The Nib

1. Anatomy

Although at first glance the nib appears to be a very simple piece of equipment, it is much more complex than it seems when you take a closer look. It is composed of 7 different parts:

Sailor 14-carat gold nib

  • the body: part of the nib on which engravings can be found (brand name or logo, thickness of the line, degree of purity of the gold
  • the base: the upper part of the nib (hidden in the section)
  • the shoulders: the two wider sides of the nib, between the body and the tine
  • the tine (teeth): the upper part of the nib that joins the tip
  • the breather hole: a round, heart-shaped or teardrop-shaped hole at the end of the slit, which is involved in the flow of ink (ink-air exchange)
  • the slit: an ultra-fine notch that runs from the nib to the breather hole in order to circulate the ink from the reservoir to the nib and at the same time ensure a good flow of air (the pressure of the pen opens a space that allows the ink to flow)
  • the tip: the end of the nib to which a tiny amount of iridium (a platinum group metal) has been soldered, to ensure its longevity. After soldering, this small round tip is flattened and then hand-ground into its final shape. Some manufacturers prefer to use an alloy of osmium and iridium (osmiridium). Other brands use an alloy of precious metals whose composition remains confidential.

2. materiALS

The nib is made of two main materials: stainless steel or gold (14, 18 or 21 carat). Some 14 or 21 carat gold nibs are sometimes coated with pure 24 carat gold (as at Sailor).

3. THE NIB SIZE

First, a distinction must be made between Japanese and European/American nibs. For the same size given by the manufacturers (e.g. F), Japanese nibs will be thinner than European/American nibs. Thus, an F (fine) nib from Sailor (Japanese nib) will correspond to an EF (extra fine) nib from Jowo (German nib).

1. European/American nibs

These nibs are made :

a) either by the brands for their own fountain pens: Aurora, Lamy, Pelikan, Parker, Waterman

b) or by nib manufacturers such as :

  • Jowo: Esterbrook, Faber-Castell, TWSBI
  • Bock: Dupont, Graf von Faber-Castell, Montegrappa, Omas, Sheaffer, Visconti.

Note that for the same brand and size given by the manufacturer, there may also be slight differences.

plumes européennes

Man 200 Night and Day (Waterman), Felicità (Montegrappa), Estie Scarlett (Esterbrook), Olympio Vertigo (Dupont), Accent Diamond Lacquer (Lamy), Souverän M600 (Pelikan)

2. Japanese nibs

plumes japonaises 2

Capless (Pilot), Heritage 91 (Pilot), 3776 Century (Platinum), Spotlight (Taccia), Flower Basket (Namiki), Autumn Sky (Sailor)

These nibs are made by the manufacturers themselves: Pilot-Namiki, Platinum-Nakaya, Sailor. Taccia has its nibs made by Sailor.

3. The different sizes

a) The classic sizes: EF (extra-fine), F (fine), M (medium), B (broad). These are found in all manufacturers.

b) Less common sizes: EEF (extra extra fine), MF (medium fine), BB (extra broad), 3B (extra extra broad).

c) Special sizes such as :

  • Stub: a nib with a tip that is wider than it is tall, allowing you to make thick vertical strokes and thin horizontal strokes, more commonly known as full and loose.
  • IT (Italic): it has the same characteristics as the Stub, but its flattened tip and angular ends will provide less flexibility in writing. It is used in calligraphy; however, it is less convenient for everyday writing, as it is advisable not to write too quickly in order not to tear the paper. The “cursive italic” variant will have its tip edges slightly rounded (not as much as the Stub, however) to avoid this pitfall.
  • MS (Music): Stub nib with two slots (except for Sailor), whose nib parts open up sharply depending on the pressure applied, allowing for a greater flow of ink. This increases the fluidity of the writing and makes it more humid. In addition to its extreme flexibility, the vertical strokes are thicker than the horizontal ones, making it an ideal nib for calligraphy.
  • Z (Zoom): a broad nib that allows the width of the line to be varied according to the angle of the nib. At Sailor, this nib is suitable for left-handed people.

4. Special nibs

a) O (Oblique): broad tip slanted to the right (right oblique) or to the left (left oblique) which is designed for people who tilt their wrist slightly when holding their fountain pen; the right oblique (also called LH – left-hander) is suitable for left-handed people; the left oblique will come in OM (oblique medium), OB (oblique broad), OBB (oblique extra-broad) and O3B (oblique extra extra-broad). It is a rare nib today.

b) Flexible nib: a very flexible nib that allows the thickness of the line to be varied according to the variation in pressure. The two sides of the nib spread further apart than on a standard nib to allow a greater flow of ink and thus play on the thickness of the line. This nib can be used for calligraphy. It is often cut on both sides of the nib (FA nib on Pilot’s Custom 823, flexible nib on Esterbrook’s Estie) which gives it more flexibility (Nakaya calls it an “elastic nib”).

c) Sailor’s 21 carat gold Naginata nibs.

Plume nakaya flex 2

F nib (nib called « elastic ») - Piccolo Writer (Nakaya)

plume pilot flex

FA (Falcon) nib - Custom 823 (Pilot)

5. Comparative table of nib sizes (expressed in mm)

Sizes

Aurora

Jowo

Lamy

Montegrappa

EEF

/

/

/

/

EF

0,35

0,30

0,36

0,35

F

0,45

0,40

0,46

0,45

MF

/

/

/

/

M

0,55

0,50

0,56

0,55

B

0,75

0,80

0,675

0,85

BB

0,90

/

/

/

3B

/

/

/

/

Stub

0,70

1,10

/

1,15

Music

/

/

/

/

Zoom

/

/

/

/

Sizes

Omas

Parker

Pelikan

Pilot-
Namiki

 

EEF

/

0,20

/

/

 

EF

0,30

0,30

0,40

0,23

 

F

0,40

0,40

0,50

0,35

 

MF

/

/

/

/

 

M

0,60

0,60

0,70

0,50

 

B

0,75

0,80

0,85

0,60

 

BB

>1,00

0,90

1,00

/

 

3B

/

1,10

1,30

/

 

Stub

1,20

/

/

0,70

 

Music

/

/

/

1,00

 

Zoom

/

/

/

/

 

         

 

 


Sizes

Platinum-
Nakaya

Sailor

Visconti

Waterman

EEF

0,18-0,24

/

/

/

EF

0,24-0,28

0,23

0,30

0,30

F

0,28-0,34

0,30

0,40

0,40

MF

/

0,36

/

/

M

0,34-0,44

0,50

0,50

0,60

B

0,44-0,54

0,60

0,80

0,80

BB

0,66-0,86

/

/

/

3B

/

/

/

/

Stub

/

0,70

1,10

0,90

Music

0,9-1,10

0,3-1,15

/

/

Zoom

0,3-1,00

0,70

/

/

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