(Susan M. Pigott is a fountain pen collector, pen and paperholic, photographer, and professor. You can find more from Susan on her blog Scribalishess.)
Ever since I discovered the Sailor Specialty Nibs page at Classic Fountain Pens, I spent hours looking at each nib and its characteristics, fascinated by the different shapes and styles. The prices always threw me for a loop, though, so I just looked and coveted.
I finally found a pretty good price on a Sailor Pro Gear with a Cross Point nib on Engeika. It took several weeks to arrive, but the wait was worth it.
I loved the lush broad lines it made–so glorious with sheening and shading inks. But I couldn't write with the nib upside down. You're supposed to be able to write fine lines with it, but mine just cuts into the paper.
I discovered why, after taking macro shots of the nib: the tines are misaligned. This doesn't affect the broad strokes, but it definitely makes the nib unusable for fine lines. I'm going to have to send the nib in for work.
In the meantime, a person on Fountain Pen Geeks offered a Sailor 1911 with a Cross Concord nib for a steal. I knew the Concord, with its beak-like nib, could write fine on one side and do the luscious lines on the other, so I bought the pen.
So, now I have two Sailor Specialty Nibs.
The two nibs are similar in what they can do: write fine strokes with the nib in one position and broad strokes in the other. The Cross Point nib in the normal position writes broad strokes.
The Cross Concord is the opposite. Personally, I prefer the Cross Concord because I can pick it up and immediately use it like a normal fountain pen. If I want the broad strokes I turn it upside down. With the Cross Point, you have to hold the pen with the nib upside down if you want to write fine strokes.
Because my Cross Point's tines are misaligned, I can't compare the two pens' fine strokes. But I can compare the broad ones. They are similar in width (if not exactly the same). You can vary the width of the line of both nibs depending on the angle you hold the pen. If you wish, you can even mimic brush strokes with the nibs.
The Sailor Specialty Nibs are clearly designed for Japanese calligraphy, not western writing. But, I've found they work great for writing Hebrew. I'm no calligrapher, but I love the nice thick lines I can make for Hebrew lettering.
Yes, there are Hebrew/Arabic nib grinds for this purpose, but they aren't all that versatile if you write primarily in cursive. With the Sailor nibs, I can write Hebrew letters with the broad side and turn the nib over and write cursive English.
These nibs are also great for drawing. I'm no artist, but I could see how people who like to sketch with ink would love these pens. You can paint with the broad side and sketch details with the fine.
The nibs themselves are works of art. The double-layer nibs, the scroll work, the beautiful 21K gold, all combine to make for an exquisite nib. You can get the specialty nibs with an extra bar on top that increases the ink flow, but I think it ruins the aesthetic of the nib. So far, I've had no need for increased ink flow.
The one negative about these nibs is that they are limited to Sailor pens. It's not that I have anything against Sailors, it's just that their converters are tiny. They just don't hold much ink (0.5ml). Even the Sailor Realo (a piston fill pen) doesn't hold much more (0.9ml). When you're doing broad, juicy strokes, you can blow through a small converter of ink very quickly.
Another limitation of Sailor pens is the lack of choices in pen color. Finding a Sailor with a specialty nib in any color other than black is difficult, and you have to be willing to pay a premium. If you want one of the fancier Sailors with a specialty nib expect to pay close to $1,000.
I purchased my boring black Pro Gear from Engeika for $390. The Sailor 1911 with a Cross Concord would normally be $535, but I got it for around $300 as well.
- These specialty nibs really are special. No other manufacturer makes anything like them.
- They are extremely versatile. You can write fine and broad and in between and use them for sketching.
- These nibs are great for certain types of calligraphy and even for Hebrew (which I know is very important to most people).
- Sailor specialty nibs make great ink testers because they show off the ink in both fine and super broad strokes.
- The nibs are only available on Sailor pens which have small ink capacity.
- Sailor pens with specialty nibs are quite expensive.
- You don't have much choice in colors unless you're willing to pay almost $1,000.
- Sailor recently suspended orders on these nibs so quantities are currently limited.