The Pilot Capless: how to turn a pocket clip into a roll-stop.

I had avoided the Pilot Capless (or Vanishing Point) for a long time, as I could foresee the pocket clip being in the way. Eventually I succumbed to the temptation, unable to resist the all matt black version and bought one in June 2020.

Although I had heard good reports of the nibs on these pens, the 18k gold, medium nib on my pen was wonderful and exceeded my expectations. The writing experience was smooth, with a lovely degree of softness. Also, because of the generous ball of tipping material and an ample ink flow, lubricating the nib well, I found that I could hold the pen at less than the optimum “sweet spot” and it would still write almost as well.

Pilot Capless in the matt black finish.

If you are a lefty-overwriter, as I am, there is no escaping the fact that the clip on the Pilot Capless may be just where you would like to rest your thumb, in order to rotate the nib slightly inwards. To get the best flow from a nib, the two tines need to be held evenly to the paper, not one touching the paper before the other (although a soft nib compensates and adjusts itself to your grip, like the independent suspension on a car).

As I do not have a perfectly symmetrical grip, with finger and thumb either side of the pocket clip, I found that the Capless was best suited to my lefty-underwriting style, but this does not feel natural to me and I still find it difficult to write vertical lines which do not lean, either backwards or forwards.

I read an article online about how to perform a Pilot Capless “clipectomy”. This is not as easy as you might hope. It involves warming the nose cap to soften the adhesive that holds it on, and then pulling it away from the pen, so that you can get at the underside of the clip fastening, to prise open the folded metal wings of the clip that hold it on. You then replace the nose cone, and need to glue it in place again. You are left with unsightly holes in the nose cone where the clip used to be fixed (although they do not affect the air-tightness of the nib chamber). Some people like to paint the inside with lacquer or nail varnish before replacing the nose cone, to have some contrasting colour show through the holes, like the eyes of a little robot.

I did once make a tentative effort to perform this operation, first removing the nib unit from the pen and then warming the nose cone carefully over a flame. Once it was hot, I tried pulling it away but it would not move at all and I gave up, planning at some point to ask someone with more expertise.

In recent days, seeing the pen in my pen cup and rather unfulfilled, I decided to have a go at removing just the lower part of clip, since this is the part that obstructs my grip. I thought it may be possible to saw it off, near the top and then file the jagged edge smooth.

I prepared myself, with a metal hacksaw and slid a piece of cardboard under the clip to protect the black coating of the barrel. This proved more difficult than expected: the saw would not stay in the same grove and would slide left and right, scratching the coating of the clip wherever it went.

Giving up on this method, I then decided to bend the clip upwards, away from the barrel. This was very quick and easy and once it reached about 90 degrees, it simply broke off. This literally takes a few seconds.

Problem solved. Almost.

However, what takes longer is then trying to file the jagged edges smooth so as not to cause injury or discomfort. I slid cardboard under the remains of clip and used the metal file on my Leatherman, holding this in one hand and the pen in the other, braced against the table. Care is needed to avoid the file slipping and scratching the pen.

Using cardboard to protect the pen while filing the sharp edges.

I spent a bit of time on this stage, checking the results and blowing away the residue. It would have been nice to bend down the broken end of the clip to meet the barrel but I could not figure out a way to do this with pliers whilst still protecting the pen from marks, so I decided against it.

The result is far from perfect and obviously not expertly done. However, leaving aesthetics aside, the pen is now very much more usable and I have the freedom at last to hold it any way I want. It would still be preferable to remove it completely but as a quick fix, it has solved this lefty’s problem.

The former clip is now a roll-stop (before puffing away the filings).