Titanium nibs always feel like such an exotic concept to me, even if they aren’t that difficult to get ahold of. Most pens on the market come with either a steel or a gold nib. Occasionally that nib will be plated with another metal to change its color, but for the most part steel or gold are your choices for nib materials. But then there are those titanium nibs, lurking in the margins, tempting people who like trying new things. Still, a titanium nib upgrade on a steel pen will often run $50~$60, which can be a lot of money to spend on top of the cost of the pen itself. The pen we are looking at today, the Airmail 71JTi, is a high capacity eyedropper filler with an ebonite feed that also comes with a titanium nib already installed (and adjusted, more on that later) for $55.
The Airmail Pen Company, which also releases pens under the name Wality, is an Indian pen manufacturer that has been in business for almost 70 years now. They manufacture a number of pen models, including multiple variations within the 71 line of which today’s pen is a part. This variation, the 71JTi, has a transparent barrel, the aforementioned titanium nib, and an ebonite feed. The ebonite feed has a breather tube going down in to the barrel, similar to what I’ve seen before in some of Noodler’s high capacity eyedropper pens. Unfortunately this tube isn’t particularly easy to photograph once the pen has been inked, but the fact that it fills up with ink is a sign that it is working.
I mentioned before that the nibs on these pens are professionally adjusted. This pen was provided to me for review by Kirk Speer, the owner and proprietor of PenRealm.com, who can be found elsewhere online under the aliases Nibwolf or /u/loverslanders. In addition to selling pens, ink, and other stationery supplies, Kirk is also a skilled in nib work and pen repair. When you purchase a pen from Pen Realm you have the option of paying extra for one of the various grinds that they offer. You can also choose to have Kirk tune your nib before it ships. For these titanium nibs in particular, he told me that he always tunes them all by default, because titanium can be a tricky material to work with, and he and Airmail both want to be sure that everyone who buys the pen has a great experience right out of the box. I will say, I own two other titanium nibs and this one definitely feels smoother than either of the other two, while still having the softness and feedback that are the trademarks of titanium nibs (be careful seeing how soft a titanium nib is, though, because they will spring more easily than a steel or gold nib.)
The “J” in 71JTi stands for “jumbo”, and it is an apt descriptor of this pen. It is roughly the same size as the Opus 88 Koloro Demo, another massive eyedropper, however whereas the Opus is mostly a straight cylinder, the Airmail has a bit of curvature to it. Both pens have a similar ink capacity, with the Airmail holding around 2.2 ml, and the Opus holding around 2 ml. The Airmail also posts (the Opus does not) for a truely massive pen experience. Further comparing these two it should be said that the Airmail lacks the shut-off valve found in the Opus pens, which I’ve really grown quite fond of, but considering the fact that the Airmail is half the price of the Opus, and comes with a Titanium nib rather than steel, that seems like an equitable trade-off.
In addition to the pen, Kirk also sent me a matching shade of ink called Dublin Green, made by Colorado ink manufacturer Backpack.ink. Pen Realm, which is also based out of Colorado, is current the exclusive retailer for Backpack.ink. I was really impressed with this ink. It is $6 for a super practical 20 ml bottle. The ink goes down wet, but dries fairly quickly (even a dollop I accidentally spilled on a nearby pad of paper was dry to the touch not long after.) Looking at the bottles I really wish that they stacked, but if that’s my biggest complaint about the product, I’d say that they are doing something right. The four colors available are Dublin Green, Athens Blue, Moscow Red, and London Navy.
Overall, I was impressed with the Airmail 71JTi. The Indian made pens that I’ve used previously have been Noodler’s pens, which are billed as being pens for tinkerers, and often require one to fiddle with different parts, adjust your own nib, heat set your feed, etc. the experience with this pen, with its professionally adjusted and tested nib, was completely different.
Some other reviewers online have expressed concerns about the build quality of the caps on 71JT models (a similar model with a steel nib rather than titanium), specifically that the band around the cap was free-spinning. I did not find any issue with that on this pen. I do not know if that is because of an improvement in Airmail’s manufacturing, or if it is because there is some one checking these pens before they go out.
As I mentioned before, this pen doesn’t have the shut-off valve that I’ve grown accustomed to in certain other eyedropper-fillers, which means that it has the potential to burp up ink. In the two weeks that I tested this pen I jostled it around in my pockets and I also left it for days straight upside down in a GoodMadeBetter Penwell, and I found no abnormal amounts of ink leaking out into the cap from my testing. I don’t know enough about engineering to tell you if the breather tube might help in this regard, or if it is just an efficiently designed feed, but regardless, I felt confident uncapping this pen anywhere by the end of my time testing it, without fear that ink would pour out of the cap.
For $55, I think that this pen is a great deal. The $50~$100 price range can be an odd one, where many pens feel like they could have been priced a little lower if they hadn’t been concerned about differentiating from other less expensive pens. In this market, the 71JTi shows its value with its titanium nib.
The pen and ink above were both provided to us by PenRealm.com in exchange for an honest review.