Fountain Pen Review: Sailor TUZU (fine nib, mint green)

Over the last couple weeks, the pen community has been awash in tales of the new Sailor TUZU fountain pen ($44). I have been anxiously awaiting the arrival stateside of the pen to test it out and see if all the fervor was warranted. The short answer? I’m not sure. But if you’d like to read on, I’ll give you a more detailed, and nuanced opinion.

First, the packaging.

As someone who often helps retailers sell pens, this is the absolute worst packaging. The exterior hints at what color and shape the pen in but does not provide potential customers with any clear understanding of what is inside the packaging. While I don’t like plastic clamshell packaging like the Platinum Prefounte, it is considerably more effective in conveying the content of the package. And the ribbon? Its fiddly, it will get damaged and dirty and, just why?!!?

The outside does not indicate what is actually inside the pouch/box. The last thing a retailer wants is for potential customers to open every package to see what’s inside: fountain pen, rollerball, nib size, color? Its an honest travesty.

Inside is yet another box with an instruction sheet written in English and Japanese.

Finally, inside the box is the pen and two cartridges wrapped in cellophane. Sheesh.

Now, about the actual pen:

The pen itself is an opaque plastic with a plastic-coated clip in contrasting color. There is one model available (navy) which features a translucent barrel but all the other colors are a solid plastic.

The color of the clip matches the grip section. And this is where things are particularly unique. Sailor developed the grip section to be movable since it features a soft triangular shape to allow users to adjust where the divots align for a more confortable writing experience.

In order to access the grip section to move it around, you must unscrew the bareel from the grip section and twist down the silver metal ring to allow the grip section to rotate. Once you have it positioned where its most comfortable for you, twist the ring back up towardsd the nib to secure the grip section.

The TUZU comes with a converter!

This method is not super convenient for making repeated adjustments since the whole pen needs to be disassembled to rotate the grip. Though I suspect once you get it aligned where is most comfrotable, it probably won’t need to be adjusted again. But the initial adjustments are pretty fiddly.

The aspect that was most notable to me was that Sailor is not using the same nibs its used on previous sub-$100 pens. The nib shape is reminiscent of a Lamy Safari nib or the nib on the Platinum Prefounte.

Also, the TUZU features a snap cap which, as far as I know, makes it unique in the Sailor line-up. I don’t think they have any other snap cap pens.

Compared to other pens:

I wanted to compare the Sailor TUZU to the Platinum Prefounte ($11) which is a similar pen though the price is notably different and a Sailor Pro Gear Slim which is its next relative. While I suspect Sailor does not want to make a $44 pen that rivals their flagship 14k nib pen, it should feel like its in the same family. I’ve tried other Sailor “school pens” and they are not up to Sailor’s high standards at all.

When comparing the nibs, there is a similarity in shape between the Sailor TUZU and the Prefounte with the more modern asthetics and straight edges where it folds into the grip. The TUZU nib is larger than the Platinum though both have odd slit and breather holes. The breather hole in the Platinum is just an etched circle and not an actual hole while the Sailor TUZU has an actual hole but the slit in the nib stops before it reaches the breather hole.Weird, right?

When comparing the sizes, the TUZU is notably larger overall. Both capped and uncapped, the Platinum Prefounte and TUZU are similar in overall length but the TUZU is wider. Posted, the TUZU is much longer.

When comparing the overall weights, the TUZU was the heaviest at 21 gm with the converter filled. The Prefounte weighs 13 gm with a cartridge and the Pro Gear Slim weighs 20 gm with the converter filled. None are particularly heavy and considering the large overall size of the TUZU, the weight is quite minimal making it feel light in the hand.

In writing:

I tested the FINE nib which is consistent with my preferences for Sailor pens in general. The nib is fine and has a similar bit of feedback on Tomoe River paper that the Pro Gear Slim has…. but it’s different. As a steel nib, it just feels a bit more feedback-y, like a pencil. I wouldn’t necessarily go so far as to say “scratchy” just not as smooth as more expensive pens. Or as smooth as the cheaper Platinum Prefounte.

I was always a little ho-hum on the Prefounte when it was released. It’s a slightly more upscale version of the Preppy and still doesn’t ship with a converter but when put head-to-head with the TUZU in the same relative nib size, the Prefounte is considerably smoother.

And when unfairly compared with the Pro Gear Slim and it’s 14K nib, the TUZU line does not have as much character and line variation.

My final opinion:

I don’t know what I was hoping to get out of the TUZU. The aesthetic is pleasing, the color of the mint green is 100% in my wheelhouse. The pen writes adequately well. I like the snap cap and I’m delighted that Sailor includes a converter with the pen.

Do I think its worth $44 when you can get an equal- or better-performing budget pen from Pilot (in the Metropolitan) or Platinum (with the Preppy or Prefounte)? Not really. If you’re looking for an entry level fountain pen, there are a lot of other options in a similar price point or lower — even the Lamy Safari is less expensive. And if you’re hoping to capture the magic of Sailor’s higher end pens in a cheaper model, this is still not it, IMHO.

Were you thinking about purchasing one? Do you still want to try one?

DISCLAIMER:  Some items included in this review were purchased with funds from our amazing Patrons. You can help support this blog by joining our Patreon. Please see the About page for more details.

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9 comments / Add your comment below

  1. Overall, your take seems reasonable. I’m not sure that I’d put the Metropolitan, with its infamous squeeze converter, necessarily in the same boat as the Tuzu or even the Prefounte. I had a Metropolitan once, when I was still figuring out what I liked (full disclosure, I still am!)

    If that had been my first pen instead of the Safari and Sport that the reddit community so wisely steered me to, things might have turned out differently.

    I’m not trying to hate on that particular pen, and certainly not on Pilot in general, but I felt like the Platinum line was a much more fair comparison, even with the price difference.

    1. I forgot about the squeeze converter. I always advise people to upgrade the converter to the piston model for the metropolitan which puts it closer in line price wise to the TUZU.

  2. Great review!
    I’ve definitely been curious about the TUZU, but I wasn’t sure if it would warrant the price tag. Especially because I have quite a standard grip and angle of writing, so the gimmick of the adjustable grip isn’t something that particularly appeals to me, especially if you have to take the whole pen apart to adjust it. It’s a nice looking pen though, but not one I’ll probably be rushing out to get.

  3. I love my Prefounte pens, so much so that I have every color now. I agree that they are amazingly smooth, and at that price point, very much my jam.

  4. I was curious about it, that is until I read that it’s a snap cap. Snap caps are usually poor at sealing the nib away from air flow. As I keep a lot of pens inked at one time, not all of them are used daily, so great sealing caps are essential for me.

    Unless there is a mechanism in the cap that creates a seal like Platinum uses in most of their pens?

    1. It’s a pretty snug cap but it will probably require some time to determine how well it keeps the pen sealed.

    2. The snap cap actually seals incredibly well. I don’t wipe the nib off after filling the Tuzu with ink (currently Diamine Ancient Copper), and while writing those little spots on the nib dry – but cap on, the moisture is retained – so much so that when I take off the cap, those dry spots are now wet again. I thought I was seeing things, but no. The cap seals VERY well.

      I absolutely love the Tuzu. Filling the pen by nib is great too – I love how it was designed.

  5. This looks like it would be an ok pen in the $15-25 range. The adjustable grip is a nice idea, but doesn’t seem all that different from an adjustable nib in terms of what it does for the writing experience and that has been done before (first by Parker and currently by Stabilo (on a $10 school pen)).

  6. This looks like it would be an ok pen in the $15-25 range. The adjustable grip is a nice idea, but doesn’t seem all that different from an adjustable nib in terms of what it does for the writing experience and that has been done before (first by Parker and currently by Stabilo (on a $10 school pen)).

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