Every once in a while, a pen comes along that really surprises me. In this case, I'm talking about the Sailor Sapporo, a.k.a. the Pro Gear Slim. This pen lies right in the middle of the Sailor Pro Gear lineup with the Pro Gear being the largest and the Sapporo Mini being the smallest.
A lot of Sailor pens are cigar-shaped with black or colored resin barrels and gold or rhodium trim, but the Pro Gear Line switches that up a little with flattened ends. I'm a fan of this design as it breaks up the monotony of the standard cigar-shaped, black-and-gold-trimmed pen. This particular pen, which was so kindly provided to me by Pen Chalet for this review, is piano black with rhodium (silver-colored) trim. Paired with the flattened ends, I think this combination makes for a slightly more modern presentation while still being subtle enough for even the most conservative boardroom.
Other than the clip, there's not much jewelry. Just a double cap band (one thin ring and one thicker ring, surprisingly so for a pen of this size, with text engraved in it) and at the end of the barrel, another thin ring giving the illusion of a piston knob or blind cap. I assure you that this pen features neither as it is a cartridge-converter filling system. Aside from the aforementioned adornments, you'll find a third thin ring just at the front of the cap threads on the section where the section connects with the body of the pen and a tiny Sailor Anchor at the top of the cap.
This particular Sapporo comes with a monotone 14k rhodium-plated nib, beautifully engraved with the standard Sailor branding. I find Sailor's nibs to be very lovely to look at as they feature the Sailor 1911 and Anchor flanked by wonderful scroll work. On the left side of the nib, there is a small stamp with the size designation. The Sapporo is available with Extra-Fine, Fine, Fine-Medium, Medium, Broad, Zoom, and Music nibs. According to John Mottishaw, these nibs are especially well-suited to modifications including Stubs, Italics and Added Flexibility. Pen Chalet sent me an Extra-Fine for the purposes of this review.
Sailor pens, for the most part, come in a standard clam shell box. Hinged along the long side and covered in a faux leather finish with a satiny liner. Under the bed on which the pen is snugly tucked into its ribbon is a small pamphlet with instructions and guarantee information, a converter and a cartridge or two. I typically forego the cartridges and get right into a converter, and in this case, inked up the pen with Sailor Blue-Black, which is a lovely ink, indeed.
The pen is small when capped and even smaller uncapped. I would say that it's almost a great pocket pen, but I'm afraid the high-polish black body makes this pen extremely susceptible to micro-scratches and rub marks so a pants pocket is probably not the safest place for this pen, unless you don't mind the scuffs. It does ride nicely in a case and being that it's so small and light, won't add a lot of bulk to your daily carry kit. Looking at this pen side-by-side with others, I never would have picked it up because it's just a good bit smaller than the pens I typically buy, however once I uncapped the pen and posted it, I rather enjoyed writing with it as the large cap (roughly 40% of the overall size of the pen) posts deeply and securely, but still giving enough length to the pen to make it very comfortable to use. And because the pen is so light and it posts so deeply, it balances the pen nicely so it sits in my hand just right. Your mileage may vary on this, but I'd say that unless you have massive hands, the Sapporo is going to be a great fit for daily writing. It is usable unposted, but probably for only short writing sessions. Jotting a work note or snagging a phone number from a colleague or friend. And I suppose there will be others on the opposite end of the spectrum that would have very small hands and could use it unposted although I'd say that most people will want it posted.
The girth of the pen is fine, neither too thin or too wide. Despite it's small stature, it's a decent size. I tried to spend as much time writing with this pen as possible over the last couple of weeks and never found the width of the grip section to be too thin (or too thick) although I typically prefer pens that are just a bit thicker. This pen wasn't uncomfortable for me in that regard at all. In fact, the short section put my fingers right where I typically like them (close to the nib) and the smooth, shallow threads were never a bother for me.
Now, back to the surprising part... The nib. All else aside, the nib surprised me the most. I typically buy a fine or medium in western nibs and will usually go with a medium or broad in Japanese nibs. I like to have my nibs customized so the medium and broad provide good starting points for those modifications. And I typically find the Fine and Extra-Fine Japanese nibs to be much too fine for my daily writing and the couple that I have tried have been far more rough than I like. I hesitate to use the word "scratchy" here as they're not scratchy as much as they just provide a lot more feedback than I prefer, especially on toothier papers. And let's face it, my handwriting needs all the help it can get without having to fight against a super-skinny, finicky nib catching on my paper.
However, all that being said, I actually really, really like this nib. I have tried Pilot Extra-Fine and Fine, as well as Platinum Extra-Fine, Fine and Ultra-Extra-Fine nibs and have been disappointed in all of them. However, the Sailor is far smoother and far more reliable than any of the Extra-Fine offerings from the two aforementioned brands. Perhaps I had bad nibs before, but this Sailor blows them all out of the water. The 14k nib provides just a bit of spring, but it's not flexible, giving it a little "bounce" when you write and the feedback is just about right. On smooth papers like Clairefontaine, it's darn-near perfect. On toothier papers, it's good, but I find just about all very fine nibs struggle against tooth so I may be over analyzing here. If you like linen or textured papers by Crown Mill and the like, you may want to skip this nib for something with a little bigger sweet spot.
I never would have picked this pen up if Pen Chalet hadn't sent it to me, but I'm sure glad they did. It has opened up my eyes to the wonderful world of extra-fine Sailor nibs and I will definitely pursue these in the future if I'm looking for something with a very fine nib. I would imagine this nib would be especially well-suited to drawing or sketching, especially for more detailed works.
If you're interested in this particular pen or any of the other wonderful pens the folks at Pen Chalet have to offer, just click on their logo at right (or on their name anywhere in this review) and enter the code nibandink at checkout for an extra 10% off your purchase. Thanks to them for sending it out. Be sure and give them a look!
Thanks for reading,
Note: Per the request of a few of my readers, see below for a writing sample comparison between the Sailor Sapporo EF, TWSBI 580 AL EF and Namisu Nexus Minimal Pen in F. I hope this helps some of you out! And no judging on the handwriting!!!