Which Nib?

For many years I used nothing other than pens with flexible nibs. It might be worth saying that in those days I didn’t write several pages at a sitting and when I began to do so I found my flexible nibs less than convenient. I wanted to write fast, as the thoughts flowed, and flexible nibs were too demanding for that. I also relished the challenge of writing well – or at least legibly – at speed. Experimentation showed me that I do best with a firm fine nib. I don’t have much use for medium or broad firms. I can imagine work for which these nibs would be good but they don’t relate to the way I work.

I do still enjoy writing with flexible nibs and I keep one or two though I have no practical use for them. I also like stubs which can confer a different type of line variation. Some of the old manufacturers made wonderful stubs, particularly Swan, Conway Stewart and Onoto. At the moment I have a superb example engraved with the name of Philips, Oxford, the last official service agent for Swans and Onotos. Slant a stub a little and you have an oblique. It is generally said that obliques were supplied for those who habitually turn their pens. While I’m sure that is so, I habitually turn my pens with oblique nibs so that I can enjoy them – not the other way round.

A good, sharp italic can make for wonderful lettering and I enjoy their unforgiving accuracy, but again, that’s a nib style I have no practical use for. The sharpness of its tip precludes fast writing, for me, at least. There are italic nibs with rounded corners these days, called cursive italic nibs. Aren’t they just stubs?

There are other more unusual nibs like the architect and the Japanese fude nib and perhaps a few others I haven’t heard of – oh, and there’s a nib that’s a stub or italic turned through 90° for writing in other scripts such as Persian.

Coming back to my everyday writing with firm fine nibs there are a few manufacturers whose nibs suit me best. I love Newhaven Parkers. They are just about the ideal nib for me. I have several fine-nib Duofolds and I’m writing this with a 45. It’s not the finest nib I have but within the range I like and totally reliable. Modern Japanese nibs are quite similar to English Duofolds, I find, or at least some of the Pilots and Platinums are.

There are so many nibs to enjoy, modern and vintage. We are very well served.


My assistant likes to sit out on the window ledge and enjoy the sun.  She really isn’t much help.


6 thoughts on “Which Nib?

  1. We are in agreement again: Newhaven nibs are my favourites as well. The pens may seem boring to some, but the nibs certainly aren’t. They are the only fine nibs I enjoy using.

    I can’t use flexible nibs, as I’m a lefty over-writer. But I do enjoy my vintage stubs and German double-broads, which give nice line variation. I bought an architect nib on a whim, for my Indian ebonite pens, and I do enjoy it a lot.

  2. I like any nib that makes my awful handwriting look better. I have tried a few nibs in my time, but particularly like cursive italics. However, in my experience any firm Pelikan medium nib is hard to beat. They just seem to suit my hand best.

  3. I’ve something like seventy of these Newhaven aeros – in the green, blue, black and burgundy colours, spread across the entire model range, and though I write very infrequently, their mostly firm nibs means they wouldn’t be my first choice for a letter. I just can’t get away from a secret admiration and love for some flex, and yes, I’m one of the folk who has described them as ‘boring’:-)
    Some though have points that are quite wide and look as though they’d make for a good hand, but can’t deny their one big plus, which is the generous amount of tipping. There are many other British made pens from the ’40s to ’50s that – by the time I find them – have scratchy nibs because the iridium or whatever, is worn – well, either that or they didn’t have much to start with, and I often suspect the latter.
    So I can appreciate people’s comments that they favour these Newhaven aeros for writing, and find them v.g. value for money as a pen for daily use – certainly there are usually several models available on Deborah’s sales site – and you won’t find a better value for money pen.

    1. Thank you for your kind comments.

      On the subject of flexible nibs: I could write a letter with a flex nib but that’s about all I could do. I write a lot and I write fast. I need a fine, precise nib to do that and fine Newhaven nibs are among the best for that.

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