Review: Sailor 1911 Standard, HF

I have struggled with this pen.

Sailor1911_Promenade_Capped.jpegSince purchase1 it has behaved like four different pens. First a dry, fine writer. Then a very poor writer with terrible flow. Next a gushing depositor of ink on the page. Finally a smooth writer, leaning slightly toward the dry side.

Evolving review

Phase 1 – first impressions

  • Ink: Sailor Black
  • Period: Month one

When I bought the pen I had no idea just how small it would actually appear; this is a pocket pen if ever there was one. But more importantly, this is a beautiful pen. I have always liked the look of Sailor nibs but seeing one in person it just looked amazing. I did not hesitate to load up with the included Sailor black cartridge.

On writing, though, I was less enamoured; the pen is a dry writer and I do not like dry nibs. In order to get a consistent line when writing I had to apply a lot of pressure and hold the nib slightly to one side. On stopping the nib would dry out very quickly if left uncapped, behaviour which does not work well in meetings. Restarting took quite a bit of effort. Still, the ink is nice in appearance on the page and the pen is beautiful (have I mentioned that nib) so I carried on in this fashion for a month or so.

As time passed though I realised I was using the pen less and less. I felt quite guilty so time for action.

Phase 2 – a gentle clean

  • Ink: Sailor Black
  • Period: Month two, week one

After a gentle clean there was an initial improvement in the performance of the pen, just not a huge improvement. I felt that I was getting less hard starts and the drying out of the nib was not so pronounced. This lasted for a day or two before the writing experience took a turn for the worse.

The pen suddenly stopped writing, ink would just not flow through the pen. After that clean I had given the cartridge a good squeeze to force ink into the feed; I was impatient to get started. This had primed the feed enough to give the improvement in behaviour I noted above but only for a short period of time. There must have been some sort of blockage in the feed as over the following week it became harder and harder to write with the pen. I now really began to feel that I had wasted good money on a, pretty nonetheless, curio.

Time to take more forceful action.

Phase 3 – a deep clean

  • Ink: Cult Pens Deep Dark Red
  • Period: Month 2, week two to end of month

After some research I learned a proper deep clean was likely the best solution. I totally disassembled the pen, right down to the section itself, unscrewing the barrel to its constituent parts. I took out the washer and o-rings and soaked all parts in warm, slightly soapy water for a couple of hours. There was a lot of ink in that little feed.

Taking the pen apart was fascinating, the work put into the feed is impressive. After this soak and then ensuring that all gaps and holes were clear, I reassembled the pen. This took a few goes to get right as, in inking up, I had a leak in the section with ink coming out all around the base of the nib. I eventually got it right, the leak had stopped.

The pen now gushed with ink, the flow going from dry to extremely wet; it now behaved more more like a paint brush than a pen.

Phase 4 – a change of ink

  • Ink: Waterman Intense Black
  • Period: Month three to now (approx month seven)

I performed another deep clean and a very deliberate reassembly. I also took the opportunity to try another ink, this time Waterman Intense Black. As Waterman inks have a reputation for being easy to manage and having a good flow I thought that this would be a good match for a pen with a tendency toward being dry.

Finally, this pen is behaving as it should. The ink flow is great, leaving a nice crisp line. The line is slightly finer than that of my Pilot Custom 74, though I would prefer a finer line again. The nib is very smooth given minimal feedback while writing. The small size of the pen means that I do have to post the cargo when writing, though I can still use it unposted. Occasionally the cap slips off the end of the pen, usually because I have not firmly posted it.


This pen feels small. I emphasis the word ‘feels’ as I got quite a surprise when I sat this pen beside my two other Japanese pens; the Sailor is not all that much smaller. This being the ‘standard’ model means that it’s the medium sized Sailor 1911, they must have used a child to estimate size of the pen in hand.

L-R: Pilot Custom 74, Platinum #3776 Century, Sailor 1911 Promenade

I think the main reasons for this pen feeling that much smaller are that it’s narrower and has a sharper profile at the ends, tapering off a lot quicker than the Pilot and Platinum pens. As mentioned earlier, when writing with this pen I post the cap as the pen feels to small to use with cap unposted.

Spot the scratch

The pen is all black with chrome trim on the barrel and cap, the clip is also chrome. The quality of this metal is quite good, it does feel a little cheap but after months of quite heavy use the trim still looks as good as new. The body itself is a black plastic, with a nice shiny surface. It has one scratch on the cap which is not that noticeable, taking a photo of it was quite difficult. The pen is also light, which emphasis that feeling of smallness.

The nib is a fine 14k gold nib with rhodium plating. It really is a thing of beauty. The imprint on the nib is quite detailed and all the more impressive when considering how small this nib actually is. One great quality of this nib is the way ink will travel through the imprint; using dark inks with this nib really brings out the detail of that imprint. Included on the nib are the letters ‘H-F’ which I am told2 means ‘hard-fine’. This would appear to make sense since there is little or no flex in the nib. The nib is very smooth and writes well on all paper.

Feed showing holes along its length

I mentioned earlier how impressed I was by the feed of the pen. The feed is a very important part of any fountain pen but is never described as being ‘sexy’ in anyway. I’m not about to do that here; but I will restate how impressed I am with it. The level of detail is great. All along the length of the feed are tiny holes, included I assume to assist in the flow of ink through the feed. The feed is also designed to fit with the nib; there is a slot cut out of the end of the nib which slots onto a raised part of the feed; this aids in holding both in the correct position when the pen is assembled.

The packaging is of a very high quality, give this as a gift to someone and they’ll be blown away. The pen came in a blue leather effect snap case and included the pen, a convertor, two black ink cartridges and the usual set of booklets and inserts. The convertor is fine, nothing special; gave no issues which is all that matters. The ink capacity is quite small but coupled with the fine nib this is not a problem. I would imagine that using a much wider and wetter nib would require a high rate of refilling.


A lovely pen but has been a lot of work. Of course, this could just be luck; for every pen I have liked immediately, there are stories of others having a totally opposite experience. I have been able to get this pen to a state which I truly enjoy. And that nib, I find myself reaching for this pen to use it just as an excuse to see the nib.

As for value, I rate this pen highly. It looks good and writes well while not being all that expensive. The packaging is of a very high quality. This would be a very nice gift for someone you like, or someone you may want to like you.

Update – [June 2017]

Since writing this post I decided to let it go. This pen, like the Pilot Custom 74, has lost its shine due to my deep love of the Platinum 3776. That pen, with its UEF nib, has relegated the Sailor to a second tier pen. So, pen is sold and the buyer is enjoying it.


1 Purchased from Engeika. There was an issue with how my address was recorded on the order form, this resulted in my pen being undelivered and returned to Japan. Contacting the owner of the site lead to a swift resolution and a discount code to use for my next purchase. Never like when a problem occurs but it’s always great when good customer service saves the day. I was very happy with this interaction.

2 In a comment on an Instagram post, @ionsomnia confirms that ‘H-F’ does mean ‘hard fine’. Ionsomnia’s blog may be found here, some great posts on nib swapping.

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4 thoughts on “Review: Sailor 1911 Standard, HF

  1. Pingback: 2016 | KurleyMcD

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