Getting Lucky with a Medium-Fine Sailor

On the whole, my handwriting (such as it is), is not flattered by a fine nib. I mean, it’s pretty poor with almost any nib, but better with some than others, and fine, needle-like nibs, which can catch on paper fibers, make my handwriting look, to be blunt, bloody awful. Which can be a bit awkward if I’m marking undergrad’ papers, which mostly require a fine nib. But some fine, and even extra-fine, nibs are so well crafted, and so smooth, even I can get away with using them straight out of the box. Of the pens I use regularly, the best of the fine or extra-fine nibs that I keep inked are (in alphabetical order)…

If you look carefully, this is actually two scans cut into one, but I wasn’t careful enough to avoid copying over the “g” in “gold” on the Custom 74… sorry.
  • Montblanc 146 (LeGrand; 1989), 14K gold, extra-fine;
  • Parker 45 (c1981), 14k gold, extra-fine;
  • Pelikan M400, 14K gold, fine;
  • Pilot Custom 74, 14k gold, soft-fine;
  • Pilot Falcon, 14k gold, soft-fine;
  • Sheaffer Imperial Triumph, 14k gold, inlaid, fine;
  • Waterman Carène, 18k gold, inlaid, fine

Yet there are others still, which—although marked medium or broad—actually lay down a narrower line than some of the so-called fines; the Sailor broad anyone? As a result, for quite a while now,  I’ve been interested in those nibs that even the manufacturers find difficult to put in one category or another, so they call them medium-fine, soft-fine, soft-medium and so on. For a while now, I’ve trawled through the online pen hook-up sites at Wonder Pens, Pen Chalet, Goulet and Anderson, always on the lookout for the Write One.

This isn’t something I’d recommend for just anyone. Some of these nibs are not for the inexperienced, and can, frankly, be pretty rough. One Platinum 3776 Century soft-fine I picked up, was almost unusable. That is, until I had it tuned to a lovely fine stub by Salman Khattak at the Toronto Pen Company. If you’re in Canada, I’d recommend Salman’s work wholeheartedly.

You can imagine then, my reaction when my eyes lit upon the medium-fine nibs on the Sailor 1911S on the Wonder Pens web site… why hadn’t I noticed these before? It’s certainly not that Wonder Pens is the only store that stocks them—far from it—but like I’ve said before, they have the best online presence in Canada at the moment. Plus, the 1911S is a great pen, from a brand already known for superior nib quality, and was at a good price from a supplier I know, trust, and peruse often… the fairy penmother swooped into action.

John and Liz at Wonder Pens were, as ever, an utter pleasure to deal with, and my pen was bouncing along the Highway 401 in sturdy packaging (we’re talking Canada Post here after all), in less than 24-hours. Another one of Liz’s post-cards was included in the parcel, as was another home-made Wonder Pens pin (I have—let me see—a few of these now 🙂 ).

Lamb + ‘e’ geddit?

I Never Met A Sailor I Didn’t Like…

Ah, did I mention this one was canary yellow with black finials? No? I thought it was still quite tasteful really. Maybe I’m kidding myself, but I fell for it all the same. Mostly, these photo’s reflect the coloring pretty well—it really is a bright hazmat-suit-yellow. From what I can see, the Sailor 1911S (S, for Standard) doesn’t get much attention in terms of pen reviews. A cursory search brings up very few results, mostly reviews of the Pro Gear and 1911L, with the exception of a 1911S demonstrator review by Wonder Person Liz herself, back in January 2016.

The 1911S is basically a slightly smaller version of the 1911L (Large), and you can see comparisons of the size of these pens in graphics I posted in my last couple of reviews. It’s about 5mm shorter from tip of nib to finial than the 1911L, but just a couple of millimeters longer than the Pro Gear Slim (Sapporo). The latter mostly due to the tapering finial on the 1911S, in comparison to the straight, cut-off, base of the Pro Gear. For me, this is a big improvement. It’s obviously not just the size that matters—how important could a couple of mm really be?—but what’s been done with the shape and styling, that makes me prefer the 1911S to the Pro Gear by a big margin.

There are gold bands where the barrel joins the finial and the black plastic section, as well as at the top and bottom of the cap. The clip is Sailor’s usual firm, high quality effort, and the larger of the two cap bands is etched with SAILOR JAPAN FOUNDED 1911.

After stripping my Sailor of its packaging, the little pen was immediately press-ganged into service, with a fill of Platinum Pigment blue. I used it to write a Statistics for Epidemiology activity I was planning, so my apologies for the Greek symbols and the linear regression. The 14K gold nib was an absolutely amazing performer right out of the box. No skips, no hard start/s, not incredibly smooth, but just about perfect for the paper and its medium-fine specification.

 What Does it Write Like?

“It writes beautifully, and smoothly, just like you would expect from a Sailor pen at about $259 CAD…” is a good summary, but there is more. The feedback is pleasant, but the so-called medium-fine nib width is very interesting. There is line variation here, especially if your touch varies from heavy to light quite easily. But it’s where the Sailor medium-fine fits into all the other nib widths in my collection that interests me. Hint: in my never so humble opinion, this is a fine or even extra-fine by western standards, and more fine than the fines of some Japanese competitors, but soft and easy enough on the paper so as to provide a smooth and forgiving writing experience.

Take a look at the writing samples below—if you’re interested, these link to far larger, high-definition, files hosted on Flickr. They give a comparison of the different nib widths across various manufacturers.

The first thing I notice from use, and studying the lines these pens produce, is what many of us have heard so many times before. Fine nibs from the western brands like, Montblanc (extra-fine), Pelikan (fine), Waterman (fine), and Sheaffer (fine), are all as broad, or broader, than a Japanese medium, or even broad nib, like that of the medium-fine Sailor 1911S. The nib on this pen even produces a finer line than the Pilot Falcon or Custom 74 soft-fine.

This really doesn’t help with judging nib widths for online purchasing, but it’s obviously a major consideration if you’re going to be parting with several hundred dollars for a pen. As ever, there is nothing better than getting a good feel for your intended before committing yourself. And the width of the nib is not really a guarantee of smoothness, i.e., the broader the nib, the smoother the flow. I love smooth nibs that glide effortlessly across the page, with only minimal feedback (but there must be some), and for me the rule of thumb is, which pen/nib do I keep reaching for without taking the time to think about it?

And the winner is…


… Montblanc, Pelikan, Waterman, Sheaffer… in that order. Sorry, with a nod to the great Freddie Mercury, there just can’t be only one.

The Sailor medium-fine is a great nib, and it’s sitting at the business end of a great little pen. It’s possibly my favorite nib out of all of my Sailor pens (Mike Masuyama’s medium-stub on my 1911L excepted). But for some reason, when I’m writing something long and time-consuming, it’ll be the Montblanc extra-fine I reach for… or maybe the Waterman Carène… or probably the Pelikan 400… or possibly the Sheaffer. Then there are the broader and italicized nibs…

I have too many nice pens.


I have too many nice pens. Such that, when I encounter another really nice pen, and the Sailor 1911S is a really, really nice pen, it just doesn’t quite reach the same heights as super-models like the Montblanc, the Pelikan, or the Waterman Carène—because these are all truly exceptional. I know it’s not a fair comparison, but it’s a kind of strange compliment to the little Sailor 1911S, that it competes at such a level and can land, not only a second date, but even manages to stay friends afterwards.

12 thoughts on “Getting Lucky with a Medium-Fine Sailor

    1. Thank you! Given my usually more conservative tastes, nobody’s more surprised by the canary’s survival than I am! But I do like Sailor’s take on the “medium-fine”.


  1. I’m glad to see someone else like the 1911S! The 1911S Fresca was my first expensive pen and it has a wonderful medium nib. Honestly I bought that size bc the 1911L and Pro Gear are so expensive even in the US.

    I’ve never tried a medium fine before. It looks great but I understand that when you have so many pens it can be hard for one to stand out! It’s interesting how nib sizes are so different across brands. My Pelikan F is super broad, the size of my Sailor B!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: A Soft-Fine Pilot Falcon, and a Custom 74: Contrasting Similarities (aka Liam Neeson Didn’t Steal My Pen) – Writing

  3. I came across your post while I was searching for the difference between Sailor’s medium-fine and medium nibs.
    I am fairly new to fountain pens and this was the first time I had seen it as an option.
    Unfortunately it was sold out so I went for the medium nib Sailor Blue Green Nebula.
    I’ll see how it compares to your description of the medium-fine.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for commenting! You bought a beautiful pen, and I’m sure you’ll love it. I have quite a few Sailors now, but y’know, I’m a little amazed to realize that I haven’t got a medium nib in any of them, so I couldn’t even make a comparison with my own pens. Let me know how you get on please!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It is a beautiful pen! I was surprised by how petite it is — shorter than my Benu and Lamy unless I post the cap. It writes well, very smooth, but, and I’m not sure how to describe it, the nib feels sturdier than the Benu and Lamy nibs, which flex a bit more. The amount of ink it puts down is comparable to a Lamy medium.
        Overall, I’m enjoying it. Perhaps some day I’ll pick up a medium-fine to compare.


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