We spoke about filling systems before. That generated a bit of discussion, always a good thing. Many people find that they start out using one nib type, then move on to another and after a while try something else. Others remain faithful to their original choice for ever.

I started out using flex. I loved the line variation and it made my writing look good. It covered up my somewhat casual approach to letter formation. Also, using a flexible nib well is a kind of skill that is almost a sport. For a long time I had a flexible stub and that added another element to the fun.

Then I decided that I was making life too easy for myself. I should try to improve my writing and use a fine nib which shows no mercy. If your Cs look like Es and your Ss are a sloppy curl, then it’s going to show with a fine nib. My writing hasn’t improved a whit but I love that fine line.

That’s not all of the story, of course. I handle hundreds of pens in a year and I write-test every one. There are several other nib types that I like. A fine or medium stub is a real pleasure for me. You get some pretty line variation without the care you have to take with a flex nib. Oblique stubs are an especial delight for me and I think that one of these days I’m going to settle down with a good Swan flex oblique stub. I’ve come across a few over the years and I kick myself for having sold them. Another one will come my way some day I’m sure.

Plain, ordinary medium nibs don’t appeal to me. Most of them seem to lack any kind of character. I’d be as well writing with a gel pen. I appreciate that many of them are dependable but they’re not for me. I’ve had fun with broad, wet nibs. If I was producing, say, a hand-written poster, I would want one of them. For everyday writing they’re too bold, demanding expensive paper to avoid feathering and show-through, and not giving many mpg with the ink.

Italic nibs are very popular and I’ve had many. If you’re a serious calligrapher you will need them. I enjoy playing with them. I have a Sheaffer Calligraphy Pen on my desk right now and I use it as a sort of signature pen sometimes but really I don’t have a use for such things. They are little more than toys for me.

There are other sorts of nibs. I’ve had various ones that announce themselves to be music nibs. Most had two slits. Some were flexible, others were nails. I can’t read music, never mind write it so I passed them on quite quickly.

I hear people discussing signature nibs but I don’t know what they are. Then there are those Japanese/Chinese nibs with a bend at the tip that allow you to vary the thickness of the line by changing the angle of the pen. There are probably quite a few others that I can’t bring to mind right now.

What about the rest of you? Do you have a nib preference or do you write with whatever comes to hand? As your preference changed over time? Do tell

9 thoughts on “Nibs

  1. Signature nibs I do not know, but do you mean SIG nibs? Stub Italic Gradient? Those are what the name tries to convey, between a stub and an italic, the angle you hold it at influence the amount of line variation.

    With nibs I find it fascinating how different every nib is, and even the same nib likes you some days and others it does not cooperate. (I do know that it is then not the nib but my motion control, but still … 😉

    Every nib and every pen and the way you hold it, the size, the girth, it all influences the writing experience, not to mention paper and ink, and the fact that these little and oftentimes unassuming tools can offer so much tactile experience, sensation, possibilities are amazing. Add to that their beauty, craftsmanship, memories of when you used it (important exams, signing contracts) … I do love my fountain pens!

  2. I don’t have the handwriting to take advantage of flex nibs, nor do I care to change it. This works out well for my pocketbook because anything “flex” seems to push a pen far beyond a reasonable price range these days. They sure are beautiful nibs, though.

    My favorite nibs are vintage Sheaffer Triumphs. They’re super-reliable, and there’s something about their consistent smoothness that appeals to me. Sheaffer offered these points in a menagerie of sizes and grinds, and it’s been fun collecting a variety of Triumph nibs to see how they differ. A certain model of Touchdown TM Valiant has my Absolute Favorite Nib — a fine point with something close to an architect grind.

    One thing I love about fountain pens is that there’s a nib out there for everyone.

  3. I can hear people saying – “well, how can he comment; admits to not even writing” – mostly true, but I doodle you know ……….. when I’m dip testing, over and over I write ….. ‘Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of the party’ or ‘the quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog’.
    I also write out my favourite poetry – it’s a good way of helping to memorize some of those wonderful purple passages.

    But what is profound I think is Deb’s comment, when speaking of using a fine nib, that “writing hasn’t improved a whit” – and that’s true, sadly. Now matter how I try on these doodling occasions, I can never produce an even, symmetric beautiful hand – it always falls back to looking like my same poorly formed style. I’m convinced the reason is the need, over so many decades, for quick note taking – the lack of luxury of relaxed writing – that kills that part of the brain that might have been keen to write with beauty. So using a fine nib now, for me, is pointless (no pun intended) – we spend so much of our adult lives with a need to simply get thoughts down on paper quickly, that the idea of writing artistically and with style, doesn’t really get a look in now.
    Like many of us, I’m hooked on flex nibs – I have a g.f. Waterman from the late ’20s, most of the clip is broken away, but with a nib to die for – and I use it occasionally just to remind myself that these flex jobs can make even a muppet produce something attractive.

    Many moons back I tried my hand at calligraphy, and drooled over such things as Carolingian miniscule and gothic black lettering, but they’re not really practicable, unless we devote serious time to them. So maybe the answer is to just stick to one thing and be really good at it.
    On the other hand maybe folks who crave am artistic stylized hand, are simply narcissistic.
    (only joking folks:-)) ……….. write with whatever makes you happy.

    1. Many years ago, when I was still using flex nibs, I determined to improve my writing which had deteriorated in the same way yours had, and for the same reason. I worked at it for a few weeks and it got much better – not fancy but legible. I have managed to retain that but the fine shows up my remaining failings. I don’t mind. I love the fine line.

  4. I’ve got one of those ‘music nibs’ on a cheap Osmiroid. It is 3 mm wide. Great fun to write with but I wouldn’t want to write a whole letter with it!

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