I’ve wondered about the Platinum 3776 series for a while. I hear great things about how they write, and they have a specific draw for me in particular – the ‘slip’n’seal’ cap that prevents ink drying out. This allows you to use pigmented inks with reduced risk of destroying your pen if you leave it too long. According to Platinum, you can leave your pen with ink in for over a year and it won’t dry up (needless to say, I doubt anyone other than Platinum has tested this).*
Why is pigmented ink so important, you ask? Well, it’s permanent. Really, really permanent. Waterproof, lightproof, age-proof – it will generally outlast the paper it’s written on, and as someone who may (but hopefully won’t!) need to rely on their notes in court years in the future, that is a rather attractive prospect. The majority of fountain pen inks are profoundly un-waterproof, so you can understand the allure.
The problem with the Century 3776 line is that they are heart-achingly boring to look at.Ever seen a pen that looks like that? Yup, me too, and so has everyone else in the world. It stands out like a tree in the forest. Also, I’m not a big fan of gold. That’s why, when Platinum released a different version, I paid attention.
The Sai is named after one of the five lakes around Mt Fuji (whose height in metres lends the 3776 its name). This lake is, apparently, renowned for its clear waters and as a result the pen it inspired is transparent, with some subtle facets on the inside of the barrel to create a rippling effect as the pen moves. It is otherwise completely unadorned – rhodium plating quells the brash gold of the traditional model. I gazed upon it awhile, decided that it was the most interesting #3776 I was ever going to get my hands on, and bought it at a fairly hefty discount from Cult Pens (no affiliation, and they are excellent).
It still wasn’t a cheap pen, and you can tell the instant the nib hits the page. This pen blows pretty much everything else I’ve used away. It writes beautifully, smoothly, silkily – it outclasses the Levenger L-tech and it cheats less than the Lamy 2000 (which lays down so much ink it couldn’t be rough if it tried). The nib is a genuine pleasure to use, slightly springy, and elegant to look at, too. I’ve had the odd (very rare) dry start using Platinum’s carbon ink (out of the enclosed cartridge) but I’m not experienced enough using particle-based ink to know if that’s expected or not.
The pen is light and short enough that I wouldn’t want to use it without posting the cap, although people with smaller hands may disagree. It is also a shame that you can’t fill the whole barrel with ink and watch it splash about – you can see above that the clear effect is spoiled somewhat by the cartridge, although it looks better with the converter. The Platinum converter is usually gold but the one included with the Sai is silver, which is a nice touch. I’ve used Platinum converters before and they are well-made, which reduces the sting of their proprietary design.
There are a couple of drawbacks of the Sai, and these are predominantly due to it’s transparency. The pigment ink, once dry, is difficult to remove and although I’ve never had any flow issues with the Sai over the past few months, you do get inksplotch on the inside of the cap and in the cap threads. These are very difficult to remove (although it’s possible) and detract from the clean look of the pen. I’ve also had a leak into the barrel from the converter (water-based ink, thankfully) and so I’m not sure that I’d dare use pigment ink in the converter for fear of ruining the pen. That leaves cartridges, which you need to replace and go against the ideal of a no-rubbish writing experience. Given my time (and an infinite amount of money) again, I would probably opt for the Briar Shell wooden version (opaque = no issues with inksplotch or leakage showing up) but the cost of it is so prohibitive that I suspect that I’ll never realise that particular idea.
Overall, though, the #3776 is far and away the smoothest pen I have ever used. The boring versions can be had for about £60 off eBay (imported from Japan), and the quality of the instrument you get is outstanding. A firm favourite of mine, which in clear form just needs a little more care than most (but if opaque would give you no issues whatsoever).
*Pigmented ink contains very small pigment particles in suspension (like paint). If it dries in a pen, it is near-impossible to remove and often spells the end of that particular instrument.