broken in: sailor pro gear realo
Sometimes in the mornings, right before the mass exodus from home to work, there is this single bird that sings outside. I have never seen it, there are no trees in 15th floor, and it seems like it is too shy to perch on one of the balconies. When it begins, all the city noises fade into the background, even the sirens and the speeding cars become far away memories. There’s the singing bird, the rising sun and my morning coffee. That little bird is the reason I try to wake up a little earlier each day so that I can listen to it with the sun. And that little bird is the reason why I sit in front of my balcony door on the floor, wrapped up in a blanket, despite the cold, misty morning air.
I always had a tiny handwriting. So much so that once, in fifth grade, my teacher told me that if I didn’t start writing larger, she would stop reading my assignments and exams. I liked that teacher, and my handwriting did get to a more legible size.
Well, due to this, I preferred fine or extra fine nibs from the beginning in fountain pens. It wasn’t an easy balance to strike, because I also liked wet, smooth nibs. For most of the time, I’d settle for a Western fine or an extra fine for a compromise in between.
Then, I got curious.
Japanese fine nibs seem to have a bit of a reputation for being dry and scratchy. I also believed this to be true, and refrained from even trying one. Until an opportunity to buy this Sailor Pro Gear Realo with a 21k gold hard-fine nib came up, with such a ridiculously good price. It was marked as well-loved, but to this day I have never found a scratch or an imperfection. Even micro scratches seem to disappear into the shiny black resin. And I’ve been keeping it constantly inked since I bought it almost a year ago.
As usual at the time, I was still hesitant about Sailor pens. My first one didn’t work with my writing angle, and that left a bitter taste in my mouth. Though the second one I got was great [link], so I decided to put my trust in Sailor once again. I hoped that since it was used, it would at least write. So, I got over all my prejudices about Japanese fine nibs, black pens and Sailor’s and bought it.
Funny thing, it turned out to be my smoothest Sailor nib out of the three I own (the others are a 21k gold hard-medium and a 14k gold medium-fine), and decently wet. Being the curious person I am, I started researching whether nibs can be “broken-in” like shoes can. Even though my inner academic is screaming at me for not citing my sources, I came across a few different opinions/experiences.
First group said that the nibs are too durable pieces of metal to be slightly worn down to a shape that the user is more comfortable with over time. Yes, there are vintage pens that have the tipping almost ground down to the writing angle of the user, but they are few and far in between. A modern pen also uses a stiffer, more durable material and a modern user simply doesn’t use their pens enough due to good old digitalisation. The only thing that changes is the user of the pen. You get used to the way the pen writes and change your holding/writing angle according to it.
Second group defended that the nibs do get slightly changed after you use them for a very, very long time. That’s why they’re quite personal and another person’s pens might feel “off” if this has happened.
Lastly, there were the ones that took a milder stance in the middle. This had the largest variety in point of views, some skewing one way and some the other. It some mix of the nib gets changed and you get adapted to it. Some say the nib changes more, some say you. Honestly, I like this idea the most. It’s like a little dance between you and the pen. You have to understand each other to get a good time out of it (and perhaps this is why people who expect their pens write perfectly out of the box while they’re holding them at a weird angle to the paper test my patience). As metals are less flexible and humans are famously adaptable, it’s much more likely that you get used to holding the pen in specific way. Call me a romantic, but I also like to think that all the time you spent with a pen affects it too.
In any case, if there is such a thing as breaking a pen in, the previous owner of this Realo and I have similar writing styles. Curiously enough, this pen does give my writing some character, where angrier lines are thicker and faster lines are thinner, and the nib itself has a lovely bouncy feeling. Not things I’ve expected nor experienced from a hard Sailor nib.
The pen itself is a bit larger than a regular Pro Gear, as the end cap is elongated and tapered into a piston knob. I think it’s a elegant way to tie the Pro Gear line together while making sure that the piston knob is large enough to grab comfortably. The size is great for me, especially for long writing sessions. It’s still pretty light, though well-balanced enough that the lightness doesn’t take you by surprise.
My absolutely favourite thing about this pen’s body is the ink window, which I thought I’d hate. It’s a good size to actually see the amount of ink left inside. The gold bands on each side give it a lovely accent so it becomes a focal point on the pen’s body rather than a purely utilitarian “oh but we have to put this here.” I admire that. Lately, I’ve been on a pink and purple kick in this pen, so that also gives a lovely pop of colour against the black barrel. This doesn’t mean that the functionality ends here. The piston plunger is clear as well and goes until it is visible from the ink window, so you can see whether there are any stubborn ink drops stuck there. I never thought it would make cleaning so much easier. The piston itself is also smooth and takes ink well.
I feel like I’m starting to appreciate a more classically styled black pen with gold accents rather than the shiniest, most colourful acrylics. It doesn’t hurt that they are beautifully proportioned and have a nib that suits my daily use well. Considering my purchases in the past year, maybe my dream pen isn’t a swirly acrylic. It’s a black pen with gold trim, a fine gold nib and a piston filling mechanism. Well, then, life’s good with the Realo.
Thank you for reading.