There were a lot of titles suggested for this post, mostly reminiscent of some 1970s British comedy films that were heavy on the double entendres and the sexism. A lady, who I’ll do the favour of not naming, suggested something that involved falling in love with a broad Sailor endowed with an impressive custom grind. Enough of that, this is, as I have said before, a family friendly blog. By now you’ll have deduced that there has been a bit of nib adjusting going on, and that I rather liked the results; so let’s get down to details.
Back in June of last year I wrote about one of my favourite pens, a classy, black and gold, Sailor 1911L, with a 21K broad nib, that I have thoroughly enjoyed since the day it was delivered from Liz and Jon at Wonder Pens in Toronto.
And a few of you out there will be thinking, Oh great, another boring black and gold pen <yawn> <click>. Well, yes and no. Yes it’s the same black and gold pen I reviewed more than a year ago… sort of, so I won’t be doing that again. But the nib, ah, now the nib is no longer a stock Sailor broad (or bold as I called it back then; yes thank you all for the many, many, many messages… well, okay, both of them).
It may be essentially the same boring black and gold pen…
But now, it’s a bit different. Back in January/February of this year, I found myself comparing my Sailor with my wonderful Edison Collier, and its 1.1mm stub nib, which is—admittedly—steel, but is nevertheless, a glorious writing experience. And I found myself wondering what would that Sailor be like with a smooth, 21K gold, stub nib. I had read so many stories of nibmeisters at pen shows that worked wonders with nibs, and matched them to the writing style of their customers with amazing results. I was also very much aware that I couldn’t get to a pen show any time soon, and would therefore have to send my pen away to somebody, if that’s what I really wanted to try.
And that is a bit of a blind experience… I fully get how a nibmeister cannot possibly work with a customer’s individual writing style, and produce a personally customized nib, based on—even the most detailed—photographs or videos of someone’s pen-grip, or handwriting. Thus, sending a pen away, especially something much loved, to an overworked nibmeister in another country, who may well have a waiting list of several months, is a bit of a gamble.
Well, I took the gamble.
On the 5th of February 2018, I packed my beautiful Sailor 1911L in layers of bubble-wrap and cardboard, and sent it off to the most amazing Mike Masuyama in Los Angeles…
Contact Michael Masuyama through http://mikeitwork.com, for a full list of services, price guide, order instructions, and a downloadable order form.
It’s also well worth contacting Mr. Masuyama before ordering, and getting an up to date estimate on his turnaround time for adjustments/repairs. He and his skills—like so many of his peers—are in serious demand, and most have a back-log of work that can run to many months; so just don’t expect to send your pen off and get it back in a couple of weeks. It will almost certainly take a great deal longer than that.
Which, I suppose is a roundabout way of saying that, working with a nibmeister at a pen show would still be my recommended way to go—even if that’s not the way I went. That said, I asked Mike Masuyama to turn my broad Sailor 1911L into a medium stub, more smooth than crisp in early February, and it was returned at the end of May 2018 (114 days including deliveries). In total, with necessary international postage and insurance, the entire project came to approximately $100 (US; about $135 CAD). This is not a trivial investment. This single nib adjustment is considerably more than some perfectly good pens (e.g., the Lamy Aion or Studio; Platinum Balance; TWSBI Diamond 580AL/ALR), and coupled with the cost of a Sailor 1911L at about $345 CAD, brings a Sailor 1911L with this nib adjustment, to almost $500 CAD. As a result, if there’s nothing wrong with your pen, I would seriously recommend that, anybody considering this kind of work, ask themselves whether the investment is worth it overall.
So, a Mike Masuyama Nib Adjustment—Worth It, Yes or No?
For me? Unequivocably yes. If I thought I loved writing with that pen before it went away for the Masuyama treatment, then I was stunned when it returned.
Neither my camera, my lighting, or I’m sorry to say, my photography skills, are really suitable for the kind of macro work that would be needed to show you a custom nib grind like this in sufficient detail. So I’m just going to give you a couple of standard nib pic’s before we look at the writing samples a bit more closely.
Firstly, overall performance has been absolutely perfect since I put that medium stub to paper. Mr. Masuyama listened to my request for as smooth as ice on glass and returned exactly what I had asked for.
The nib is a nice, freely-flowing, wet medium, about the same as my stock Platinum medium nibs, a little wider than my Pilots… but with the pronounced line variation between horizontal and vertical strokes which you expect from a stub.
I inked the pen with Noodler’s Bad Black Moccasin, one of their so-called bulletproof inks. This is an archival-grade ink, waterproof (as opposed to resistant), and has proven to be extremely well-behaved and easy to clean in both the Sailor, and a Platinum Balance with a fine steel nib (which regularly goes days without use).
A closer look at the Rhodia #13 (lined, white, 80gsm) page, shows the stub’s line variation in my scrappy, every-day handwriting…
And the close-up below, shows that difference in horizontal and vertical line widths…
If you’re thinking of having a nib adjustment on a perfectly good pen, then think carefully about what you’ll get out of it overall, and why you’re considering the work at all—also, the time investment. For me, this was like getting a new pen, and I loved that Sailor already. Now I carry it everywhere I go… it’s in a loop attached to my Traveller’s Notebook. So yes, for me it was worth every cent. Would I have it done again? You betcha, but next time, I’d probably be thinking about my Sailor Pro Gear Classic Special Edition Earth, and I’m not sure I could live without that for almost six months. Still, Scriptus 2018 at Toronto is coming up… I wonder who will be there?
Alternatively, a pen with a poor nib could be transformed from a dust-gathering, desk-drawer rattle, to something you might actually enjoy using. I have high hopes for a Lamy 2000 currently with The Nibsmith. Watch this space.