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What Makes A Great Fountain Nib


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#1 DR219

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Posted 24 April 2012 - 20:04

Hi
I am new to fountain pens and I would like to purchase one but would like some insight from people who use them what is important when purchasing a fountian pen before I buy one? I have tested some out and like the F and M nib but is gold nib important? I want to stay with the Cross brand but is there something that they dont do that other pen companys do?

thanks for the help

#2 jar

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Posted 24 April 2012 - 20:06

Hi, welcome home. Pull up a stump and set a spell. Cross makes nice pens and has a history of good customer service. The material is pretty much the least important factor in determining how a fountain pen nib writes.

How pierceful grows the hazy yon! How myrtle petaled thou! For spring hath sprung the cyclotron - How high browse thou, brown cow? -- Churchy LaFemme, 1950

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#3 paul_barreto

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Posted 30 April 2012 - 22:18

... is there something that they dont do that other pen companys do?



Cross is one of the few pen makers that still gives a lifetime guarantee. I don't own a Cross but have family and friends who do. And from what I've heard, Cross honour the guarantee with no fuss.

I agree with Jar; a good nib should write well irrespective of the material. But in my experience, gold nibs are softer and have more flex to them so you should be able to get a broader line with a little extra pressure. Steel nibs have a firmer feel and don't allow much variation in line thickness.

I've owned a Parker Sonnet, Sheaffer Valor and a Worcester Sentinel; all fairly pricey pens. And yet, every one of these nibs needed a bit of fine-tuning after purchase before it wrote perfectly. There are posts elsewhere on this forum dealing with how to do that. Ironically, the only FP I've ever had which wrote perfectly straight out of the box, was a Hero 616, purchased from China for £0.90 (US$1.30).

I suggest you find a real stationer's shop and try a few pens before you buy. If it looks good to your eye, feels right in your hand, and writes a smooth line without skipping, and is within your budget, go for it!

Good luck.

#4 nxn96

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Posted 01 May 2012 - 16:27

A couple of thoughts:

First, I think the perception that a steel nib is inherently inferior to a gold nib is a leftover from the day when steel nibs were used on "cheap" pens and gold came into play as one moved up the quality/price ladder. While that's certainly still the case (or so it seems) on the price ladder, I'm not sure it's still the case on the quality ladder.

In my own case, I've had some very good experience with steel nibs. For example, I've used Parker Sonnets with both steel and 18k nibs, and have found the steel nib almost indistinguishable from the gold in terms of how it performed. Granted, I've also had steel nibs that could have been used as a hole-punch, but those were generally cheap nibs on cheap pens. I think, based on my experience, that a pen built to a high quality sporting a steel nib will perform at a very high level. One might say that most all cheap pens use steel nibs, but not all steel nibs are cheap.

Second thought, for what it's worth: I write with a very "light" hand and have really little to say as to "flex". On one hand, this works for me as most all my pens show little if any nib wear (even after many years of use) and I can pretty easily "adopt" a used/vintage pen without a lot of "issues". When I want a different "shading" or emphasis, I'll use an Italic or Oblique nib pen. Therefore, I really can't speak with any authority as to whether a steel nib has any more/less/about the same "flex" as a gold nib.

Hope this helps

#5 daniel0731ex

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Posted 02 May 2012 - 00:22

To my knowledge, the shape and treatment of a nib is what accounts for its physical property/performance; the reason why gold nibs seems to be superior is because they tend to be given more care and treatment due to the perceived prestige of the material.

Just think; if you are given the choice of two equally priced nibs with equal performance, but one being made of gold alloy and the other from stainless steel, which one would you pick?


It's all about "bling";

Edited by daniel0731ex, 02 May 2012 - 00:25.

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#6 pajaro

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Posted 02 May 2012 - 01:46

To my knowledge, the shape and treatment of a nib is what accounts for its physical property/performance; the reason why gold nibs seems to be superior is because they tend to be given more care and treatment due to the perceived prestige of the material.

Just think; if you are given the choice of two equally priced nibs with equal performance, but one being made of gold alloy and the other from stainless steel, which one would you pick?


It's all about "bling";


The gold nibs are more expensive in the marketplace than steel nibs or gold-plated steel. Price comes into play. With most pens where you can choose a gold nib or a steel nib, the cost of the pen with the gold nib is significantly higher.

Many steel nibs are given a nice treatment, and the pen with the steel nib might be pricey. Pelikan M2xx, Bexley and others.

Steel nibs are probably stronger than gold.

Some people just want the best, most costly and exclusive pens, and so will opt for gold nibs in pens, or they will opt for pens that only come with gold nibs. It probably feels more luxurious to have the gold nib than to have the economy model reproaching them with "steel, you cheapskate."

I suspect that steel nibs are probably better for my purposes, because I have bent a few gold nibs, and I personally want what most people call a nail. Look at all the beautiful writing Esterbrooks with steel nibs. I think it comes down to material strength and cost effectiveness versus jewelry quality.

Most of my pens happen to have gold nibs, but not all. I especially like the silvery, steely look of my Polar Lights pen with the rhodium-covered 18K nib. Looks like steel.



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#7 daniel0731ex

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Posted 02 May 2012 - 02:13


To my knowledge, the shape and treatment of a nib is what accounts for its physical property/performance; the reason why gold nibs seems to be superior is because they tend to be given more care and treatment due to the perceived prestige of the material.

Just think; if you are given the choice of two equally priced nibs with equal performance, but one being made of gold alloy and the other from stainless steel, which one would you pick?


It's all about "bling";


The gold nibs are more expensive in the marketplace than steel nibs or gold-plated steel. Price comes into play. With most pens where you can choose a gold nib or a steel nib, the cost of the pen with the gold nib is significantly higher.

Many steel nibs are given a nice treatment, and the pen with the steel nib might be pricey. Pelikan M2xx, Bexley and others.

Steel nibs are probably stronger than gold.

Some people just want the best, most costly and exclusive pens, and so will opt for gold nibs in pens, or they will opt for pens that only come with gold nibs. It probably feels more luxurious to have the gold nib than to have the economy model reproaching them with "steel, you cheapskate."

I suspect that steel nibs are probably better for my purposes, because I have bent a few gold nibs, and I personally want what most people call a nail. Look at all the beautiful writing Esterbrooks with steel nibs. I think it comes down to material strength and cost effectiveness versus jewelry quality.

Most of my pens happen to have gold nibs, but not all. I especially like the silvery, steely look of my Polar Lights pen with the rhodium-covered 18K nib. Looks like steel.


Right...I guess I shouldn't have said about price in my example...

But my point still stands; this topic's been brought up so many times that the answer could easily be summarized in one line:

"It's all about Bling".


This sorta reminds me of the Carbon Fiber vs Pernambuco debate about whether CF is a viable material for bow/instrument making;
it's more about working WITH the material's property to achieve the desired performance insteat of dismissing them for their differences as inherent shortcomings.

Edited by daniel0731ex, 02 May 2012 - 16:44.

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#8 OcalaFlGuy

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Posted 03 May 2012 - 13:17

It might be a good time to note the real reason for the existence of gold nibs.

It really doesn't have much to do with desirability, bling (or whatever the word for bling was 100 years ago), or differences in writing.

The Real Reason is that 100 years ago, ink was very caustic. It corroded steel nibs, Gold was the next best though pricier material that wouldn't corrode with the inks of the day.

A root reason with no real relevance today.

Bruce in Ocala, FL

#9 jslallar

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Posted 11 May 2012 - 19:54

It might be a good time to note the real reason for the existence of gold nibs.

It really doesn't have much to do with desirability, bling (or whatever the word for bling was 100 years ago), or differences in writing.

The Real Reason is that 100 years ago, ink was very caustic. It corroded steel nibs, Gold was the next best though pricier material that wouldn't corrode with the inks of the day.

A root reason with no real relevance today.

Bruce in Ocala, FL



I would say that with the advent of modern metallurgy, steel nibs are as durable as gold.

The reason now is more snob value and pen 'cost', the higher end companies do need to justify the sky rocketing prices for their pens and gold in nib seems like a good reason to charge more, and is easily accepted by the suckers like me.
Enjoy your pens
Have a nice day
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#10 jslallar

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Posted 11 May 2012 - 19:57

To the OP

'The proof of the puddingis in the eating'

and the proof of as good nib is in the writing. If you are lucky enopugh to be anywhere where they wil allow you to test write with a pen before you buy, go for the nib that is the smoothest and if I were you, I would rather buy a tester, or a tested pen maybe dipped a few times but smooth writer rather than test a pen and then buy a sealed box, which may or may not turn out to be as good as the one you tested.
Enjoy your pens
Have a nice day
Junaid

#11 fpstdnt

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Posted 12 May 2012 - 15:50

To the OP

'The proof of the puddingis in the eating'

and the proof of as good nib is in the writing. If you are lucky enopugh to be anywhere where they wil allow you to test write with a pen before you buy, go for the nib that is the smoothest and if I were you, I would rather buy a tester, or a tested pen maybe dipped a few times but smooth writer rather than test a pen and then buy a sealed box, which may or may not turn out to be as good as the one you tested.


I was able to test Montblanc Meisterstruck Classic. It made clicking sound when I wrote letters such as: j, g. The clicking sound was pretty loud, even the store attendant was able to hear it. She said, "Maybe that's what it supposed to be..." Who wants to hear clicking sound when writing, that's quite annoying. This Montblanc pen I was trying to buy was sold at Barmakian Jewelers in Nashua, New Hampshire. It's the only dealer listed on MB website for NH. It's actually a large jewelry store with only about 30 MB, many are ballpoints; only a few of them are fountain pens. I was not allowed to test others. - The store attendants at this store absolutely knew nothing about pens or MB. I'm surprised that this store is a MB authorized dealer.

I don't know the clicking sound because it was not fully inked up??? (I just dipped its nib in the bottle.)Its nib seems very flexible. I did not purchase the pen however, because they only had medium nib for the Classic model. Besides, I did not feel comfortable to bring it home when the pen made weird noise like that.

A good thing I went to the store to try it out.

#12 jslallar

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Posted 28 May 2012 - 20:28

Tines rolling over each other?
Nib base loose?

Anyway the clicking noise is NOT normal.
I have a MB 144, never heard it click while writing, which it does frequently, being one of my favourites and my avatar here.
Enjoy your pens
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Junaid

#13 Lalique

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Posted 29 May 2012 - 00:29

Richard Binder's 3-part discourse on nibs is wonderful. It's at this link, http://www.richardsp...nibs/primer.htm

#14 rhettnash

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Posted 13 June 2012 - 04:59

Informitive post, but the clicking MB is an oddity- as is the store, it appears!