Personally I think the boring design of Pilot pens is really going to be their undoing. Ok rant aside, the cap unscrews in 1.5 revolutions. Under the cap is a size 15 (Pilot size) 14k gold nib. The nib is a good size to go with the larger pen body.

The grip is an opaque brown plastic then the entire barrel is a clear amber before ending with the same opaque brown end cap. The grip has a very slight taper down towards the nib and ends with a flare before the nib. The grip is comfortable and there is only a very slight step between the barrel and grip. The threads on the barrel are smooth and doesn’t hurt my fingers. The demonstrator nature of the pen barrel allows you to watch the ink sloshing inside.

Given that the Pilot Custom 823 is a vacuum filler, you have to remember to unscrew at least 2mm to break the vacuum inside the barrel and allow the ink to flow freely as you use it. It was a hassle for a while because I don’t have any other vacuum filler fountain pen but it wasn’t long before I just left the end cap unscrewed for the entire day and only tightening it when I was packing up to head home. Also the vacuum filler nature of the pen makes it one of the safer pen to bring it flying. Once the end cap is tighten, air pressure will not cause the ink from inside the barrel to be expelled. However what’s already in the feed is still affected by the ascend and descend of the plane.

The 14k gold nib comes in a variety of options even WA or FA nib if you purchase it from Tokyo Quill. I opted for a very boring F nib. It writes smoothly, exactly what I have come to expect from Pilot for an out of the box writing experience. Coupling the large ink capacity and the F nib means I have an excellent workhorse that can go on long writing sessions without fear of running out of ink.

One thing to note, Pilot recommends you only use Pilot standard or Pilot Iroshizuku inks with their pens. Personally I didn’t have any problems with ink flow, hard starting or skipping with the different brands of inks I’ve used but I have a friend who has problems after filling it with some Rohrer and Klingner ink. The best rule of thumb is probably picking an ink that’s better viscosity.

The Pilot Custom 823 is the perfect workhorse fountain pen especially pairing it with the right nib for yourself. It has the largest ink capacity from what Pilot is offering right now. Plus, it looks understated but classy at the same time. Fill it with a bright ink and it brings a little flair to the table. Though I complain about the very boring fountain pen designs by Pilot, the 3 options that Pilot has for the 823 is by far some of the better choices available. (Not counting all the Pilot Metropolitan or Pilot Vanishing Point options.)


  • Larger ink capacity
  • Nib size matches pen body
  • Classy pen design


  • Hassle to remember unscrewing end cap

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Posted on September 16, 2016 and filed under Fountain Pen, review.