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  1. The first gold pen I bought was a Sailor 1911S. Because I am interested in matching pen and pencil sets, I went looking for a 1911 pencil. I found one, but for some reason its design was never updated, so it matches the old-style 1911 pen, not the new one. For those who may not know, Sailor at some point-- I’m not sure when—redesigned its popular 1911 line. The 1911 used to have a simpler nib engraving, a gold-plated ring at the bottom of the section instead of the top of the section as the current pens, and only one cap band as opposed to the two of current pens. Also, the color of the gold fittings was paler before the redesign; afterwards, the gold became yellower. I was quite surprised to find that the pencil matched the old pen, with one cap band and pale gold fittings. The ballpoint, which I also bought, was in the same way. Of course, then I had to go hunt down the correct vintage 1911 fountain pen. If my resume says I’m “detail oriented,” you know now it’s true. Anyway, these old pens are not often found in the United States, but I eventually found an old-style 1911L offered by a Japanese seller on a famous auction site, and with a few well-timed clicks my set was complete. I also bought a Sailor three-pen case because, at this point, why not? There are plenty of Sailor 1911 reviews on this Forum, but I don’t think any are for the old-style pen, or the matching pencil and ballpoint. So, here we go. Please excuse my utilitarian photography; I only have a simple point-and-shoot camera (and wouldn’t know how to use a DSLR if one descended from heaven into my lap anyway). Here we see the closed pen case. It’s called the Sailor Imperial Black case or something macho like that, but it strikes me as rather feminine: despite its nylon and leather (?) construction and black metal fittings, it sort of looks like a makeup case. 1 Case Closed by Jacob Marks, on Flickr The case actually closes with magnetic buttons, as you can see. The buckles are purely decorative. 2 Case Open by Jacob Marks, on Flickr 3 Case Open Flap Open by Jacob Marks, on Flickr 4 Decorative Buckles by Jacob Marks, on Flickr The case is mostly of nylon, with piping and details in leather or a leather-like material. For the price, I hope it’s leather. 5 Lining by Jacob Marks, on Flickr 6 Logo detail by Jacob Marks, on Flickr There is a little slot for holding spare cartridges. I use bottled ink, but have some cartridges stowed there for an emergency—though it would be an odd emergency indeed that required them. 7 Cart Storage Detail by Jacob Marks, on Flickr Here is our redoubtable trio of writing instruments. I call them Athos, Porthos, and Steve. 8 Pens Overview by Jacob Marks, on Flickr First, the fountain pen. Capped, it has a classic appearance. Its resemblance to Montblanc’s 146 is often noted. 9 Fountain Pen Capped by Jacob Marks, on Flickr It seems the pen is intended to be posted. It posts securely although the lines are not as clean as I would like. 10 Fountain Pen Posted by Jacob Marks, on Flickr The end of the barrel has a false blind cap. The ring, like the buckles on the case, is purely decorative. 10-2 False Blind Cap by Jacob Marks, on Flickr On to the business end. The nib has a simple design which I much prefer to the current one. The new nibs are quite busy and owe too much to that aforementioned German manufacturer. Unlike the current 1911L nibs, which to my knowledge are all 21k, this is a 14k nib. Some people consider 14k to be the best alloy for nibs because of its elasticity, with higher-karat nibs being too soft. That sort of thing is beyond my expertise. I’m more of liberal arts kind of guy. On the other hand, the redesign eliminates the ring at the bottom of the section, which is said to be a magnet for corrosion. This one seems to be in fine shape, though. 11 Nib Front 1 by Jacob Marks, on Flickr This nib is marked H-M. My guess is that stands for hard medium. The nib is not flexible or semi-flexible or even hemi-demi-semi-flexible, but neither is it rigid. It has some give. I would call it firm. To the disappointment of the spammers who fill my email inbox, I’m perfectly satisfied by how firm my pen is. 12 side nib by Jacob Marks, on Flickr The feed is a typical finned black plastic affair. 13 Feed by Jacob Marks, on Flickr The writing tip is smooth enough, and certainly a medium. Not interesting, but not bad. 14 Writing Surface by Jacob Marks, on Flickr As you can see, the cap only has one band. It screws on with the pleasant soft stop peculiar to Sailor. The clip is attached to the cap below the ring, which keeps it from spinning around but looks weird to me. I prefer Montblanc clips: the clip is attached to the ring, and a tab on the inside keeps it from spinning. Nonetheless, this is an effective clip, not too tight and not too loose. 15 Cap overview by Jacob Marks, on Flickr The cap band says “Sailor Japan Founded 1911,” just like current pens. There seems to be some dried adhesive oozing out from behind the band. 16 Cap Band Detail by Jacob Marks, on Flickr The pen fills with a Sailor cartridge/converter system. Though the ink capacity is modest, the pen writes fairly dry and so does not exhaust its supply too quickly. 18 Filling by Jacob Marks, on Flickr Now for the ballpoint. It’s twist action, and looks a lot like the Montblanc 164 Classique ballpoint. The Sailor is smaller, lighter, and compares unfavorably to the 164 in every way except price. However, since the Montblanc is something like eight or nine times the cost of the Sailor, this is to be expected. It takes, of course, a proprietary Sailor refill, which is not readily available at stores in the States. I prefer the Fine black Sailor refill to the Fine black Parker Quinkflow refill that lives in my Jotter Flighter. Sailor’s is smoother and starts up better. 19 Ballpoint Overview by Jacob Marks, on Flickr 20 Ballpoint nib closeup cropped by Jacob Marks, on Flickr The end cap is not perfectly flush with the rest of the cap. It’s slightly smaller in diameter. Weird. The pencil does not share this defect. 21 Ballpoint ridge by Jacob Marks, on Flickr Speaking of the pencil, here it is. The lead advances when you push the top. It’s the same size and weight as the ballpoint. 22 Pencil Overview by Jacob Marks, on Flickr The top screws off to reveal the eraser. 23 Pencil Open by Jacob Marks, on Flickr It writes, of course, like any mechanical pencil should. 24 Pencil Tip Closeup by Jacob Marks, on Flickr Finally, here’s the goal of the venture, a writing sample of the fountain pen. The pencil and ballpoint are, well, a pencil and a ballpoint. 25 Sailor 1911L Writing Sample by Jacob Marks, on Flickr Final thoughts: I really wanted to love this set because I went to some trouble to assemble it, and because I love actually sailing. Unfortunately, when I handle these writing instruments, the words that come into my mind are not “awesome” and “amazing” but rather “acceptable” and “okay.” They are well-made and hard-working, but I want to be wowed, and these just don’t do that. The firm medium nib is useable not exciting, and I can’t use the pen in public without someone asking “Is that a Montblanc?” Answering “Actually it’s a Sailor, a Japanese pen that just happens to look suspiciously like a Montblanc” gets a bit tiresome quickly. Maybe one day I will get one of Sailor’s crazy specialty nibs and change my mind—although the old nib pattern is one of the coolest things about the pen. I hope this review was helpful to anyone considering a vintage Sailor 1911. Your questions and comments are welcome.

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