Tale of a Vandal Pen User: They Sailed Away

Sailor Realo, Magellan
Sailor Realo and Magellan

While I loved the EF nib on the Sailor Realo very much, I longed for a pen less formal, less business like. That fountain pen came in the form of a discontinued Sailor:  a Magellan with an F nib.The used Magellan wrote very much like the Realo’s EF. A great plus—the Magellan came clothed in a gorgeous tortoise material.

The Magellan was produced in blue, green/jade, and tortoise colors. There was a Lapis Lazuli Limited Edition, and a Mojave Jewel made for Swisher Pens.++ I’ve even seen a green version of the Mojave Jewel made for Swisher—alas no photo to be found. There may have been other Magellan LEs made for Swisher or other companies. (Please post what you know in the comments! If you have a photo to share, I’d be glad to host it.) 

NOTE 2013 Sep 14: A demonstrator model has popped up! Check out Ed Jelley’s review and photos of it here.

NOTE 2013 Nov 13: The Sailor Magellan was given its name by none other than Michael Masuyama, revered nib man of MikeItWork.com.

Someone working for Sailor gave me the following information about the Magellan:

  • 14K models of the pens first appeared in 1992:
    • Tortoiseshell – 1992
    • Jade Green – 1992
    • Lapis Blue – 1993
    • White (Imperial Sea Foam) – 2004
  • 21K models were released in 2003 – 2004.

According to a post on FPN, the original Magellans released in Japan had TIGP (titanium gold-colored) nibs. These nibs are regarded as great writers, in addition to the 14K and 21K nibs.

The Tortoise acrylic material is stunning, IMHO. People tend to remark upon its beauty when they see it. The translucent material allows you to see the nib through the cap, the converter through the barrel. Like many Sailor fountain pens, the section contains a metal piece to it.

The filling system? Cartridge/converter. A Sailor cartridge holds .81ml of ink. A Sailor converter holds .61ml. Yes, the capacity is less than the 1ml of the current production piston-filler Realo. IMHO, the ink capacity of the Realo was not a reason to keep it—the nib was! My used, untuned Magellan wrote as beautifully as my nibmeister tuned Realo.

What more could I ask for? Gorgeous brown material, a great nib. A sweet note-taking pen! And yet…I recognize that many pens come to visit my cigar box. They stay for a time, and we have a fun writing dance. These dalliances help broaden my pen-ucation. What I’ve come to understand about my tiny pen hoard is that there is indeed a core group, with one or two slots for the occasional visitor.

Used Sailor Magellans shows up for resale on eBay, and occasionally on the fountain pen boards. Sometimes online sellers identify the pens as Sailors but not as Magellans, so do look closely at photographs if pen hunting online.

The Sailors are great fountain pens. Their nibs are among the best I’ve tried, and I’m glad to have met them. Yet they are not in keeping with what I want in my tiny stash. A note-taking pen for me is one I carry on me at all times without fear. The sweet Magellan caused a worry or two. The cap unscrewed twice or thrice while in my pocket.

After asking the constant question swirling around my tiny hoard—what pen stays and what pen must go in order to keep to a core of writing instruments?—the Sailors with their amazing nibs were—yeah, I’m gonna say it—set sail to new homes.

A Bit of Homework for You

Related PW Post:  A Solitary Sailor

Sailor Magellan Tortoise
Sailor Magellan Tortoise



Sailor Realo and Magellan
Sailor Realo and Magellan
Sheaffer Balance, Sailor Magellan
Sheaffer Balance, Sailor Magellan
Danitrio (small) Cumlaude, a friend's Edison Encore, Sailor Magellan, Edison Huron
Danitrio (small) Cumlaude, a friend’s Edison Nouveau Encore, Sailor Magellan, Edison Huron

++Swisher Pens was a respected writing instruments retailer located in Virginia. They closed their doors and disappeared from view in 2011.

Tale of a Vandal Pen Collector: A Pack of Pilots

Vanishing Point nib

Curiouser and curiouser I grew: is there another Pilot pen with a silky smooth Vanishing Point nib? Spending some time discussing Pilot nibs brought forth a kind FPN’er and reader of the blog who gives the expression “stranger friend” true meaning. He sent me five of his own Pilot fountain pens for me to examine. An amazing act of trust and generosity that I will cherish for some time.

The five Pilots lent to me:

  1. Custom Heritage 91 EF 14K nib
  2. Custom Heritage 91 SF 14K nib
  3. Vanishing Point Stealth  F 18K nib
  4. Bamboo F 18K nib
  5. Custom 823 F 14K nib
Pilots left to right: Heritage 91, Heritage 91, Bamboo, 823, Vanishing Point

The only one of those listed pens with a VP like nib is, oh yeah, the VP! It was great to be able to compare the VP F nib to the M and B nibs I’ve had the pleasure of writing with. A smaller sweet spot, of course, in the F but the same silkiness one expects from a Vanishing Point. (If you don’t know what a nib’s sweet spot is, please read Richard Binder’s informative article on the subject.)

Mind you, the Vanishing Point is not alone in fountain pendom in having a silky smooth nib. In fact, the VP as a sister called the Pilot Decimo. It is slimmer and supposedly lighter than a VP. The Decimo is not available from USA retailers. It can be found on eBay and commands a heftier price tag than your average VP.

Some Montblanc and Omas pens for example have silky smooth nibs. Some people say Sailor nibs are the best of the Japanese nibs. I’ve only tried 14K Sailor nibs and not the famous 21K nibs. The 14K I’ve sampled (from fine to an alleged Music nib) were smooth although did not impress me more than any other brand, say like an Aurora nib, for example. If you are new to fountain pens, please, any of these nibs could be to your liking! Don’t let this wretched blogger who can feel the pea under mattress dissuade you from whatever your pending purchase may be.

Lots of nibs

Of course, all nibs are in theory smooth. Yet nibs can exhibit different personalities. There’s glass-like stiff as a nail smooth. There’s silky can barely feel the nib on the paper smooth. There’s springy smooth, boring smooth, butter smooth, feedback smooth, and whatever floats your boat smooth. Then, of course, there’s the matter of your east, west, vintage, modern, fine, medium, bold, music, condor, zoom, or super-micro-eeny fine nib styles. Your nib choice effects the nib’s personality as does how you hold the pen, the paper you write upon, and how much pen pressure you write with. Finer nibs have that smaller sweet spot and many people often experience finer nibs as scratchy. Scratchy is annoying. Unless you are a scratchy nib fetishist. Hey! I know you’re out there! The importance of meeting up with a lot of different pens is that you form a reference point to compare what people say you should like and what you really do like in a fountain pen.

We cannot say, “This is the smoothest nib among all others.” Well, okay, we can say that. Very few of us, however, can say such things with any real authority.  I know I can’t. Me, I can only say what floats my own boat.

Vanishing Point F 18K nib

There’s no mistaking a VP nib in a blind writing test (uh, somethin’ like that) against a Platinum or a Nakaya nib. For me the VP nib is not better, it is merely different exhibiting a quality not in my tiny pen collection. My American-made, German-nib wielding Edison Mina writes a smooth, luscious fine line with yet not as fine as the Japanese VP fine. Perhaps part of the VP qualities has much to do with the shape of the nib itself.

My pal sent the pens with the CON-70 converter which holds at least 1.0ml of ink. (Some people say up to 1.7ml.—I’m sticking with 1ml!) The CON-70 is a neat little instrument. You push a button a few times and ink gets sucked up. Cool for someone who is easily entertained like moi. The CON-70 doesn’t fit the Vanishing Point or the resin Falcon. The Custom 823 has it’s own built-in filling device so the CON-70 is pointless there. I had some trouble getting a good fill with the CON-70. Here’s a video I made to help other similarly beleaguered pen peeps:

Perhaps better than a piston-filling pen is the Custom 823. For those of us who care about ink capacity, this is a great albeit heavy option. For a piston filler there is the Pilot Custom Heritage 92 (not to be confused with the Heritage 912 a c/c pen). The only other Japanese piston-filling pen I’m aware of is made by Sailor who makes the Realo in both the 1911 and the Professional Gear series. The 823 holds 2.2ml of ink, the Heritage 92 holds 1.5ml, and the Sailor Realo holds 1ml.

I really—really!—wanted to love the Custom 823. It holds approximately 2mls of ink. To suck up that ink, the pen has a cool vacuum filling mechanism.  Following DizzyPen’s filling instructions I got a perfect file the first time out with the 823. It’s one of the easiest pens to fill EVER. The amber 823 when filled with Sailor Sky High blue ink looked quite dark, almost black in appearance. That was a fun surprise.

writing sample: Falcon SF, Heritage 91 SF & EF, Bamboo, F, Custom 823 F, VP F, Edison Mina F

Alas, the Custom 823’s heavy. I gave it a good writing go and the 823 remained too uncomfortably heavy in my hand. Inked up and unposted the Custom 823 weighs 21 grams. Posted or capped it weighs 31 grams. My heaviest pen is the Danitrio Short Octagon which just remains in my comfort reign, coming in 20 grams fully inked up as an ED (over 3ml of ink) and at 29 grams capped. On average, my pens are 15 grams inked and unposted. Even just a couple of grams in weight can make a difference for someone like moi.

I’ve read many raves about the 823’s nib. Lots of people love it. I found it to be a nice, serviceable smooth nib, with nothing special about it. In fact, excluding the Falcon and the VP nibs, I felt that way about all the Pilot nibs I wrote with. Very fine, very good, standard Japanese nibs. A great standard by all others’ accounts. Just one that doesn’t resonate with my pen-using-heart.

Pilot Bamboo F 18K nib

The Pilot Bamboo’s nib had some nice spring to it and I enjoyed writing with it. The pen body has a neat shape to what is, again, a hefty fountain pen.

Heritage 91 with EF (left) and SF (right) 14K nibs

The nib I liked the best (after the VP and the Bamboo) was a SF nib on the Custom Heritage 91. Inked with Sailor Sky High that tiny nib allowed some shading to come through on the paper.

The Custom Heritage 91 turns out to be a very nice user pen. Inked up and unposted the pen weights 15 grams. Capped and posted it weighs 23 grams. It’s got a classic pen shape, good balance and some nib choices. The black resin 91 has the widest range of #5 nibs. The non-black 91s come in F, FM, M and B nibs. Both the black resin 91s sent me had metal sections. I’ve not seen them myself yet have been assured by more than one source that the “Iroshizuku versions” of the 91 (such as the Tsukiyo) are usually without metal sections. That means there is some ED potential for some of the 91s. If I did not already have a serviceable pen or two I would get one of these 91s! The Custom Heritage 91 is not, I believe, available in the USA except via eBay or sources in Japan.

Pilot makes all kinds of fountain pens from the well-loved 78G (under $20) to the Sterling collection ($400+) to Namiki Emperor Collection ($10,000+). Several Pilot fountain pens can still be had with 14K nibs for around $100. Pretty good deal!

Left to right: Nakaya Piccolo, Danitrio Short Octagon, Platinum 3776, Pilot Heritage 91, Custom 823, Vanishing Point Stealth, Edison Mina, Edison Huron, Levenger True Writer, Pilot Bamboo

Handling these Pilot fountain pens made realize I don’t need another, good basic pen. I already have a couple of basics in other brands. If I were collecting Japanese fountain pens my focus would be on having a representation of certain pens, and of course I’d acquire at least one Pilot. Instead, my focus is on aquiring pens that serve as part muse and part writing tool. I’m at my pen storage/cigar box limit and to acquire any pen means one must be foresaken. And so I’m good for now, aren’t I?

The best advice I got when looking for a nib that’s like the VP nib was from a pen retailer who suggested I’d be happy with the lighter Decimo (even though she didn’t sell that pen!). Remember the VP’s little sister? Sadly also a c/c only pen.

With two pens in the tiny hoard that are c/c filling pens and not ED-able (that is able to convert into an eyedropper filling pen), my preference would be to add another ED-able pen. Or even a piston-filling pen.

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The pens were sent rolled up in a couple of Exbpens pen wraps. These were neat, good quality pen wraps to discover, made by a woman in southern Indiana. Our Pilot pen friend has a passel of business friendly black pens. It was nice to see some color in his pen wraps choices. A lot of pen wraps I’ve tried are very thick, making them awkward when rolled up with pens. Still providing scuff protection, these were a bit thinner, making the closed roll a nice size.

The best part of getting to handle these Pilot pens was meeting another Japanese nib enthusiast, and being reminded of how often fountain pen users enthusiastically share what they have with each other. I’m honored by such company.

It’s about time these Pilots went home to their kind and generous owner. Thank you, Thomas!

Some Nib and Pilot Reading
A Few Links to Pilot Fountain Pen Reviews:
Lone Pen Wrap Review

Tale of a Vandal Pen User: State of the Hoard

Current state of the collection

Earlier this year I drew the line at the number of pens to keep at nine. Curiosity about Platinum nibs eeked me over the line. Plus there was the second Danitrio Cumlaude that came my way. I’ve contemplated a lot about retreating to last year’s goal of twelve pens. I’m at eleven plus one Edison/Hakumin Urushi Kobo that’s been in the making since April. I’m feeling a little like the old woman living in the shoe. I know, I know, quite laughable, isn’t it? Look at all my cool pens!

I’ve learned my collection comfort level, however. Nine pens or less means all pens get used without neglect. Nine pens or more means pens get neglected and sit without use and that causes me discomfort. Weird, huh? Of course that’s my truth and I don’t expect it to be yours. The number could be five, yet that would deplete some of the fun and diversity of the collection.

Two pens in the collection are very similar:  the Danitrio Fellowship and the Danitrio Short Octagon. The base urushi is the same: tame-murasaki. Both bear the same artist signature. Of course one has gorgeous maki-e. I’ve thought about letting the Short Octagon go. I use it more often, though, than the Fellowship pen because I worry a bit over ruining the maki-e. Then again, both are urushi pens so why give one up?

The cigar box holds nine pens. How to take the eleven plus one-not-yet-here back down to nine? Each pen has its merits and it is not easy to decide. Brutally putting emotion aside, cartridge converter pens that do not convert well to eyedropper mode become the criteria.

The collective wisdom in the fountain pen community is that metal sections will corrode with prolonged exposure to ink. Four pens have metal sections: the two Platinum, the Nakaya and one of the Cumlaudes.  I seriously considered modifying these pens to accommodate eyedropper mode. The idea is to shield the metal sections by painting them with nail polish and using a cut off converter for the inside of the section. (See the FPN thread where this method is discussed.) I tested the idea on one pen, using silicon grease instead of nail polish. (I figured I could commit to nail polish later.) Although the conversion worked quite well, it seemed a lot of work to make a pen into something it is not meant to be.

And so, the two sweet Platinums and the original style Danitrio Cumlaude make the cut for pens needing new homes. The Nakaya of course was never on the chopping block. One metal section urushi fountain pen is easy to live with, eh? The Levenger True Writer has not yet received eyedropper conversion. Sometime, though, I’ll give it a go to see how it fares. All remaining pens are used predominately as an eyedropper. They can still be used with a converter if need be.

Nine pens remains the line for the collection.

Eyedropper Conversions of Modern Fountain Pens

Today there are a number of Japanese pens made specifically as eyedropper style pens. These pens have a valve to assist regulating the flow of ink to the feed. There are vintage eyedropper pens, too. I dunno nuttin’ about such things. My eyedropper pens all started life as cartridge/converter pens.

Edison Huron

Logic holds that any fountain pen with a single piece barrel that does not leak can be converted to eyedropper mode. The “how to” is essentially the same for any pen, whether a Preppy, an Edison or a Danitrio.

Collective wisdom holds that pens with metal sections or metal in the barrel should not be converted and you do so at your own risk. It’s your pen, after all.

Converting a fountain pen to be filled with ink directly into the barrel:  it’s easy. You need a little pure silicone grease for the threads. (It’s important that your silicone grease not have petroleum additives.) If you are queasy about the grease, then you can use an o-ring. If you use o-rings, keep a supply on hand because they can break over time or from over-tightening.

Issues with converting? Platinum Preppies aside, I’ve not had any issues with any converted pen in my hoard, past or present. Eyedropper filling is the method I use more frequently than not. If I don’t want to use this method, it is easy enough to insert the converter back in and fill the pen from that.

As simple as the filling method is, eyedropper conversion’s probably not for the casual pen user. My own nib points run fine. I fill only two or three pens at a time, don’t change inks often, write for hours at a time most days of the week, write my pens dry (no “leave it 1/3 filled” for moi), and know my pens very well. You cannot see how much ink is left in the barrel unless you have an ink-view window in your pen. (No ink-view windows here.)

Just because I don’t have issues, doesn’t mean you won’t. Issues some people report:  ink flow being too wet or two dry, leaking, burping of ink when ink is low, burping of ink when pen is warmed by hand, burping of ink in humidity, dripping ink into the pen cap, filling process messy. Did I mention “burping ink?” You can decide this for yourself. Read up on FPN. All you gotta do is search for eyedropper burp, eh?

One thing to be aware of: ink will likely stain the inside of your pen barrel. If your pen’s material is translucent you may not want to convert it. I did not convert a beautiful Bexley because of I didn’t want to stain the beautiful acrylic which had a lot of nice transparency.

Some of the more inexpensive ebonite pens I’ve read about seem to be prone to burping. And so I’ve avoided those pens and cannot say from first hand experience how such pens fare.

I’m keeping an eye on a recent conversion: a resin Pilot Falcon. I’m watching for inconsistencies in ink flow, too much or too little. The feed on this pen is an unusual design and is made to provide optimal ink flow for flexing or with fast writing. The nib, by the way, on this pen is a Soft Fine. So far so good with this conversion, but it still needs to bang around with me awhile to know for sure. The resin Falcon holds 3ml of ink as an eyedropper, as compared to the .7 or .8ml of a converter or the .9ml of a cartridge.

I like converting pens to eyedroppers. There are no pistons to worry about failing, levers breaking, or fancy pumps breaking down. My one concession seems to be a barrel brush for occasional cleaning.

Things do not change; we change.
from Walden, by Henry David Thoreau