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!