Did you know that it takes over 150 steps to create a fountain pen nib? That explains why most Fountain pens with solid gold nibs start in the $400 price range; that and today’s price of gold of course. Nib making remains a highly skilled process, which involves deep metallurgical knowledge. Once you try fountain pens from different manufacturers you will notice that every nib has a different feel, since all are finished by hand, and vary from maker to maker.
Whether you prefer fine writing lines, bold signatures or calligraphic flourishes Bittner, the Pleasure of Writing has the right nib to suit your style. We understand that especially when you are new to experience the joy of writing with a fountain pen, the choices are overwhelming and the questions are many. Many of you think because you are left handed fountain pens are not for you. Stop right there! Even though us Lefties represent only 10 percent of the population, 50% percent of our customers are lefties! I guess we do like a challenge, or maybe we want to show them we can, because we were told that we couldn’t. Standard nibs are suited to any style of writing, either left or right-handed and guarantee a smooth uniform writing line. The special italic, stub and extra broad nibs suit those who prefer the italic style or simply bold handwriting and signatures. While the oblique cut nib range compensate extreme writing angles without compromising smoothness of flow. Whether Standard or special nibs, nib making is a highly developed skill, that involves over 15 individual steps. Most nibs are all hand made.
All About Nibs
The nib is the soul of the Fountain Pen. Fountain Pen nibs are made various grades of solid gold from 14Kt, to 18Kt and some of even higher grade Gold. Some Pen Manufacturer’s like Stipula, Delta and Omas have created Titanium nib’s that are amazingly flexible and have a very velvety touch. Steel nibs or gold plated steel nibs are mostly found on entry-level pens and writing instruments up to the $300 range. The nib of the fountain pen determines the writing quality and experience, since it is the only part that touches the Paper. Fountain pens hydroplane on the paper. Ink that gets transfer between nib and paper creates a white medium on which the nib glides.
Nib Parts and Pen Lingo
Tip or Point
Tips of nibs are adorned with a hard metal that has been soldered to the nib. Gold will wear out very quickly when writing on paper without any tipping metal and will wear down.
That is why a harder metal is required to make sure the writing instrument and nib will last a lifetime and many generations to come. Most of the pen manufacturers we carry tip their nibs with Iridium.
Iridium is chemical element with the atomic number 77. It is a very hard material of the platinum family and the second densest material and the most corrosion resistant material, hence the wide use in the tipping of solid gold fountain pen nibs. A movement is under way to tip nibs with varying metals like osmium, ruthenium, rhodium, and tungsten.
The nib has a long thin slit from the point to the breather hole. The ink that the pen transfers to paper is guided to the point via capillary action by the slit and then the liquid is absorbed by the paper, or writing surface.
The parts of the nib on either side are referred to as the tines of the nib, just like the tines of a fork. The tines must meet closely at the slit and tip.
If the tines are misaligned the nib will feel scratchy to you. It is extremely difficult to readjust misaligned nib tines and should be left to experts. Often nibs that are misaligned are beyond repair and only the replacement of the nib can restore the pen to its former glory. Contact us for issues with you pens. Our expert service center craftsman will try their best to evaluate your modern or vintage writing instruments, and either re-align the damage or recommend a nib replacement with us.
The breather hole allows air into the feed. The hole itself comes in a variety of shapes, including hearts, keyholes, crescents, and more, although modern pens almost always use a simple circular breather hole. Some of the more modern nib designs and innovations do not have breather holes. Do not fret if yours is missing, it is almost surely be design. We would love to get you pictures of unusual nibs and breather hole designs if you are lucky enough to have found one at a flea market, garage sale, auction or inherited one.
Imprint and Scrollwork
All premier and modern fountain pen manufacturer’s will pen engrave and imprint names or designs here. They usually contain a maker's mark, gold content mark, and possibly some other numerical code indicating the type of nib. Modern pen makers are engraved with elaborate decorative scrollwork, while vintage pens generally are very plain and simple and include nib size numbers and lettered markings.
The base of the nib goes into the section and is concealed from view unless the pen is disassembled.
The feed is the most important part in ink delivery and to fix and stabilize th4e nib the fountain body. Real high end pen manufacturer’s like Omas and Montegrappa still create feeds out of ebonite. Ebonite is vulcanized hard rubber and is the first so called plastic. Introduced at the turn of the 1900th century it is still the preferred material to guarantee a constant ink delivery. It is porous to delivery enough ink even under the most extreme circumstances, like very flexible or very broad nibs. They are hand cut and there by require many different processes and add to the cost of a really fine writing instrument. Why do you ask does can a pen cost $1000 or more? A nib is crafted in over 150 steps, it features an ebonite feed which is precision cut by hand, sterling silver or palladium, rhodium or other precious metal trim, celluloid, ebonite, special resins… do I need to say more. The value becomes apparent now.
Gold and steel are the traditional materials used for nibs. Gold is the norm on vintage pens, while modern pens use a mix of steel, gold-plated steel, and solid gold nibs depending on the price point. The most vintage pens with gold nibs use 14k Gold while most modern pens use 18k Gold.
Pen technology is advancing and cutting edge materials such as Titanium are used, gold with PVD coating and Visconti’s dream touch revolution the 23k pure palladium nib. Steel is used in lower end pens due to lower cost compared to gold. Gold was used a century ago in pen nibs because gold resists corrosion. In those days, ink formulations were much harsher and more acidic than modern inks, and consequently were very harsh on steel nibs. While gold was more expensive, a solid gold nib tipped with hard metal lasts far longer than a steel nib.
Flexibility is a highly prized trait in nibs among fountain pen users and collectors. Thanks to innovation and the creativity of modern pen manufacturers we have a number of modern pens that can arguably rival their vintage counter parts in flexibility. Why is flexibility so interesting? When you put pressure on the point, the tines separate slightly. A more flexible nib will spread to a greater degree than a rigid nib. This separation allows you to vary the thickness of the line by varying the pressure, rather than by direction as with an italic nib. This is especially noticeable if you have good penmanship, but it still retains a dramatic effect for ordinary handwriting.