In our January issue, Dean Tweeddale in his "Rants and Raves" column suggested that Sailor would be the pen company to watch in 2003. He speculated that Sailor was poised for a major invasion, so to speak, of the American pen market. Its innovations in nibs for the ultra-broad, ultra-wet nib fans, coupled with some marketing savvy, could well mean good things for both Sailor and pen collectors.
The only obstacle for some collectors is that some of the higher-end Sailor pens, those with gold Cross and Emperor and Concord nibs, can be mighty pricey. That's too bad, because it prevents the many value-pen and middle-level collectors from enjoying some really amazing nibs and their effects.
But not any more, at least for one variety of nib.
got our hands on one very cool pen from Sailor and it is, as they
say, coming to America. Actually, it's already here. It's called the Calligraphy.
It's inexpensive--suggested retail is only $12.95. It's not particularly
attractive; I'd call it one step above disposable, appearance-wise. It
even looks a little Bic- or Pentel-like--long, slender, and clear. Its
body dimensions are 6.5" long, 7.5" long posted, and about half
an inch in diameter -- very long and very slender, with the section
still more slender than that (about 3/8").
But this pen is not about appearance. This pen is about writing. Lo and behold, it's about the nib! And I, as a nib lover above all else, instantly fell in love with this baby. It is, as my sons would say, suh-weet.
The nib is gold-toned stamped steel. Nothing fancy. Fairly flat curve, with a fairly ordinary-looking comb-style feed. Round breather hole, fairly large, with the Sailor logo stamped beneath it. Made in Taiwan.
Here's where the similarities to other inexpensive or disposable pens end. Remember how the Sailor Concord nib looks? The big, beak-like curve from the feed down to the writing tip? It writes quite a fine line at the tip but if you turn it upside down, it will write a broad line from across the wide side of the curve.
Well, this little steel nib on the Calligraphy has a turned-up tip and does the opposite. A fairly sharp curve, roughly at a 30-degree angle, without the arch of the Concord. It also bears a bit of resemblance to one of the turned-up Sheaffer Triumph nibs, but it's a much sharper curve than that. It might even qualify as a bend.
What this means to the writer is something extremely spiffing. If you write with the pen held at a low angle to the paper, you get a very broad, wet line--not broad like OBB, but broad like a brush. The higher the angle at which you hold it to the paper, the finer the line it writes, so that when it's vertical it's about an EEF width. If you turn it upside down, it will even write that way (although the particular pen I had wrote inconsistently this way, so it may not be intended for that) in an even finer-than-EEF line. I wrote some two-point characters with it that were clear and legible. I am not making this up.
I gave it to an artist friend to play with. He made a few strokes and said, "Hey, you can make all kinds of different lines with this!" A few minutes of silence followed while he scribbled and drew. "Hey! You can do brush strokes with it!" A little while later, after covering an entire sheet of paper with characters and backgrounds and word-filled balloons, he crowed, "This is seriously cool!!"
I concur, all the way. You can actually make lines, as for shading, that start out brush-broad and taper to a fine liner-brush width. This is great for shadowing and texturing as well as for calligraphy of both the ideographic and brush variety. However, a person who's accustomed to using a broad-edged pen for Western-style calligraphic hands will have a bit of mental as well as physical adjusting to do; the Calligraphy requires a whole different hand position and has a whole different feel, and getting a smooth, consistent line out of it when you want it takes a bit of practice. It's well worth it, though, in my opinion (though I've not mastered it yet).
Now, back to that long, slender body. It serves a couple of purposes: One is to hold the cartridge (a Sailor converter will also fit) and a spare; the other is to serve the same purpose as a long brush handle, giving the writer more leverage and allowing great delicacy of motion. Whether that's what it was designed to do or not, I don't know, but it does it quite well!
My first thought was that this pen was probably a student model intended for Japanese youths learning to write Kanji characters -- it's perfect for that -- but Sailor USA's Dick Egolf says it's aimed at the calligraphy market, period. As I said, broad-edged pen users will take some adjusting, but I think they'll be pleased with the pen's versatility, textural interest, and other strengths.
One thing I like about it is the brush-like strokes without the extreme sensitivity of a brush; with a hand tremor, I can't manage a brush well, but this pen allows me to make strokes that don't reflect that shakiness the way a brush would. All in all, this pen is a winner. Egolf says it's made in only the black and a sort of olive drab (ugly, he says), so only the black ones are to be sold at this point.
I would personally like to see Sailor put this nib and feed on a nicer body. I spent half an afternoon trying to fit the section into one of the old bodies I had lying around the house, just to see if it would fit. It wouldn't; it's both too narrow and the section threads too coarse for any I had, but it would be worth a hunt through your parts or non-functional pens boxes to see what you might find. However, that would eliminate the brush-like leverage of that long body.
Also, this is essentially a novelty nib. It's not something most people are going to write steadily with for long periods of time if they aren't doing calligraphy. So it probably wouldn't make sense to put it into a really expensive body or to make it out of high-gold alloys because the market would likely be too small to justify it. But in a $25-$40 pen with a nicer steel nib, I can see it working.
The Calligraphy is a great little pen at a great and
very little price. Get one for yourself, get one for each of your kids,
buy several for stocking-stuffers (plan ahead!). Whatever excuse you need,
make it and get one. This is too neat a toy to pass up!