Sailors’ Dilemma

Sailor Pro Gear Slim Earth

So there was a sale. A Sailor sale….

Over the past few years I’ve started wading into the middle of the fountain pen price pool. It was bound to happen eventually; the more I learn about pens, the more I learn what I like and what I don’t, the further I am willing to go to find that Thing I’m looking for. Unfortunately, the times being what they are, prices are going up all over the place and it’s getting harder and harder to dip into that sub-two hundred dollar ink pot. It’s equally hard to recommend these tools from the perspective of an expense-minded part-time reviewer. So when Sailor has a sale, I had to get in on the action. “For the blog.”

To which sailor do you toss a life-preserver (cash)
Sailor Pro Gear Slim on a Crab
Thank you, Citizen Snips

The “Don’t Miss The Boat” sale, as it was called by Sailor retailers in North America, gave customers one final chance to get a high quality pen for a somewhat approachable price. With a handful of options available, I opted for something that would stand out in my lineup without being too flashy in it’s design. I chose the ‘Earth’ edition ProGear Slim, a beautiful rich brown with gold single-band trim and 14k gold nib. When choosing a nib from a manufacturer with a reputation for amazing nibs, do you go with your favorite nib size? Do you buy something with the intention of getting it customized by a nib artist? (Both solid plans, I can personally recommend Custom Nib Studio and The Nib Tailor). Well, when spending anything in the triple digits, I try to avoid as much redundancy as possible. Long story short, I went with a zoom nib.

The 14k gold Sailor Zoom nib is an interesting thing. When writing at a traditional, lower writing angle, this pen produces a very broad, juicy moderately inky line. Far too broad for my every-day writing tastes, but fun to use for personal journaling and the like. When you tilt the pen up to a steeper writing angle, and if you manage to find the sweet spot on the nib and write with a light enough hand, the line goes from broad to something closer to a medium. Still ample ink flow, now in a more manageable line width. Angling the pen further up to 90 degrees, the nib produces a slimmer, medium-fine-ish line. This is excellent for smaller handwriting, and fitting more onto the pages of a planner.

This is a truly interesting nib, one that stands out in my collection and will be in my ‘Currently Inked’ rotation for a while. It is worth mentioning that when I first received the pen it was scratchy and very slightly misaligned, but I was able to get pretty fast RMA service from Goldspot and only a week later than I’d hoped, I had an amazing pen. I like the nib so much in fact, I wrote through an entire stock black ink cartridge in about three days. However, in creating a three-in-one nib, something of all of them has been lost. As I mentioned above, the tipping sections have certain sweet spots where they write a particular width, but given the tiny space, those spots are a little hard to stay in when writing. What this leads to, for my typical writing position, is a mostly broad pen with a little line variation here and there. Like I said, not perfect for every-day writing, but very interesting. Something I’m happy to have on hand.

Once Smitten… twice buy?

So here is what I’ve been grappling with, and what caused me to hesitate and consider for a long time before getting into this price range; what if I get this pen and I really really like it? The thing about fountain pens, as I’m sure you know, dear reader, is that once you get even a little into them, it’s really easy to get way into them. Leave me a comment if you stopped at ONE Eco or Safari or Sport, I’m genuinely curious if anyone has that kind of willpower. The problem with liking a Sailor is that they’re only going to get more expensive to get your hands on.

Sailor Lineup

This Pro Gear Slim is my third Sailor. I managed to get another Slim and a regular Pro Gear through various sales over the past few years, both within the hundred-and-fifty dollar range. If I were to recommend any of them to a friend or reader (and really, we’re all friends here), I would be asking them to consider a two to three hundred dollar investment. As good as any of my Sailors are, I don’t know if I would buy them again at today’s prices. The ‘Don’t Miss the Boat’ sale was, quite possibly, the most unfortunate time to get a Sailor. Once you’re hooked, you’re hooked.

All things considered

The more I use it, the more I love this strange little nib. It looks wild with a large ball of tipping material on the nib. The soft brown Earth edition is a stunner from every angle, and I’ll cherish it in my collection for a long time, I’m sure. Having experienced two of the three Pro Gear sizes so far, I can definitely say the slightly larger Standard is more comfortable for my hand than the Slim. This pen feels a little small in my hands, but with a Zoom nib you’ll be repositioning the pen more frequently, so the smaller size is a benefit in that area.

Sailor was right at the top of my personal price bracket. For the cost of entry you get a gold nib and premium materials in a pen that, if handled with care, will last a lifetime. But it’s a pretty steep ask for something to write with. For roughly the same price, you can get five Twsbi Ecos, or as many Safaris. You shouldn’t, but you see what I mean about the price. Having experienced a few of these pens in my collection I feel like there would have to be something really, really special to get me to ever put down the funds for another. If you’re lucky enough to make it to a pen show some time, give one a try. But don’t say I didn’t warn you when you’re on your second (or third) Pro Gear.

Check out the selection of Sailor Pens at

Disclaimers: All of the products mentioned in this review were purchased (on sale) by the author. All opinions stated are my own.

4 thoughts on “Sailors’ Dilemma

  1. Like you, I took advantage of the Sailor “sale”. Interestingly, I also got a Zoom nib on a full-size Pro Gear (“Fire”) as I really wanted to try out Sailor’s 21K nib. I have also learned to love it. One thing you didn’t mention is that you can get a very fine line by reverse writing. It’s a bit scratchier than the normal writing position, but not too far off from a Sailor H-MF nib experience. Thanks for the post.


  2. I just made the mistake of actually inventorying my fountain pens–the mistake part of that being that I added a column for how much I spent on each one! Long story short, 10 years on, I own 17 ECOs, 4 Sports, 1 Safari, 1 Lamy XL, and I’ve spent more on these pens than I did on my first car back in 1994!

    On top of that, I also couldn’t stand missing the boat, so I have an Ivory Sailor 1911 Standard on the way…

    And I wonder why I’m so broke! LOL


  3. Thank you for this post. I only got into fountain pens over the past couple years, and have managed to stay on the “under $30” side. I’ve got too many hobbies that take cash (hello, film photography) that I’ve been hesitant to spend more. And if I do find a pen that I like that costs more, I worry that I’ll want more. I have only so much to spend, so I have tried to stay happy with the “very budget” options. And so far, I have been happy.

    The only more expensive pen that I’ve been lusting after is a Brass Kaweco Sport. I already have two Sports (plastic) and I know the only difference would be the exterior material. But still I lust…


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