Monday, June 16, 2014

Pen Update: Still Dancing with the Sailor

6/16/14 Diamine Chocolate Brown ink, Sailor pen, Canson XL 140 lb. paper (Burke Museum)

Lamys from top to bottom: Safari, Nexx, Al-Star
Over the past three years I’ve rotated through plenty of sketching pens. For a while I was committed to comfortable, reasonably priced Lamys – mostly Safaris and Al-Stars, plus the occasional Nexx (which turned out not to be an ideal sketching pen because the posted cap kept falling off). But after a while I got tired of their inconsistent nibs (some were perfectly smooth, others scratchy and skippy) and tendency to dry out quickly.

Sailor "calligraphy" pen with variable-width line nib

More than a year ago I started experimenting with the Sailor “calligraphy” pen and its strange bent nib that enables variable line widths by tilting it at various angles. There is a lot to love about this pen, and I still feel like I’m learning how to take full advantage of it.

Pilot Prera
This year I discovered the inexpensive Pilot Metropolitan and its slightly-pricier sister, the Pilot Prera. Both are such reliable street performers – immediate start-up, long idle time, consistently smooth nib – that they quickly became my everyday favorites. For use with waterproof ink – Platinum Carbon Black, my one-and-only ink choice when using watercolors – I always choose a Metro or Prera.

Pilot Metropolitan
When I want a water-soluble ink – and more and more, I’m using brighter colors as well as neutrals – I keep reaching for a Sailor with the ski-jump nib. I now have four of them. I’ve tried both the green one with a 55-degree bend and the blue with the 40-degree angle, and I decided I prefer the former, so I bought three more over time. The more I dance with this crooked baby, the more I love it. The expressive lines it makes are similar to a brush pen (on a smaller scale) when sketching trees, plants, animals, people, skeletons and other organic subject matter. And it’s just a lot of fun to angle it every which way to see what it can do. What’s more, it’s also simply a good street performer – immediate start-up, good idle time and consistently smooth nib. (The posted cap could be tighter, however; I’ve had it fall off a couple times in the middle of a sketch.) An added benefit is that its extremely lightweight plastic body is nicely balanced; in my hand, it’s one of the most comfortable pens I’ve tried (maybe second only to the Lamy Safari).

Sailor "calligraphy" pens
I haven’t tried filling a Sailor with Platinum Carbon for a couple of reasons. One is that when I know I’m going to paint a sketch with watercolor, I tend to want a consistent, neutral line that doesn’t call attention to itself, so something like a fine point Metro or Prera makes more sense. The other reason is that the Sailor seems to have slightly more sensitive innards and might not be as easy to flush out after using it with a waterproof ink. (That’s just an untested hunch. I may be wrong. Maybe someday I’ll check it out with Platinum Carbon and see how I like a variable line with watercolor.) (Edited 7/24/14: "Someday" is today; I just filled a Sailor with Platinum Carbon. Stay tuned for the results.)

Sailor pen caps marked with distinguishing colors so
 I can tell them apart in my bag.
The only major disadvantage about the Sailor is that the body comes in only one color, so when I carry more than one at a time (which is always!), I can’t tell them apart in my bag. I had to use metallic markers to put distinguishing dots on the caps. But at a price of $16.50, I’m fine with that. It’s a small inconvenience for a lot of fun in a reliable pen.

Related pen reviews:
Pilot Prera
Sailor calligraphy pen with waterproof ink
Sailor Profit Fude De Mannen fountain pen

3/27/14 Diamine Chocolate Brown ink, Sailor pen, Canson XL 140 lb. paper

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