Sailor 1911 Professional Gear in Silver with a 21k Hard Broad Emperor (overfeed) Nib
(spoiler alert: excuse me while I gush)
As I've made pretty clear... I'm a big fan of Sailor. I recently reviewed a bird beak pen and a music pen. So when I, once again, fell upon an opportunity to get this Naginata Emperor for a great price, I pounced! (the body is the Professional Gear with rhodium trim).
I must say that I was skeptical of the Emperor over-feed. I couldn't understand how it would help... and, to be honest, I don't know that I really understand the mechanics behind it now. What I can tell you is this: it is the most amazing fantastic thing ever invented in the history of mankind! The effect it has on writing is just amazing. The way it works is that, as you push down on the nib more, it lets out more ink. So, with a light touch, you get a hairline with less ink, and with a heavy touch, you get this fantastic... rush of ink... just on demand. It feels telepathic. Now, note that the Emperor can be added to many different nibs... this just happens to be a hard-broad. But I feel this review is really ABOUT the Emperor overfeed.
The confusing thing is that there isn't a great deal of variation in the width of the line (though there is some -- maybe from .6mm to 1mm). In other words, this is NOT a 'flex' pen. This is a pen where the amount of ink fed can be varied with pressure. And it's pure magic.
There haven't really been any other reviews focusing on the Emperor feed. There are some reviews of Concord nibs that have an Emperor feed, but that really changes the dynamics. The closest review to this one is The Noble Savage's 2007 review, Sailor 1911 Togi Emperor. Frustratingly, all of the images are gone from the review, but the text is still in place. The focus of this review is mostly the Togi functionality and not so much the overfeed. I actually think this is quite a good review, and I agree with everything said to the degree it refers to the Emperor pen and Sailor in general.
It's worth noting that Leigh Reyes did a blog entry on the Sailor Cross Music Emperor and she discusses the dynamics a bit. Worth reading but not really a review. Also, some of the language in this entry is slightly misleading -- there's a lot of misunderstandings about how this feed works.
Now down to rhodium tacks:
- Fit & Finish: 10/10 With Sailor, it's difficult to keep writing the fit and finish section. As I've said, I'm a pretty critical person. But I cannot find fault with the manufacturing of this pen. It's just without fault. To recap what I have said before: Everything is super tight and seamless. The cap screws on with this wonderful slow-to-a-stop feel so it never feels loose and you never wonder if it's closed (this is also true of the barrel). The plastic that the professional series is hewn from is quite metal-like and feels really nice. In terms of manufacturing quality, this pen is pretty much beyond reproach.
- Style: 8/10 I like the rhodium dipped significantly better than the gold-dipped. In person, the gold-dipped looks fake to me, where this rhodium doesn't. I love the flat ends of the professional series. I'm not super fond of the cap band. It says, "Sailor Japan Founded 1911". I don't know... it's just a lot for me. I do also find it a bit stubby at about 129mm. It's not so short that it misses my thenar space.
- C/C Design / Filling 6/10: I just keep saying, "I've run out of things to say about cartridge converters". Normal C/C score here because, unlike the Concord nib, this one doesn't just absolutely burn through ink. To reiterate: C/C's feel a little cheap to me on expensive pens. On the other hand, I like that they are modular, syringe fillable and replaceable. What can I say; I'm complicated. No problem here with the C/C feeling secure or leaking or anything like that.
- Nib: 10/10: Like glass. Like glass on butter. Hot butter. Hot buttered glass. Simply beyond belief. 21 carats of pure, unadulterated bliss. Telepathic. Just think "bold" and you get bold. The LIGHTEST TOUCH results in a line. I cannot stop using this pen. The nib is NOT a normal size 5 either. As you'll see from the (extensive -- can you tell I'm obsessed) photographs of this nib, and the comparisons, the nib is large -- I think it's a #6 at 24mm. I'm starting to really question the "flex" quest I've been on (like many around here at FPN) because this pen, while it only has a variance of .4mm, really is more expressive than just about anything else. And this is no novelty pen, this is a workhorse. Writes on anything. What other adjectives can I throw in here? When you put an ink with sheen in to this pen, and you bare down on it -- just a little, the results are mesmerizing. I wrote this review using one of my two (ahem, current) favorite inks, Iroshizuko Fuyu-Syogun, which doesn't have a sheen, but you can still see what I'm talking about in the close-ups. Ok, enough... but let me just say that this pen makes your handwriting twice as good and three times more expressive and it makes you more handsome too :-P
- Price: 10/10: I go through a rigmarole every time I evaluate price now, because of the 'street price' I paid versus the retail. It's also difficult with Sailor because there are so many pen configurations, so, would it be better to get the classic '1911' body style if it were cheaper than the professional gear style? Would it be better to get a different nib with the overfeed? Would it be nice to have the Realo body? Ok, so cutting through all of that and looking at this pen the way it's set up. It's easy. This pen retails for $416. I paid $164... brand spanking new.... well, let me just say, once and for all, it is worth every penny either way. Four hundred dollars is absolutely a reasonable price.
GLAMAH SHOTS (we bring out your best... then we take your picture):
Get ready... this is totally gratuitous (it just looks so nice on BOTH pieces of wood...):
C/C -- big shocker:
And now, without further ado, ladies and gentleman, the star of the show... the nib [applause]:
Something new for me in my obsession with this pen... a video of the nib (I cannot get the 'media' tag to work here, I think it only lets you link in Vimeo and YouTube or something).
Compared to a Pilot Limited Edition Custom Heritage 91 (read Custom 74 with flat ends) and my Omas Milord Cruise:
Note what I think are two #5 nibs compared to this one's #6:
Writing samples. I refuse to be intimidated in to apologizing!
These pictures aren't quite as good... but they are attempting to show the full range of line variation in both flow and pressure (again, roughly .6mm to 1mm).
This pen has gone from (ostensibly) rank 300 in my collection to.... number one. Number one daily carry, always with me. That really says something. None of the other pens I've reviewed on FPN have done that. Unlike some of the other Sailor specialty nibs (such as the Concord), this is not just unique and entertaining, but downright indispensable. There is nothing about this pen that I can really criticize. It's more like, "why aren't more pens designed this way". With manufacturing as advanced as it is now, it seems like a variable feed would be common.
I want to talk a little bit about the Emperor overfeed and how it works. After reading all the internet descriptions and threads here, I find that there are some real misconceptions about the mechanism. Now, I don't know exactly what's going on inside the pen, but here are some things that are NOT true: 1. The ink does NOT come down the spring bar. 2. The spring bar is NOT built for resistance or added springiness. 3. The ink flow is increased when the spring bar, WHICH IS MORE OF A LEVER, has pressure on it. This is done inside the feed and it's VERY sensitive. It's worth mentioning that I can't detect more resistance or the need to press down harder on this pen to make it write. It can be used with an extremely light touch.
It's hard to say who is the best customer for this pen. The Emperor feed can be added to any (or almost any?) Sailor nib, so whether you like broad or extra-fine, this will benefit you. Of course, the softness of the nib makes a difference, so adding it to a taller 21k nib makes more sense. If the nib didn't give... like in a Platinum Preppy, let's say, then you'd never kick in the overfeed. I suppose if you're someone who isn't expressive in their writing and / or a person who doesn't have or doesn't use 'touch', then the dynamics here would be a bit lost. If your ideal pen is a nail that always writes the same way and puts down the same amount of ink, then this feed might actually be a detriment.
For anyone else -- you gotta get one of these.