Nakaya Sumiko Skull, among other skulls.

They remind us of our mortality and look good on t-shirts. We all have one but we’d much rather not get to see it while we’re alive.


I’ve had a thing for skulls since I was younger. (They were probably hot pink skulls too, because it was the 80s.) Different cultures have made fetishes of skulls,  from drinking cups to amulets.

A predilection for pens and skulls is best served with a skull on a pen.


I’ve admired Nakaya’s sumiko skull for ages. There never seemed to be an appropriate occasion to get one. Then the appropriate occasion came when I least expected it: a preloved one appeared on



I didn’t expect it to be so…  three-dimensional. The contours invite repeated touching. The contrast between the smooth curves of the skull and the bark-like roughness of the urushi is the Nakaya aesthetic at its finest.


Details are present everywhere, from the skull joins to the teeth clenched on the clip. The sumi,  applied in several layers, is deliberately distressed to complement the skull. Uncapped, the pen displays a smooth section.


I chose to replace the original owner’s cursive italic with a Spencerian-modified nib with a ruthenium finish. This did add to the cost of the pen but it was worth it to me for a nib I knew would always be in use.


Urushi and sumi are such versatile materials, and in masterful hands, yield unexpected results. Below are two examples of sumi beside urushi/combined techniques.


Sumi vs suzu-ishime


This is the first Nakaya I have that comes with the giant box.


I can’t find the skull notebook Cary/Fountain Pen Day sent me, but I will so I can update this blog post. 😀 It’s the only notebook I have with an embossed skull!


Thank you to for getting the Sumiko Skull to me practically overnight, even with the nib replacement.

I hope you too can find your own fetish/totem/spirit object on a pen. (There’s also this thing I have for dragons but that blog entry needs to wait for when my Ascending Dragon returns.)

  • ashokdad

    Awesome photos, and I especially liked the side by side pen examples of techniques. Thank you for taking the time to post this great blog entry.

  • John V. Keogh

    I love it. (I once attended a pagan lecture about totems where the lecturer had an outrageous accent. Toooooootem! We all managed not to laugh.)

  • John V. Keogh
  • subgirl

    Oh dear. I was thinking I was in trouble pining away for a piccolo but this has just annihilated the rest of my HG unicorn pen wishlist.

    You’re dangerous! 😉

  • dementia

    It’s gorgeous!

  • Jack Linos

    You always make such lovely choices, Leigh. May you use all your pens in good health!

  • Guilherme Atencio

    I just found out about this Nakaya model and a quick search brought me here. Thanks for the post. I definitely added this pen to my “must have” list.

  • R.A. Stewart

    Sigh. One more for the wishlist. I don’t know whether to thank you or curse you. Seriously–a very cool pen.