Brian’s Mailbox #3

My email inbox gets a plethora of interesting pen related questions, and I spend a good deal of time crafting thoughtful responses to each person. A lot of times, the questions I get are good ones that I feel are worth sharing with others, so that’s what this post is for! Here goes:

I been considering the purchase of a Sailor 1911 fountain pen with a “music” nib.  I want a pen (nib)  that will allow me to literally write musical notes, ledger lines, clefs, etc. on musical staff paper.  Are the Sailor pens with “music” nibs designed for writing music or is Music” just one model name for a a smooth writing pen?

It is a little confusing about the whole ‘Music Nib’ declaration. In my experience, the only pens that have named “Music Nibs” are Sailor and Platinum (there may be others, but these are the only ones I know). Their names are a little misleading though, as very (VERY) few people actually use these pens for writing music. Really, a music nib is nothing more than an italic nib, or a stub nib. Here’s an explanation of what makes these different than conventional (round) fountain pen tips:

In my personal collection, I have both the Platinum Music Pen and a Sailor 1911 with a Music Nib. I can say that the Platinum pen, though about half the price of the 1911, writes much smoother and with more line variation. The Sailor music nib is nothing different than a conventional italic nib. The Platinum music nib is a little different, it actually has 3 nib tines (two slits cut in the nib), which is unique to this pen. Check out the pictures I took of the Platinum nib and its writing sample on the product page:

As far as using these pens to write music, you could certainly do that. However, don’t feel that you HAVE to use a music nib to write music, really you just need an italic nib. If you don’t want to drop $160+ to get this effect, you can get much less expensive pens that will do the job just as well, perhaps even better. Don’t get me wrong, both the Platinum and Sailor are really nice pens, but if you’re looking more for value and utility, there are other options for you. The one I’d recommend the most would be the 1.5mm Pilot Parallel. It’s a weird-looking pen, but the line variation that you can get with the nib is quite striking:

Spending $10 (plus $5.50 for a converter, which I recommend) is a low-cost way to try it out. I would recommend poking around our Nib Nook, which is an interactive tool I put together to compare writing samples I did of every pen we carry…that will show you what kind of variation you can get with each nib.

I am debating between 1 of these 2 pens. 1 is the Lamy Studio-Imperial Blue and the other is the Lamy Accent Palladium Black. I am leaning more towards the Accent reason being the black india rubber grip. I love the look of the Studio but was also wondering if gripping it after long periods would be an issue if your fingers start to sweat.  

I’m a big fan of both pens, but if you’re writing for long sessions, the Accent will serve you better. That’s the biggest drawback of the Studio…it’s beautiful but the smooth metal grip is harder to hold for long periods. Another option might be the Stainless Steel Studio, which has a rubber grip instead of metal like the other Studios.

In the near future I am looking to treat myself to one of two new pens. One is the Namiki Falcon in a soft medium and the other is the Edison Nouveau Premiere in a cherry cordial ebonite. Which one do you think would be better for long writing sessions and some that require applying firm pressure at times? 

Between the Falcon and the Premiere LE, these are both nice pens! The Falcon is noticeably smaller and shorter than the Premiere, but the biggest difference will be the way it writes. I have a video using the Falcon right here:

The Falcon is great if you have a light hand or if you are trying to write with a lot of line variation….but if you have a heavier hand with firm writing pressure like you mentioned, you may enjoy the stiffer Edison nib better. You won’t get the same line variation with the Edison as you will with the Falcon, but it will likely feel better for you when writing for a long time. 

Often times, I browse through your swab shop, and then want to go to the page for a particular ink to see what you (and your customers) have said about the ink. It would be nice if one could click on the swab (just like one can after having done a product search) and go to the page for that ink, instead of only having the choice to buy a sample or buy a whole bottle.

I agree, that would be really cool! It’s the kind of thing that seems like such a simple thing to do, but the technical stuff that goes into it is far beyond what I understand. Rachel is really smart and does a lot of great stuff on our site, but what you’re asking for is one of the things she hasn’t yet been able to figure out, and trust me, she’s been trying. We have a lot of things like this that we want to add to our site for 2012, and we’re going to actively be working on it. I won’t be able to promise anything, but know that we are definitely working on it. 

I got a Pilot 78G fountain pen today. However, the oddest thing is that it comes with a Pilot CON-20 converter (those are the ones with the rubber sacs).  Guess what?  These are the exact same converters that come with the Pilot Parallels – but with the Parallels, Pilot explicitly instructs us to use the CON-20 for flushing purposes only.  In the 78G, this converter holds ink without any problems, and I can’t think of a single technical reason why the CON-20 would not work in the Parallels.  Am I just more paranoid that usual, today, or is this really weird?

I hear what you’re saying! Technically, though, that converter isn’t the Con-20….it’s some other variation. They are similar, but slightly different. What you have and what comes in the Parallels is the one on top, and the one on bottom is the Con-20:

They’re similar, except that the top one has the bladder more exposed and it’s a little shorter. The mouth is the same on both though, and you can use them both…but I think because the top converter is a little shorter, it isn’t held in place very well by the back end of the Parallel, so it can come loose and leak. You’re right though, both converters will fit the Pilot pens! The one on top comes (apparently) with the 78g, the Parallel, and the Knight, from what I’ve seen so far. No doubt, it’s a cheaper converter and that’s why it’s in these lower priced pens. 

I saw a bottle of Noodler’s Prime of the Commons Bulletproof blue black on an English site which looked interesting and was hoping you could get some.

We actually just inquired about getting Prime of the Commons this week, and Nathan said it’s exclusive to the UK, end of story. So I’m afraid that it’s not going to be in the US anytime soon.

Does anyone in your shop customize nibs?  I love my TWSBI XF but want to get a medium nib in italic.  I was hoping to have a nib unit done there or sent out to someone you trust. 

We don’t have anyone here that does custom nib work, that’s actually a pretty specialized skill. There are really only a handful of people that do that kind of thing, and none that we are officially affiliated with. The ones that I know about that have good reputations for their work include John Mottishaw, Richard Binder, and Pendleton Brown.  

If you wanted to wait a little bit (which you will with custom grinds anyway), TWSBI is actually coming out with 1.1mm and 1.5mm italic nibs themselves, that (I believe) will be the same price as their regular nib units. I don’t know if you were looking for something finer than 1.1mm, but if that would work then it would certainly be the easiest and cheapest way to get your italic nib. 

Hopefully these posts are helpful to you! I’d love to hear what you think in the comments. Also, feel free to shoot me an email anytime, your question could end up in the next Mailbox! 

2017-10-11T14:02:53+00:00 January 20th, 2012|Mailbox Monday, Uncategorized|14 Comments
  • Freddy

    These Mailbox blogs are fast becoming my favorites.  They are very informative even when the information isn't anything that I have a specific interest in right now.  However, somewhere down the line, who knows.  I sure wish there was a way to catalog these somehow so that the specific questions and answers were searchable.

    By the way, thanks for answering a question that was similar to one I had (or maybe it was mine) about being able to get to ink reviews all in one spot.

    Keep up the great work you do; it goes far beyond selling fountain pens and ink. 🙂

    P.S. I had to watch a later recorded version of your Write Time at 9 and, sorry guys, but Ellie stole the show. 😉

  • Parsifalssister

    Just info.  Regarding the music nib query, I have one on my Sailor Sapporo and it writes just a little wider than a traditional italic in my handwriting. 

  • Parsifalssister

    Sorry, I meant to say "great" info.

  • Brian, I just want to comment on what you said regarding the "converter" that comes with the Pilot Parallels. They say to only use it for flushing, and I have to concur. They should call it a "flusher" or "cleaner" and not a converter. I did try using it as a converter. (You know we artists have to try everything, even the incredibly stupid things!) This was not one of my better ideas. I couldn't figure out why that pen had stopped writing, but you don't even want to know the mess I was faced with when I opened it up to find out why! It's a far better idea to just empty out one of the cartridges that comes with the pen (or just use one up), and then continue refilling the cartridge with a syringe and the ink of your choice. This advice will save you a huge headache, at a price even cheaper than an aspirin!

  • I would like to suggest a Lamy Safari or equivalent with a 1.1mm or 1.5mm or 1.9mm italic nib. They are much cheaper than a Platinum or Sailor and write great. They are about 2.5-3 times more expensive than a Pilot Parallel but I think that a Lamy is much more comfortable and looks much better than the Parallel.

  • I'm so glad you like them! You're right, I'm quickly realizing I need to find out a good way to organize all of this information. I don't yet know the best way to do that, I will have to look around at what my options are. 

    And you're right, Ellie did steal the show! She has a way of doing that, and I have a feeling that won't stop for a while 😉 

  • What do you consider a traditional italic? They can vary in size, I have everything from a .9mm to a 6.0mm, and they're all italic. I find the Sailor to be somewhere around 1.3mm or so, that's from my memory though, I haven't measured that out yet.

  • I know the Parallel is a popular pen for the artists, especially because it's such a great performing pen for the price. Refilling the cartridges are a great option, if you have an ink syringe, but the converter is the 'simpler' solution for anyone looking to use bottled ink in the Parallel. Either way works great though.

  • The Safari is another great option. The reason I didn't suggest that though is because the Lamy italic nibs are really more like stubs, they aren't as 'crisp' as the Parallel nibs. You can get a sharper line variation with the Parallel, which is important when writing music notes. The Lamy would definitely get the job done though, and you're right in that it's a more attractive and more comfortable pen to use (for some, other's don't like the triangle grip!). 

  • Parsifals

    You are absolutely correct about the variation in nib sizes.  I was thinking traditional as 1.1 as it often seems the standard when I see or buy italic nibs, particularly in calligraphy pens.  You may be correct, again, that the Sailor music nib is wider.  If I find a good calibrator I'll see if I can measure it for accuracy.

  • You are right about that. The Parallel is sharper than the Lamy but the Lamy isn't bad either. The line is crisp though not as sharp. I wasn't aware that music nibs were so sharp. It's good to know. Anyway, for me the Lamy is more usable in daily writing than the Parallel.

  • Well, that's the thing. The Sailor and Platinum Music Nibs really aren't sharp, which is why I'm so baffled about why they're called music nibs. Maybe it's just my own perception, but I would think of more crisp italics when writing music, not cursive (more rounded) italics or even stubs. That said, yes, just about anything is more usable for daily writing than a Parallel, since it has no clip and it's long and pointy. 

  • Christina Pham

    :D, I had to pull my pens out to check when I read that one about the pilot bladder converters. I hadn't realized that the bladder converters that was in with my 78Gs is different from the one in my Prera, but there you have it. I guess it's a common misconception though, because most sellers I see it from list the included converter as the con-20.

    I agree that for writing music that the Pilot Parallels are good pens. I find that they do have more crispness than when I write with my Lamy 1.1nib. The Parallel IS awkward for general writing with: the nib has more of a tendency to catch on paper, and it's a gusher, so not as good on cheap notebook paper, but I prefer it to writing with the Lamy 1.1 at times, because the overall effect of the writing looks much cleaner, plus I don't think the Lamy will do quite as well for drawing clean staff lines. 🙂 I also think that the Parallel is more comfortable than the Lamy, but I have my 1.1 on a aquamarine Safari and I know that's not the pen they originally come with (If that even makes a difference, I don't know). The grip just bothers me for writing with this nib, although it doesn't when writing with a Lamy EF nib. Just my two cents. ^_^ I'm a girl, I have no pockets for things to clip to, but pens travel fine in a pen case.

  • Thanks a bunch for your detailed feedback here Christina! The two Pilot converters are close, but definitely not the same thing. I think the reason most retailers call the smaller one a Con-20 is because they just never really noticed (or cared about) the difference, but what's confusing is that the smaller converter doesn't have a name, and isn't something that we as retailers can order. It comes with certain pens like the Parallel and 78g, but we can't get them by themselves, only the Con-20. Weird.