Tale of a Vandal Pen User: A Solitary Sailor

Updates have been made to this post: 2012 Jan 09 and 2012 Feb 27.

It’s a New Year and no new pen purchases for PW to come. I said that early last year, too, after I bought an Edison Mina and sold off some other pens for a yet-to-be finished Edison-Shin Mina. Yet we find two pens that were not in my tiny hoard when last year’s pledge was made. Once the yet-to-be-finished Edison finally arrives I will be one pen over my committed limit of nine pens. That means there’s a pen I must give up. Yet I find myself with no pen I want to give up. Ut oh. Of course, you can’t feel sorry for moi because OMG I’ve got pens! Great pens! The pen-life is good even as our world spins treacherously about.

The Professional Gear Sailor Realo in my possession is an indulgence in light of the nine pen limit. The whys for acquisition:  to have a knock-about pen that held more ink than the Nakaya Piccolo, and a desire to try the famously smooth Sailor nib.

Sailor Pro Gear Realo – pls forgive camera lens dust

The Realo stats:

  • Burgundy resin (also available in black)
  • Gold-plated trim
  • Anchor logo on cap
  • Screw-on cap
  • Bottom cap ring imprint:  “Sailor Japan Founded 1911”
  • Fine 21K nib
  • Inked up, weighs 22gr capped/posted, 12gr unposted
  • Measuring nib to barrel:
    • closed 5 1/4″
    • uncapped 4 5/8″
    • posted 5 7/8″
  • Piston filling system
  • 1ml ink capacity

Take care not to make the same mistake as I did about this pen’s capacity. I thought the capacity was supposed to be 1.5ml for this pen.  That information came from past FPN reviews of the Sailor Realo and even from this vendor’s website. It turns out, the 1.5 ink capacity is true only for the limited release 95th Anniversary edition released in 2006.

Needless to say, I was a wee bit disappointed concerning this important fact about the current Realo: a 1ml ink capacity. After all, while the aforementioned Nakaya Piccolo contains only .5-.6ml when bottle fed, a Platinum ink cartridge would feed the Piccolo 1.2ml of ink. Ordinarily I’m not a cartridge user, yet such a comparison of ink capacities requires much pondering about using them.

Sailor nibs are re-known for their smoothness and I was curious if the Realo’s 21K nib would live up to that reputation. Fear not, it does! IMHO. In fact, in some ways the nib reminds me of the covetous Vanishing Point nib written about in earlier posts (here and here). If that comparison is only in my imagination, well, it’s a good one, isn’t it? (uh, my imagination, that is.) In comparison with the Sailor 14K nib, the 21K is not smoother. It has more personality. It’s not a nail. The Sailor’s fine nib seems to me as fine as a Pilot EF. (I’m hoping my Pilot-pal will chime in the comment section when he has a chance to compare nib sizes. Update on Jan 9—He did: see differences in my scan and his photo below.)

Sailor Realo vs a bunch of other pens— taken from “Pack of Pilots” post

2012 Jan 09 update—photo kindly provided by my Pilot-loving friend:

Pilot vs Sailor Fine nibs inked with Pilot inks

Note that in the above photo the Sailor Fine is wider than the Pilot VP and Prera Fines. Both pens inked with Pilot inks. In my scan above this photo, the ink is Platinum Blue-Black.

My Sailor Realo nib was tuned by John Mottishaw as a “7” on his wetness scale of 1-10. You may want it tuned at a 5 or 6 if you want a finer line.

Back to original post:

Some people feel that an 18K nib is overkill and we can only imagine how they feel about a 21K nib. Personally, I do not feel an 18K nib is intrinsically better than a 14K or even a steel nib. It all is about what nibs work for you. Or in this case moi. While I could not tell you the difference between a 14K or an 18K Visconti nib (nails to me, thank you), if you blindfolded me and gave me Bexleys, Sailors and Pilots in both 14K and 18K/21K I believe I could tell which was which. Talking, of course, about modern nibs only. Yes, learning I rather like those 18K nibs came as a bit of a surprise because pen people can be so adamant about their nib truths (i.e., that there is no real difference, 18K is for “show”). Form your own opinions, eh?

The piston mechanism is smooth and efficient. The ink window keeps you informed about the ink level. The style is business-like and handsome; the burgundy not so staid as the black. Still the Realo is the most “serious” and no-nonsense pen in my tiny hoard. The pen seems very well constructed and solid. The Realo is slightly lighter than a Platinum #3776. The Realo holds more ink the #3776…unless you use a Platinum cartridge.

There are so many kinds and sizes of Sailor fountain pens, I’m not even going to pretend to sort out them out, leaving that to experts. I will point out that the current Realo comes in two versions: the Professional Gear Realo which has an anchor on its flat-top cap, and the 1911 (or Profit) Realo with  a torpedo or cigar shaped style. (I could be wrong, but I think the name 1911 is how the pen is marketed outside in Japan. Profit is the name used in Japan.) The “1911” refers to the year the Sailor Pen Co. was founded. According to the Sailor insert that comes with the pen, “Realo” stands for REliance And LOcus.

As to whether or not the Realo stays in my tiny hoard, the pen is currently “on probation” as I work through my conflicted feelings about it. The nib is superb and perhaps the only reason to keep it. Might be a great reason to keep it. The ink capacity of the pen is, as previously stated, a disappointment. If I thought the Realo would make a good traveling pen, well, so would the Nakaya Piccolo using a cartridge or two. That is, if I were willing to use those darn disposable cartridges. (People do reuse cartridges by filling them with a syringe. Those carts don’t last forever, even so. Eventually the “fit” of the cart to the section nipple loses its grip.)

If you want to try one of these wonderful Sailor nibs, you can opt to try a simple cartridge/converter style Professional Gear or 1911 at a much lower cost than a Realo. Always, always do your homework before buying and contact the vendor you purchase from to make sure you have the pen specifications right. Relying on internet information alone can be frustrating or even costly folly.

Afterthoughts, 2012 Feb 27 
Earlier this year, I exchanged the F nib on this pen for an EF nib. Sailor nibs, I’ve learned, are “wetter” and wider than, for example, Pilot nibs. The new EF nib was adjusted for my hand with a drier ink flow. This nib is smooth and writes like a note-taking nib should.

One of the reasons I bought the Realo was for road trips when long writing sessions were unlikely, and short note-taking spurts in odd places were to be expected. It helps to have a very fine nib for these kinds of notes because they have a chance of being readable later. Writing with a broader nib in the dark, or writing in haste, often has left me with unreadable piles of notes.

Another reason I opted for the Realo specifically was its piston-filling mechanism. Sometimes when traveling, the ink converter on a pen or two has rattled around and become dislodged from the section. Discovering at an inopportune moment an ink-filled converter has gotten loose is not fun, as you can perhaps imagine. I figured a piston mechanism a better choice for some rough roads.

Having finally taken the Realo on its first road trip, my feelings of regret for having purchased this pen have disappeared. The 1ml ink fill lasted a week, no ink leaks, and the sweet EF nib performed perfectly every time. More importantly, all my notes were legible. That experience makes the Sailor Realo one great road-tripping pen that I’m thrilled to own.

Some Reading

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5 thoughts on “Tale of a Vandal Pen User: A Solitary Sailor

  1. Speaking of reusing catridges: Interesting thing about a Pilot Vanishing Point is that you can refill a cartridge, but then there is the metal sleeve that goes over the plastic cartridge, which is used to reinforce that part internally when you operate the click mechanism to expose the nib. One “side benefit” of that cover is that it keeps cartridges in place, even after they’ve become more loose. For example, I had a cartridge that, on its own in the pen doesn’t seat itself tightly any more, but once I put the metal cap over it, I have no issues with it.


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