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Making scratchy esterbrook nibs smoother writing

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6 replies to this topic

#1 Esterman



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Posted 11 March 2011 - 05:25

How do I make my esterbrook nibs write smoother. What tools do I need for this project?
Thank you all in advance :thumbup:

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#2 pal38



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Posted 11 March 2011 - 06:07

The nib got scratchy because you don't have the same writing position as the previous Owner of the pen. Carefully grind the edges off with 1000 grain cloth/paper, always changing the angle of the pen in every respect (steep, flat, left, right). Takes a bit of patience, but rewards you with a wonderfully gliding nib.


#3 gross


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Posted 11 March 2011 - 06:44

pal38 gave you some good advice. However, as an avid Esterbrook fan, I would offer another suggestion or two. First, use a hand lens (say, 10x) to make sure the tines are properly aligned. Most Esterbrook nibs are pretty smooth to start with, especially the 9xxx series nibs. So you may need to realign the nib. If, however, the tines are properly aligned, then start with a paper grocery bag and make large figure eights over it for a while (say a dozen figure eights and make sure your pen has ink - don't do it with a dry nib). Try the pen on regular paper to see if any of the scratchiness is gone. If it is, continue with the paper bag until the desired smoothness is achieved. If the paper bag is not helping, then go to the grit paper. I would suggest you start with 2500 grade and, again with you ink-filled pen, make four or five figure eights and then try the pen on regular paper. The grit paper grinds away the nib tipping faster than the paper bag, so don't make as many figure eights as you did on the bag. Fine tuning a nib is pretty easy, but it is also pretty easy to go overboard and ruin a nib.

Let us endeavor to live so that when we come to die even the undertaker will be sorry. -Mark Twain

#4 pal38



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Posted 11 March 2011 - 13:05

Gross' advice is very sound! Guess my experiences come from making write dozens of Wearever nibs, the quality of which was nowhere near the Esterbrook's and to which more persuasive means are appropriate.


#5 teej47



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Posted 14 March 2011 - 17:55

Here's a little advice from someone who really likes to fiddle with nibs. Making a scratchy nib smooth is 90% alignment and 10% abrasion... give or take 10%. The finer the point the more critical (along with more difficult) the proper alignment is.

You need good light and magnification (unless you are extremely nearsighted like I am... and I still use magnification). Look at the underside of the point from each side. Here's where the strong light comes in. You're looking for the light reflecting off one inside edge. Using only your fingers and thumbs, push up or down (depending on what that nib needs) until neither half of the point is higher or lower than the other (here's where good magnification is necessary). The vast majority of the time this is all that is required.

If you still have some scratch on horizontal strokes you either haven't gotten it aligned yet (so you probably need more magnification) or you've got an overly sharp outside edge. The latter is often the result of the condition pal38 so wonderfully illustrated. In that case a little... and I do mean little... buffing with the finest grade of micromesh just on the sharp edges does the trick. I use micromesh sticks that I get at a hobby shop in the model building aisle. They're used by manicurists and have the finest grade on one side and two coarser grades on the other. On a 9 series nib you may be able to be a bit more agressive (since they're actually tipped), but on 1 and 2 series nibs you can take the rolled tip off in a heartbeat... so use a light touch and the finest grade. It takes a lot less effort than you might think.

As for tools? Just your fingers/thumbs, a loupe (or at least a magnifying glass), a light, and maybe the finest grade micromesh. Keep anything harder than your thumbnail away. Anything harder (like pliers of any kind) will most like render your nib a useless single pointed piece of metal.

All of this, by the way, is spoken from experience.

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#6 OcalaFlGuy


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Posted 14 March 2011 - 18:20

Also, I would avoid the figure eights while trying to smooth a nib. According to Mike Masyama, that particular motion can in and of itself cause you to form a babybottomed nib where one did not exist before. You are much safer with a few words (pershaps your pen testing sentence)that will exercise the most areas of the nib. If you are getting "the scratchies" in one certain area of one of more specific letters, write them as your smoothing exercise.

The high grit manicure sticks Tim mentioned are by far the best, safest, cheapest, easiest to find smoothing medium.

As he also mentioned, don't even think about smoothing a nib until you are Absolutely Positive the tines are aligned.

Bruce in Ocala, FL

#7 Dane


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Posted 31 March 2011 - 00:29

Hello Fellow FPN members,
I read through this chat stream and wanted to add just a quick note on materials that came to mind. I found the back side of the finest grit (600 and higher) wet sanding paper immensely useful for fine applications. Initially I discovered this working on pool cues shafts and ferrules on the lathe. Plus, it is a wet media paper so using it with ink is no problem. While against a writing table or equivalent, it holds a wonderfully flat and even surface. I hope this is useful. Dan

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