2020 is set to be the year of the NAG. Of all the grinds that I get asked to do, the NAG is by far the most popular this year, and indeed with good reason!
Until recently, the most reliable way to own a NAG was to purchase from Sailor, but Sailor suffered from over demand around 2013/2014, which resulted in a severe shortage of NAG nibs, with wait times of up to 2 years even when ordering directly from Sailor. At this time, a Sailor NAG could be had for around 20,000 JPY, if you were lucky enough to find a store that still had it in stock. I found mine, 1 of 3 remaining, at the Maruzen World of Fountain Pens Exhibition in 2017.
Some time around 2015, Sailor ceased taking orders entirely, and almost all existing inventory had been exhausted from retailers. The only way to get a NAG was via the second hand market, or some talented nibgrinders to grind an existing nib.
A few years later, around 2018, Sailor re-released the NAG nibs under their “Special Nibs” collection. Inflation had caught up with the nibs, and they were retailing for a whopping 50,000 JPY.
In this post, I want to follow up on Episode 3 of Tokyo Inklings, where I discuss the NAG at length, as well as to add some additional information.
Firstly, standard NAGs are officially known to have been offered in MF, M, and B. My own recollection is that a NAG F was also offered at the Maruzen event that I got my own MF at, because I remember comparing the two and going with the MF because the MF was actually finer than the F, but I digress. Internally, however, Sailor does have a name for the NAG F, which they call a kotachi (小太刀), meaning the small fat blade. Below is a poorly taken picture of my NAG MF turned into a NAG F by Nagahara Jr.
Theoretically, the difference between the NAG F, MF, M, and B is the width of the lower part of the tipping. Below is an example of a Sailor Zoom nib, which I have reground into a NAG M. You can see very clearly that, while the entire tipping is larger than my kotachi, the bottom of the tipping is what physically determines how large the entire tipping can be. Also note that Nagahara Sr nibs would not have this flat top, but rather the tipping would be curved upwards, reminiscent of Montblanc tipping from certain eras.
Notice also, how the kotachi also has slimmer tines than a reground zoom. The factory NAGs also seem to my eye just a touch longer than regular Sailor nibs. This is likely because NAG nibs are ground by hand with extra long tipping. In the next picture, I show a NAG MF that I have ground from a 3 tone Sailor Zoom nib. For this one, I wanted to focus on the sharpness of the tip, which accentuates the harai stroke.
A NAG cannot be tested by the regular means of side stroke and down stroke. Some grinders also try to test their NAGs only by testing the nib at different writing angles, and while it is true that different angles will yield different line weight, that is not the test of a NAG. When testing a NAG, the best test of quality is to perform a swift stroke from upper right to lower left, the harai stroke. The nib should lay a fat line where it is placed onto the paper, and finish with a sharp point where the nib is lifted off the paper. I cannot personally vouch for a NAG nib that has not undergone this test. Below is a picture of a hastily assembled writing sample of the test that I do to check NAGs. Unfortunately, the handwriting is messy and imbalanced, but the important part of the picture are the three strokes. In each column, to the left is the harai stroke as I described above. In the middle is a ten stroke and is the ending action of the tome stroke. To the right is the harai stroke to the other direction. I do not include the hane stroke, which is an upwards tick, because if the harai stroke is sharp, then the hane stroke will also be sharp.
We spoke also about the difference between older Nagahara Sr NAGs and Nagahara Jr NAGs, and while we mentioned 3 eras of standard nib stampings on NAGs, we did not mention that older 2nd generation imprint NAGs actually have NAG stamped on the right, while newer 2nd generation imprints have N stamped in front of the nib size on the left, just like regular Sailor nibs. Interestingly enough, the first NAGs were not stamped with the sizes, but rather had their size indications scratched into the underside of the nib. Unfortunately, I do not own one to show the difference.
We also mentioned some other specialty nibs, such as the Concord, a downwards bent nib that was designed for drawing. These were also part of the NAG family, and I have a Nagahara Sr example below.
With the NAG suffering from such a severe inflation in price, and many more grinders now willing to experiment and offer this grind, it remains to be seen whether the Sailor factory NAG will continue to see its popularity. Meanwhile, independent grinders will be able to offer this grind on pens of many more brands, and you can enjoy the NAG grind on whatever pens you fancy. Below is a Mini NAG MF which I ground from a 14k Bock 250 B nib, fit here into a Jowo housing.
I hope you enjoyed the first in “The Anatomy of” series. Any questions or constructive comments are welcome here, or by direct message on Instagram.