Posts filed under Sailor

Sailor 1911 Standard Music Nib Review

What is a music nib? That is a question I have wondered for years. I know generally what they are all about: A wider than normal nib suited well for writing musical scores. But how does it work, and most importantly, how will it work for me? Thanks to my friends at Goldspot Pens, I was able to get a Sailor 1911 Standard with Music Nib on loan to see what it is all about.

When you have a non-standard nib like a music nib, it becomes the singular reason you are buying the pen. The barrel feel and design are obviously important in the grand scheme, but they are secondary considerations to how the nib performs. As is the norm with all of Sailor's nibs, the music nib performed wonderfully.

From a design perspective, the majority of music nibs are designed with two slits and three tines. This is to allow for big ink flow, which is a staple of music nibs. Sailors music nib is more traditional in that it has a single slit and two tines, but the tip of the nib is designed in such a way as to keep that same big ink flow. That was clear once I started writing with it using Sailor's Shigure ink. There were no issues putting this beautiful purple ink down on the page.

Top view

Top view

As I learned while researching this nib, music nibs are designed to hit the page more vertically than standard nibs, and at approximately a 90 degree angle. Picture your normal fountain pen writing grip where the nib hits the page at around a 45 degree angle. Rotate the pen in your hand counterclockwise (if you are a righty) until the nib hits the page at a 90 degree angle. Then move the barrel into a more vertical position instead of laid back as you would normally. Now become Mozart!

Side view

Side view

Once I realized this, well after my handwritten review mind you, all I could think of is isn't this what an architect grind is supposed to accomplish, without all of the angle adjustments? Wide horizontal strokes, thinner vertical strokes. Seems like it would do the trick. The thing is, no one uses a music nib for its named use these days anyway.

Bottom view

Bottom view

What the modern age of music nibs brings to the table is a thick, luscious line, perfect for large, sweeping writing. Big block lettering, cursive flourishes, and fancy styling. That's what this music nib is good at. Think of it as a chisel tip marker in a fountain pen nib. Go big or go home.

As I worked my way through this review my early prediction came true. It really is all about the nib. Sailor's 1911 barrel is excellent in its own right, with black, rounded ends set off by strongly colored resin barrels. I'm not a gold furniture guy but it's hard to argue how sharp these pens look.

Your writing style and planned use is the determining factor in purchasing a pen with a music nib. I've seen some amazing work with nibs like the one found in this Sailor. It's not a daily writer for me, but if I want to put some ink down on the page this is the way to go.

My thanks to Goldspot Pens for loaning me this pen for review. It will be heading back to its rightful home later this week, and I wish it safe travels!

Posted on May 18, 2015 and filed under Fountain Pens, Pen Reviews, Sailor, Music Nib.

Sailor Young Profit: A Tale of Quality Control

(Jeff Abbott is a regular contributor at The Pen Addict. You can find more from Jeff online at Draft Evolution and Twitter.)

In a perfect world, every fountain pen would be created equally and would write with flawless beauty from the very beginning. Alas, the world is far from perfect, and not every pen is perfectly tuned out of the box. It's a shame, really. Besides, the problems that new pens have out of the box are normally due to the nib and feed system that's so fascinating in the first place. It's an imperfect system, and errors occur. Luckily, they're usually not very difficult to fix.

But, on the other side of the coin, it's a hassle to ink up a new pen and have it act like a spoiled toddler on the page when first writing with it. Maybe it's just me, but I've had really sour luck with the $50-$100 range lately. The past three pens I've bought from a particular brand have been scratchy, dry, and skippy. Not only until after I did some basic tuning were they really usable. I'm glad that I could tune the pens, and I even enjoy it sometimes, but not when it's a brand new pen.

If Lamy and Kaweco (and many others) can make sub-$50 pens that write beautifully out of the box, I don't understand why others can't do the same with more expensive pens. (Lamy and Kaweco can certainly be guilty of this.) It's the age of mass production that causes the issues, I'm sure. If you buy an Edison pen, it will definitely write flawlessly from day 1, but that's because it's been hand-tuned before it's shipped out. It's unique and hand-made with care. Same goes for a Nakaya and other premium brands. Once you start mass producing something, the law of diminishing returns steps in and dictates that "good enough" quality control is a fair trade-off for selling in bulk. So it goes.

Why the rant? Well, because Sailor.

I really want to love the brand. They make some beautiful pens. My first fountain pen was a Sailor High Ace Neo, and luckily it wrote like a champ from the beginning.

Since then, I've purchased three other Sailors: the Lecoule, a Fasciner, and now a Young Profit.

Each of these pens have been imperfect writers from the beginning. In each case, the tines are too close together and/or angled poorly. Some tine adjustments and nib smoothing is all that's needed, but I think that shouldn't be a requirement for a new pen. Imagine if someone new to fountain pens purchased their first pen and had that experience! The Bic Crystal would look pretty good after that, thanks to modern engineering, etc.

They all write great now, but they still carry that bad first impression around.

The point in all this is simple. I'm just not sure that it's worth spending more than $50 or $60 on a fountain pen. In my experience, the pens that cost double that still have the same quality control issues. Only when you jump up to the next notch can you expect (mostly) to avoid the QC issues in the intro level. But $150+ purchases are more rare because of the cost barrier. With hard-hitting players like the Pilot Metropolitan, Lamy Safari, and Kaweco Sport lines, it's hard to recommend something more expensive (apart from TWSBI because they're awesome).

Back to the Sailor Young Profit. It's actually a pretty nice pen once you get past the flaky nib! Let's take a closer look at the outside.

I grabbed a black/silver version when they first appeared at JetPens because I wasn't a fan of the gold furniture. I went with a medium nib this time — based on past experience, Sailor runs small and I wanted to try something with more line width. The medium is a great size for me. It's comparable to a German fine nib (even on the small side of fine).

The body is plastic, which is something I don't like. I have other plastic body pens that cost about the same, but the Young Profit feels a bit cheaper than those. It doesn't feel brittle, but just doesn't have a quality feel, and let's face it: how expensive a pen feels in your hand is an important aspect that speaks to the quality.

The body is fairly slim and can actually get a tad uncomfortable for me when writing for long stretches. The grip section is plastic as well and there's a small ridge at the very end of the grip where it meets the feed. None of the grip features get in the way of my grip, but we're all unique.

The nib looks very classy and has some beautiful etching that's in line with the Sailor brand. The internal parts of the pen are solid and make me feel better about the overall quality of the parts that went into the pen.

It's a pretty pen that oozes class.

As for writing, I'll describe how it writes after the tuning. Before the tuning, it was dry, skippy, and scratchy.

The nib is extremely smooth and glides across the paper. Like I said earlier, the line width is similar to a small German fine nib. The ink flow is a tad dry for my tastes, but it works just fine and can keep up with swift strokes.

There's not much feedback in the nib, even on rough paper like the Baron Fig notebook. Paper like Mnemosyne or Tomoe River feels like velvet on glass. It's really nice.

The nib behaves very well and is a pleasure to write with. The only problem I've had so far is the slim width of the grip — makes it uncomfortable after 10 minutes of use.

Not exactly your average review, but I doubt my experiences with these nibs are isolated. I'm also not sure what to do about the situation except to vote with your money. For me, fountain pens are part hobby and part utility. Sometimes you try things you don't like, but you always have your faithful tools that always get the job done and manage to bring delight to menial tasks like writing lists and thank you notes.

As for the Young Profit, I can't recommend it purely because of the lack of value it offers compared to cheaper pens on the market. The High Ace Neo is a fantastic pen that packs a ton of value. In the Young Profit's case, the price doesn't justify the means.

(JetPens provided this product at no charge to The Pen Addict for review purposes.)

Posted on February 11, 2015 and filed under Fountain Pens, Sailor, Pen Reviews.

Sailor G-Free Ballpoint Pen Review

(This is a guest post by Dwayne Lively, pen addict, knife collector and writer for You can follow him at: @DwayneLively on Twitter and @blatherama on Instagram.)

I don't understand why the Sailor G-Free needs to exist. It seems more like a proof-of-concept than a product people might be clamoring for.

It’s 300 yen (which as of this writing is around US $2.50 or 1.6 Pounds Sterling). This makes it expensive for a ballpoint, even in Japan.

My first impressions of this expensive pen, though, were not particularly good because it’s ugly.

It has a big Sarasa-style clip and a chunky rubber grip that makes it look like a stretched hourglass. The monster clip, unfortunately, serves as the nock release, meaning you can’t just snap it off and go clipless.

Two versions of the G-Free by Sailor on a Field Notes Red Blooded.

Two versions of the G-Free by Sailor on a Field Notes Red Blooded.

Sailor claims the pen has two special features that make it worth the extra money: hard/soft adjustment and a special low-friction ink.

First, by twisting the nock, the user can adjust a spring that changes how springy the pen feels. For example, if you're writing on a blotter, the hardest setting is fine, but if you switch to a hard surface, you can adjust the pen to make it feel better as you write. This is kind of interesting, but it’s not something I’ve ever wished a pen could do.

On the softest setting, you can almost push the nib back into the pen; on the hardest setting it barely moves. However, there’s not enough difference that it’s worth more money than my Pilot G2 or the 130 yen a UNI Jetstream would cost me. I’m also not sure the G-Free needs seven different levels of adjustment. The difference between 7 (hard), 4 (medium), and 1 (soft) is noticeable, but there’s not much change felt by switching from setting 2 to 3.

Details of the ugly clip and the hard-soft spring.

Details of the ugly clip and the hard-soft spring.

Second, Sailor claims its ink — which as near as I can tell is a gel ink — is specially formulated to have less friction, making for easier and faster writing. They even claim specific percentages for how much more efficient your writing will be.

Although it is smooth, I haven't noticed anything special about the ink except that it only comes in black and there isn't much of it. The black version of the pen is translucent and you can see the refill stops halfway up the pen to allow space for the hard/soft mechanism. The eight different barrel colors available are just for fashion, although each version has the ugly black clip.

You can see the where the ink stops right in the center of the picture.

You can see the where the ink stops right in the center of the picture.

After using both pens for a few days on different types of paper, including Field Notes, Moleskine, Tomoe River and copy paper, I haven’t noticed much difference in the writing experience than I’d get from a standard gel ink pen. The chunky rubber grip section is triangle shaped and I found it awkward to hold at first despite the fact I’ve used a Pilot Vanishing Point for almost 20 years. I eventually twisted the grip around and that made it feel more comfortable.

Although I don’t expect line variation from a ballpoint pen, I was disappointed there was no effect at all on the size of the line by adjusting the hard/soft settings. The line was always the same thickness. That said, I was surprised that although the G-Free is only offered in a 0.7 size, the line from both pens was thin. They actually felt like 0.38 pens.

One final pet peeve is that the nib has a black circle around it, even on the blue version. This has no effect other than to constantly make me think that ink residue was building up on the nib.

The ugly black ring on the nib and some ugly handwriting.

The ugly black ring on the nib and some ugly handwriting.

As of this writing the pen is apparently only available in one physical store (Tokyu Hands in Ikebukuro), the Sailor online store, and at Amazon Japan where you have to buy an 8-pack. In the end, all I have are questions about this pen: Does the Sailor G-Free need seven different adjustment levels especially when there’s no visible change in the line? Is a slight difference in springiness enough to justify the price and the ugly?

The answers, I’m afraid, are “No” and “Not for me”.

Some examples of bad handwriting at three of the seven settings. This was written on a soft surface.

Some examples of bad handwriting at three of the seven settings. This was written on a soft surface.

Posted on January 22, 2015 and filed under Pen Reviews, Sailor, G-Free.

Sailor Jentle Yama-dori Ink Review


(Jeff Abbott is a regular contributor at The Pen Addict. You can find more from Jeff online at Draft Evolution and Twitter.)

Back in July, I reviewed Noodler's Turquoise and came away with an urge to try more blue-green inks. So, here we are — I picked up a bottle of Sailor Jentle Yama-dori on Brad's recommendation. He seems to know a thing or two about good inks, so I figured I couldn't go wrong. Turns out, I really enjoy blue-green inks, and I especially enjoy Yama-dori.

If you listen to the podcast much at all, you'll pick up on a trend with Brad's ink tastes (or just look at the Top 5 lists) — he loves some blue-black inks. I like a good blue-black just fine, but some of them get so close to black that I don't end up using them very often. I like the flare and unique colors of some blue-blacks, but it seems like most are too dark for my tastes. That's where Yama-dori comes in. It's a fairly dark ink, but it's blue-green, shades beautifully, and has a red sheen. It's a delightful ink.

From a standard ink perspective, this is a very well-behaved ink. It dries relatively fast (just after 5 seconds for me in a medium nib), doesn't bleed through, doesn't feather much on cheap paper and not at all on premium paper, and cleans out easily. What really sets this ink apart for me is the color, shading, and confusing red sheen. Yep, red sheen in a blue-green ink. I can't begin to explain how that works, but it's fascinating to watch the pooled up ink give off a red color in certain lights. It looks as if someone wrote some lines with a medium blue-green ink and then came back with a red highlighter to fill in the darker parts later. It's unique, and I love it.

Now, I don't know about you, but I don't know much about pheasants. I don't think I've ever seen one in person. When Sailor calls this ink "copper pheasant," I'm not really sure what to think because I don't know whether pheasants are copper or not. After a quick search, I landed on the green pheasant that's native to Japan. Take a look at the male plumage and take a guess at why Sailor named this ink after it. Pretty obvious, right? Dark green, brilliant blue, and shiny red feathers.

If you want an ink that looks professional but has a unique color, Yama-dori is a great color and behaves well. Personally, ever since I've gotten this ink it's always been in at least one pen. I love the blue-green colors because they're brilliant when you look closely under the light. Yet, it's mild and dark enough to be perfectly legible and professional. It has a royal, mysterious feel to it, and I can't get enough of it.

50 mL of the ink will run $20, which is the normal price for the Sailor Jentle line. The bottle (like the other Sailor bottles) has a nifty cone inset that allows you to easily draw up ink even when the ink level gets a bit low. Also, Sailor gets major points in this bottle design because the mouth of the bottle is extra wide. It's frustrating to get a new ink only to find that your favorite pen is too fat to get into the bottle. Well done, Sailor.

(JetPens provided this product at no charge to The Pen Addict for review purposes.)

Posted on January 21, 2015 and filed under Sailor, Ink Reviews.