Kuretake no. 40 sable hair brush pen

In the last year or so, the tip of my Kuretake #13 stopped holding its shape effectively. It wasn’t snapping back to a good point, so while I could still get nice, broad strokes with the pen, I couldn’t get finer, thinner strokes anymore, and it got increasingly more difficult to do precision work. And after many long years, the same thing started happening with my Pentel pocket brush recently too.

Brush tip refills are available for the Kuretake #13 for about the same as the cost of an entirely new Pentel pocket brush, but I took the opportunity to make a purchase I’d been holding off for years and years… I got a Kuretake #40, my first natural hair brush pen.

Look at this beautiful pen in its beautiful box(es).

Look at this beautiful pen in its beautiful box(es).

The Kuretake #40 is actually identical to the #50 except for the pen body, which is a lovely black and gold brass on the #50 and a nice matte black on the #40 (it’s still a metal body, just coated in another material to give it a softer feel), so the #50 is $10 more.

Both utilise the same brush tip though, which, as it turns out, is very, very similar to the tip for the #13 — it’s just a little bit longer and made of sable hairs instead of synthetic hairs. I’ve never had a natural hair brush pen, so I was eager to see if there would be a noticeable difference.

Kuretake #40 brush test

Kuretake #40 brush test

But I honestly didn’t notice a big difference in control or quality.

The Kuretake #40 handles very similarly to the Kuretake #13 and the Pentel pocket brush, which I compared previously. The length of the brush is longer than the Kuretake #13, so it’s probably marginally harder to control, but it’s still shorter than the brush tip for the Pentel. The difference is extremely negligible for the most part though. Maybe natural hair is superior, but I really can’t tell from these tests and doodles…

A dove with the Kuretake #40. Great variation in achievable strokes, as expected.

A dove with the Kuretake #40. Great variation in achievable strokes, as expected.

Like the #13, the Kuretake #40 uses standard Kuretake refill cartridges (which are alcohol-proof, but not waterproof) but is compatible with converters. The standard refills are a bit on the wet side, so it’s easy to smudge if you’re not careful, and the ink dries kind of light, which can be an issue if you’re coloring on top of the inks. I still haven’t gotten around to getting a converter or playing around with different inks, but syringe-filling old cartridges with Bombay India ink has worked fine for me when I needed ink to be waterproof.

The real test, I think, will be the durability and longevity of the brush. I got maybe six years of use out of my Pentel pocket brush and went through hundreds of refill cartridges before the tip began to deform. The Kuretake #13 only got about two and a half years, and the tip is significantly more damaged than the Pentel. Weird, since the Kuretake overall seems to be a higher quality pen as far as construction goes.

It could be that the two particular specimens I have are outliers — maybe I ended up with a super amazing Pentel or an accidentally subpar #13 — so let’s average it out and say the synthetic hair fountain brush pens have about four years of use in them.

New Kuretake #40 (left) VS spent Kuretake #13 (right)

New Kuretake #40 (left) VS spent Kuretake #13 (right)

Yorkie with the Kuretake #40.

Yorkie with the Kuretake #40.

I’ve had my Kuretake #40 for about a month. I feel a bit paranoid every time I cap the pen, since the cap fits rather snugly, but so far, so good: I haven’t damaged the tip yet. Will it last for more than four years? Well, I’ll get back to you on that.

Honestly though, if potential longevity is the only thing the Kuretake #40 has going for it, it’s probably not worth the price tag — especially what I paid for it. Its previous price was about $66. It was at this price for years and years and years, but I just checked and apparently it recently got halved, and most retailers have it for about $36. The old price of the Kuretake #13 was $33 — now it’s $28 on Jetpens, though it’s on Amazon for just $17 now?

Either way, it’s not a big jump anymore from a synthetic hair brush to a natural hair one… If you’re choosing between Kuretakes, I’d probably just go for the natural hair #40 (or #50). Meanwhile, the Pentel pocket brush holds ever steady at $13, so it’s a real toss up if you’re choosing between synthetic hair brushes.

I still sorta think the Pentel is the best bang for your buck, even with the plastic body, but a $4 difference for a nicer feeling pen isn’t much. Then again, the Pentel still has the superior refill cartridges (waterproof and alcohol-proof), so there’s that to consider if you don’t want to mess with syringe-filling or converters.

Kuretake #13 (top) and Kuretake #40 (bottom)

Kuretake #13 (top) and #40 (bottom); both have sturdy metal bodies compared to the cheap plastic body of the Pentel pocket brush.

I’ll definitely be picking up another Pentel pocket brush eventually, and maybe when I do I’ll be able to figure out if the one I have now was a big fluke in terms of quality and longevity.

In the meantime, I am enjoying my Kuretake #40… It’s a lovely, great-looking and great-feeling pen with incredible versatility. If it were the only pen on the market like this, I wouldn’t complain, but when cheaper alternatives do exist and don’t seem to have much of a performance difference, I don’t really think it was worth the extra expense.

More sketches with the Kuretake #40.

If you like my ink sketches and drawings, I’ve just finished putting together my first mini collection of them in zine format. The physical zine is available for preorder and will ship in mid-September! You’ll also be able to pick them up from me at Rose City Comic Con next month, or at another convention until I run out. Alternatively, you can grab a digital PDF here. :)

Kuretake #40

8 Comments

  1. From all that I’ve read, the slight differences in the tips of the Kuretake and the natural hair versus the Pentel Pocket Brush are primarily for the better control over fine strokes, for calligraphy.

    http://www.stutler.cc/other/sketchbook/sketchbook_c_03.html

    Although this artist seems to love the Platinum natural hair brush the most for its practical storage attributes! But otherwise yeah, your control over brush strokes appears to be too great as it is to have to pay that much for that small a difference. Ferchrissakes you’ve drawn absolutely stunning pictures with random $1.50 Daiso pens.

    “It’s a lovely, great-looking and great-feeling pen”

    Spoiler alert: I think this is where most of the cost is going :p especially since fitting a natural hair replacement tip on the no.13 was a money-saving “hack” before the price drop.

    As for fountain pens, yeah, the demand for truly flexible nibs kind of disappeared from the market when ballpoints made penmanship and calligraphy less of a standard/required part of modern education. :( Vintage really is the best way to get a flexible fountain nib. For modern options, you’d be buying a hundreds-dollar pen with a soft/flexible gold nib, then paying a custom nib grinder hundreds more dollars to make it as flexible as he can.

    http://edisonpen.com/76-main-page

    As for example this modern production pen.

    http://thepenguinpen.com/waterman/index.jsp

    With vintage pens, meanwhile…you’re still paying hundreds of dollars, but around half as many as getting a modern pen customized. So a super steal! Yeah, fountain pens *are* there for looking and feeling fancy more than for being a practical daily solution for artists. But they’re sooo fancy

    • Oh man, thanks for the link to Stutler’s website and brush pen overview. The Platinum pen sounds like something I’d like to try out, even if I suspect it will ultimately not be that different an experience, haha. (I’ve been using the Kuretake #8 a lot lately, and it also handles similarly for a fraction of the price, pff.)

      As for fountain pens… yeah, the high cost of a majority of pens in that market makes it pretty unreasonable for artists on a budget, especially when the pens aren’t very artist-geared in the first place. Better and cheaper to stay with dip pens and the much more flexible nibs there for drawing and inking, though I still like trying out the lower-end fountain pens for the scant bit of actual writing I do (it’s nice, feeling fancy!!), and would like to experiment more with calligraphy pens eventually.

      • In that case may I double down on the recommendation for the ever-popular Pilot Metropolitan. It is one of the fanciest *anythings* I’ve ever fondled in my hands, and it’s about $15 at most!

        • I’ve definitely had the Metropolitan on my wishlist a while! It pleases me that I’d be able to swap the nibs out with those from my Pilot Penmanship and Pilot Plumix, so the purchase is really inevitable.

  2. I was wondering if you ever got around to using the No. 40 with India Ink?

    • No, I opted not to after learning that pigment-based inks were bad for fountain pens. India ink has worked okay for me in the Pentel in the past, but if you let it sit in the pen unused for a while, the slow flow and slight clogging becomes noticeable. Since the Pentel has nylon bristles, I won’t worry as much about damaging it during cleaning, but I’d definitely worry for the Kuretake #40, which is why I haven’t tried.

      The one pigment-based “nanoparticle” ink I’ve holding out on (because it’s pricey) is Platinum’s Carbon black, which is fountain pen safe and should have minimal clogging because of how fine the particles are…

  3. Is the no. 40 a lor dryer than the no. 13 or are you using another type of ink (I am refering to the Pentel vs Kuretake 13 review, where the 13 seems extremely wet). I am looking for a really wet brush pen and so far from what I’ve seen and read on your site, no. 13 seems the perfect pen for me. I just don’t understand why the no. 40 is so dry.

    • The #40 and #13 use the same refill cartridge (Kuretake black refill), so any difference in wetness would be due to the brush itself and now it deposits ink. I think natural hair brushes (like the #40) hold ink a little better in the bristles, so they may seem a bit dryer as ink doesn’t flow as readily from it. I honestly don’t notice much of a difference myself though.

      You might play around with some different, thinner inks on either pen to get a wetter experience. Most fountain pen inks would probably be wetter. The main caveat of fountain pen inks is that they aren’t typically waterproof, but neither is the standard Kuretake refill.

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