Review: 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