What is a good nib

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ldb2000

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I started to post this tirade in another thread where someone was saying ALL kit nibs are bad but moved it here to keep from hijacking that thread.

I keep hearing about how bad the kit nibs are and this is not entirely true , in fact my daily writer right now is a Baron with a kit nib and it writes as well as any upgrade nib I have ever used and I didn't have to do a thing to it . Allot of different factors go into what makes a good nib . I have had some upgrade nibs the write like absolute crap and as stated some kit nibs that write as good or better then the upgraded nibs . Most nibs , including kit nibs , will write fine out of the box and if not you just need to take a few minutes to clean them and give them a quick tune up to get them performing properly .
First and foremost don't take anyones word for what nibs are good , even mine . Learn what the differences are and what makes a good nib good . If you are going to sell or give away or even use fountain pens you should know what makes them tick . Customers will buy fountain pens from you more confidently if you can speak with a knowledge of the product you are selling . Look around the net and READ ! There is a ton of information out there on fountain pens so there is no excuse to not know about them . Join the fountain pen network and check out the forums , ask questions and learn .
Kit nibs ; All of our pen kits come from China including the Taiwanese kits (Taiwan is a part of China) but not all the kit nibs are bad just because they come from China . There are several factors that determine whether a nib is good or not and some of these are personal preferences .
1 - Writing smoothness ; This is how smoothly a nib slides across the paper . This is dependent on several factors , how well the tips of the nib are aligned , the quality of the tipping material and the ink used .
The surface of the tipping should be evenly aligned on the two tines , if either one is slightly off then it will leave a sharp edge on the cut of one of the tines that can catch on the fibers of the paper and cause a scratchy feeling as the nib slides across the paper . This is the most common cause for a scratchy feeling nib and is easily fixed by gently bending down the higher of the two tines until they are both exactly aligned . This is a very fine adjustment and doesn't require allot of force to make .
The tipping material should be a smooth round ball shape but some times there are irregularities in the material that leaves sharp edges that catch on the fibers in the paper . This can be fixed by a simple smoothing of the tipping . To do this first make sure that the tines are aligned , then you need some very fine abrasive material like 12000 micro mesh or finer , a brown paper grocery bag will work for this . Best would be to buy a nib smoothing kit available from some of the better pen shops on the net . Load the nib with water or ink by dipping it and draw about a dozen large figure "8"s on the abrasive material very lightly . Be careful not to take too much material off or create a flat spot on the tipping , gently roll the nib as you draw the figure "8"s then dip the nib in some ink and see how it feels on a piece of high quality paper (copier or printer paper is not high quality) , repeat if it still feels scratchy .
The Ink acts as a lubricant and can sometimes make a big difference how well a nib writes . Use a quality ink and advise your customers to do the same . The 50 for a $1 cartridges are not going to be a good quality ink .
Writing smoothness is also a personal preference . Some people like a little tooth and some like the nib to glide across the paper with no feedback , like me .
2 - Ink flow ; This is not just a nib problem but can also be caused by problems with the feed and changing the nib won't help . If you have a pen that keeps skipping or won't start when you start to write , this is an ink flow problem . It can be caused by several factors in either the nib or the feed or both and even from the ink supply itself . If you have a hard starting pen or one that skips the first thing to do is thoroughly clean the nib and feed with a warm water bath with a drop or two of some dish washing detergent . Let the section soak for a little while in the warm water bath to remove any manufacturing oils that may be clogging the nib or feed . Then rinse the section in some warm clean water and use a converter to flush out the section a few times . This will take care of the problem , most of the time . If it don't then it's time to check the nibs tine alignment . There should be an space between the tines from the breather hole to the tip , slightly wider at the breather hole and almost closing up at the tip . This is a difficult adjustment to make because fixing one problem might create another with the same symptoms . To adjust the tines you have to very gently bend both tines up to create a slight gap in the tines . Be very careful with this adjustment , too much will give too big a gap or bend the tines away from the feed and the ink won't flow right . Too big a gap between the tines or feed will cause flooding or stop ink flow completely . Another way to set a proper gap in the tines is to floss the gap with a very thin sheet of brass or plastic . You can buy a nib flossing kit from some of the better pen shops on the net . This kit and the smoothing kit are very good tools to have if you are doing fountain pens .
The next thing to check is the alignment of the nib to the feed . If you look through the breather hole you should be able to see the feed channel just below it . If the nibs tines and the ink channel aren't aligned then you will have ink flow problems . To fix this just look through the breather hole and gently push the nib (from behind the wings) to either one side or the other until the ink channel is in the center of the breather hole .
The final thing to check is the ink supply . Cartridges don't usually have any problems but converters can . Air bubbles in a converter can stop ink flow . Use a converter with a little marble in it to break the surface tension in the ink , this will allow the ink to flow . The ink itself can sometimes be a problem . If you have a pen with an ink flow problem and nothing else helps try changing the ink to a different brand . This should actually be the first thing you try if you have a flow problem . Inks that flow well in most fountain pens are , Waterman's Florida Blue and Parker Quink Black .
After all this if you are still having any problems , you may just have a bad nib or feed or both . It don't matter what nib you are using , you can always get a bad one .
There are some good reasons to change to an upgrade nib . First is to change the line width . To go from a fine to medium or change the shape of the nib to an italic or oblique or calligraphy style nib . Another good reason is that most fountain pen collectors won't buy a pen with a Chinese nib in it .
Also never load an ink cartridge in the pen before you sell it . If you hold on to the pen for any length of time the ink will dry up and could clog the feed causing flow problems and if you try to sell an inked pen to a collector , most likely they won't buy it . Collectors are funny about the inks they put in their pens and don't want to have to clean out an ink that they didn't choose . To allow a customer a chance to try a pen just dip the nib in a bottle of ink . This will put enough ink in the nib and feed to allow the customer to write a couple of lines and see if he likes the feel of the pen , this is also a good way to check all the pens you make to see if the nib writes smoothly . As soon as you are done just a few swishes in a bowl of clean water will clean out any ink thats left .
 
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TurnaPen

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Thanks for an informative contribution Butch:), I found that the steel nibs from Heritage pens(Heritance nibs) are a very good replacement for kit nibs, while some kit nibs are ok, the quality of the Heritance nibs is immediately felt in the writing, that has been my experience; once I install the heritance nib I have peace of mind that my customers will have a quality pen with a quality nib. Of course, there are others that may sell quality nibs also, but since I found a good thing I will stick to it. Amos:) PS I keep a supply of "Private Reserve" ink handy for customers to try the nib, no use having a quality nib with rubbish ink! Amos:)
 

ldb2000

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This is just to add that I am in no way knocking Lou's nibs or Anthony's nibs or any other upgrade nib . They are upgrades for a reason , heck I use Lou's nibs for my special pens . It is just in defense of the kit nibs . I will agree that on the cheaper kits the nibs can be hit or miss but on the better kits they are fine for regular people who buy a fountain pen to give as a gift or to use for making out the bills . They serve a purpose and can do it well and really don't deserve the beating they get around here . While I would never leave a kit nib on a pen destined to go to a collector I would also have no problem in using one on a pen that will be a daily writer and feel confident that it will work as designed and give good service . I do test each fountain pen I make for smoothness and clean and adjust or replace any nibs that don't meet my standards and that includes the upgraded nibs as well .
 
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mredburn

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Thank you for the post Butch, Im ready to make the move into making f/ps and I have some questions. I will start with wandiering over to the fountain pen network and see what I can find.
MIke
 

Texatdurango

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I agree with what Butch says. It seems that over time on this forum the standard practice when assembling a kit fountain pen is to simply take the kit nib and toss it in the trash without a second thought and that simply is based on personal opinions and not fact.

This issue does crop up now and then and I think we as a forum do a disservice to new members who are trying to just make some nice pens.

I have tried dozens and dozens of different nibs from the lowly kit nib to the ones offered by forum members as well as several name brand nibs both new and vintage and have found that there is a wide range of quality and that within every group I have tried there are ALWAYS variations with some nibs writing nicely "out of the box" and some that are horrible.

So to say all kit nibs are junk is just wrong. The pen I have carried for 1 1/2 years now had a "Dayacom" nib and I loved it, it wrote silky smooth. Just recently I thought I would treat myself so I replaced it with an 18k gold nib and I am totally unhappy with the way it writes so it is coming back out and the "Dayacom" back in.

Would a serious fountain pen aficionado buy a pen with a "Dayacom" nib? Likely not but then again that same person would probably snub their noses at a kit pen anyway so why target them to begin with!

Would the "average Joe" at a craft show know the difference between a steel "Dayacom" nib and a "Bock" nib? Probably not but they are intrigued by a fountain pen and if it writes smooth, that's all that would matter to them! I would guess that the vast majority of customers of pen makers here fall into this catagory.


So I would say target your audience and have nibs on hand to suite different customer needs but to not just blindly follow a crowd and toss perfectly good nibs in the trash.


Let the attacks begin! :eek:
 

ed4copies

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Butch,

Be careful of universal statements. I believe this one is true (although I rarely believe suppliers' ads, there are other factors that make me believe this one):

Taken from Craft Supplies USA Web description:

Jr Statesman II Pen Kit -Postable Cap

Our popular Jr. Statesman II pen kit is now available with a threaded end cap. Hand-cast inserts on the cap and post give the Jr. Statesman II pen a distinctive, unrivalled beauty.
  • Rollerball: Ceramic tipped Schmidt® rollerball cartridge
  • Fountain: German made two-tone iridium point nib
 
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ldb2000

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I was going to mention that some of the higher end kits used Schmidt (who are made by Bock) nibs but I wasn't sure if they still did . I guess that answers that question . 3 years ago PSI's Majestics also used used them but I think they stopped about a year and a half ago , I know the markings changed . Regardless who makes them they really are not bad nibs .
 

ldb2000

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Yes that is an excellent article by Brian , there are some more excellent articles by Lou in the library here and Richard Binder has several very informative articles on his site http://www.richardspens.com/ , plus all the information in the fountain pen network . There is allot more out there , all you have to do is look and decide for yourself , or you can believe everything you are told here .
 

ed4copies

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One of the pioneers in nib information grabbed a website called (ready for this) "nibs.com" !!!

I just checked, he is still there. Actually did tests on nibs over a decade ago, he is the source that informed me that there was no test to find iridium when the wording "iridium point" was introduced. I found that amusing.

Might want to read a few of his articles: Information-nib articles
 

ldb2000

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I still find it funny that when a nib says "Iridium Point Germany" it doesn't mean that the nib was produced in Germany , just that the tipping material might be .
Thanks Ed , I'm not in the shop right now so I don't have access to all my bookmarks . That is a great site , and there are many more out there . Also when reading about this stuff don't forget to read up on feeds and filling systems . Feeds are as important as the nibs , in fact nibs wouldn't work without a feed to give the ink a capillary channel to follow and filling systems also play a part in the functioning of a fountain pen . They all work in a wonderful harmony most of the time ....but not always .
 

IPD_Mrs

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I still find it funny that when a nib says "Iridium Point Germany" it doesn't mean that the nib was produced in Germany , just that the tipping material might be .

Here is what I see as the problem with this....
If you sell a lot of FPs eventually someone is going to try an nail you for the implied stamp. One way around this is to point out the nib is made in The Peoples Republic of China. Most Americans think of China and they think cheap. If you set up at a fountain pen show, watch as the folks look at your work and when they see that kit nib their nose rolls up and set the pen back down to look no more at your work.

Right or wrong, the problem is mostly the customer perception.
 

dow

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Thanks for the reminders, Butch. A fountain pen that won't right good can be a royal pain. Say, when you were talking about feeds and converters, you said:
Use a converter with a little marble in it to break the surface tension in the ink, this will allow the ink to flow.

Who makes converters that have the little marble in them? I've been using the converters that come with the hardware packs, and I'd be interested in trying one with a marble in it. I have times when my daily carry pen doesn't feed like it should, and I suspect that air bubbles could be the culprit, since I can screw the converter down a little bit and the pen will go back to writing just fine.
 

PenMan1

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Good post, Butch! And I agree completely. Many of the kit nibs are just fine. Some customers just don't want to pay $100 - $150 for a nib upgrade. Most are satisfied with the kit nibs that I use, once I put in decent INK. NOW, had you said that the ink CARTRIDGE that comes with the kits are good, you would have to give me your source for kits with GOOD CARTRIDGES.

Ed, as you know, I have been using your Jr. Gent and Jr. Statesmans (postables). I tried yours because your gold Jr. Gents have "gold" theads for the cap instead of plastic ones. IT MAY BE MY IMAGINATION, but they seem to write better. IT is NOT my imagination that the pens with the "gold" threads OUTSELL the ones with the plastic threads.
 

glycerine

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Here is what I see as the problem with this....
If you sell a lot of FPs eventually someone is going to try an nail you for the implied stamp. One way around this is to point out the nib is made in The Peoples Republic of China. Most Americans think of China and they think cheap. If you set up at a fountain pen show, watch as the folks look at your work and when they see that kit nib their nose rolls up and set the pen back down to look no more at your work.

Right or wrong, the problem is mostly the customer perception.

I agree with cusrtomer perception. This is why I started looking into getting nibs from Bock with the Bock logo. I think fountain pen users are less likely to "snub" you off with a custom nibs like Lou's or nib with a recognized brand stamped on it.
I also agree that alot of the kit nibs write just fine and dandy for me and so that would not be the reason to "upgrade" the nib.
It's sort of like the way we take a Honda from Japan and put Acura logos on it! It still drives the same!
 

penfancy

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Thanks for the post, Butch! I've got a couple "old" fps (10- 15 yrs)and I have to constantly clean them out for them to write smoothly. On the other hand I have one "Iridium Point Germany" in an American Classic kit pen and I've yet to see the thing clog or stop writing beautifully. Not heat of Texas, shaking in my bag, time ( 3 months now with little use).
Fountain pens are the Old World reborn, much like shaving with a straight razor. It takes a while to learn it and use it properly, but if that's what your in to, then it worth it!
 

wood-of-1kind

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Most fountain pen nibs found in kits have performed well. No complaints from me and (FP)customers that have purchased from me using "kit nibs". However I've never discouraged any customer(s) to a so-called "upgrade" nib. To each their own.
 

DCBluesman

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For the most part, I agree with what's being said here. While my experience indicates that "kit" nibs, with the exception of the Emperor, Lotus and Imperial, are not good. That's just my experience.

To me, the most challenging aspect of selling fountain pens is overcoming perception.

Based on working 7 pen shows, where the customer base is decidedly different that a craft show, I find that the customers' who knock the "kit" pens do so based on the nib. They obviously find the appearance appealing or they would not pick up the pen. The next thing most of them do is to look at the nib. If it says "Iridium Point Germany" or "Dayacom", they put the pen back.

I agree that some of the kit nibs will be fine, but why would I not replace the nib for $6 if it means that even 1 more customer will buy?
 

OKLAHOMAN

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As Lou said why for 6 or 7 bucks would you not change the nib to an upgrade nib if for no other reason than having the customer that would have snubbed the Dayacom or the IPG logo no reason to put your pen back into its showcase because of the nib. And now that Lou has stopped supplying us his nibs and we only have whats left in our stock, all the more reason for the Bock logo-ed nib.
 

Texatdurango

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Again, with my two pennies worth........ I think switching kit nibs out for upgraded nibs is all about the intended customer and has little to do with which writes better.

As has been mentioned by many fine pen makers, kit nibs can and do write just fine, of course you will encounter "duds" that need some tuning just like you will encounter "duds" that need some tuning with 18k name brand nibs!

If you are making a fountain pen because Gary at the office thinks it would be cool to try one then there is little reason to switch nibs since he probably wouldn't know a "Bock" from a "Dayacom". On the other hand if you are making fountain pens in hopes of selling them at an upcoming pen show, you would be wise to switch out the nibs because odds are your targeted audience knows more about nibs than you do and most if not all would notice the name "Bock" and most also know the name "Dayacom".

A sure fire way to lose a sale is to have that "deer caught in the headlights" look when asked a simple question about what you are selling and trying to pile on a little BS won't get you anywhere! :biggrin:

And that brings me to my point for this post......... I see all the time here where members make a few or a handful of fountain pens and head out to sell them only to come back a few days later saying things like... "these nibs are junk, they don't work", "I can't get the ink to flow", "the nib is scratchy, I need to upgrade", "which nib should I use", "how does the fountain converter work", etc.

If you are going to sell fountain pens, why not invest some time studying fountain pens and learn about them before heading out to make your fame and fortune?

Personally I have always thought the one thing lacking on the IAP is a place where fountain pens are discussed at length, not just who sells upgraded nibs!
 

dow

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If you are going to sell fountain pens, why not invest some time studying fountain pens and learn about them before heading out to make your fame and fortune?

Thank you, George. That is an excellent point.:)

A great place for folks to start is in our very own library. There are several articles about fountain pens in the IAP Library - General Reference section. Another great place is the fountain pen network. Those folks are FP nuts, and some of them have probably forgotten more about fountain pens than a lot of us will ever know.
 

Andrew_K99

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To learn about fountain pens and their users, get thee to The Fountain Pen Network. http://www.fountainpennetwork.com/forum/

Dan
Interesting to see that a FP user group has 5 times the members that IAP does, over 50,000!

It is similar to the shaving forum (which I can't recall at the moment).

It certainly shows that there are a number of people out there that would be interested in custom pens.

AK
 

76winger

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I think there's a need for some collection of Fountain Pen 101 knowledge or something. I went to the Fountain Pen Network web site about a year ago, when I made my first one and was overwhelmed by the amount of info there. I was quickly dazed and confused more so than when I first visited it.

I since have found a few threads here (and this one is great) to get my kick started in understanding them better and even motivated to try one for myself to learn more. I still fail to see a lot of the differences between the maker of the nibs even though I see a lot of discussion about them. And the intro information in this thread sort of confirms my suspicion that it's more about fit and fine tuning (which I still need to learn more about) than just brands.

And since I'm certainly still a beginner to FPs (I've only made two and am playing around with a couple "freebies" from work) I've got a lot to learn before I can return to FP network and feel confident enough to even understand a lot of what they say over there.

Thanks for the information on testing and tweaking new FPs. Now if I only had some pictures to go with all that alignment information... :)
 

soligen

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Great info here. Thanks for writing it Butch.

Here is my take, from a beginner. Buy an upgrade nib when you buy the kit, then use the kit nib and do you best to tune it so it is a great writer. Then, when you inevitably mess up the kit nib by over tuning (or maybe thats just me LOL) you have another nib to put in it.
 

SGM Retired

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Wow guy's I did not know there was that much to decide when making, purchasing, or even using a FP. I'm a new pen turner (almost 1 year) and have an order for 3 FPs now. Went online and place order but wish I would have read this post first before buying. O well, will read more on subject here and play around a bit to see what I come up with. Thanks so much for the info Butch, look forward to reading more.
Gary
 
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