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Advice regarding dry Sailor 1911 nib


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I have heard of Sailor nibs breaking in with use and getting wetter, but I would still suggest a professional adjustment. There are posts here on FPN about how to do this at home but there may be some risk of damage by a first-timer.

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There ought to be at least a tiny gap of air showing between the tips.  I am an old man, did microsurgery when I was young, and have microscopes, micro-tools, and and an obsessive nature.  And I have been doing this stuff for about 40 years.  So I tune my own nibs to get a gap of 7 - 10 µm at the tip.  But that's obsessive.  

Do you have any less-precious pens with which to practice?  It is a good skill to have if you intend to get multiple pens, and want the feel of perfect (for you) ink flow.  But you can also make a mess of it if you don't yet have the feel.  Don't ruin your best pen.


There are a variety of approaches, depending on the cause of being too tightly together.  On the following, when I say "a bit" I mean a bit.  Gentle.  You can always do it over and over a bit at a time.  Going back from doing too much is much harder.

If it is off by just a hair, sometimes a bit of a tug apart at the shoulders of the nib is enough. 

If it need more, the simplest is just use a fingernail under the tips, both sides, one at a time, and gently bend up and a tine bit out.  GENTLY.  You need a good loupe or magnifier to gauge progress.  Check 2 things.  First, look at the tip end-on against a diffuse light.  The tips need to be on the same level.  If you go too far, you can also use a thumbnail to press down and in a bit.  Second thing to check is hold the nib against a light and see if you see light all the way down to the tip.  Just a BIT though, not the Panama canal.  

You might need to be sure the gap is clean to see it right.  I find that "PostIt notes are prefect.  With the feed facing up, in your less dominant hand, press down a bit on the end of the nib until you can slip the paper into the gap, then draw it through.  It works better than most other "flossers" IMHO.

Another cause, especially in older pens, and with ebonite feeds, is that the feed is just not holding up the nib.  The fix is to warm (not melt) the feed enough to make it pliable, and press up on it a bit, then cool it so it stays put.  In the old manuals, they said to use an alcohol lamp.  I used to follow the ancient scripts, until one day a celluloid pen got too warm and burst into flames in my hand.  Thankfully right beside the kitchen sink.  So now I use a slowly-boiling kettle.  Some prefer a hair dryer.  Hold the pen so the nib is pointing up, the section is just below the spout, and steam is drifting up over the feed.  Just a few seconds.  Then with a fingernail, gently press up on the feed. Wuth nail still in place, hold it under cool tap water, and then assess progress as above.  If it is too wide, simply place back into the steam for a second or 2, and withdraw.  The spring of the nib will press down on the feed and close the gap a bit.  


In some cases, especially with older thick stiff nibs, you simply have to remove a tiny bit of tipping inside the gap.  This is not a good thing if the tip is very fine - you don't have enough tipping to spare.  If it is a generous, but clamped tight, tip, you can use smoothing paper (or rather film, usually polyester I think.  I use the superfine stuff made for smoothing paint on e.g. railroad models.  As above with the paper "flosser", insert the film between the tines, and gently work it up and down, and side to side.  If going sideways, you can probably only pull it upward away from the feed, not down.  Rotate the film so you get both sides evenly (unless the slit is off center).  If you are using superfine film, it will take a good while to gradually wear away a bit of the tipping until you can see a tiny gap.  

This process might cause a bit of rough edge on the inside edges of the tips.  I use a vegetable-tanned, uncoated leather strap.  Put a very thin film of Simichrome polish on the leather, and scribble figure 8s in it with the nib.  For like 20 minutes.  Then clean out the gap with water and then the PostIt paper.  


Another issue is that the gap should taper down so it is narrowest at the very tip.  If it is not, there is another easy, but practice-required-for-feel method.  Again with the PostIt paper.  Fold it tightly in half, and then cut with scissors a long narrow triangle.  Slip the triangle (folded end in) and slide it up a bit so ~ 1 mm of nib extends beyond the paper.  Then gently press the tips together.  Depending on how thick and stiff the nib is, thumb and finger nails will do.  If too stiff, I use a watchmaking tool for setting hands onto their arbors.  I also have magnifying goggles to watch carefully.  Just gently work the tips together, keeping both even.  Assess the gap with your loupe frequently.


Or you can send it out.  surgeondon4.thumb.jpg.d46dc0c990233192a3419cf3aea74e6d.jpg

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On the one hand I am thinking the same as you @BlueJ , in that, I do not want to risk harming the pen. In fact, the last time I tried repairing a nib on a pelikan m200 I ended up buying a new nib. That was a risk I was willing to take as a new nib is cheap to buy and easy to replace. 


On the other hand, as @Doctox57 argues there are benefits to having the skill and knowledge to be able to repair or adjust your own nibs. It is quite disappointing that the last Lamy Safari and TWSBI Eco I bought have 'perfectly-tunned' nibs (albeit characterless, if that makes sense) and yet a much more expensive sailor 1911 does not write as it should. With that said, thank you so much @Doctox57 for the very thorough and detailed explanation on how to address this issue. I think I will follow your advice and practice on a cheap pen before trying to adjust the sailor. 

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So a quick update, I managed to remove the nib and very gently pull at the shoulders. I also repaired a very slight misalignment issue that I probably caused while trying to remove the nib. It now seems to write much better and is significantly more wet. In the process, I also learned that working on a 21k gold nib is much easier than a steel nib. Thanks to everyone for their contribution and help.

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On 10/23/2021 at 6:06 AM, the_writer said:

With that said, thank you so much @Doctox57 for the very thorough and detailed explanation on how to address this issue. I think I will follow your advice and practice on a cheap pen before trying to adjust the sailor. 

Firstly, you are very welcome.  Second, thank goodness for a good outcome.  I have messed up a few along the way, and I would feel quite badly if you followed my advice to disaster.  I really got into vintage watches a few teasr (or maybe decades?) ago, and also learned that, especially the first while, to learn to do fancy watch work you are going to break a watch or 3.  So don't start with a Zenith Elite.

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  • 2 weeks later...

While I can't offer an opinion as to the tines, I can say I had the same experience with the Sailor 1911. Bought it as first pen and from day one seemed scratchy; just assumed for awhile that was the way it should be until I began to get other pens that wrote much smoother. Recently I took the Sailor to the Chicago Pen show and had a nibmeister smooth it out and it helped a lot. And for $20. If you really like the pen, I would suggest sending it ( or taking it is better) and have a pro look at it. When I did mine, I was there, he tuned it, handed it to me to try, and life was good.

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