Depending on who or what you follow online these days, you‘ve likely seen NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) mentioned as the month of November approached. With things having kicked off on November 1st, the progressive daily word counts are now beginning to appear in my social media feeds. To those participating this year, I wish you every success, and to those “I’m already behind” tweets – where there is a will there remains hope – a thought which worked for me a few years ago.
While not diving into the full NaNo experience myself this year, I’ve decided to take a slightly different approach (though I’m not sure whether to suggest its an easier or more difficult one), and revise the 55k words I committed to pixel and paper in 2014. At the time, I wrote a couple of posts on the tools I used to get there, and a quick search of the term NaNoWriMo on this blog will pull up a few posts outlining how I managed to fall over the 50k word deadline before month’s end.
Memories of how November went in 2014 fall somewhere on a continuum between I never want to do that again and I wouldn’t have had it any other way. Where my thinking lies on that continuum varies day-to-day, however one thought always remained – I never quite finished it. Sure, the actual story or first draft is finished – it has just never been revised and edited. You know… finished.
Have I not had the time over the intervening three years to read, revise and improve on that initial effort? Absolutely. Just couldn’t do it. I even started a couple of times only to be thwarted by some innate inability to read my own work, let alone embrace the apparent enormity of the task.
So why now? A very good question, though perhaps not as good as the one which asks: what makes you think you can do it this time?. To be honest I’m not entirely sure I can, however in my own mind am a little more definitive about giving it a go this time. After all – I have a plan!
Three years on, the statute of limitation seems to have expired on those feelings of oh wow… I can’t read this, so away we go I guess. Besides, is it not the least I can do after having put my mother through proof reading and editorial duties the first time around?
Diving into a river of bad grammar, poor punctuation, and let’s face it – a somewhat dubious plot line and story structure requires some sort of plan.
I have 55,000 words over 32 chapters, so the common sense approach would seem to be about one chapter per day. With reference to my Tools below, I plan to make a first pass through each chapter making corrections and notations by hand, subsequently transferring those to digital form.
Being relatively confident I will get through the initial markup, my fear is becoming bogged down in rewriting and larger changes. Should this be the case I think I’ll leave any major section rewrites to a later time if things head too far in that direction (says he who sets himself up for failure: hmmm…yes, that’s too time consuming – I’ll just do that bit later…).
With reference to those previous posts about the tools used in creating the first draft, I might simply argue if it ain’t broke don’t fix it, however that would be oversimplifying things a little. The fact is I tend to proof and revise things far more efficiently and effectively in a very different format to what they were written in, and am of course far from alone in this way of thinking.
At the very least this takes the form of a text editor’s preview pane or say, Marked 2, in an entirely different theme to the editor pane itself. Better yet, with the physically printed word I am able to hold and manually scratch, scrawl, and mark up or annotate by hand. I don’t believe I am necessarily in the minority with this type of approach either, however perhaps a generation of digital only writers, editors and reviewers are now on the scene, and I would be considered a “throwback”. If not the case already, that time certainly cannot be far away.
In any event, given my reticence to get stuck into this task in the past, I’d suggest I am in need of selecting not only the best tools for the job, but those most likely to maximise my chances of success.
Pen and paper
For all of the notebook and paper reviews I’ve done extolling the virtues of my favourite types, the manuscript is printed out on standard office copy paper. Yes I know – I thank you for your kind thoughts and commiseration, however do believe I’ll cope. Strangely enough, my previously abandoned attempt at this task found the paper – while nothing to write home about – certainly usable.
I cannot recall the pen I was using, however the J. Herbin Orange Indien ink feathered just a little, and demonstrates some show through, however I’m simply taking anything I can see through the page as a sign of progress. I’m here to mark up, and can see it’s mark up I’ve done – a positive approach I’ll run with as far as it takes me.
This time around, I’ve settled on Montblanc William Shakespeare Velvet Red, ably distributed by a Pilot Custom Heritage 91 and its FM nib. The Shakespeare is my most recent ink acquisition, and seems perfect for the task in that it isn’t too bright, yet stands out from the printed black ink. I’ll leave it to your imagination whether I’m perhaps trying to channel some other form of inspiration with this choice as well…
The pen? Well it really could have been any of a number of choices, though in the end the FM nib squeezes my corrections and notes in and around those tighter spaces, as well as minimising feathering given its relatively restrained ink flow. The maroon with silver trim simply seemed like a good fit for the ink colour – or perhaps I thought it would set a creative mood?
If I’m to make a permanent record of any of these planned improvements, a digital element to this process is rather important. The choice here was easy, despite the significance of throwing 55 thousand words in a text editor, needing robust iOS syncing (I’m using Dropbox), and trusting my hard work will be safe, saved and ready to go anywhere over the next 30 days.
You may be thinking I’ve said the choice was easy given my loyalty to Ulysses for writing over the past three years, however given the title of this section, clearly that isn’t what I mean. I began using Ulysses through the promo trial for NaNoWriMo back in 2014. Fitting then that I’ll be testing something different this time.
My reference to the choice being easy, simply relates to a recommendation from a very good online friend who has helped immeasurably in much of my Mac related development over the past couple of years. I still maintain the best thing to come out of this blogging caper are the people you become acquainted with as a result. So, when someone whose opinion you highly respect makes an app recommendation, I feel it is well worth trying out.
Armed with the Pro version of MultiMarkdown Composer v4, I am ready to work through and make any necessary adjustments or rewrites. As you can see, I have dropped the text into a Markdown file, and MMC4’s Table of Contents provides me with a nice sidebar view of my chapters. Although arguably possessing a few less bells and whistles than Ulysses, MMC4 provides everything I need for the task at hand. It’s a robust and powerful text editor, and if that isn’t what I need for the task at hand then I’m clearly approaching this all wrong.
I’m also interested so see how the iOS Files app handles Dropbox syncing when I use Byword on my iPad to squeeze in a few updates at lunch time. A few days in I can report so far so good. It would however be remiss of me not to mention encountering more than a couple of Byword crashes when using Copied in split view on my iPad (Air 2 running iOS 11.1) putting this post together.
Enough talking, as the time to commence reading, critiquing and rewriting has already passed. I’ve indeed made a start, however am yet to convince myself that my will is strong enough to push on and get this done in a month. I’d like to at least think I can make one complete pass through with pen in hand – even if the rewriting comes a little later.
To all of those creative and motivated souls who’ve dived headlong towards the 50k word target, I wish you well. While its fair to say I have a certain reticence towards fully editing my first draft, I’m certainly glad I managed to create it.
Anyway – it can’t be that bad. My mother wouldn’t lie would she…?
The title of this post may just as well have been A Surprising and Very Generous Gift, given the pen recently turned up out of the blue in my letter box. These types of things will occasionally happen when good friends stop by the Lamy store in the company’s home town of Heidelberg, Germany, though it certainly doesn’t make me any less grateful a recipient.
Written correspondence between myself and said good friend, is often filled with pen related matters — some of which in recent times has centred around this particular pen when he spotted it at a Lamy exhibition in Frankfurt late last year. It was then titled the JM1 (for reasons now apparent), and slated for release in 2017.
So, on the receiving end of a very kind and generous “this is that pen we were talking about, see what you think” — what follows is, well… what I think.
Look and feel
I’ll be honest with you. Upon arriving home from work and picking up the pen my first thoughts were: wow, its bigger and heavier than I expected; gee I hope I can use this; and I think there will be many who won’t like it. To be entirely honest I wasn’t overly keen on it myself.
In the few days and weeks that followed, much to my absolute surprise, this opinion completely turned around. Ultimately I cannot speak for how it may or may not suit other pen people’s tastes or writing styles, though it quickly aligned with mine.
So right from the outset, I’ll make it clear I’ve many positive things to say about this pen, however didn’t know I’d love it until I used it… a lot. Had you asked me the same question on the first day or two, it would have been a very different story, which perhaps doesn’t bode well for a quick in-store test if someone were considering a purchase.
Those initial first impressions were influenced somewhat by the product shots I’d seen, which to me, were of a pen somewhere in the Lamy 2000 size range (comparisons to which are inevitable, and for frame of reference I’ll run with that at times in this post). In reality, its bigger, and a lot heavier. I’d also go so far as to say it feels even bigger and heavier than what it actually is when compared to the 2000.
First thought: this will be too heavy for any long form writing.
Reality after more use: the balance makes it perfect for longer writing sessions and I’ve found it as comfortable as many of my other favourites.
First thought: this design doesn’t seem to be a huge departure from the overall theme you see in some of Lamy’s other pens.
Reality after a little reading: oh… I get it. That’s absolutely spot on then.
A little more on that.
Lamy’s design aims
Sidenote: I am not much of a designer so take the following within that context — though I guess I am a consumer with an opinion.
Probably a relevant question here is whether I should be required to research the manufacturer’s PR release or product sheet about a pen to know whether I like it or not? The answer of course is no, though in doing a little reading I did find I developed a better understanding of what appears to be scope and philosophy of the design behind the Lamy aion.
Whether it is a decent pen or not is another, more straightforward question entirely, which I’ll deal with in other parts of the post. I say straightforward simply because that is largely a matter of personal opinion and preference, and I’m happy to outline my thoughts on that.
Lamy seems to cop its fair share of criticism for releases which may be seen as less than innovative or not different enough for some tastes, and though I could be wrong, think it is inevitable the aion may be seen in the same light.
Again, whether the design and functionality of the pen suit your particular preference is entirely for you to determine, however as for the merits of the design or Lamy’s decisions in general, perhaps a little background and context is helpful.
Disagreeing with the design of something does not make the design wrong, nor prove the company got it wrong, and perhaps most importantly — does not make you wrong. It simply means it’s not suited to your style, taste, or how you may use the particular product from a functional perspective.
Its success story began over 50 years ago with the LAMY 2000: in 1966, the model established the clear and unmistakeable design which still defines the style of all the brand’s products today – the Lamy design.
On working with Jasper Morrison:
Designed by the British industrial designer, Jasper Morrison, this is absolutely in harmony with his conviction that good design is maximally simple – yet, at the same time, maximally functional.
About the aion:
…epitomises the Lamy design
…this is minimalist
An attitude absolutely compatible with the design principles of the LAMY brand…
There are many more quotes I could pull from the three pages of information on the pen, and of course any of the above can be debated on their own merit (particularly how maximally functional the pen may or may not be). I do think however, Lamy has — and probably always have — clearly shown their views on what these types of statements represent to them, and largely banked what appears to be a very successful company on them.
If that is the aim, kudos to Lamy. Kudos to Jasper Morrison, who appears to have nailed the brief.
There will invariably be different views on what is modern, minimalist and functional — as there should be. There will be those who prefer pens with perhaps a bit more flair, colour and variety, and not derived from a familiar theme — as there should be.
Notwithstanding the above, I think Lamy has successfully achieved what they set out to create. No pen is for everyone, and individuality both in opinion and purchasing makes this hobby what it is after all.
Back to matters at hand.
The aion comes in two colours: black and olivesilver (yes — one word). Though I expect an eyebrow or two to be raised over the naming here — to be honest, does it really matter? I say no — particularly if you’ve checked the names of car colours, house paint or even fountain pen ink offerings lately (none of which I have any issues with either mind you).
As you can see from the images, the model I have is black, which as you would expect is darker than the 2000’s makrolon. The matte and anodised finish, while not as dark as your high gloss resin pens, as you’d expect doesn’t reflect the light like those either. The only contrast to the barrel are the silver nib and spring-loaded Lamy clip.
As far as the shape is concerned, there is no real taper to speak of in the cap, a minor one nearing the top of the pen, and a slightly more pronounced one as the grip approaches the nib. As you can see from the comparison table and image, at its widest point, the Lamy 2000 carries similar girth to the aion, however once the 2000’s taper begins (towards either end), any similarity quickly ends.
I’d tend to agree with the sleek, modern, minimalist group of descriptions you’d find on the Lamy product page. Yes, the aion is created in the spirit of the 2000, however the brushed aluminium and matte finished aion is a very different pen in its own right.
A little more on the construction from Lamy:
…the aluminium housing elements are formed by deep-drawing. The surface structuring is computer-controlled by robot-supported grinding. For its unique finish, the components of the LAMY aion are first brushed, stained, polished and, in the case of the grip, blasted and then finally anodised.
For a firsthand look at the manufacturing process, I refer you to the aion product page which contains a video demonstrating these steps in the pen’s construction. Precision and quality control are words which come to mind when viewing.
There is slight change in both the appearance and texture between the grip and the rest of the barrel. To me, the anodised grip feels a little smoother than the matte-finished barrel, though I have not found any issues with grip or control when writing.
At the junction of the two (which unscrews to allow access to the cartridge or converter), the small seam can be felt by a finger running back and forth across it, however is imperceptible during use. Given the change in texture, having a seam probably makes no material difference, so to sound somewhat ridiculous, the seam is probably as seamless as you could find, with the exception of those on the 2000 which are effectively invisible when closed.
The cap can be posted (as Lamy’s product images show), however to do so feels impossibly heavy to write with, and thankfully more than enough length exists in the pen to use it without posting the cap. While we’re on the cap, the snap closure is a very solid one, requiring some force to disengage, almost preventing a thumb and forefinger one-handed snap-off which I tend to do on occasion.
A couple of other points to note here. When snapped on, the cap itself spins freely, and if I shake the pen there is a small rattle between the cap and the body. As I’ve mentioned, there is certainly no danger of it coming loose, however there is some play there. Whether this is the case as standard or simply on this particular pen I’m not 100% sure, however seem to recall something similar mentioned on Reddit. Occasionally when recapping the pen, I need to slightly readjust my direction before the cap snaps home.
Though I point these things out, I have no great issues with them in day-to-day use, where pen performance and writing comfort are more important to me anyway.
The aion series of fountain pens are fitted with a steel mono colour nib in silver, which although very similar, is a departure from the usual form, as you can see from the comparison image below.
Lamy describes the nib unit:
For the first time, a Lamy fountain pen has been equipped with a series-exclusive, newly-formed nib. Jasper Morrison gave it an unconventionally-proportioned outline, thus giving the writing instrument an avant-garde character
Although I perhaps wouldn’t go that far in my description (don’t think I’ve ever referred to anything as avant-garde), it is certainly something new for Lamy, and I actually quite like the nib shape (more on writing performance later in the post). While I don’t necessary think one of the original Lamy nibs would look out of place on the aion, to my eye the broader “shoulders” of the tines certainly suit the fuller overall profile of the pen.
The remainder of the nib as it fits into the housing appears to be identical to the Lamy nib units we are all familiar with, and from what I have read (again via Reddit), a Lamy rep somewhere has confirmed it can be swapped with other Lamy nibs in the usual way.
In any event, when talking nib shape, a picture certainly will provide you with far more than my words, so I’ll end this here. In doing so though, again even if not something extraordinarily new — kudos to Lamy for providing something different, which I’d say successfully ties in with the overall design of the pen.
Though the key points in relation to the specifications remain the size and overall weight, in isolation these are only chapters of the story. A story which is only complete when balance and function put them together. That said, this certainly isn’t a pen you’d carry in a shirt pocket all day.
If you click-through to the Goblet Pens page, you will see the aion carries a list price of US$71.20 with a MRSP of US$89.00.
Although a conversion to Australian dollars at the time of writing is just over the AU$100 mark, I would be loathe to make any strong prediction as to the actual cost here (which would also be a little unfair to local retailers), given various other factors which may be involved in setting local prices.
At the time of writing, my favourite local retailer in Brisbane’s CBD had not any word through on price or release date.
Or in other words, the money ball. Design scope and brief, construction, finish and marketing aside. Its a pen. It needs to write, and write well or we’ve really got nothing much have we.
The aion certainly does that — and does it in spades. This is a fantastic nib. A stock standard steel nib (albeit in a newer shape), and it writes like a dream if given the best opportunity. I have a blue Lamy cartridge providing the ink, and as far as I can recall, there have been no false starts, skips, or holidays in any strokes over that time. It produces a wet, full, vibrant line and continues to do so for as long as you need it to.
The overall feel of the nib is firm, and takes some pressure to increase the line widths, however I do not find that aspect much different to the other Lamy steel nibs I use from time to time. I’d also mention here, that the only time I’ve found the sweet spot more difficult to find is when I’ve used a slightly heavier hand with the pen.
The real joy in using the aion comes from a fairly high, light grip, and having the weight and balance work for you. Don’t choke down and micromanage those letters and I think you’ll likely find the same. It needs a loose rather than tight rein, and is the “opportunity” I mentioned above. In a pen body sans threads, bands or steps, you really have the option of any grip point you like, and its worth adjusting things a little to see what placement suits the balance of the pen.
Of course we all have our own styles of writing, and if the above doesn’t sound like something amenable to yours, I wouldn’t say this pen is not for you, however I’d give it a thorough test prior to purchasing if that is at all possible. I acknowledge though, in many cases it often is not.
I received this pen in the mail on the 1st of August, and as I finalise this post, it has had what is now approaching four weeks of solid use. I mention this simply because that is generally a far shorter time period than for other pens I write about here.
Having been lucky enough to have had the opportunity to use the pen prior to its wider release, I’m hoping this post may be of some assistance to readers who may consider purchasing the pen once it does hit the shelves.
As I’ve mentioned in other posts, most of my pens are either shorter idea-jotters/notetakers, or longer form writers, as I find some pens just aren’t comfortable over longer periods of use. On the day of receipt and for a couple after, I must admit the aion was almost chained immediately to the notetaker pole. There was no way this hefty thing would leave my hand ache-free over a multiple page letter or blog post draft.
Once those initial few days had passed however, it was moved firmly into the long form writer camp, and after a couple of weeks, resides with those pens I’d likely use more often than some of the others. A pen like this one will always default to a notetaker until proven otherwise, which, in continuing to surprise me to this day, is exactly what happened.
I’ve found the overall balance (unposted) to essentially negate the weight of the pen, making it effortless to use over multiple pages. Not only that, it encourages me to use a lighter grip and more fluid writing motion — something which I often struggle a little to maintain. Of course your personal writing style is likely to be vastly different to mine, so consider this simply one viewpoint on the matter.
Is it that good? Well in my view, for the price point it certainly is a great pen with a great nib. Will it be great for you? That I cannot be certain of, and the thing I wish to emphasise here is the key to all of this I guess: for me, the aion is that good because it’s simply that suitable for how I use it to write.
Remember, you are reading the blog of someone who isn’t as fond of the Lamy Safari as many readers probably are. Great pens no doubt — just not a great fit for me. Each to their own, and I think in the coming months we will find strong opinions both ways as the Lamy aion gets into more hands.
Whether I’m reading or writing them, I’ve always approached pen posts as tales of subjectivity, with really only a table of specs to the contrary.
After all, the look and feel? My opinion. The weight, balance and what the pen is good for? My opinion — on how it suits me and what I tend to use it for. An underperforming nib is perhaps an exception, but its general characteristics? Just as much what I personally prefer as anything.
And so it continues here. As you can tell from probably too many words above, I like this pen — a lot. Initially? I didn’t like it very much at all. As surprised as I was (and still am), the aion has certainly made an impression by completely flipping my initial views on their head, and I cannot help but think that means something.
Perhaps that is the epitome of great design. Perhaps it is something less profound (ideal weight, a great nib and solid performance). Whatever it is, I’ll take more of it, and although many will say: “this pen is not for me” — I won’t be one of them, and what a positive outcome that is.
My thoughts about Lamy’s design intentions are certainly just that — my thoughts, however regardless of how you view this pen, I’d argue Lamy have achieved what they set out to create. In the end, whether that achievement is enough to add the aion to your collection, only you can answer. In any event, it won’t be long before the question is asked.
You might say this Pelikan M805 comes directly from the executive collection, a description perhaps befitting its appearance. Although I wouldn’t necessarily disagree — for myself at least — that description is perhaps a little misleading when it comes to the true nature of the pen. On that score, I’d consider it a smooth, comfortable cruiser, rather than simply a boardroom status symbol. A pleasant long form writer more so than a one signature wonder.
This black and rhodium M805 (18k fine nib) was kindly and very generously passed on to me by a fellow enthusiast downsizing his collection. It is a pen quite frequently inked and often called upon for writing duties, ending page six as comfortably in the hand as it commenced page one.
Look and Feel
As you can see in the accompanying images, the outward appearance of this pen can be described as standard executive-looking black. I do own a number of black pens, and of those, the rhodium trimmed are my favourites. It is a colour scheme I never really tire of. Classic, timeless, and yes — perhaps boring for some. Be that as it may, however you might choose to describe that look yourself — I love it.
The members of the M800/805 series from Pelikan are sizeable pens (though a step down from the 1000’s), and setting off on this post also triggered a few thoughts on whether I have a preferred size in relation to my pens in general. That post morphed into something a little different, however as far as sizes are concerned, I would note the 805 — though at the upper limit — remains firmly in my preferred zone. For reference, my M600 is probably right in the centre, as is the Sailor 1911 Large.
I’ve found it interesting how my cap-posting preferences have changed over time, and I put it down to the fact some of my favourite writing pens are from the larger end of my collection, thus requiring the caps be posted on many of the smaller to retain a semblance of this new-found “balance” I’ve become accustomed to. Here of course I make reference within my collection, for there are certainly many larger and more weighty pens on the market which aren’t sitting in my drawer waiting for ink.
As you can imagine, I use this particular pen without posting the cap. Being a pen which prefers a medium to large hand, posting might of course suit a small few, however I’d expect those to be at the far right of the bell curve on that one. Overall it is a very well-balanced pen (when not posted), and the main difference for me compared with the M600 is the diameter at the point my index finger sits on the section. The 805 being that little bit larger here, separates my thumb and index finger just a little further then the 600, and as a result I find it not quite as comfortable as some of my pens with slightly narrower sections (again the 1911 Large comes to mind – though similar in diameter, probably suits a little better given the shape of its taper relative to the barrel).
As with all Pelikan pens, the finish is on point, and although the images do a far better job than my words, there are a couple of things which do come to mind when considering what I enjoy most about its appearance.
In addition to the black and rhodium combination I’ve mentioned already — I’d say the overall balance between the finial/clip ring, cap/branding ring, and those around the piston knob when the pen is capped. The typical Pelikan beak-shaped clip, and finial logo complement things nicely, and although there is a slight taper towards either end, the flat ends exhibited by Pelikan pens I find neat and definitive.
When uncapped, the 18k nib stands impressively, with engraved detailing, Pelikan logo, and nib designation lettering. The nib itself is a step up in size from the M600, commensurate with the overall size of the pen. A gentle taper at the section and unobtrusive cap threads round things out nicely.
Overall, a classically styled, yet sharp and well-appointed pen which looks out-of-place nowhere really — perhaps with the exception of a dusty work shed or rolling around loose in the bottom of a gym bag.
Depending on where you might pick one up, pricing is approximately AU$600.00 – $795.00 (RRP: AU$795.00) at the time of writing.
The 18k gold nib on the M805 is one of the larger nibs in my collection. I must admit on occasion, after writing with a smaller nib for any length of time, it does take a little time to adjust. Of course after a few lines it feels as comfortable as any from my pen drawer.
Though it carries the Fine designation, depending on paper type, the resulting line width approaches your Japanese Medium or even beyond. Of course that is nothing unexpected, and remains consistent with most other European nibs, and certainly those on my other Pelikans.
Despite the quality finish and stylish appearance, the not insignificant price point carries with it a certain expectation in terms of performance, and having always found Pelikan to deliver as promised — I’d have to say this time is no different.
As I’ve touched on already, though sizeable, the nib is well-balanced given the overall size of the pen. Depending on the size of your hand and preference (one of course influencing the other to a large extent), the large nib/full-sized pen may be a combination slightly outside your comfort level for lengthy writing. I’d say my hands are average, and as I’ve mentioned, it probably sits at the upper end of my “comfort range”.
The 18k gold nib is perhaps not as soft in the “give” side of things as some of my other pens, however I don’t consider that a negative as such. Although firm, it is an effortless glider with just the right footprint on the page to carry a dense, vibrant line — the magnitude of which will of course relate to the particular ink you have filled at the time.
Some of my other gold nibs (particularly the 14k fine and extra fine in my M600 and M400’s respectively; or say, the Sailor Sapporo 14k), tend to give a little more and “sit in” to the page, which I find just as comfortable really — again depending on the type of paper you are using.
Ultimately, the overall balance, size, and nib combine perfectly to produce the effortless feel this pen provides when I write with it.
Probably the most pertinent aspects about this pen are its size and performance. Yes, I find the build and design of high quality — and typical of the Pelikan pens I own — however what makes this any different to those other pens?
Were it larger either in diameter or length, the pen would most likely see less use, which is of course a matter of personal preference. Were I looking to buy another, the Pelikan 600 series probably would be the point I’d be considering — offering just a marginally better size fit, and of course saving a little money (depending on the particular model) to boot. As far as writing is concerned, this pen is simply a beauty.
Sometimes I feel it might be more systematic to have some sort of rating system for these posts, however most of them are approached with a couple of points in mind. Anything not discussed you can assume is relatively unimportant to me in the grand scheme of things (for example piston vs converter, or ink capacity to name a couple).
Generally each post can be summed up before I begin, by thinking what I might say if asked for a quick summary about the pen in question.
It’s probably one of the largest I’d comfortably use, however it’s a very high quality pen with a great nib, and is an absolute joy to write with.
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.
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/ ↩
Whether 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.
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”.
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.
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 Nibs.com.
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 Nibs.com:
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
The 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.
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.
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 Nibs.com), 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.
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.
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. ↩