Monokaki Notebooks: Now On My Doorstep

Late breaking stationery news this blog certainly isn’t, however when there is good news to share…

A little over a year ago I wrote about the Monokaki A5 notebook, received from a friend who’d been travelling overseas and picked one up in a Japanese stationery store. Well and truly filled cover to cover some time ago, I occasionally come across it when filing other notebooks away, and usually pick it up and flick through.

In reading over that original post, I’m reminded just how much I loved using that notebook with its Masuya paper, and fabulous overall design and attention to detail.

As luck would have it, the great folk at Bookbinders now have that very notebook in stock, along with its larger B5 sibling. You’ll also find some Masuya Manuscript paper as well. To clarify — the luck is with me, however the collection of stock Bookbinders are assembling shows a real passion for — and understanding of — a pen and paper enthusiast’s needs.

Of course we all have our favourites, whether notebook, paper type, or combination of both. The perfect size and construction; our favourite binding; just the right amount of slide or skate of the nib; perhaps a little tooth (raises hand) to help control things just a little. While our styles and hand are different, you and I, the Masuya Monokaki notebook stakes an overwhelming claim as my all time favourite.

Sure, I’ve not used every notebook out there, though I’ve tried a few, and I’d encourage any keen fountain pen user to at least check these out. If by chance you all do so before I get over to the store — yes, the actual store on the other side of town — I’m sure there will be plenty more coming.

Err… right Bookbinders? Right?

Fine print: Please note I have no affiliation with the Bookbinders company, brand or products. I do however have every known affiliation, connection, and association (both direct or implied) with stationery related products I buy and thoroughly love using.

A Static Yet Evolving Fountain Pen Collection

In use, a Pelikan M600. Looking on, a Pilot Decimo; Faber Castell Ambition; Lamy Safari
Anyone with a keen interest in fountain pens will eventually own more than one. The “more than one” will of course in all likelihood not merely duplicate the original. Most look towards having some variety of experience — different pens, nibs, sizes and designs. A cursory glance through any pen enthusiast’s social media feed will provide an insight into the amazing variety in many collections, be they developing or mature.

Usually, variety also comes with favourites. Those we might prefer to pick up just a little (or perhaps a lot) more than others. “Favourites” however — is not necessarily a category into which all of those great pens will fit into. Such a category is quite personal and subjective after all.

Perhaps “preferred” might be a better term. Horses for courses. Specific pens which may better for certain tasks than others. I’ll touch on this a little more below, however regardless of what title we put on, or how we define it, I think you get the idea.

An aside

There are times when I’m writing a post for this blog where I suddenly stop and think: why am I actually writing this? Who really cares about my personal experience or thoughts on x, y, or z? Something which occurs more often than you would think — and certainly more than I would like. This? Definitely one of those times.

When it does occur, one of two things generally happens: (i) The specific reason something might be of value to someone reading becomes clearer, generally resulting in a re-write with a more specific focus; or (ii) I feel like a bit of an idiot for spending so much time only to scrap the entire thing quite late in the piece.

Blog posts I find most valuable have a way of changing how you think about something — not simply make you think about it. How your own situation is — and will be — influenced by your approach to it, and your philosophy behind that approach. There are plenty of posts published on these pages which won’t achieve that, however hopefully on occasion some will.

Of course when I hit a point in my writing as I’ve described above, I tell myself it improves the overall quality of what does end up published here, though I’m not sure I fully buy that. Here’s hoping I’m onto (i) above with what follows.

Not a “favourite pens” post

So, I’m talking about what exactly?

Well, I can only speak from personal experience of course, however perhaps I’d call it the curious case of my static yet evolving fountain pen collection. It is evolving more with time, and as that continues, it is providing quite an intangible change in value — something that is as exciting as it is perhaps a little unusual (to me at least).

I have a fountain pen collection which has not been added to for well over a year now. For those who may be interested, a listing of said collection can be found here. For those unfamiliar with how much of that collection came together, it is explained here. To say I remain grateful for these pens every day I uncap one would be an understatement.

To explain the apparent incongruity in this same, yet different notion — this “evolution” I speak of, is not in the “I’ve moved on” sense of the word. Over time I’ve noticed an ebb and flow of usage and delight within this collection. Granted, not entirely unusual, however I’m talking about pens I had placed (somewhat firmly) in the unsuitable/not my style/not comfortable/just cannot seem to like it category, completely coming around.

This whole pen caper can be a complex one to think about at times. What’s that? Well if you make it complicated it certainly is. I don’t disagree with you. Just pick up a pen and write with it — simple. Again agreed. However that is precisely the essence of what I’m talking about here. Those we choose to pick up, and those we don’t, and what becomes of those we more often than not don’t.

My collection

Thinking back on previous pen posts here, most have always contained a few points on my usage patterns, a big part of which is dictated by the size of the pen, and how comfortable it may be over longer periods of use. Most I generally consider to be either shorter note takers, or long form writers. Of course long can be short — though short is usually never long.

Pens which fit into the long form writers category, and by default can of course handle the short stuff, tend to be those “favourites” or “preferred” pens of the bunch.

From a previously published post, my thoughts on the Faber Castell Ambition:

Over longer writing sessions, the Ambition is probably not quite as comfortable as some larger diameter pens with a tapered form, however here I am referring to a three or four A4 pages before I began to have those thoughts

Another, on the Sailor 1911 Large:

For me personally, the answer is just about perfect, both from a size and weight perspective. At 122 mm (unposted) the barrel has enough length to provide scope for a higher or lower grip on the section, which I will vary at times during lengthy writing sessions.

Finally – the Pilot Decimo:

For shorter writing sessions or quick notes, it is just about spot on. When in the zone and powering through multiple pages of a longer draft, I’d more likely pick up one of my other pens.

Perhaps some form of size/balance sweet spot or preference appearing over time?

In actual fact, I drafted the beginnings of this post some months ago. Seriously? What have you been doing? Good question for another time — actually no it isn’t. I don’t actually have an answer to that one.

In any event, that original post had a working title of A Pen Sweet Spot. In it I began to wax lyrical about how it wasn’t just about nibs. It was (and is) about weight, dimensions, and overall balance as well. That is often why I pick up what I do on any given writing occasion. About how it isn’t just about numbers and specs. How there is a good deal of the intangible.

It might help at this point to provide a little context of where I was headed with that post.

The original draft

A surviving excerpt from the original:

So, it sits about where this so-called sweet spot?

For reference, it’s around a Pelikan M600; a Sailor 1911 Large; or a Pilot Custom 912. Towards, but firmly within the lower (read smaller) end, it’s a Pilot Custom Heritage 92; a posted (of course) Kaweco Sport; or even a Pilot Kakuno. Aside from the Kaweco, all of the above are used without posting the cap, as are those towards the upper end of the window.

Towards the larger end we have contenders such as the Pelikan M800 series, my OMAS Ogiva Alba, and even the Platinum President.

There are also some notable omissions from that list. If we are simply talking approximate size, then it also should be the Lamy Safari, probably the Lamy 2000, and even the Pilot Metropolitan. To me that suggests there is more at play. Those and a few other pens I’ve never really gelled with. Great pens mind you — each of them, and I do enjoy using them — just not for any significant amount of time.

Some notable omissions? Probably the Pelikan M200 and 400 series, the Faber Castell Ambition, and the Pilot Decimo. Each probably a little on the slender side to keep things completely comfortable over the course of more than a few pages.

L to R: Pilot Custom Heritage 92; Sailor 1911 Large; Pilot Custom Heritage 912; Pelikan M805; OMAS Ogiva Alba; Platinum President
Between writing those words in the initial draft and now, a few things happened which I have to admit surprised me. For one – I powered through a number of pages with the Ambition and wondered why I enjoyed it so much. I wrote a lot of the first draft of this very post with the Lamy 2000 – again stopping to think: what happened there? That is, with reference to the above, the short did become the long — and I thoroughly enjoyed the fact, and the pens. It changed my whole perspective on some of the pens I’d not used in a little while.

How did this magic occur?

The zone

A few pens with which I’d never managed to end up in “the zone” with, magically appeared there — and appeared there effortlessly. Though we might all have our own word or term, you know what I’m talking about when I refer to “the zone”.

Those writing days where everything just feels right. The pen sits truly in your hand — the nib gliding freely but with precision. The slope uniformly even, the tails curve in symmetry, and no matter how fast the page is filling — it’s all falling into place. You’re in the zone — and it will take a big nudge to bump you out of it.

Somedays it can be found in the first sentence. Perhaps late in the first paragraph or even over the page. Other, more frustrating days? Good luck finding it at all. It’s a Field of Dreams really isn’t it? Putting together a combination of perfect tools: pen, paper and a perfect position will see it somehow magically appear from the corn field. Other times? It’s just you sitting in the empty stand.

Your point exactly Pete?

This (sweeps hand above pen storage boxes) — all of this changes.

Powderfinger and a Lamy 2000
This is a journey that goes not from A to B. To borrow a phrase from legendary Australian band Powderfinger, it goes up and down and back again. It isn’t simply a linear spectrum or continuum — there is more to it.

As I mentioned – I’ve not acquired any new fountain pens for some time, yet somehow, I have what I consider a whole “new” group of pens patiently waiting for me. That is as weird to me as it is wonderful. I’d begun thinking a little about my longer term plans in relation to these pens, yet now it’s decided – I’m hanging onto them, for I’m sure those sitting patiently in that drawer are likely to have something more to offer when called upon.

I feel extremely lucky all over again.

Signing off

If you’ve made it this far I thank you, and apologies if what I’m trying to say remains unclear. The essence of the message is simply that it seems this whole fountain pen journey indeed evolves, however it is equally back to the old as it is on to the new.

So yes, buy on recommendations, however embrace what you own. Love your pens, look after them, and go back to them. You never know when that one at the back of the drawer might become “the one” — at least for a while anyway.

There you have it, over 1900 words that could have been summed up in a tweet. Long form writing though — with fountain pens.

Exactly. You get it.

Having An Absolute Rollerball

Clockwise from top: Baron Fig Squire, P8126 & Retro 51 refills, Karas Kustoms EDK, Retro 51 Stealth Tornado, Kaweco Classic Sport
Clockwise from top: Baron Fig Squire, P8126 & Retro 51 refills, Karas Kustoms EDK, Retro 51 Stealth Tornado, Kaweco Classic Sport

The nature of intermittent pen-related posts appearing on this blog would lead you to believe my pen-life is mostly fountain and little else. Inherently there would be nothing wrong with that, however in reality it’s not all nibs and pistons. There is quite some variety in the writing instruments I use on a day-to-day basis, and on that score I’m sure I’m not alone.

Retro 51 or 8127 refill - 0.7mm
Retro 51 or P8127 refill – 0.7mm

A big part of that variety is the rollerball, or if you prefer — liquid ink pen (for consistency and convenience we’ll go with the term rollerball from here on in). Although the specifics of my rollerball history are varied in themselves (more on this below), in recent times my usage has largely revolved around the “capless” rollerball refills of both the Retro 51 (at times stamped with the P8127 designation), and Schmidt P8126 variety.

The refills

The Schmidt P8126 refill - 0.6mm
The Schmidt P8126 refill – 0.6mm

Like many before me, and no doubt many after — my initiation into said refills came through The Pen Addict podcast, although the exact episode number is not known to me. I’m sure there is an enthusiast or two out there able to pinpoint the actual number, however given Retro 51 pens are mentioned at least every few episodes, specifics are probably not relevant. With a little trepidation (the hype surely couldn’t be matched by reality) I ordered a Retro 51 Tornado pen (the all black Stealth model), and upon receipt was pleasantly surprised. This was a fine-looking and equally stellar-performing pen, and that refill? Yes – it’s a beauty, and has been a regular purchase of mine ever since.

The 0.6mm P8126 refill (l); and 0.7mm Retro 51 (r)
The 0.6mm P8126 refill (left); and 0.7mm Retro 51 (right)

Although you may find interchanging use of the Retro 51/P8127 and Schmidt P8126 designations when searching online, they definitely are different beasts when talking line widths. If I had to pick my favourite? Probably the ever so slightly thinner line of the 0.6mm P8126, however to be honest I’m happy with either, and my local pen store (Brisbane’s Pen and Paper) which I often visit when refills are required, stock the Retro 51 branded P8127 (0.7mm) version.

A description of the P8126 refill from Jet Pens tells us the following:

  • the refills use a ceramic ball in the tip
  • they are available in black, blue, green and red (the Retro 51 refills in black and blue only)
  • “capless” means a one year cap off time without drying out
  • the P8126 refill is 3.9″ (10 cm) long. It is not the same as the Schmidt 8126 refill, which is 4.3″ (11 cm) long.

Probably worth noting that last point as far as ordering the correct refill size when the time comes. Speaking of which, when it comes to refills and options for them, you could do no better than to consult an epic guide on such matters, aptly titled The Epic Refill Reference Guide: Rollerball, Gel and Ballpoints by Ana Reinert of The Well-Appointed Desk.

Once you’ve taken a look at Ana’s post, the realisation dawns of the multitude of options out there — many of which I have yet to explore myself. Just prior to finalising this post today, I came across Joe’s review of the Steel and Flint Kickstarter pen on The Gentleman Stationer, which contained the following:

For some reason, I’ve never had the opportunity to use the Schmidt Easyflow 9000 ballpoint refill, and that’s a shame. After using this pen for a few days, I ordered a pack of six, and have since swapped out all my Retro 51 / Schmidt liquid ink rollerball refills for the EasyFlow. It’s that good…

Stay tuned for my future ”Having an absolute ballpoint” post perhaps…

Some current pens

Anyway, the rollerball refills in question are known to many within the pen enthusiast world, and are accommodated by an array of pen housings, with Kickstarter often fertile ground for additions to the list. There are quite a few pen options to choose from really, a couple of which I have previously written about (links below), and the others in the list I’ll no doubt look at in future posts as well.

Again, certainly not an exhaustive list, however the pens I commonly rotate these refills through, provide a good example of the variety at your disposal in terms of overall design, weight and feel in the hand. The writing experience however is of course consistent and familiar.

My pens themselves, in no particular order:

The Nova Minimal pen by Namisu - a recent Kickstarter arrival
The Nova Minimal pen by Namisu – a recent Kickstarter arrival

Rollerballs past

As with many in this hobby, the memories of where specific points of interest or phases began are quite vivid. I distinctly remember dabbling in a few different types of pens through high school, and in my university years beyond that (student budget permitting). There were no fountain pens to be seen at that time, with the first to come almost a decade later, however you would definitely have found a rollerball or two on my desk.

Although it’s a bit of a stretch to remember exactly what they all were, I do recall sampling a good few of your disposable varieties, like the Uni-Ball Eye Rollerball, and I believe some Pentel variants of whatever specific moniker they carried at the time. In attempting to become a little classier (I guess), the Parker Vector made an appearance, along with a Diplomat (the model escapes me), creating my most distinctive memory of them all — it ran out so quickly I was driven back to ballpoints for a while.

Clearly unfazed, over the next two decades (yes, its been that long) I dabbled here and there, however in recent years with a renewed vigour and enthusiasm for writing instruments in general, the rollerball has made a somewhat triumphant return.

Why the attraction?

There are probably two main reasons I attribute my fondness for rollerballs: my writing style primarily; and the saturation and vibrancy of the liquid ink a rollerball produces.

My writing style does not lend itself well to ballpoints or gel inks below about 0.5mm in tip size. At times depending on what I’m specifically doing, even 0.5mm is a stretch. Of course your average ballpoint or gel ink pen will typically write drier than say an EF fountain pen nib. The angle and stroke of my natural writing provides a very scratchy experience with finer non-fountain pens (and certain very fine fountain pen nibs as well), however a rollerball in the usual 0.7mm or 0.6mm is just about perfect.

As for the saturation and vibrancy of the ink, this speaks for itself really. A good rollerball will often provide output (once on the page at least) not dissimilar to what you might see with a fountain pen. The blues are deep, saturated and hold their colour over time, the reds and blacks are generally the same.

Quite a vibrant blue on the page (Rhodia No. 16 Dot Pad)
Quite a vibrant blue on the page (Rhodia No. 16 Dot Pad)

Of course it goes without saying that your colour choices are generally somewhat limited, unless you look further afield to something like the J. Herbin rollerball pen, which I’ve not personally tried, and accepts standard international ink cartridges. Personally, for the uses mine see, I’ve no real need for a vast selection of ink colours, and the basics do just fine.

Typical usage

Here the immediate thought of: “well for lots of things where fountain pens dare not tread” is probably not 100% accurate. As you probably know, rollerballs — while perhaps more versatile in some ways than fountain pens — still do not have the ubiquitous acceptance a ballpoint might.

On very glossy paper or card stock, they can be just as bad if not worse than a fountain pen. In addition, poor quality standard paper will see feathering typically less than fountain pens, however the ghosting and/or bleed through can actually be worse. If you are anything like me, and unintentionally take a rollerball as a ticket to writing with a firmer hand — this effect can be exaggerated significantly.

That said, there is a pretty decent range of paper types that will provide a fantastic writing experience with one of these capless rollerball refills. Personally, I’ve found some of the best to be on slightly toothier paper, such as Baron Fig’s Confidant, or your typical Field Notes for example. Even the standard copy paper we use at the office is a pretty good match, upon which I print out an Emergent Task Planner for the day’s tasks and scheduled activities, and a Cornell notes formatted printout for general note taking.

Although I find the writing performance of these capless refills quite an enjoyable experience, longer form writing is not something I choose to use them for. For various reasons, the pens are either a little thin, fairly heavy, or a combination of both. I say that not in a negative way, simply to point out I’d probably choose one of my fountain pen options were I to sit and churn out a few thousand hand-written words.

That being the case — where do they excel? As short form note takers. That is, for meeting notes, recording phone calls, daily planning and brainstorming, or outlining blog posts. They are hardy enough to withstand a drop, or lend to others without the need for undue concern. Perfect office pens really, which as I’ve mentioned, is mostly where you’ll find mine. I’ve also been known to have them rolling around on the shed workbench while recording coffee roasting data — a task for which they are more than hardy enough.

Signing off

The benefit of having so many choices available for these great refills is just that — the choices. The variety of pens available should see something suitable for just about any particular preference — all the while retaining the same great writing experience between refill tip and page.

Of course there are other great rollerball or gel based refills around, and I’m not suggesting the Retro 51/Schmidt’s are the be-all and end-all in this category, however are a standard and favourite for me, seeing some form of use pretty much every day. With the newly arrived Nova Minimal pen, I now have five options — perhaps a ready-made Monday to Friday rotation! More likely though is that I will simply continue what I’ve done for some time — use one for a while, and switch when the desire to do so hits me.

One thing remains a certainty — although the housing may differ, the smooth, rich, and vibrant writing experience certainly won’t.

Belonging — at any level

Yesterday, Dr Jonathon Deans wrote a fantastic post over at Pen Economics recounting the first year of the Fountain Pens Australia Facebook Group. While Facebook call it a group — it is indeed far more than that. It is a community, and a healthy, thriving one at that. With a hat tip to the power of internet good, bringing 730 members (at last count) together both online and in person, in a country this size is no mean feat.

With the first anniversary of FPA now upon us, I am reminded I myself have been a member of the group for a year now as well.

Although I was very happy to be joining the group when things kicked off (managing to get over begrudgingly signing up to Facebook to so), that is really all I can lay claim to. Jonathan on the east coast and Yagan Kiely in the west were — and continue to be — the driving forces behind initially getting things off the ground, and administering a successful online community throughout the past year. They rightly deserve the congratulatory messages now running in a thread on the group’s page.

I encourage you to read Jonathan’s post for a more detailed account of where things came from, and where they are today, along with some exciting new developments coming soon to FPA.

For me personally, the past year as a member of FPA has certainly been an enlightening one. Though I’ve been writing this blog for over three years now, as far as my online presence and social media engagement1 are concerned, a “reserved observer” is how I’d label myself if compelled to do so. I do not have the biggest personality, the largest or most expensive collection of pens, nor the most numerous or brightest inks — but Fountain Pens Australia does.

And here’s the thing — in the community that is FPA, none of that matters. Of course groups like these do not succeed without the larger than life personalities, the regular and frequent contributors, and those with a knack — and a will, for organising and administering such groups. Along with that, they also succeed because of members who may just follow along, adding a couple of comments or snippets of advice from their own experience when they believe it may be helpful.

So I say to the 730 members of FPA: To those who contribute each and every day — thank you. To those (like me) who occasionally join a conversation thread — thank you. To the admins Jonathan and Yagan, and other members of the group with the get up and go to organise bulk buys and meet ups — thank you (and what a fantastic thing it is you do).

It is each and every one of you that is the thread that binds the community together. A shared appreciation of fountain pens yes — but over and above that — the shared feeling of belonging to a respectful and encouraging (dare we say enabling) community. A community where every member truly belongs, and the value of this membership is not tied to the pen or ink collection you bring to the table, nor by the frequency of your posts or conversation threads.

We all belong — at any level of involvement we choose, and the collective force of good that is the group as a whole is something to celebrate.

Happy first birthday, Fountain Pens Australia.

  1. Yes, I did it – I used the word engagement. I’m sorry, marketing told me to. Either that or I could not think of a better word at the time/

Sailor 1911 Large Fountain Pen – Naginata Togi 21k MF Nib

FullSizeRender 4Whether or not you subscribe to the desert island pen mindset, if there was one — and only one pen to take and use from here to well… let’s say, eternity — the decision would most likely be either fairly straightforward or incredibly difficult.

Whichever the case for you, on my side of the desk, this particular Sailor 1911 goes a long way towards making the decision pretty easy. Put simply, it is a fantastic pen with an exquisite nib, and is routinely one of the first re-inked and most often picked up — particularly for longer form writing. So at the current time, would probably be the one packed for that one way trip.

I’ve written before about my good fortune in receiving a number of pens from a kind reader downsizing their collection. The subject of this review is one such pen, which I have now owned for about 12 months.

Look and Feel

As far as the overall styling is concerned, the Sailor 1911 Large (or Full-size as is the moniker these days) in black and rhodium at least, has a classic, office executive type look, yet retains a certain contemporary sleek as well.

I do own a number of black fountain pens, and acknowledge a cigar shaped black and rhodium pen may be considered boring by some. To me, they are things of beauty, though of course we all have our own styling preferences, and yours may differ with mine on this one.

Although gold coloured accents have a certain appeal, as you can gather, I generally prefer rhodium or silver contrast to my black pens, and this particular model ticks all the boxes, from the nib right through to the top-most decorative ring on the barrel, which itself is matched by the clip ring, bookending the black resin body nicely. The slimmer rhodium ring adjacent to the thicker branding one on the cap is then matched by another at the threads on the section. The branding ring itself carries the Sailor Japan Founded 1911 inscription, clearly giving away the heritage from which the 1911 series derives its name.

Onto the nib itself, which sports a decorative braiding pattern at its perimeter, along with the 1911 insignia, Sailor’s anchor logo, and the 21K and 875 gold designations.1 To delineate the Naginata Togi nib from other versions, an “N” is found on the nib’s left shoulder, along with the “MF” (Medium Fine) nib width of this particular model. The overall beauty of the nib is a great match for its writing ability — that I can guarantee.

FullSizeRender 6

So how does the pen feel in the hand after giving it the once over and writing begins? For me personally, the answer is just about perfect, both from a size and weight perspective. At 122 mm (unposted) the barrel has enough length to provide scope for a higher or lower grip on the section, which I will vary at times during lengthy writing sessions.

I’d describe the overall diameter as mid-sized, and very comfortable. The section tapers just a little from the unobtrusive cap threads towards the nib, before flattening out and flaring again ever so slightly — exactly how I like them. On tapered sections which continue right through to the nib collar, I generally feel my fingers are constantly sliding towards the nib, so prefer a flattening of the taper, or even better, something providing that little bit of feedback to my index finger saying: “things stop here”.

FullSizeRender 5

So in general, this is an extremely well balanced pen, with enough heft to use without posting the cap (as I do), however depending on your own particular preference or perhaps hand size — could be used with the cap posted. Interestingly, I have been coming back around to posting a few more of my mid-size pens of late, and I put it down to more frequent use of fuller size models such as the 1911 Large, and suspect my preferred size and weight sweet spot has now readjusted a little.


  • Model: Sailor 1911 Large (Full-size)
  • Material: Resin
  • Colour: Black with Rhodium Trim
  • Nib: 21k gold with rhodium plating; Naginata Togi Medium-Fine
  • Filling system: converter & cartridge
  • Length capped: 140 mm (5.5 inches)
  • Length uncapped: 122 mm (4.8 inches)
  • Length posted: 153 mm (6 inches)
  • Diameter: 15.9 mm (0.625 inches)
  • Weight 23.7 grams (0.8 oz)

Some additional specifications courtesy Pen Chalet

There are numerous nib offerings available with 1911 series pens, and although not all remain available, there are also a number of Sailor specialty nibs at your disposal — some examples of which can be found at


I’ve mentioned above the 1911 Large is very comfortable to hold and write with, however it’s really all about the Naginata Togi nib as far as this particular pen is concerned.

The Naginata Togi nib is a member of the Sailor Specialty group of nibs, and as explained on

Provides variable line width depending on the angle of the pen to the paper – the lower the angle, the broader the line. Available in Medium, Medium-Fine, and Broad

FullSizeRender 7The variation in line width is achieved by a larger than standard amount of tipping material on the nib, which is ground towards a finer point at the tip, widening as it moves away from the actual nib point. Thus, as the pen is lowered towards horizontal, a greater portion of that wider tipping comes into contact with the paper and provides a thicker line. The opposite of course being true as the pen approaches a vertical position. To be honest there is not an overly large amount of line variation, and it is seen mostly on horizontal strokes when comparing near vertical and 45 degree pen angles.

In terms of what you end up seeing on paper — yes, there is some line variation evident through the positioning changes noted above, however it is not a nib designed to achieve graduated line width through pressure — nor is it really suited to changes in line variation mid stroke. Of course with some focused effort this can be achieved, however I think you can imagine the difficulty in changing from a near vertical pen position to 45 degrees or below mid stroke.

Line variation most evident on horizontal strokes

It is a reasonably firm nib, which I would describe as having a small amount of “give” however there really is zero flex. For standard cursive writing (about 45 degrees in my hand), the nib is an absolute dream. This small amount of give provides for an extremely comfortable writing experience, particularly when writing longer letters or perhaps draft blog posts about itself.

FullSizeRender 8

So where does the line variation of the Naginata Togi nib fit in with the average user? There are a few thoughts which come to mind here. More defined, deliberate writing, for example block printing, perhaps certain lettering types, or languages which use specific stroke widths within letters or phrases. I guess I am thinking along the lines of how one might use an architect ground nib or even your standard stub nib (which, as I’ve noted above, would be better options if a larger amount of line variation is required). One case where I have found the variation handy, is in marking up printed (or even handwritten) pages, and needing to “squeeze in” a few comments in a tight space between lines — vertical we go and those words fit right in.

While the ability to vary the line width is a fantastic option to have with this nib, it is the ability to pick it up and churn out a thousand handwritten words and having the last one as comfortable and enjoyable as the first is where it really shines. The biggest compliment I can give the Naginata Togi nib is that having a unique style of nib does not detract from the purpose I use most of my fountain pens for — medium to long form hand writing (which for me occurs with a fairly standard grip with the pen at about 45 degrees to the page). Of course it depends on the user, however I don’t necessarily think the same could be said about something like a more specific architect ground nib for example.

I say this not to suggest the Naginata Togi is necessarily a better nib than other specific types (which again, for line variation it isn’t), but merely to point out if you are concerned about applications for it — first and foremost (at least in my experience) you end up with an out and out fantastic everyday writing nib.

What you won’t end up with is a “jack of all trades” compromise, and I tend to pick it up just as much if not more (depending on what’s inked) as my Pelikan M805 — an exquisite 18k nib in its own right. So if you don’t intend to use the line variation capabilities much at all, and are simply looking to expand your nib varieties, I’ll say it again — you’ll end up with a fantastic everyday writer out of the deal. Although it is one of the cheaper Sailor specialty nibs (currently adding US$50 to the pen’s US$248.00 list price at, whether or not it is worth the cost is a matter for your budget and conscience I guess.

Not unique to this nib type, though certainly evident on this pen, is the pronounced “sing” it has whilst writing. A feature often described as a squeak or screech, there is a significant noise associated with the nib moving across the paper. More information on this phenomenon can be found on Richard Binder’s site, and is described as follows:

Singing is a harmonic vibration that occurs when friction between the nib’s tip and the paper causes the nib to “stick” and release repeatedly at the resonant frequency of the nib.

Although I’ve not written about resonant frequencies since my university days, I’d have to say in the current context, and given the way the nib writes — it is more music to my ears than annoying to the soul, and perhaps even adds a little more character to the experience of using the pen. I’d suggest it is also part of why I like the nib, most likely contributing to the ever so slight feedback it provides when writing. Whether or not this occurs with other Naginata Togi nibs I cannot say, however I don’t include comment here in a negative sense – more an observation.

Signing Off

The Sailor 1911 Large with the Naginata Togi 21k medium-fine nib. A long enough title in itself. What more can I say? This is simply a fantastic pen all round, and now sits beside the Pilot Custom Heritage 92 as a favourite in my collection.

I’m not someone who writes dozens of letters each week, however if you’ve received one from me in the past year or so, there is a good chance it was written using this Sailor 1911. Once picked up, it exists effortlessly in the hand, following every direction without fail, compromise or question.

If I’m still writing here in 30 years time, I’ve got no doubt many a draft will be written with this pen, however I suspect I might be angling it just a little closer to the page – I’ll be needing those thicker lines by then.

  1. To further explain the 875 gold designation, a definition from Sell Gold HQ:For example 21 karat gold is 87.5% pure gold so a piece of jewellery marked by a European jeweller (or meant for sale in Europe) will be marked 875 instead of 21K.