Pilot Custom 823

This pen has been reviewed ad nauseam, so this is going to be short. I’m mostly doing it for the sake of completion on my end.


If you have your heart set on this pen, buy it. In my experience, Pilot’s nibs are pretty true to size, so if you want a fine, buy a fine (or whatever.) If you want a fine and buy a medium, it might be too fat.


Mine had an over polished nib out of the box and barely wrote. This is pretty strange for a Pilot. Mine was originally a medium nib; I’ve since reground a bit finer. I used my Pelikan m1000 nib as a reference, as Mike Masuyama had tuned it for me, and now my 823 writes like a million bucks. I could have taken advantage of Pilot’s excellent customer service, but I didn’t feel like it.

A few things worth mentioning: this is a hefty pen–it does have a big metal rod running through it. I think its proportions are a little strange because the pen has the length of an oversized pen, but not the girth. It’s longer than a Pelikan m1000 when capped, so pocket carry in a shirt pocket isn’t optimal. Posting the pen throws the balance in a weird way. The dimensions are just strange on this pen.


Some people do not like the ink shutoff feature, but there are videos on how to disable it. Personally, it’s not that big of deal to undo the blind cap a bit to open the valve in everyday writing, but it is a huge boon when traveling. This is one of my favorite pens to travel with because it holds a bucket of ink (2.2mL!) and is virtually leak-proof with the cutoff valve engaged.

This is about how much the cap needs to be unscrewed to open the ink valve.
Ink valve open.

Overall, it’s a good pen. It didn’t blow me away, but it is a very practical piece.


  • Cool filling system. Let’s be honest, most people who are going to buy this pen do it because it’s a vac filler.
  • Huge ink capacity. The largest capacity of any self-filling pen I own, let alone a cartridge/converter pen.


  • Mine needed work out of the box. What the hell, Pilot?
  • It takes some finagling to make use of the pen’s entire capacity; there’s plenty of videos on how to do this. It’s not that hard, but the more fiddling it takes to fill a pen the more likely one is to have inky fingers.
  • It sort of has weird proportions, at least to me. Too skinny for its length, and not in “super balanced comfy desk pen” kind of way. Short, stubby section. Long and back-heavy when posted. It’s comfortable enough, I just think it could be better.


  • Cap:
    • Screw cap, push to post.
    • 1.75 turns to remove.
  • Nib:
    • 14k gold Pilot #15.
    • In North America, it’s commonly available in fine, medium, and broad.
    • If buying from Japan, one has access to Pilot’s entire nib lineup except the music nib, as far as I can tell. Soft fine, fine medium, soft fine medium, soft medium, double broad, coarse (sort of like a 3B nib), posting, waverly, stub and falcon.
  • Body:
    • Injection molded resin.
    • Available in amber or smoke (shown) in North America, additionally there is clear demonstrator available in the Japanese market.
  • Filling system:
    • Vacuum filler with ink shutoff valve.
    • Measured total ink capacity is 2.2mL. A typical fill is a bit less than this.
  • Length:
    • Capped: 150mm
    • Uncapped: 131mm
    • Posted: 164mm
  • Weight:
    • Total: 30g
    • Pen: 21g
    • Cap: 9g
  • Section diameter:
    • 10.5-11.5mm


  • Vintage pens sometimes use the vac system, most notably Sheaffers.
  • TWSBI Vac 700 series pens.
  • Visconti pens with the “Power Filler” system.
  • Penbbs makes some vacuum fillers. They have several models.
Top to bottom: Pelikan m1000, Pilot Custom 823, Lamy Safari.
The artifacts are from the rain I received while photographing the pen.

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I am a fountain pen enthusiast.

3 thoughts on “Pilot Custom 823”

  1. Leaving about a quarter of the tube with air can actually become beneficial. When you hold the pen and write, the air inside the tube will be warmed to expand in volume and thus create a force to push the ink toward the nib. The existence of this force helps keep the ink flow sufficient even when you are using an M nib and writing continuously.


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