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How Does One Learn Nib Grinding?

nib grinding tuning italic cursive stub

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31 replies to this topic

#1 Sach

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Posted 04 February 2014 - 18:18

What's the best way to learn the intricacies of nib grinding? All the well known grinders started somewhere, and I'm curious how they learnt their craft. Also, do they all need that grinding wheel the cut and polish, or are there other methods which aren't too laborious?



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#2 watch_art

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Posted 04 February 2014 - 18:22

You start with practicing on your own cheap pens/nibs.  I like a dremel with cut off wheel and a couple of polishing/abrasive wheels from Rio Grande.  Some 2000 grit wet/dry sandpaper and lapping film or whatever the really fine paper is called.  It's more like plastic than paper. 

Practice a LOT.  :)


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#3 Sinistral1

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Posted 04 February 2014 - 18:32

I just purchased my 1st 14kt gold nib that I decided would be the one I would practice learning how to fine tune with.  I started with 2,000 grit micromesh wet/dry paper and am now using a buffing stick at 12,000 grit.  The gold is so soft that each stroke changes the nib's shape.  It reminds me of flying a helicopter - you have to just consider the direction you want to go and you're already there, because the controls are so sensitive.  The nib had no tipping material left when I got it, and a tiny bit of one tine was missing, which is why I decided it would be a good one to use for practice.  I need to make some more minor adjustments, but right now it creates beautiful hairlines and still has some flex left for great line variation and to make the most out of shading ink.

 

I think with steel or gold plated steel nibs you might have to use the power tools like a grinder, because the metal is so much harder.  I used a Dremel to create the EMF mod on one of my Noodlers Ahabs that has a flexible stainless steel nib.


Breathe.  Take one step at a time.  Don't sweat the small stuff.  You're not getting older, you are only moving through time.  Be calm and positive.


#4 watch_art

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Posted 04 February 2014 - 19:17

When grinding gold nibs I still use the dremel.  :)  Just extra careful.


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#5 Kathleen48

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Posted 04 February 2014 - 21:10

I guess I am old school.  I learned (in a calligraphy class) on an arkansas stone (with water) and then finishing with crocus or rouge cloth.  I have never gone near a grinding wheel or a dremel to reshape a nib's profile.  Yes it probably takes longer, especially if there is a lot of tipping material. But I have learned the hard way (as most of us do) that it's easy to go too far really fast. 


Kathleen


#6 Sinistral1

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Posted 04 February 2014 - 21:44

Kathleen:

The dip pen nibs for calligraphy are usually made of thin metal compared to the stainless steel nibs of the Noodlers flex pens. Also, with these, you're not shaping or changing the tip of the nib but the sides, removing metal to cause the nib to flex with less pressure - what you're working on never touches the paper. You still have to be careful not to remove too much, but I think it would be hard to remove the metal using a straight stone.

Breathe.  Take one step at a time.  Don't sweat the small stuff.  You're not getting older, you are only moving through time.  Be calm and positive.


#7 Wile E Coyote

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Posted 04 February 2014 - 21:46

I just purchased my 1st 14kt gold nib that I decided would be the one I would practice learning how to fine tune with.  I started with 2,000 grit micromesh wet/dry paper and am now using a buffing stick at 12,000 grit.  The gold is so soft that each stroke changes the nib's shape.  It reminds me of flying a helicopter - you have to just consider the direction you want to go and you're already there, because the controls are so sensitive.  The nib had no tipping material left when I got it, and a tiny bit of one tine was missing, which is why I decided it would be a good one to use for practice.  I need to make some more minor adjustments, but right now it creates beautiful hairlines and still has some flex left for great line variation and to make the most out of shading ink.
 
I think with steel or gold plated steel nibs you might have to use the power tools like a grinder, because the metal is so much harder.  I used a Dremel to create the EMF mod on one of my Noodlers Ahabs that has a flexible stainless steel nib.


If the nib is changing shape with each stroke on 12,000 grit, it sounds like you have ground off the "iridium" tipping or you are using something substantially coarser than 12,000.
Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
-Albert Einstein (1879-1955)

#8 Sinistral1

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Posted 04 February 2014 - 21:55

The iridium tipping was already long gone when I got the pen, so it was down to the gold when I started. I first evened out the end so that both tines were the same length, and then I shaped the sides to be slightly rounded. I am using only 12,000, but the gold is so soft that even a feather stroke changes the shape. It's pretty tricky, but has turned out pretty cool, for a first attempt, I think.

Breathe.  Take one step at a time.  Don't sweat the small stuff.  You're not getting older, you are only moving through time.  Be calm and positive.


#9 Wile E Coyote

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Posted 04 February 2014 - 22:13

That splains it.
Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
-Albert Einstein (1879-1955)

#10 I like mango cheesecake

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Posted 04 February 2014 - 23:21

I started out on throw away pen nibs and worked up to other pens. I've ground and reshaped about 4 or 5 pens so far. I like stubs and I've gotten stubs from .7,  .9,  1.1, and 1.5mm sizes.  I started with a dremel and finished off with the hard rubber wheel, but then I got various grades of paper and then finally a 12,000 grit jade sanding block. 

 

I still don't have the guts to tinker with my 149 B nib.  It's a bit too wet and wide for me.  My other 149 was Mottishawed to a .9mm stub, so I can't take credit for that one. 

 

I've watched his videos and that helped me alot.



#11 Indy_Pen_Dance

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Posted 05 February 2014 - 05:32

I started out using nibs from "kit" pens that I got from various pen makers who had pulled them and replaced with "better" nibs in their hand crafted pens.  I used these to tinker with after taking the nib tuning class that Richard Binder offers at one of the pen shows.  Then I got really lucky and was able to study with Richard at Nashua and learn to grind nibs using the dremel to shape them.  I spent a good deal of time at various pen shows observing him work as well.  I think many of us will share what we know with someone that is really interested in learning!



#12 Sach

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Posted 05 February 2014 - 06:38

I started out using nibs from "kit" pens that I got from various pen makers who had pulled them and replaced with "better" nibs in their hand crafted pens.  I used these to tinker with after taking the nib tuning class that Richard Binder offers at one of the pen shows.  Then I got really lucky and was able to study with Richard at Nashua and learn to grind nibs using the dremel to shape them.  I spent a good deal of time at various pen shows observing him work as well.  I think many of us will share what we know with someone that is really interested in learning!


If I were on your side of the Atlantic, I would take you up on your offer..!

#13 WirsPlm

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Posted 05 February 2014 - 15:13

Chinese pens can be a good way to start (Jinhao nibs are usually good, but there are several brands that repeatedly have problems), or disposable FPs (Pilot Varsity, Bic and Zebra have one too) that you can practice reshaping. I started by ordering a nib smoothing kit and trying to fix any problems that cropped up (so far, 3 nibs ruined and 1 rescued after dropping it), the key seems to be getting a good and pretty strong loupe so things can be seen clearly.

#14 lcoldfield

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Posted 05 February 2014 - 19:51

You do not need power assistance to grind nibs - especially if you are a beginner.  I can think of no way to ruin a nib more quickly.  Just because the main pen manufacturers used a wheel it does not mean that it is the only way to do it.  It is certainly quicker if you are an expert, but I doubt that the experts started that way.

After many years of experience, I use only wood carving sharpening stones (coarse to change a nib profile), finishing off with Arkansas stone and jeweller's rouge for final polish.  The whole process takes no more than 10 minutes and you can easily monitor progress with a powerful loupe.

Laurence



#15 Gloucesterman

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Posted 06 February 2014 - 01:59

What are the best places to buy the polishing sheets. I would like to do a group buy in quantity, maybe 10-25 sheets and then distribute them among the people who participate.

 

Thanks for any suggestions...


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#16 Gardengal97

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Posted 08 February 2014 - 06:44

I bought a great nib tuning kit from Fountainpensacs.com. It came with three three emery boards with three different sizes of grit.  It also included mylar sheets and two different sized brass shims.  I have "da book", have watched oodles of youtube videos, and have a fluctuating metalsmithing hobby.  I have a flex-shaft, but would never in a million years use it on a nib.  I have tuned up several and custom ground one broken tined nib into an italic for my lefty daughter.

I start really slow drawing figure eights, infinity shapes, and making sure the nib doesn't catch on the upstroke. I am really having dangerous thoughts about soldering a nib or two that are cracked, but I have not been brave enough to try. Is there a book anyone would suggest? 



#17 Ego Id Veto

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Posted 09 February 2014 - 01:46

I am really having dangerous thoughts about soldering a nib or two that are cracked, but I have not been brave enough to try. Is there a book anyone would suggest? 


You can't solder a cracked nib. It would do nothing and possibly wreck it. There are only a few people with the resources to weld a nib crack shut and they use very specialised equipment. If it's a valuable nib that you really need repairing, possibly try contacting Greg Minuskin or John Mottishaw. They're pretty good at that stuff, but because it's a specialised skill, it might cost a pretty penny.
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#18 watch_art

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Posted 09 February 2014 - 02:37

And goldnibs.com can retip and repair.

I think you should try it though. On cheap nibs what are you going to lose? I'd blove to see a double broad Varsity. :)

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#19 Gardengal97

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Posted 09 February 2014 - 06:00

I am not talking about anything less than soldering with a torch and gold solder, not using lead solder. I am sure that is what they use in some cases at a nib meister's.   I would just worry about the tempering that happens with annealing the gold when you heat it up.  I do have a goldsmith friend (My former metalsmithing teacher) with a laser welder. I would never think about soldering anything of real value, but I have a couple nibs that are not worth much and would not make me too sad to lose.  



#20 lcoldfield

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Posted 09 February 2014 - 18:01

Nib crack soldering does not require a lot of expensive equipment. 

Jeweller's supply outlets in the UK sell gold solder paste in 9ct or 18ct syringe containers.  All you then need is a ceramic surface to work on, a tub of thermal shunt paste to protect the temper of the tip, and a mini torch.  It is not a procedure without significant risk though as you have to keep the flame clear of any gold edges and you must remove the heat as soon as the solder flows.  After a clean up with fine abrasives, it is often not possible to see where the crack was. You can read all about it in 'Pen Repair'.

Laurence







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