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Nibs


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#1 louishob

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Posted 09 October 2006 - 17:20

My father wrote with nothing but fountain pens, mostly Parkers and Schaeffers. As I grow older, I find myself attracted to them. I'm currently interested in the Namiki Vanishing Point series. I like the idea of only needing one hand to ready your fountain pen for writing. They come with 14 karat nibs (USA versions), 18 karat and "special alloy" nibs (sold in Japan). Does anyone know what the "special alloy" might be made of ? I can find no information on the Pilot/Namiki website. Also, is there any meaningful difference between a 14 and an 18 karat gold nib in terms of durability or writability ? :bunny1:

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#2 wiglaf

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Posted 09 October 2006 - 18:44

I can only say that my father used a fountain pen all his life-a Parker, and its nib was (still is) 14k- it has never once permitted a poor stroke.
If a pen can write under its own weight, a 14k nib is best; if one needs to gently lift, and enjoys that sense of air and weightlessness, then 18k is the way to go; if one is already singing with angels, then 21k is the only audience that will llisten.

Tony

#3 *david*

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Posted 09 October 2006 - 19:48

Just my opinion:
1. There is, in all likelihood, no difference.
2. If there is a difference, the 18K is probably worse, not better.

The tiny ball of material at the tip, the part that actually contacts the paper, contains zero gold in any case. So the gold content has absolutely nothing to do with the feeling of smoothness or roughness. Some of the smoothest nibs I own are steel - just as smooth as the best gold ones.

Gold by itself is soft and squishy, and has no spring to it. Using a 24K gold nib would be like trying to write with a slice of peanut butter (i.e. it would collapse into a lump and stop writing). Therefore, a good nib requires other metals to be added to the gold. A 21K nib will have to be built so thick and heavy (to prevent it from collapsing under the weight of your hand) that it has no feel to it at all, and might as well be made of cast iron. 14K seems to work pretty well for a bit of flexibility. 18K seems to be borderline for flexibility.

People are taken in by the marketing department when they assume that higher gold content is always better. More gold is only better if you plan to melt the nib and sell the gold.

All of the above, however, depends on exactly which other metals are alloyed with the gold. Anybody could come along next week and produce a 14K alloy that works very poorly for pen nibs.

#4 peter_UK

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Posted 09 October 2006 - 20:14

*david*'s opinion is mine as well. In theory this means that you should get better feed-back from the lower gold content nibs.

Steel was a problem years ago because of corrosion but new (e.g. stainless) types are fine. Still not happy - then get a gold plated nib.

However the same champagne from a cracked cup or cut glass goblet will seem to taste differently. If you believe gold alloy is best material to carry the tip then for you it may well be.

The main reason I like Pelikans is the availability of steel or plated nibs at reasonable prices. I would rather buy a few different nibs to have fun with than an expensive gold one, as I cannot tell the difference.

Peter

#5 brh

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Posted 09 October 2006 - 20:48

I'd agree with all the opinions that in modern pens, nib material matters very little. I'd also like to add that the 14k nibs that the US VPs come with are amazingly wonderfully buttery smooth. No need to mull over materials on the VP nibs.. just buy one! (Oh yeah, handle one in a B&M store first.. that clip drives some people crazy...)

-brian

#6 meanwhile

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Posted 09 October 2006 - 21:01

The gold versus steel issue gets debated every couple of months: you might want to use the search facility.

In summary: now that inks are reasonably non-corrosive, there's no reason to prefer gold for writing qualities . Unless you want flex, in which case it should be 14K gold. After all, the steel or gold that your nib is made from doesn't touch the paper - that's the job of that little blob of metal on the tip, which is made of platinum or iridium - or something like that.
- Jonathan

#7 Richard

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Posted 09 October 2006 - 21:23

In my experience, 14K nibs are better than those with a higher gold content. Nibs made using the "richer" alloys (18K, 20K, 21K) tend to be soft, not springy, and they do not feel as good in the hand. They are also more difficult to align and keep aligned.

For anyone here that might not know, here's how my glossary discusses the existence of the "richer" nibs:


18K: (also 18C) A designation indicating an alloy that contains 18 parts of gold, by weight, per 24 parts of the total metal content. The same as 750. As a general rule, 18K nibs are actually inferior to 14K nibs in terms of their writing qualities. The higher gold content is marketed as a status and quality feature, but the real reason for it is that many countries have followed France's lead in establishing laws requiring the alloy to be least 18K in order to be sold as"gold." (This requirement's original purpose was to prevent fraud.)


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#8 meanwhile

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Posted 09 October 2006 - 22:20

If a nib depends on the quality of any material, isn't it most likely that little blob of metal at the tip? But no one ever seems to advertise or discuss the exact composition of different maker's tipping alloys. Gold is glamorous!
- Jonathan

#9 Dillo

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Posted 09 October 2006 - 23:07

Hi,

It normally depends on the way gold is tempered. There were 24K nibs at one point (Yes, 24K--Sailor) They are very rare, but they were tempered in such a way that they could be used for writing.

Still, the lower caratages are still much nice. 14K is recommended.

Dillon

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#10 saintsimon

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Posted 10 October 2006 - 00:58

Hi,

It normally depends on the way gold is tempered. There were 24K nibs at one point (Yes, 24K--Sailor) They are very rare, but they were tempered in such a way that they could be used for writing.

Still, the lower caratages are still much nice. 14K is recommended.

Dillon

Dillo, there have been 23k nibs by Sailor during the 'carat war' era in Japan, but no 24ks.

Regarding speculations about 21k nibs have to be made "thick and heavy" - that's unsubstantiated. The current 21k nibs by Sailor are not thicker than lower carat nibs and of superior quality. Also no softness, there.

Maybe a 21k nib by Pelikan standards would be a desaster ;)

I'm sure the high karat gold alloys for FP nibs are specially developed to avoid the softness of standard alloys.

#11 TMLee

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Posted 10 October 2006 - 01:21

The tiny ball of material at the tip, the part that actually contacts the paper, contains zero gold in any case. So the gold content has absolutely nothing to do with the feeling of smoothness or roughness. Some of the smoothest nibs I own are steel - just as smooth as the best gold ones.

Agree ...

#12 Richard

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Posted 10 October 2006 - 01:54

The current 21k nibs by Sailor are not thicker than lower carat nibs  and of superior quality. Also no softness, there.

We'll have to agree to disagree on the softness. I'm looking at it from the repairer's viewpoint, and Sailor 21K nibs are a pain in the tuchis to work on. They are stiff and unyielding until pushed to a certain degree, and then they bend like butter. Straightening them is an annoyingly painstaking process because, without proper spring, they cannot be formed to where you think you should go -- they won't spring back. Getting it exactly right means "sneaking up on it" until you're lucky enough to get it precisely right. A nib with proper spring is far more forgiving to the repairer's ministrations.
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#13 saintsimon

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Posted 10 October 2006 - 02:31

The current 21k nibs by Sailor are not thicker than lower carat nibs  and of superior quality. Also no softness, there.

We'll have to agree to disagree on the softness. I'm looking at it from the repairer's viewpoint, and Sailor 21K nibs are a pain in the tuchis to work on. ..

Ok, good to know about the repairers perspective :D , I hope I can avoid letting my Pro Gear fall onto its nib like I did with my Stipula :unsure:

I don't know how Sailor handles such cases.

Anyway the 21k nib is an exquistie nail from the writer's perspective. /:)

#14 louishob

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Posted 10 October 2006 - 02:35

I'd agree with all the opinions that in modern pens, nib material matters very little. I'd also like to add that the 14k nibs that the US VPs come with are amazingly wonderfully buttery smooth. No need to mull over materials on the VP nibs.. just buy one! (Oh yeah, handle one in a B&M store first.. that clip drives some people crazy...)

-brian

I had my doubts about the clip myself. Did you have to get use to the clip, or is it less problematic than it looks ?

#15 brh

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Posted 10 October 2006 - 02:55

I'd agree with all the opinions that in modern pens, nib material matters very little. I'd also like to add that the 14k nibs that the US VPs come with are amazingly wonderfully buttery smooth. No need to mull over materials on the VP nibs.. just buy one! (Oh yeah, handle one in a B&M store first.. that clip drives some people crazy...)

-brian

I had my doubts about the clip myself. Did you have to get use to the clip, or is it less problematic than it looks ?

I'm not really sure if it's a matter of getting used to or not... The consensus almost seems to be that if it's going to work, you'll know right away, and if it's going to be a problem, it's going to be a big one, and you'll know that right away as well.. I can't speak for the second group, though, as it fell perfectly right into my hand, no problem. Perhaps there are people here who did indeed buy a VP even though it didn't "fit" them, and then ultimately were able to get used to it...?

-brian

#16 DWL

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Posted 10 October 2006 - 05:19

I'd agree with all the opinions that in modern pens, nib material matters very little. I'd also like to add that the 14k nibs that the US VPs come with are amazingly wonderfully buttery smooth. No need to mull over materials on the VP nibs.. just buy one! (Oh yeah, handle one in a B&M store first.. that clip drives some people crazy...)

-brian

I had my doubts about the clip myself. Did you have to get use to the clip, or is it less problematic than it looks ?

I'm not really sure if it's a matter of getting used to or not... The consensus almost seems to be that if it's going to work, you'll know right away, and if it's going to be a problem, it's going to be a big one, and you'll know that right away as well.. I can't speak for the second group, though, as it fell perfectly right into my hand, no problem. Perhaps there are people here who did indeed buy a VP even though it didn't "fit" them, and then ultimately were able to get used to it...?

-brian

I've got to agree with Brian on this one. With the Vp you either love it or hate it. Personally I love them because they feel like they were made to fit my hand & the one hand ready to write angle is always a plus as well.

Don't think about it, just take the plunge and get one. If you find it's not for you then you can put it up in the marketplace & get your $ back or work a trade for something else.

Just my 2 bits worth.
Dennis

#17 kissing

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Posted 10 October 2006 - 05:22

In some cases, I actually prefer a Steel nib over a Gold nib.

Part of the reason why Gold nibs are popular is because of the belief that it will help the nib withstand against corrosion from constantly being dipped in ink. However, this is not really an issue nowadays as the modern stainless steel used in nibs are very corrosion resistant.

Besides that, unless you're looking for a flex nib which specificically bends and retracts to give line variance, a stiff gold nib will write no better than a steel counter part...

On top of that steel nibs are relatively inexpensive and very durable as it is a tougher metal than gold or a gold alloy.

In some cases, I have found that the steel nib of a fountain pen line writes better (in my opinion, of course) than the gold one. I can't help but find the steel nibbed Parker Sonnets to be more comfortable to write with than a gold nibbed Sonnet (The Gold Sonnet nibs are thicker and less springy).

here is a useful link that clarified things for me very well :)

http://www.richardsp...o/nib_steel.htm
http://www.youtube.com/kissing88

#18 Richard

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Posted 10 October 2006 - 12:23

Part of the reason why Gold nibs are popular is because of the belief that it will help the nib withstand against corrosion from constantly being dipped in ink. However, this is not really an issue nowadays as the modern stainless steel used in nibs are very corrosion resistant.

Only to a degree. There is no such thing as a truly corrosion-proof stainless steel; it's just that stainless steel -- even 316 surgical steel -- stains less than ordinary steel. And do bear in mind that nibs are not made from the most corrosion-resistant stainless steels; it's partly a cost concern and partly that the required mechanical properties aren't available in those steels.

And some inks are more corrosive than others; even today, inks with pH values as low as 1.7 (Omas Blue-Black) are in production. I see modern steel nibs, in some cases on pens less than 10 years old, that are terribly pitted -- some are no longer serviceable at all due to pitting.
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#19 Johnny Appleseed

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Posted 10 October 2006 - 14:53

Just to throw in a historic note:

I believe nearly all good vintage nibs were 14K. I am not sure when the 18K nibs came in, but I am pretty sure I have seen older Waterman pens with 18K trim and 14K nibs.

However, there were nibs made in 12K - Sheaffer's sub-brand WASP nearly always came in 12K. I don't know if the performance was much different from 14K.

There also were alleged to be 16K nibs. I have an ad for the Yale Triumph Fountain Pen in 1887, and it claims a 16K nib. Anyone ever see a 16K nib?

John
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#20 wspohn

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Posted 10 October 2006 - 16:37

This is a very timely subject for me.

I have a couple of items in with Richard Binder right now being serviced, and the idea recently struck me thatI would love to try a custom nib.

The easiest thing it have him customise is of course a VP, because I don't need to ship him my nib, I just buy a new complete unit.

So far so good, but then I have to decide exactly what I want in a custom nib. I have narrowed it down to a choice between a crisp 0.7 italic, oblique cursive italic, or stub italic, or perhaps the Italfine he does, although that is only available in a 0.9 size (I prefer fine nibs but with decent line variation).

If you want an idea of what the writing with these looks like, see

http://www.richardsp...=exemplaria.htm - fascinating stuff

(a great place to spend a little time anyway)

So decisions - has anyone got any preference among those choices?
Bill Spohn
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