Introduction:

Calligraphy

Fountain pens are frequently used for calligraphy, whether by advanced professionals or beginning amateurs. The nib customizations that we perform to increase line-width variation can make your quality fountain pen into a highly suitable instrument for creating calligraphic script.

In general, the line-width variation required for creating calligraphy with a fountain pen is achieved by modifying the nib through two distinct methods. A regrind to a sharper italic point results in a pen that will give broad down-strokes and narrow cross-strokes, making this an appropriate tool for creating traditional italic style calligraphy.

Adding flex to a nib, on the other hand, allows the user to achieve line-width variation by varying the pressure used while writing - when combined with a regrind to needlepoint, this modification is well-suited for Spencerian copperplate and similar styles.

Here are examples of firm formal italic nibs for calligraphy.

Here is the uncustomized Pelikan triple-broad nib

Here is the Pelikan triple-broad customized to a crisp cursive italic.

Here are more writing samples of firm formal italic nibs customized at the Nib works.

These beautiful writing samples were provided by Mandy Young, a freelance calligrapher in Lincoln, MA. She also teaches various courses in lettering at De Cordova Museum School. 

We make extra flexible nibs in all widths and most styles. Most 14k nibs are good candidates for this customization. This is done with a Namiki Falcon fine with added flex. We used Pilot's Irishizuku Moonlight ink.

A customer penned this with one of our Namiki Falcons modified to our Spencerian approximation. Notice how, using greater pressure, the line width changes on the downstroke. These tips are challenging to use. Nakaya are the only other pens, besides the Pilot Custom 912 with FA nib and the Pilot Falcon that are appropriate for the Spencerian approximation.

Here is a sample of writing by one of our customers, Edward Weyman, who is using a vintage dip pen which we re-tipped.

Tipping Size Comparison

Guide To Nib Tipping Sizes

"Tipping Size" is a term that refers to the actual writing surface provided by any given nib--the size of the part of the nib that actually comes into contact with the paper. Not surprisingly, nibs on the finer side of the spectrum have the smallest tipping sizes, while broads, stubs, and the like offer the largest--but that still isn't the whole story.

Tipping Sizes On New Nibs Can Vary - Even With Identical Nibs From The Same Manufacturer

The tipping sizes on standard nibs differ from company to company, and even from country to country. The Japanese standard, for instance, is smaller than that used by Italian and German manufacturers. The American company, Bexley, uses a German nib. Pelikan, meanwhile, offers the greatest selection and ease of installation.

The numbers below were acquired through our own micrometer measurements of the tips themselves; they are not intended to specify the written line-widths each would produce, since these will vary due to writing pressure, ink, and paper choice. We have also found that there can often be variations in tipping size between individual, identically-labeled nibs made by the same manufacturer--but the chart below still provides a useful reference point.

Calligraphy Nibs and Vintage Nibs

To avoid any potential confusion, it should be noted that calligraphy nibs use a different and much broader scale than fountain pen nibs. A fountain pen fine, for instance, is much less than half the width of a calligraphy fine.

Most vintage pens, on the other hand, are found with extra-fine and fine nibs. Medium nibs are less common in these pens, and broads are rare. Vintage fine and extra-fine tips are even finer than most points made today.

Read More

Left Handed

There is a common misconception that fountain pens are problematic for left-handers. The truth is that lefties love fountain pens. In fact, left-handers tend to own fountain pens at a higher rate than their percentage of the population might otherwise indicate.

In a bygone era when fountain pens were often equipped with flexible or soft nibs, there were some challenges for lefties who push, rather than pull, a pen across the page. If those tines separate in the wrong direction, ink goes sputtering across the paper, onto the desktop, and anything else within range. Modern fountain pens have solved that problem by providing rigid nibs that write smoother for all kinds of writers, lefties included. It sounds counter-intuitive, that a soft nib is scratchier than rigid one. However, the stiff tines of a rigid nib don't separate easily as pressure is applied, making for an overall smoother writing experience.

There is still one significant issue facing most left-handed fountain pen users. When you're writing from left to right, such as with the English language, left-handed writers need to avoid dragging their hand through the drying ink. Lefties are clever and tend to avoid this instinctively. It doesn't even cross their mind that they've developed a strategy to get along in a predominantly right-handed world.

The photos below illustrate some of the various writing styles utilized by left-handers. There are as many writing styles as there are left-handed writers, but one of the photos should come close. Knowing what kind of left-handed writer you are helps us when tuning your pen. With a few simple adjustments, most pen and nib combinations can be made to write well. However, if you have an unusual grip or paper angle, please let us know. We'll do our best to accommodate you.

#1: Michael McCarthy is an underwriter. His writing line slopes downward at about 20 degrees. He is holding his pen at a right angle to the writing line.He writes neutrally, neither pushing nor pulling the pen.

#2: Rick Propas is an over-writer, sometimes called a 'hooker'.  His line rises at about 15 degrees. He writes neutrally, neither pushing or pulling the pen.

#3: Jimmy Yu is an over-writer, holding the point of his pen toward himself and the writing line rising at about 40 degrees. He writes neutrally, neither pushing nor pulling the pen.

#4: Linda Avanzino is an over-writer, She writes vertically, away from herself at about 90 degrees. She pushes the nib across the page.

#5: Pat Ackor is an underwriter, Her writing line slopes downward at about 45 degrees. She writes neutrally, neither pushing nor pulling the pen.

#6: Jose Suro is an side-writer, who keeps his paper vertically in front of him. He pushes the nib almost directly across the page.

#7: Steve Barnett gives a slightly different twist to hisside-writer style. You can see that he rotates his pen so that the imprint of the nib is facing the top right corner of the page. He pushes the nib across the page.

#8: Emily Eldredge is a side-writer. She is a pusher with her line falling at about 25 degrees. She pushes the nib across the page.

Left-handed Calligraphy
By Vance Studley

Left-handers are just as likely to take up calligraphy as right-handers, but virtually all the instruction books are written with the right-handed practitioner in mind. Left-handed Calligraphy, by noted calligrapher and educator Vance Studley, presents an introduction to calligraphic scripts, including Italic and Cursive, with an emphasis on positioning and layouts that will make sense for southpaws. The little arrows all go in the proper direction!

References to the history of calligraphic script and the usual writing techniques of left-handers make this a fascinating book even for those not practicing calligraphy themselves. And for those lefties who are getting their first oblique or cursive italic customization, this book will be invaluable

Sailor pigment inks, also known as Nano inks, are fast drying. This makes them a good choice for lefties. Kiwa-Guro Black and Sei-Boku Blue-Black are available in both a pack of twelve cartridges and bottles.

 

What is a Fountain Pen?

How is it different from a dip pen or ballpoint?

Origins Of The Fountain Pen

 

A fountain pen is a writing instrument equipped with a metal nib (usually solid gold) that utilizes a cartridge, converter, or other internal reservoir in order to provide a continuous and refillable ink supply. Fountain pens were introduced in the late 19th century and largely replaced the earlier dip pen, which had evolved from feather pens and which required dipping in an ink well every few lines in order to maintain an ink supply.

Golden Age and After

Portability and ease of use led to fountain pens being the most popular writing instrument throughout the first half of the 20th century. In the post World War II era, cheaper ballpoint and later rollerball pens, which use a metal ball rather than pointed nib as their writing surface, became predominant. But ballpoints and rollerballs, despite their lower cost and mass production, never were able to equal fountain pens in terms of expressiveness and potential for customization. 

 

      

 

The Contemporary Renaissance 

Fountain pens never lost their allure in Europe and Asia, and in the late 1970's a renaissance of interest began in the United States as well, leading to what many now consider a new golden age of fountain pens that rivals that of the 1920's and 30's. From everyday writing instruments to one of a kind works of hand-crafted art, fountain pens remain an essential writing tool for many business professionals, calligraphers, artists, and pen enthusiasts. Or just anybody who likes to write with a pen on paper.

 

Filling Options

Cartridge-Converter Systems

Many contemporary fountain pens use a cartridge-converter system, meaning they can use either disposable ink cartridges or a removable ink reservoir known as a converter. These systems are often proprietary to their own brand and are not interchangeable with pens from other manufacturers. Consult our Ink Cartridges page for more information. Cartridges are intended for one-time use only and should be discarded when empty, making them convenient for travel but restrictive in color options.

Converters, on the other hand, are reusable and allow for filling with Bottled Fountain Pen Ink from any manufacturer, giving you a much wider range of color choices. They are proprietary, like cartridges, so you do need to have the correct converter for your pen. Visit our Converters page for specifics. Converters cannot be filled until installed in the pen and then submerged in the ink bottle.

Converters are also very useful for cleaning your fountain pen even if you only use cartridges for your ink supply. Take a look at our Pen Maintenance page for more details.

You can see all the cartridge-converter pens we offer

Piston-Fillers

A piston-filler has a built-in reservoir that allows the pen to be filled by dipping the nib and gripping section directly into an ink bottle while twisting the piston knob at the end of the barrel. Piston-fillers often have a larger ink capacity than cartridge-converter pens, leading to their popularity among many fountain pen enthusiasts.

You can see all of our piston-fillers .

Eyedropper Fillers

There are some contemporary eyedropper filled fountain pens. The entire barrel seals and serves as an ink reservoir and is filled using an eyedropper or syringe. This is a potentially messy prospect, but does offer a tremendous ink capacity.

You can see all of our eyedropper pens .

Other Filling Systems

There are other systems typically found in vintage fountain pens such asButton,Crescent, andLever fillers.

Need More Information?

Feel free to contact us at (323) 655-2641 or info@nibs.com if you are not sure which filling system you should want or need, or if you are not sure what kind of system is used by the pen or pens you are interested in.

 

Kinds of Ink

Ink Options

Whether you own a cartridge-converter or piston filled pen, there are lots of options for ink. The only hard and fast rule that we have is make sure your ink is traditionally formulated for a fountain pen. Any ink we sell is one that someone here in the shop has put in a pen and tried. All of our Cartridges or Bottled inks should be safe with your pen. Do keep in mind that ink cartridges may be proprietary.
No matter what ink you choose, we do recommend regular cleaning of your pen. This is especially true if you use pigmented or carbon inks, which do have more potential for causing clogged feeds if neglected.

Inks To Avoid

Inks not clearly identified as suitable for fountain pen use should always be avoided. This includes, but is not limited to, India ink and other artists or drawing inks.

There are two current fountain pen ink brands, neither of which we choose to sell, which have been the subject of much debate in the fountain pen world. These are non-traditionally formulated inks, and while many users are very devoted to them and report no difficulties, many other users report problems with leaking, clogging, and poor ink flow after using these non-traditional inks.

Best Choices

Particularly if you are new to fountain pens, our suggestion is to stick with reliable, traditionally-formulated inks. And with the numerous exotic ink hues available there is certainly no need to sacrifice color or variety while sticking with an ink that won't harm your pen. We include a converter with all of our cartridge-converter pens to make sure you're ready to go with the Bottled ink of your choice.

Ink Cartriges usage

International Or Proprietary?

While the bottled fountain pen inks we offer can be used in any fountain pen having a converter, piston-fill, or other reservoir system (that includes every pen we sell new), cartridge inks fall into two broad categories--international and proprietary.

International Cartridges

J. Herbin and Pelikan cartridges are international and can be used in a wide variety of fountain pen brands, including Eboya, Montegrappa, and Waterman. Note that Pelikan large size cartridges have an ink capacity rivaling that of many piston-fillers. Below is a list of some popular pen models which utilize international size cartridges in their cartridge-converter pens:
Acme, Bexley, Caran d'Ache, Cartier, Conklin, Conway Stewart, Danitrio, Delta, David Oscarson, Eboya, Edison, Faber Castell, Kaweco, Krone, Libelle,  Lominchay, Marlen, Montblanc, Montegrappa, Monteverde, Omas, Pelikan, Reform, Retro 51, Rotring, Schmidt, Sensa, S.T. Dupont, Stipula, Taccia, TWSBI, Visconti, Waterman, Yard O Led

Proprietary Brands

The ink cartridges from Aurora, Platinum, Pilot-Namiki, and Sailor are proprietary, usable only in their respective pen brands--note that Platinum makes the ink cartridges used in Nakaya pens. In turn, pens from these manufacturers can only utilize their own proprietary ink cartridges--with the exception of Nakaya/Platinum, which offers an adapter (available from us at a nominal cost) allowing their pens to use international cartridges in addition to the Platinum brand. Parker pens also use the same size nibs and converters as Aurora.

Choosing Pen:

What Should I know abouth test writting pens at pen store

In most retail stores, pens are sold out of the box without any examination or testing. Even some of the best-known fountain pen companies are known to sometimes (or even frequently) ship pens with poorly aligned nibs, ragged tipping points, and other annoying but easily corrected flaws. Small defects like this can make what would otherwise be a wonderful everyday writing instrument into nothing but a costly desk ornament.

Here at Classic Fountain Pens, every pen and nib unit we sell is carefully examined, tested, and then optimized for the individual writing characteristics of the end user before it is shipped. We take care to make sure that the pens you buy will not just be beautiful to look at, but will also serve you for durable day after day use.

Given all this, the best use of a pen store is to judge the looks, feel, and balance of a pen, not the way it writes. Many demo pens have been written with by any number of prospective customers, and it takes only one ham-handed individual to change the feel and performance of a pen and nib for everyone that comes after.

Another very important factor in the choice of any fountain pen is ink flow, but if the store only allows you to dip a pen to test-write it, be aware that the ink flow may be heavier than if you had filled the pen and then blotted the feed. The best test of the way a pen writes is filling it with ink, blotting it, and then writing for several sentences. Only then will you have a feel for the factory-set ink flow.

Here at Classic Fountain Pens, we're able to modify ink flow to your own requirements, as well as adjusting the nib for the degree of pressure you normally use when writing. Tuning a pen to the needs of the individual customer insures that your investment in a quality fountain pen will provide for an excellent writing experience far into the future

Which are the best Italian Fountain Pen?

For decades, Italian fountain pens have been known among pen aficionados for their smart styling and luxurious use of precious materials. But what are the best Italian fountain pens, and how can you figure out which is the best for you? In this brief overview, we will provide you with some thoughts on what we believe are the best Italian pens, and provide you with the information necessary for you to start your search.

While a number of Italian companies still produce their own fountain pens, here at nibs.com we have focused on three manufacturers responsible for what we believe are the most consistently exceptional and well-crafted writing instruments among them: Aurora, Montegrappa, and Visconti. Each of these three companies has own its particular style and focus and its own diversity of offerings.

Founded in 1911 and still producing pens in artisanal fashion at the original factory in Turin, Aurora has developed a reputation for pens which combine style and performance. Pen lines such as the 88, Optima, and Talentum have been in production for decades, but new materials and design nuances appear on a regular basis, giving these writing instruments an appearance both classic and contemporary. Alone among European pen makers, Aurora still creates its own solid gold nibs, and their quality, along with the ebonite hard rubber feeds they are supplied with, solidifies Aurora's position as a world class pen manufacturer.

Aurora fountain pens, such as the Talentum Large Black Rubberized model seen here, are known for their modern styling and hand-crafted nibs.

 

At Montegrappa, founded in 1912 and still located on the banks of the River Brenta near Vicenza, the emphasis is on rich colors and precious materials. Models such as the Nero Uno Linea, Miya Carbon, and Extra 1930 combine a distinctly Italian flair for luxurious styling with pens that are noted for their smooth writing qualities. Hand worked celluloid and sterling silver trim are frequently used materials in the production of these writing instruments, which were the favored tools of authors such as Ernest Hemingway and John Dos Passos.

The Miya is a typically bright and appealing Montegrappa design.

ÔĽŅ

A more recent addition to the world of quality fountain pens, Visconti was founded in Florence in 1988 and brings a unique combination of modern and classical design elements to its writing instruments. Models such as the Divina Elegance and the Medici are well-known for their distinctive designs, while the company is perhaps best known for its Homo Sapiens series, which includes two different pen models which utilize basaltic lava for the pen surface.

Like the Italian sports cars they sometimes resemble, Italian fountain pens tend to benefit from being well-tuned - the nib set up and optimization process that we offer as a free service with every purchase ensures that any pen or nib unit you purchase from us will be tuned, tested, and ready to write when you receive it. Have questions? We are here to help. Just e-mail us at info@nibs.com. 

What are factors should I consider when purchase a luxury pen?

Even in a world of smart phones, tablets, and e-readers, the popularity of luxury pens is actually on the rise. However much of your day is lived electronically and online, there is still nothing quite like the look and feel of a hand-crafted luxury pen to add a touch of elegance and authority to your everyday interactions.

For many, though, the intiial search for a luxury pen leads to a bewildering array of choices and decisions. The suggestions below will guide you through the process and provide a starting point for further exploration of the world of high quality writing instruments. If you have further questions, or would prefer personalized guidance in finding the right pen for you, just call us at (323) 655-2641, or e-mail us at info@nibs.com.

1. What Kind of Pen?

There is no better place to begin your search for the perfect luxury pen than by considering just which kind of pen you wish to have. The three basic varieties to consider are ballpoints, rollerballs, and fountain pens.

The ultimate luxury pen clearly remains the fountain pen. Utilizing a metal nib, usually made of solid gold, and containing an internal ink supply via replaceable cartridges, a refillable converter, or a built-in internal reservoir, fountain pens offer the ultimate in writing elegance and sophistication. For most luxury pen buyers, a fountain pen is the writing instrument of choice.

Many fine writing instruments can also be made available in ballpoint versions with replaceable refills. Ballpoints offer the convenience of a twist or click-top action, often making these pens a good fit for those with an active, on-the-go lifestyle. Rollerball pens offer a greater degree of smoothness on the page, and like ballpoints use disposable refills. Unlike ballpoints, most rollerball pens utilize a screw or twist-on cap.

2. Pricing and Value

Pricing for luxury fountain pens can range from the mid-$100 range for such excellent entry level pens as the Pilot Vanishing Point, Sailor Sapporo, and Platinum 3776, to literally tens of thousands of dollars for limited and one-of-a-kind writing instruments produced by companies such as Danitrio and Namiki.

Between these two extremes, a wealth of exceptional writing instruments can be found in the $500 to $2000 dollar range and up. Of particular note in this price range are the pens from Tokyo-based Nakaya, which produces hand-crafted ebonite Urushi pens starting at $500 for rollerball pens and $550 for fountain pens.

Artisanal production processes and a direct relationship with a handful of retailers worldwide allows Nakaya to offer these exceptional writing instruments at prices well below that of comparable pens from other companies. These pens are excellent daily writers, and with the addition of painted Maki-e designs and precious materials such as raden and gold dust, can often be regarded as works of art in their own right.

3. Pen Body Materials

Another factor to consider in chossing a luxury pen is the material used for the cap and barrel. While many excellent writing instruments use high quality resins, the true sign of a higher end luxury pen is the use of hand-worked materials such as ebonite hard rubber, celluloid, precious woods, or metals such as titanium and sterling silver.

Ebonite hard rubber is the classic material for quality pens, and many vintage writing instruments made from it are still in everyday usage a hundred years and more after being manufactured. Almost all Nakaya pens, as well as most Sailor King of Pen series models and the Namiki Yukari, Yukari Royale, and Emperor pens are made from ebonte hard rubber, as are the hand-crafted Maki-e pens from Danitrio.

High quality celluloid also has a long history, and remains a specialty of upscale Italian manufacturers such as Aurora, Montegrappa, and Omas. Wood body pens have their own long history, continued in series such as the Nakaya Briarwood and Sailor Precious Woods Collection. Surprisingly affordable sterling silver pens are available from Namiki and Sailor, while titanium remains a popular material in such current models as the Nakaya Writer Piccolo Titanium and Omas Arte Italiana Paragon Titanium.

4. Finish and Trim

While colored resins and paint-based lacquers remain popular in more affordable writing instruments, hand-applied finish with natural Urushi lacquer has become the standard for most Japanese luxury pens, and has frequently been adopted for use on some models by European companies such as Pelikan as well.

Urushi is a natural substance and can be used for either solid color roiro-migaki finishes or layered tame-nuri finishes. When used, as is most often the case, on an ebonite hard rubber surface, the result is a writing instrument with a uniquely warm, comfortable feel in the hand - many pen owners remark that once they have used a Urushi pen, it is the only kind of pen they wish to use.

The metal trim utilized also has an effect on the value and aesthetics of a pen - while many high quality pens use gold or rhodium plating over brass, some luxury pens will use solid sterling silver or even solid gold for the clip and banding. And while luxury fountain pens will already feature solid gold nibs, platings in rhodium, ruthenium, or rose gold are often used to match the exterior trim on the cap and barrel.

5. Special Edition, Limited Edition, and Made to Order Pens

While many luxury pens are available as standard order items, others are offered only as special or limited edition models or as one-of-a-kind bespoke ordered items. Germany-based Pelikan, for instance, is well known for limited run special edition pens such as the M800 Burnt Orange and M101N Lizard, while virtually all other manufacturers offer specially numbered limited edition pens which often become highly prized collector's items.

When even a numbered limited edition isn't special enough, Nakaya is able to produce one- of-a-kind specially designed pens unique to each customer. Nakaya can craft a pen to the individual customer's taste and needs, incorporating such elements as individualized designs and motifs and customized kanji calligraphy. For many pen aficianados, a custom Nakaya is the ultimate writing instrument.

6. Writing Quality and Customer Support and Service

Last but certainly not least is the actual writing experience afforded by the pen. This is particulary the case with fountain pens, which can offer a variety of writing experiences depending on the nib point used, as well as adjustments for ink flow, writing pressure, and angle of use.

Unfortunately, many manufacturers provide only cursory attention to this vital part of the production process, producing pens which function more as high-priced paperweights than quality writing instruments. Fortunately, here at nibs.com we are able to correct for this - unless otherwise requested, each pen we sell is inspected, tested, and optimized for the personal writing characteristics and preferences of the end user.

This process, also known as nib tuning, insures that the pens you purchase from us will not just be beautiful to look at, but will also provide a quality writing experience for years to come. Nib customizations, which can turn an ordinary fountain pen into a distinctive signature pen or calligraphy instrument, are also available from us. Extra attention to the writing process itself makes the most of the luxury pen experience.

Conclusion

While the diverse world of luxury pens may seem daunting at first, choices based on style, budget, and writing characteristics can quickly lead to a pen or pens that will bring many years of enjoyment. Still have questions? Feel free to contact us - you can reach us here by phone at (323) 655-2641, or by e-mail at info@nibs.com.

What are the best Japanese fountain pen?

Japanese fountain pens have become internationally known for combining style, value, and exceptional writing qualities. While those new to the world of quality fountain pens may be more familiar with European names such as Montblanc or Pelikan, or with classic American legacy companies such as Parker and Waterman, Japanese pen manufacturers, many in business for a hundred years or more, have along established themselves as every bit the equal of their overseas counterparts.

This attention to quality begins with the nib. With a centuries-long tradition of calligraphy and scribal art, Japanese manufacturers pay particular attention to the nib as the most important element of any fountain pen. And while almost all European manufacturers now source their nibs from outside their own company, the Japanese brands we carry -Nakaya, Platinum, Pilot-Namiki, and Sailor - all take pride in the in-house creation of their solid gold nibs.

 

Nakaya Portable in Shu

 

Pens produced include affordable entry-level models such as the Platinum 3776, Sailor Sapporo and 1911 Mid-Size, and Pilot Custom 74, Falcon Resin, and Stargazer series pens. Dependable mid-line series pens, featuring larger sizes and sometimes greater ink capacities, include the Platinum President, Sailor Pro Gear and 1911 Full-Size, and Pilot Metal Falcon. Beyond this point, precious materials and hand-painted finishes begin to take precedence. Nakaya's extraordinary hand-finished Urushi pens are made from durable hand-turned ebonite hard rubber - offerings range from solid colors to layered tame-nuri finishes to intricate Maki-e designs. Utilizing artisanal production techniques and available through only a handful of retailers worldwide, these Nakaya fountain pens offer tremendous value, as well as an exceptional focus on combining unique design with superb writing qualities.

 

Sailor Pro Gear in Black with Gold Trim

 

Urushi painting and Maki-e designs are also available in the Platinum Maki-e, Namiki Yukari, Yukari Royale, and Emperor series pens, as well as in Sailor's Limited Edition and King of Pen series writing instruments. Urushi and Maki-e are also the main focus of California-based Danitrio, a unique fusion of Asian, American, and European influences - Danitrio pens are designed in America, hand-finished in Japan, and feature high-quality European nibs.

 

Danitrio Genkai Bats by Hironobu

 

Innovation and excellence in Japanese pen manufacturing produces everything from the Pilot Vanishing Point, which matches the ease of ballpoint pens by featuring a one-click retractable nib unit, to Nakaya's natural wood Briarwood pens, to Sailor's extraordinary specialty nibs, which emulate the brush strokes of Japanese calligraphy through unique hand-crafted 21k nib units which can be seen as works of art in their own right.

 

Platinum Maki-e President

Whether you're looking for an everyday writing instrument, an exceptional gift item, or an elaborate hand-painted Maki-e pen, the Japanese brands we carry offer a wide variety of choices. And when you purchase from us here at nibs.com, you know that the pen you receive will not just be beautiful to look at, but will also be tested and tuned and ready to provide you with the best writing experience possible.

 

Pilot Custom 74 in Blue Tint

 

Feel free to browse our product pages, where you will find in-depth information and images for the many Japanese fountain pens we carry. When you're ready to order, you can order online, call us,  or order by e-mail. If you still have questions, or would simply like to be guided through the process of choosing a pen, just contact us by e-mail at info@nibs.com or by phone at (323) 655-2641. We'll be looking forward to hearing from you...

 

 

What are the great Fountain pen for under two hundred?

Many Choices Available

Many handcrafted fountain pens are works of art in their own right that can sell for hundreds or thousands of dollars. And most fountain pen aficionados will spend a little more to purchase a special pen. But you don't have to break the bank (or max out your credit card) to buy a terrific everyday writing instrument. Many high quality fountain pens with solid gold nibs are available for well under the two hundred dollar mark

Sailor and Platinum

Sailor offers some of the best values in fountain pens today - their 1911 Mid-Size and Pro Gearl Slim series pens offer terrific value along with their smooth-writing 14k nibs. And for just a little bit more, you can move up to the 1911 Full Size and Pro Gear series pens, along with the popular Realo piston-fillers. Platinum also offers great value in many of its 3776 Century series pens, as well as highly attractive Maki-e style pens which could often be mistaken for handcrafted pens costing much more.

Pilot

Every bit the equal of Sailor and Platinum in providing high quality pens at a low price, Pilot offers the Vanishing Point pens, highly popular with on-the-go professionals such as doctors and lawyers. In addition, the Falcon Resin series pens offer terrific values for those looking for a semi-flexible nib - for just a bit more, the Metal Falcon series offers these same nibs in rhodium trim and with pen bodies in a sleek metallic finish. And the affordable Custom 74 demonstrators, little cousin to the popular 823 piston-filler, offer similar value in smooth-writing stiff-nibbed pens.

Aurora, Waterman, Cross

Italian pens are more often associated with luxury than affordability, but the terrific Aurora Ipsilon De Luxe offers a 14k nib in a sleek pen that may remind some of the better known 88 and Talentum series pens. From France, the Waterman Charleston offers terrific value, as does venerable American company Cross with its Apogee Chrome and also with its colorful Botanica series, made available by us exclusively with 18k nibs. 

Need More Help?

Still looking for the affordable pen of your dreams? Just contact us at (323) 655-2641 or info@nibs.com and we'll be happy to guide you through the process of finding the right pen for you..

What are the best fountain pen?

A number of factors go into judging which are the best fountain pens, and what pen is best for each individual user. Not surprisingly, here at nibs.com we believe the nib is most important - we only sell pens by manufacturers who equip their pens with solid gold nibs, which provide the durability and exceptional writing qualities that make the purchase of a fountain pen a worthwhile investment.

Quality and design of the pen body itself is also of course extremely important. The pen manufacturers whose brands we carry--Aurora, Bexley, Danitrio, Montegrappa, Nakaya, Omas, Parker, Pelikan, Pilot, Namiki, Platinum, Sailor, Sheaffer, and Waterman--are known for distinctive aesthetics, excellent ergonomic design, and for consistently high standards in terms of quality control and support.

Here at nibs.com, we're able to provide the added value of the inspection, testing, and tuning process we conduct on each pen before it is shipped - see our nib set-up and optimization page for more details. We're also able to provide nib customizations that can address the special needs of artists, calligraphers, or just anyone who has very particular and personalized needs from their writing instrument.

As the end user, ask yourself whether you're looking for a pen that will write as smoothly as possible with a consistent, unvarying line, or whether you're willing to sacrifice some smoothness for a stock or customized nib that will provide line-width variation and a more distinctive, personalized result. There are also some customizations, such as a regrind to Stub, that can often provide a happy median between the two approaches.

Once you've decided what you want to end up with on the page, the next step in finding the best fountain pen for yourself will be deciding on which brand and model. At that point, the variables are aesthetics, feel, and pricing. Browse our new pen offerings to find the pen brands whose designs appeal to you most. Most pen bodies are made from resin, wood, celluloid, or ebonite - you may find that a particular material is most appealing to you.

Any pen we offer can be made to write superbly, but pricing will vary depending on the materials used and whether the pen is produced in an artisanal or more standardized process. Our sale prices for quality fountain pens can range from as low as $140 for pens produced using high quality resins (see Great Pens For Under $200 for some suggestions), to literally thousands or tens of thousand dollars for the most elaborate hand-painted Maki-e pens from companies such as Danitrio, Nakaya, and Pilot-Namiki.

Once you've decided on a pen manufacturer with a reputation for quality, and also on a retailer who will provide the testing, optimization, and after-sales support that will ensure you get the most productive usage out of your pen, the question of just what are the best fountain pens really becomes, what will be the best fountain pen for you? We're here to help - feel free to browse our pages, and if you have questions or would like to be guided through the process of choosing a pen, feel free to contact us by e-mail at info@nibs.com or by phone at (323) 655-2641.

What should I know before buying my first pen?

The most important thing to know is that a fountain pen is not a rollerball or ballpoint. Each of those instruments has a round ball at the end which revolves within its housing, creating a smooth feel across the paper. No particular writing characteristics or specifications are needed to make a rollerball or ballpoint write smoothly.

When ink dries on the surface of the rollerball, or ballpoint, most users bear down heavily to get it to write again. The ball can usually withstand this kind of pressure. The tines of many fountain pens cannot. The tines are very sensitive to pressure and bearing down on them can create an unsatisfactory fountain pen experience.

A fountain pen requires routine maintenance (more maintenance if thick, or permanent/waterproof ink, is used) no matter what ink is chosen. For maintenance tips, please see the Pen Maintenance Page of our web site. As we say elsewhere on our web site, and in these FAQ pages, not all fountain pens will write well with the same ink; you may need to experiment until you find one that both you and your pen like. Just please be sure to clean the pen thoroughly between changes.

If you are neither able, nor willing, to put up with slight inconveniences such as minor leaks, or having to clean and maintain the instrument in order to keep it functioning well, you should probably stick with a rollerball or ballpoint pen.

What are the parts of a nib?

What are some things I should do once I have bought my pen?

Give your fountain pen a chance to write as well as it possibly can. We recommend placing several sheets of paper, or a pad, under the sheet you're writing on. Some people use a stack of newspaper to write on to get the best feel.

When filling a fountain pen from a bottle of ink (bladder, piston- or plunger-filler system) be sure to immerse the entire nib and feed, right up to, and even slightly over, the edge of the section (the part of the pen you grip) before working the lever, plunger or piston. Failing to immerse the nib will result in drawing air into the reservoir along with the ink. Only a Sheaffer's Snorkel system is designed to have the extendable tube inserted into the ink well. But, be careful! Be sure there is sufficient depth of ink in the bottle. You don't want to impact the nib's tipping on the bottom of the bottle when filling.
After filling a fountain pen from a bottle, blot the nib, feed and section with a soft tissue. This will prevent excessive ink flow and dripping.

There is always a small amount of air in the bladder, converter, cartridge or reservoir. This air will expand or contract with air pressure changes, the heat from your hand, direct sunlight or being left under a lighted desk lamp. All these changes can cause leaks onto the surface of a nib and ink to accumulate in the cap. This can eventually be transferred to the section edge when capped and end up on your fingers. We recommend using a twisted paper towel or Q-tip to clean the inside of the cap as a part of regular maintenance.

Fountain pens, especially vintage fountain pens, are idiosyncratic creatures. If you are neither able, nor willing, to put up with slight inconveniences such as minor leaks, or having to clean and maintain the instrument in order to keep it functioning well, you should probably stick with a rollerball or ballpoint pen. John only half facetiously says fountain pens are the reason Kleenex was invented.

How do I achieve a specific style of writing that I have seen?

This is both a matter of the time and energy you are willing to put in to practicing a technique and graduating to a more advanced or sophisticated style. To achieve a specific style of penmanship that you may have seen, unless yours is very close to that style to begin with, you might want to treat writing as a practice from now on.

If you want an exotic nib, you need to work to accommodate and learn how to use it.

It takes time to hone an advanced technique with a very particular and sensitive pen. So we recommend for beginners to start out with a fountain pen that gets them used to mindful writing without too many variables to keep track of.

In this case, we feel something comfortable with a nib that is wide enough and rigid enough to allow for a margin of movement and pressure error by the user's hand. A wide nib will accommodate a bit of tilt either way and the resistance of the rigid tip will lend feedback to the hand 's pressure. Compare this to a flex tip that will not resist when the beginner puts normal pressure on it. It can already be too much for easy fountain pen writing.

Both finer and flex tips can scratch with too much pressure, and again this is typical for a new user.

After some time writing carefully and slowly with this first type of nib, you will have a better idea of the touch required, as well as the types of lines you will be able to manage in the next phase.

We suggest moving in to new features gradually. Italic cuts and Flexibility should be tried out one at a time so that you can sense how each will react to your touch and affect your style. Adjusting both the pressure and slowing your writing to sense an advanced writing tool will yield rewards, including faster writing speed and a more enjoyable experience overall, but only over time and with practice.

What paper do you recommend and why?

We are using Domtar's Microprint Laser Printer paper to test all of our writing instruments. It is an excellent surface for writing with fountain pens. It's a 24 lb laser paper, item #51350, UPC #7750205315.

Other better quality paper brands include Claire Fontaine, Rhodia, and Moleskin.

Fountain Pen Nibs:

Soft and Flexible Nib?

What Are Stock Soft or Flexible Nibs?

Stock nibs described as "soft" or "flexible" are used to achieve line-width variation by varying pressure while writing. Some of the best known nibs of this type include the Nakaya Fine Soft and Medium Soft nibs, the FA nib for the Pilot Custom 912, the nibs for the Pilot Falcon Resin and Metal Falcon series, and the Omas Extra Flexible nibs.

It is important to understand that soft and flexible nibs are actually more position-sensitive and provide a less smooth writing experience than standard rigid or hard nibs. The tines on a soft or flexible nib move independently and are more exposed, tending to catch on the paper. This scratchiness and feedback is actually a desired feature with a soft or flexible nib, but is in contrast to the smoothness normally valued when utilizing a fountain pen. 

What About Customizations For Added Flex?

The same principles apply to John's customization for added flex. Whether adding flex to an already soft or semi-flexible nib, or customizing for flex a nib that is normally rigid, this customization will increase line-width variation, but will also result in a nib that provides a less smooth writing experience and is more dependent on the skill of the pen user.

Then What Are The Smoothest Nibs Available?

While both stock soft and custom flex nibs are great for artists, calligraphers, or just anyone looking to add more distinctiveness and variation to their writing, they are not designed to be the smoothest possible writers. For that, look to standard stiff nibs. And remember that any pen or nib unit you purchase from Nibs.com, whether stiff or soft, standard or customized, will be tested and optimized for your personal writing characteristics before it is shipped on to you.

What is a fountain pen nib?

Why are they often solid gold? And what is the difference between 14k, 18k, and 21k nibs?

A fountain pen nib is the metal writing point at the end of the writing instrument. Virtually all quality fountain pens use solid gold nibs, both for their durability and for the smoothness of the writing experience they provide. Cheaper steel and gold-plated nibs, on the other hand, have a tendency to deteriorate and are harder to customize or repair, whereas a solid gold nib can last a lifetime (and more).

So while the choice of a solid gold nib has more to do with performance and durability than snobbery, the differences between solid gold nibs of different carat counts tend to be subtle. In fact, 14k nibs are often the most prized, as they are both more resilient than softer 18k and 21k nibs, as well as being better suited to some customizations, such as the modification for added flex.

Even most experienced fountain pen users usually report not being able to notice the difference between 14k, 18k, and 21k nibs once they have been properly tuned and optimized for the preferences of the individual writer. See also our examination of the differences between hard, soft, and flexible nibs.

Tipping Sizes

What is the difference between hard, soft, and flexible nibs?

 

Common Tipping Sizes

With some variance among different manufacturers, most fountain pens are made available with a range of different nib sizes - Extra Fine, Fine, Medium, Broad, and Extra Broad are most common, with both finer and broader sizes often available as well. And if a manufacturer does not supply their pens with tipping points in the size you prefer, we can usually do a regrind or retip to your specifications.

Stock Exotics

Some manufacturers also make stock nibs available in italic, oblique, or stub. However, these stock nibs tend to be more rounded and provide less line-width variation than customizations to italic, oblique, or stub. On the other hand, due to their width, these stock exotic nibs often provide an excellent starting point for those customizations.

Hard and Soft Nibs

Most contemporary fountain pen nibs are hard, meaning they are designed to be rigid and to provide a consistent line width. Some, such as the Pilot Falcon series nibs or the Soft Fine and Soft Medium nibs created by Nakaya, are designed to be soft, meaning they provide for line width variation depending on the amount of pressure used when you write. Expanding on this, John can provide a customization for added flex to most 14k nibs, whether hard or soft.

Hard Nibs Are Smoother, Soft Nibs Scratchier

It may sound counter-intuitive to those new to the world of quality fountain pens, but rigid hard nibs almost always provide a smoother writing experience on the page than do semi-flexible soft nibs. Hard nibs are designed to slide easily across the page, while soft nibs are deliberately designed to give slightly under pressure, which provides the benefit of added line-width variation but the drawback of a less smooth writing experience. See our page on differences between hard and soft nibs for more details.

Broader Nibs Are Smoother, Finer Nibs Scratchier

In general, the broader the tipping size of a nib, the smoother it will write, and the finer the nib tipping point, the scratchier it will be on the page. With that said, rigid Fine and Extra Fine nibs can often be made to write very smoothly on the page when properly adjusted for ink flow and the end user's preferred writing pressure - see our nib set-up and optimization page for more details.

More Questions About Nib Choices?

Have questions about which stock nibs are available, or which would be right for you? Don't hesitate to contact us at (323) 655-2641 or info@nibs.com with your questions.

Protecting Fountain Pen Nibs

Choose Solid Gold Nibs

Unlike inexpensive steel nibs, which easily bend or corrode and are often impossible or impractical to repair, solid gold fountain pen nibs are generally durable and reliable and can provide for a lifetime's worth of use. But there are some basic steps you can take to maximize the health of your favorite solid gold nib.

Cap Your Pens - Or Use Pen Pillows or Racks

The greatest potential for nib damage, of course, results from dropping a pen, particularly when it is uncapped. Cap your pens when not in use, and if using a clipless pen such as the Nakaya Cigar-style pens, consider using a pen pillow or rack as added insurance that your pen will not wander off the table on its own. We can usually repair gold nibs damaged in a fall - consult our services and repairs images pages for more details.

Use A Light Touch While Writing

The next greatest danger to a nib is the use of excessive pressure while writing. Most fountain pens require only a light touch, and bearing down too heavily can spread tines and lead to other forms of damage as well. You don't need to have a feather-light touch to use a fountain pen, but remembering to ease up on the pressure can help avoid a trip to the nib doctor.

Use Safe Inks

Use conventionally formulated fountain pen inks, such as those we sell and recommend ourselves, and clean your pen regularly, especially if using pigmented or carbon inks. Avoid non-conventional inks that have a tendency to leak, clog, or corrode - in general, if there is a lot of controversy about whether a particular ink or brand is safe to use, you might be well-advised to stay with a safer choice.

Use Quality Papers and Notebooks

Avoid abrasive surfaces for writing, and use quality papers and notebooks, such as those from Clairefontaine and Rhodia, which will not clog a nib with fibers or residue. Never use sandpaper on a nib, as even the finest grade will prove too coarse and damage the point. And don't use paper towels to blot a nib after filling, as paper towels have fibers that can actually scratch the surface of a nib.

Caution To Do-It-Yourselfers

Perhaps the most important advice we can offer is not to attempt nib repairs yourself if you are not already an experienced fountain pen repair person - mishandled repairs can not only damage a nib beyond repair, but can also lead to problems with the feed and gripping section as well. See our Pen Maintenance page for some simple tasks you can do yourself, but contact us first if your problems go beyond simple ink flow issues.

Usage and Storage

What precaution should I take when traveling?

Most Modern Fountain Pens Are Fine To Fly

While variations in cabin pressure have been known to cause leakage in fountain pens during air travel, testimony from most users of modern fountain pens seems to indicate that the great majority of contemporary fountain pens can be carried and used on board with little or no difficulty. That said, a few elementary precautions should be observed:

A Few Simple Precautions

Conventional wisdom is that it is best to travel with a fountain pen either completely empty of ink or completely full. The empty option is easy to understand - you can't leak ink if there is no ink in your pen! The full option is equally understandable in its own way - if a cartridge or internal reservoir is absolutely full, there is no trapped air that will be affected by the changes of air pressure as the plane ascends and descends.

Nibs Up Whenever Possible

The other major point is equally logical - not just in air travel, but whenever you carry or transport a fountain pen, it is best to store it with the nib pointing upwards. With gravity on your side, the chances of any sort of leakage are greatly reduced. For those who are particularly concerned about this issue, Platinum Pens' new Century series pens feature a special sealing mechanism that promises to help guard against leakage due to air pressure fluctuations.

Vintage Pens A Greater Concern

In sum, owners of contemporary fountain pens would seem to have little to fear when bringing their pens on board, and even less if they observe the elementary precautions detailed above. Vintage pen aficionados might need to be more cautious, as the variety of filling and reservoir systems on older pens does create more potential for what fountain pen aficionados refer to as an "inkcident." But in general, there is no need to leave your fountain pens at home when you travel...and there is perhaps no greater luxury for a true pen lover than using your gold-nibbed pen while cruising at 30,000 feet...

How should fountain pen be storage when not use?

Store Pens Empty And Protected

If you are not going to be using your fountain pen for an extended period of time, be sure to empty it of ink and clean it to avoid having dried ink clog the feed mechanism - see our Pen Maintenance page for more details. Pen pouches, cases, and display chests provide protection against mishaps and are often prized possessions in their own right. The original presentation box a pen shipped in can often be a good choice for extended storage as well.

Traveling With A Filled Pen

Though most modern fountain pens do not easily leak, if you are travelling or just going about your everyday business with a filled pen, store or carry it with its point up whenever possible - the clip on a fountain pen is of course designed to allow for pens to be carried tip up in a shirt pocket.

If flying, changes in air pressure and temperature can cause the volume of ink to change - see our page on flying with a fountain pen for more suggestions.. When stored nib up, there is less chance that ink will rise up into the cap. Even when not travelling, filled pens should be stored point up whenever possible.

Safe Storage

Store your pens in a cool, dry place, and avoid any location subject to extremes of hot or cold or that are exposed to direct sunlight. With a little careful care, your fountain pen can be kept safe and ready for a return to service even when not in everyday use. Have more questions? Feel free to contact us at (323) 655-2641 or info@nibs.com - we're happy to help.

What should artists know about using fountain pen?

Which Customization - Regrind Or Flex?

Artists usually want to get line-width variation with a fountain pen. There are two main ways to achieve this - through a regrind to oblique or italic, which provides line-width variation depending on the angle at which the pen is held, and through adding flex, which creates line-width variation depending on the amount of pressure applied to the point while drawing or writing. See our Nib Customizations page for more details.

What About A Regrind With Flex?

Combining flex with a regrind to italic or oblique can result in the greatest potential for expression, but will also result in a nib that is more challenging to use. The same applies to our popular Mottishaw Spencerian customization, which combines added flex with a regrind to needlepoint to allow for Spencerian copperplate calligraphy.

Contact Us For More Help

Every artist has her or his own unique set of needs - if you have questions about which customization or customizations would be best for you, or even if you need a customization at all, feel free to call or e-mail us for more information. We can be reached at (323) 655-2641 or at info@nibs.com.

Fountain pens recommended to artists?

Choices For Line-Width Variation

Most artists are looking to achieve line-width variation with their writing instruments, and any pen we sell can have its nib customized to italic or oblique points to make this possible. Most pens with 14k nibs have the added advantage of being customizable for added flex as well. Some pens, such as the Pilot Custom 912, Falcon Resin, and Metal Falcon series pens, come standard with soft nibs that are already semi-flexible - with John's customizations, these can be made even more so.

More Possibilities

Any Nakaya pen can also be equipped with a Soft Fine or Soft Medium nib that can also be customized for added flex. Artists also tend to like the Sailor 1911 and Sapporo series pens for their durability and great value, while many others favor the Pelikan Souveran series pens due to the high capacity of their piston-filler ink systems. In sum, most any quality fountain pen can be made to work for you as an artist...feel free to call or e-mail if you have specific questions based on your own particular needs and budget.

What should I know about customized nibs for calligraphy

Customizations to Formal or Cursive Italic

Experienced calligraphers generally utilize a customization to cursive or formal italic, which provides the greatest line-width variation possible. Formal Italic is generally favored by professionals, but this is also a more challenging customization for less experienced users than is the more forgiving cursive italic.

Fountain Pen Nib Widths and Flexibility

Fountain pen nibs are generally finer in measurement than most calligraphy pen nibs - the broadest stock nibs are generally in the 1 to 1.5mm range, though broader points can often be achieved through John's custom retips. Calligraphers often favor nibs that are naturally flexible to achieve added line-width variation. Examples include the Falcon Resin and Metal Falcon series pens, as well as any Nakaya brand pen, which can be fitted with semi-flexible nibs in either Fine Soft or Medium Soft.

Other Choices

Most 14k nibs, whether or not they already have some natural softness, can also be customized for added flexibility. And when buying a nib and pen combination for customization, remember that the broader the nib, the greater the line-width variation that can be achieved. On the other hand, some very specialized uses require a different approach - John's highly popular Spencerian customization, for instance, utilizes a combination of added flex and a regrind to a needlepoint tip to allow for copperplate calligraphy.

Still Have Questions?

Every calligrapher, whether an experienced professional or a beginning hobbyist, will have her or his own unique set of needs - feel free to call or e-mail us with any questions, and we will be happy to help guide you to the pen, nib, and customization combination that will suit you best.

What should I know about dried or hardened ink?

If any ink, not just permanent ink, dries in a piston-filler or twist-converter pen, it will harden, and when the user twists the filler knob, they may drag the piston across the inner surface of the reservoir, ruin the piston or scratch the inside of the barrel or converter.

In case you are working with dried ink, we recommend using household ammonia, which will break down most non-permanent inks so they can be flushed.

Dried permanent ink is very challenging to remove and is most times a repair job.

Avoid using alcohol, paint thinner or lacquer thinner when cleaning ink from a pen.