Nibs Customization

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Flexibility

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 tuning 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.

What is nib customization

Consistent Versus Varying Line-Widths

Most standard stock fountain pen nibs are designed to give a consistent, unvarying line. But some users, such as artists, calligraphers, or just anyone who wants to add more personality and distinctiveness to their writing, are attracted to fountain pens precisely for the ability to use customized nibs which provide for varying line-widths.

Stub, Italic, Oblique, and Flex

If you are happy with a consistent, unvarying line with your pen, then most likely you will not have any immediate need for a customization. But if you want to achieve line-width variation, you will most likely be considering a customization to Stub, Italic, or Oblique points, and possibly considering adding flex as well.

Regrinds and Retips

Other customizations are possible as well - regrinds to reduce the nib point to a size not provided by the manufacturer, and retips, to make a standard nib broader than its original size. Have questions? Feel free to contact us at (323) 655-2641 or at info@nibs.com for more information.

Customization for added flex

Flex Basics

Adding flex is a customization that provides for added line-width variation by carefully thinning the tines so that the nib flexes slightly depending on the pressure applied by the user. This is a customization most often favored by more experienced fountain pen users, often artists or calligraphers. Using a soft or flexible nib generally requires more skill than does using a standard stiff nib.

Nib Choices For Adding Flex

In general, adding flex is more often done with 14k nibs, as many softer 18k and 21k nibs do not have the resiliency to spring back after flexing - see our article on the best nibs for flex for more information. When combined with a regrind to needlepoint, adding flex is part of John's popular Spencerian customization. But the customization for added flex can be challenging for inexperienced users to utlilize, particularly when combined with other customizations.

Stock Soft Nibs For Flex

A very few modern pens, such as the Pilot Falcon and Metal Falcon, come standard with Soft nibs that are already semi-flexible. And any Nakaya pen can be fitted with a stock Fine Soft or Soft Medium nib as well. Many experienced users choose to have John add flex to these already semi-flexible nibs to achieve the greatest amount of flexibility possible.

Best Nibs for Added Flex Customization

In general, 14k nibs are more suitable for the customization for added flex than most 18k and 21k nibs. However, there are some exceptions. In particular, some 14k nibs that are smaller in the actual size of the nib (not the tipping point) are less well-suited to the customization for added flex, while some larger sized 18k and 21k nibs are naturally springy and do have some limited potential for added flex. Also, a long slit nib is better for adding flexibility than a short slit nib. 

Some Exceptions

For instance, the Pelikan M1000 18k nib, with its very large nib size, already has some natural springiness and can be given a customization for some added flex as well. The slightly smaller M800 18k nib shares similar qualities. Conversely, the smaller 14k and 18K M600 and M400 nibs have only limited potential for added flex due to their smaller size and deep imprints, while the now-discontinued 14k M250 nib, with its simpler imprint, is somewhat more suitable.

More Choices - Nakaya And Pilot

Nakaya's Fine Soft and Medium Soft nibs are already semi-flexible and make excellent candidates for additional flex through customization, but even the standard Nakaya and Platinum 14k nibs are still well-suited to adding flex. Nakaya nibs can also be made more flexible by adding Elastic notches. Note, however, that Platinum 18k nibs, such as on the President and some 3776 series pens, are not good candidates for flex.

The Pilot Custom 912, Resin Falcon, and Metal Falcon series pens have the most flexible solid gold nibs available today and make excellent candidates for additional flex as well. In contrast, the inlaid Vanishing Point nib is unsuitable for flex.

The Custom 74 pen, despite its 14k nib, has only limited potential for flex, while the 18k Custom 823, Yukari Royale, and Emperor nibs, due to their larger size, do have some value for additional flexibility. In contrast, the larger size handcrafted ebonite pens created by Eboya of Japan utilize 14k German-made Bock nibs which are well-suited to added flex.

Sailor and Aurora

Sailor's 14k Sapporo and 1911 Mid-Size series nibs have very limited potential for added flexibility due to their smaller size, while the large 21k King of Pen has a springiness similar to the Pelikan M1000 and can be given some added flex as well. Similarly, the larger Aurora 14k nibs on pens such as the 88 and Talentum are well-suited to adding flex, while the smaller 14k nibs on pens such as Finesse and Ipsilon De Luxe are less so.

Still Have Questions?

So while larger size nibs and 14k nibs are usually the best prospects for flex, there are still plenty of exceptions based on the particulars of any given pen and nib combination. Still have questions? Just contact us by e-mail at info@nibs.com and we'll be happy to help.

Difference between Italic, Oblique, Stub

Unless otherwise requested, every fountain pen and nib unit we sell is carefully examined, filled with ink, tested on paper, and then optimized for the individual writing characteristics and preferences of the writer before it is cleaned and shipped. We take care to make sure that the fountain pens you buy from us will not just be beautiful to look at, but will also serve you for enjoyable day after hand writing.

This set up and optimization, sometimes referred to as nib tuning or nib adjustment, is provided free with every pen and nib unit purchased from us. It is different from nib customization, a service we provide at added cost. Nib customization is designed to modify a nib or nib point, usually with the intent of providing added line width variation while writing. Set up and optimization, on the other hand, is designed to simply make sure that the nib writes correctly in the manner intended by the manufacturer.

With years of experience, we can optimize a pen for your usage on the basis of the information we gather from just a few questions. We ask whether you are right or left handed, and if you tend to use light, medium, or heavy pressure while writing. We will also ask you if, when a pen is writing correctly with no skipping, you tend to prefer a standard medium ink flow, or something on the dryer or wetter side of the ink flow spectrum.

If you are purchasing a pen as a gift or are not sure how to answer some of these questions, don't worry - setting up a pen for a right-handed writer using medium pressure and a medium ink flow will almost always result in a pen that works well for most users.

Best suited nibs for custom

14k Nibs Are Usually The Best Choice

In general, 14k nibs are more suitable for the customization for added flex than most 18k and 21k nibs. However, there are some exceptions. In particular, some 14k nibs that are smaller in the actual size of the nib (not the tipping point) are less well-suited to the customization for added flex, while some larger sized 18k and 21k nibs are naturally springy and do have some limited potential for added flex. Also, a long slit nib is better for adding flexibility than a short slit nib. 

Some Exceptions

For instance, the Pelikan M1000 18k nib, with its very large nib size, already has some natural springiness and can be given a customization for some added flex as well. The slightly smaller M800 18k nib shares similar qualities. Conversely, the smaller 14k and 18K M600 and M400 nibs have only limited potential for added flex due to their smaller size and deep imprints, while the now-discontinued 14k M250 nib, with its simpler imprint, is somewhat more suitable.

More Choices - Nakaya And Pilot

Nakaya's Fine Soft and Medium Soft nibs are already semi-flexible and make excellent candidates for additional flex through customization, but even the standard Nakaya and Platinum 14k nibs are still well-suited to adding flex. Nakaya nibs can also be made more flexible by adding Elastic notches. Note, however, that Platinum 18k nibs, such as on the President and some 3776 series pens, are not good candidates for flex.

The Pilot Custom 912, Resin Falcon, and Metal Falcon series pens have the most flexible solid gold nibs available today and make excellent candidates for additional flex as well. In contrast, the inlaid Vanishing Point nib is unsuitable for flex.

The Custom 74 pen, despite its 14k nib, has only limited potential for flex, while the 18k Custom 823, Yukari Royale, and Emperor nibs, due to their larger size, do have some value for additional flexibility. In contrast, the larger size handcrafted ebonite pens created by Eboya of Japan utilize 14k German-made Bock nibs which are well-suited to added flex.

Sailor and Aurora

Sailor's 14k Sapporo and 1911 Mid-Size series nibs have very limited potential for added flexibility due to their smaller size, while the large 21k King of Pen has a springiness similar to the Pelikan M1000 and can be given some added flex as well. Similarly, the larger Aurora 14k nibs on pens such as the 88 and Talentum are well-suited to adding flex, while the smaller 14k nibs on pens such as Finesse and Ipsilon De Luxe are less so.

Still Have Questions?

So while larger size nibs and 14k nibs are usually the best prospects for flex, there are still plenty of exceptions based on the particulars of any given pen and nib combination. Still have questions? Just contact us by e-mail at info@nibs.com and we'll be happy to help.

Re-grind versus re-tip

Regrinds

A re-grind is the term used when the existing tipping point of a nib is as broader or broader than the desired end result of customization. For example, a pen can be re-ground from a Medium to Medium Stub because the customization is for a tip of the same width. A pen can also be reground from a Medium to a Fine or Extra Fine point, because the request is to go from a Medium tip to something smaller.

Retips

A re-tip is necessary when the existing tipping is not as broad as that which is desired. For example, a customer would like to go from a Medium to a Broad or wider nib. In cases such as this, the existing tipping has to be physically removed and a new pellet must be welded onto the tines to accommodate the new tip. Any broader customization will require a re-tip.

Spencerian customization

This customer video, featuring our Spencerian customization on a Pilot Falcon Resin, has gone viral and received over thirteen million views! The Spencerian modification adds flex to an already semi-soft nib and grinds the nib tip to needlepoint. But the Falcon Resin is not the only, or even the best, pen for this customization. Below are our choices for the Spencerian modification, ranked in order of suitability.

1. Pilot Custom 912

Another offering from Pilot, the Custom 912 can be made available with the notched FA nib, seen at left. The FA provides the most flexibility of any contemporary solid gold nib, and serves as an even better starting point for the Spencerian modification than the original Falcon Resin Soft Fine. The Custom 912 can also use the high capacity CON-70 converter, which nearly doubles the ink capacity of this pen compared to the original Pilot Falcon. If you are serious about having a fountain pen modified for Spencerian calligraphy, the Custom 912 is the clear best choice. Our optimization allows for a continuous flow when writing with a slow and practiced hand.

2. Pilot Metal Falcon

 The Pilot Metal Falcon uses the same nib as the original Falcon Resin and is available in four colors - Black, Brown, Burgundy, and Sapphire. A weightier pen than the Resin, the Metal Falcon, like the Custom 912, also has the added advantage of utilizing Pilot's high-capacity CON-70 converters. The Metal Falcon's Extra Fine rhodium-plated solid gold nibs have exactly the same writing qualities as the original yellow gold Falcon nibs, and they are equally suited to the Spencerian modification.

3. Pilot Falcon Resin

The Falcon Resin with Spencerian modification is the pen that appears in the video, and besides the original Black with gold trim, versions in Black with rhodium trim and Red with rhodium trim have also been introduced. Pilot-Namiki has changed branding so that the pen is now known as the Pilot rather than Namiki Falcon Resin, but there have been no changes in the writing qualities of the pen or nib itself - choose the Extra Fine for Spencerian. With or without Spencerian customization, these dependable and highly affordable writing instruments can serve as an excellent introduction to the world of quality fountain pens.

4. Nakaya Pens

Any Nakaya brand pen, such as the Naka-ai Writer Ama-iro seen above, can be fitted with a Fine Soft nib which can then be given the Spencerian modification. Although the Nakaya nib is somewhat less well-suited to the Spencerian modification than the Pilot nibs indicated above, Nakaya's hand-crafted Urushi pens offer a writing experience like no other.

5. Platinum Century Pens

The parent company to artisanal offshoot Nakaya, Platinum Pens offers a Fine Soft nib on its flagship Century series pens which, like the Nakaya Fine Soft, is very well-suited to the Spencerian modification. The Platinum Medium Soft nib, when available, can also be used for this customization. Platinum's pens offer excellent value, and make an excellent choice for those on a budget wanting to try the Spencerian modification on pens other than the Pilot Falcon series.

 

Spencerian Customization - Frequently Asked Questions 

 

1. What paper do you recommend for the Spencerian customization?
In general, hard, smooth-surface papers such as those provided by Clarefontaine, Rhodia, and Tomoe River will work best with the Spencerian customization. Avoid delicate and/or fibrous papers which will drag on the nib and even clog the tines with fiber.

2. What's the difference between your Spencerian, Needle & Flex, and Elastic customizations?
Spencerian combines flex with a regrind to needlepoint for the maximum flexibility available on a contemporary nib. Needle & Flex is a similar procedure we provide on other 14k nibs that are not as inherently suitable for the Spencerian customization because of tine length, imprint, or other factors. Elastic is a unique procedure which cuts notches in the side of the nib - we only perform this modification on Nakaya and Platinum Century brand Fine Soft and Medium Soft nibs.

3. I've heard that a straight out of the box FA nib can have a hard time keeping up with the feed on the Custom 912. Is there anything you can do to prevent that?
While any nib and feed can have ink flow issues, our complimentary nib tuning services test and adjust ink flow for your personal preferences. Since the Spencerian modification turns your nib into a specialized tool for creating copperplate calligraphy, in this particular instance we optimize ink flow for the customization itself rather than your personal preferences - our experience is that with careful attention in the workshop the FA nib and Custom 912 feed can provide an excellent ink flow, but results can vary depending on the ink and paper you use and even the climate where you live.