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Pressure On The Nib

flex nib

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18 replies to this topic

#1 Tootles

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Posted 24 May 2015 - 04:49

Can anyone educate me on just how much pressure should be applied to make nib flex? When I use a dip pen I still have to apply distinct pressure to get line variation, even with apparently very flexible nibs. So I am wondering about the videos I see of people using flexible fountain pen nibs. I can see the result of what they are doing, and it's very pretty and all, but there is no indication of how hard they are pushing. I refuse to believe that my problems with flex are a result of a naturally very light hand - I'm just not that skilled.  So, anyone?


Edited by Cardboard_Tube, 24 May 2015 - 05:26.


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#2 ac12

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Posted 24 May 2015 - 05:37

IMHO they are applying too much pressure to spread the nibs too far apart in an effort to get that WIDE ink line that looks neat.


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#3 KBeezie

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Posted 24 May 2015 - 11:40

Unless the nib is made/called a flex it's not a flex nib. No amount of pressure will "make" a nib flex, that's called springing it, and essentially permanently damaging it.

There's an old-timer method to determine if a nib is flexible. You press it to the top of your thumbnail, if the area under the thumbnail turns white before the tipping starts to separate, then it's flex/semi-flex, if it does until after it turns white, then it's not flex and should not be treated as such. Some soft/springy nibs will do so immediately after the area turns white, meaning it's springy but it's not flex, shouldn't give more than 2x the starting width at the very most and is designed to basically give a springy response to writing more than it's intended to give line variation (example: Pilot Falcon with a soft nib).

The thumbnail trick works well because it gives you a point of reference to how much pressure is being used.

My Wahl-Eversharp Doric with a #3 Adjustable nib (so far my best in terms of ease of flex) and my Eversharp Skyline Moire with a flex nib are definitely flex by the thumbnail trick as is the semi-flex EF on my Pekian 400NN and Eversharp Skyline Standard. My Pilot Falcon does spread a little but shortly after that area turns white which falls in line with my impression of it being a 'springy' nib. I'm with you though, an actual 'flex' nib should flex under a light hand.

I wouldn't even classify the Noodler's Flex nibs as being flexy, they're more springy at best as they require a significant amount of pressure just to get anything out of them, and shouldn't be considered the norm for actual flex nibs.

PS: What nibs are you classifying as "Very Flexible" Nibs?

Edited by KBeezie, 24 May 2015 - 11:45.


#4 pavoni

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Posted 24 May 2015 - 12:00

The thumbnail trick is a good indicator on the potential flexible qualities of a particular nib.  However, surely the moment one has to think about applying pressure to a nib, the less flexible the nib! 

 

Glad to see the distinction between flex and spring.

 

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#5 Mauricio

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Posted 24 May 2015 - 15:58

You certainly have to be very careful about how much pressure to apply to your flex nibs. If you are not very familiar with them, err on the side of caution (little pressure applied). Over time and with much practice, you will learn how far a flexible nib can be pushed without inflicting damage to it over the long term. This is a very safe approach to preserve your flex nibs for decades to come ... and until you become very acquainted with them. Be skeptical of most videos of flex writing out there. With very few exceptions, most of those videos are made by amateurs who push their flex nibs several times harder than what they were designed and manufactured for. Furthermore, most of those videos are full of improper techniques to properly use and write with flexible nibs.

An analogy would be to see the video of a Mini Cooper automobile getting the Guinness World Record for the most people that can fit inside a Mini Cooper automobile. I believe they were able to stuff about 25+ people inside that small car. However, that car was only designed and or manufactured as a four passenger car. How long will that car last if they keep stuffing several times the total number of people that vehicle was designed for? Hope this illustration gives you some perspective as to how careful you have to be when watching videos of people abusing their flexible nibs.

Edited by Mauricio, 24 May 2015 - 16:02.

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#6 Uncial

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Posted 24 May 2015 - 16:08

I have a wet noodle in a Waterman 52 and it needs no pressure to flex. You have to write very, very lightly with it and it is very wet. Writing normally will produce a distinctly thicker line. I find it quite hard to use as there is a real knack to it and you have to be very relaxed to use it. Some flex nibs for the dip pen are similar but I have found that the oblique flange makes it a heck of a lot easier -not entirely sure why.

Semi flex nibs need a little pressure, but not a lot.

Noodler's, Pilot and other flex nibs promise a lot, but deliver little unless you risk heavy pressure. I risk it regularly and like them as they are a great starting point.

Springy nibs get easily sprung, but they are nice.



#7 Yehenara

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Posted 24 May 2015 - 16:22

If you are familiar with dip pens, then this shouldn't be news to you, but just in case: flex along the tines. I notice that, aside from applying FAR too much pressure on a fountain pen nib, many Youtube videos feature people who flex sideways. This is horrific for the nib, especially if you're flexing hard, and in my experience, it takes much more effort to get any line variation.



#8 Tootles

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Posted 24 May 2015 - 21:01

Some good reminders here. I am not unfamiliar with dip pens. Although I still consider myself a beginner with regard to my scripting skills. If we look at the zebra G nib as an example, last night I pressed a bit harder (I would call it firm pressure) and achieved swells up to 1mm. Considering that the unflexed line width is practically a hair-line I think the variation from one to the other is enormous. However, I see on videos and on posts here that people push these nibs 2, 3, or 4 times further than I do. This leads me to ask the question for this thread. Am I too timid, or are the demonstrators too enthusiastic?

 

A Hunt 101, Gillot 303 and Hiro 41 - being the other pointed pens I currently enjoy - all flex with far less pressure than the zebra G, but they still require some pressure, and they are surely considered to be somewhat noodle-like. Unless I am mistaken and these nibs are really only semi-flex?

 

Anyway, that's my dilemma. All the nibs I mention here, under my normal writing hand produce very little variation, the zebra G none at all. This would all be a heck of a lot simpler if I was able to attend a big pen show and ask some experts in person to demonstrate these things. Failing that, I ask here.

 

I was watching the videos of Brian Sizemore on YouTube. His pens 'appear' to flex at the mere touch to the paper. Is this an illusion?



#9 andreasn

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Posted 24 May 2015 - 22:01

I can get lines as thick as 4mm with my HUNT bowl pointed dip nib. That said I certainly don't recommend you do that. It just can't be good for your nib and I WOULD NEVER DO IT TO A FOUNTAIN PEN NIB. I am much more willing to take such risks with a dip nib since I can replace those very cheaply and easily. If you really want extreme flex like that, buy some dip nibs that are relatively cheap. I don't see any reason why you would want to write with that amount of flex anyway except just to try it.



#10 Tootles

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Posted 24 May 2015 - 22:48

I guess it's because I see people doing these things with vintage fountain pens and I wonder if I am missing out due to a lack of technique on my part. As for dip nibs, yes, cheap but I still don't abuse mine that much!



#11 KBeezie

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Posted 24 May 2015 - 22:49

I don't own anything that I would consider a wet noodle, but I do own a couple that I would consider to have way more 'ease of flex' than anything modern I own. The Doric with the 14K #3 Adjustable nib being the easiest (I don't rank them by how much flex they give but how easily they give it, such as if I can do it with just light scribble to the point that I need to use a light hand to avoid it).

I don't have my Eversharp Skyline in Silver Moire with the flex~semi-flex nib, nor the black standard skyline with the semi-flex EF inked, but I do have the Doric, a Pilot Metal Falcon with an Soft EF, and a 1956 Pelikan 400NN with a 14K semi-flex-ish EF inked currently, as well as a Zebra-G dip nib handy (which while it can provide greater line variation than my doric without scaring the (bleep) out of me, requires more pressure to do so, but less pressure than the Falcon or 400NN.)

Quick write sample on some Environotes Sugarcane paper (feels more absorbent like that of regular notebook paper, but doesn't bleed/feather, putting it closer to Rhodia quality in terms of wet inks and strokes). I swear the broadest strokes with the Zebra-G and older Lamy Blue-Black formulation takes close to 10 minutes to dry without blotting.

Top to bottom:
Wahl-Eversharp Skyline Doric, Kashmir (1931-1935), 14K #3 Adjustable nib, Edelstein Jade
Pilot Metal Falcon (Brown), 14K Soft Extra-Fine, Iroshizuku Tsuki-yo
Pelikan 400NN (1956), Green Stripe, 14K Semi-Flex-ish Extra-Fine, R&K Salix (weaker Iron Gall)
Zebra-G Dip nib in a Tachikawa Model-40, Lamy Blue-Black (older Iron Gall Formula)

and the little note in red is Pelikan 140 (50s), black with green ink window, 14K Broad cursive italic (with some spring), Diamine Oxblood.

The point is to illustrate just effortless pressure of each, essentially not going beyond what I feel is 'normal' writing pressure for nibs in general, except in the cross-stroke where I mark where I begin to go beyond (ie: the beyond mark is when I use more press than I did for the doric at top).

PS: none of the lines bled thru to the other side. The Lamy Blue-Black bolder lines had a more distinctive shadow on the other side, but not bled thru.

:P Pardon the chicken-scratch, I got a long way to go.

Click for the full 300 DPI scan.

dG2vDiNh.jpg

Edit, if you don't know what I mean by adjustable:

aQRvL07.jpg

Edited by KBeezie, 24 May 2015 - 22:51.


#12 Tootles

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Posted 24 May 2015 - 23:23

That's interesting but doesn't really help me to quantify 'pressure'. It may well be that what I think of as pressure is completely different to what anyone else thinks. I may have to find a sensitive set of scales to actually measure what is going on.



#13 KBeezie

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Posted 24 May 2015 - 23:41

That's interesting but doesn't really help me to quantify 'pressure'. It may well be that what I think of as pressure is completely different to what anyone else thinks. I may have to find a sensitive set of scales to actually measure what is going on.


There was the thumbnail trick earlier mentioned, not sure you're going to get better than that without talking to someone in person.

#14 KBeezie

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Posted 24 May 2015 - 23:42

Ie I don't use any more pressure than what it would take to crack a lays potato chip in half. Trying to do the same for a peanut shell is too much for me.

#15 Bo Bo Olson

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Posted 25 May 2015 - 09:14

I am very 'noobie' with dip pen nibs in I don't have the Hand to use them, or the time to learn. There are many stages of flex in dip pen nibs also.

I don't have a Zebra...which I understand as a fairly stiff nib...I do have some Brouse nibs and they are varied in the pressure one can use with them, from hard to soft. Soennecken at first seemed so very  flexible, then I got the Hunt 99-100-101 nibs....those make a fountain pen wet noodle look uncooked.

 

A neat trick Breezie about the white of the thumb under the nail....I just pressed in I'd pressed to check nail vs regular flex, found it no problem with out knowing about the white, ...remembering my first semi-flex the 140 :drool: :puddle: :happyberet: I suddenly knew what all the fuss was about with out even inking the pen. The tine spread was so much easier...and I knew the 140 came only in semi-flex (not counting the stiff H or the nails-nail D nibs)


German vintage '50-70 semi-flex stubs and those in oblique give the real thing in On Demand line variation. Modern Oblique is a waste of money for a shadow of line variation. Being too lazy to Hunt for affordable vintage oblique pens, lets you 'hunt' for line variation instead of having it.

www.nibs.com/blog/nibster-writes/nibs-germany & https://www.peter-bo...cts/nib-systems,

 

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#16 Tootles

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Posted 25 May 2015 - 10:09

Okay then, I just tried the thumbnail test. The zebra G starts to flex at about the same time as the nail goes white. So, semi-flex? The Hiro 41, Hunt 101 and Gillot 303 are miles apart before the nail goes white, so they are full flex, yes? Having said that, if the zebra G is only semi-flex what on earth are people doing to it to get swells out to 3mm or more?

 

When I get a chance I'll have to do a writing sample. It's perishing cold here right now, not conducive to writing (cold hands), and my house has no heating whatsoever. Waiting for a warmer (relatively) day!


Edited by Cardboard_Tube, 25 May 2015 - 11:07.


#17 candide

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Posted 25 May 2015 - 11:01

I've been reading this thread with interest because I, too, am a newbie when it comes to dip nibs and it seemed to me that the Nikko G (the only flex dip nib I've used so far, see how much of a newbie I am? :D) required a fair bit of force. Good to know it's actually on the stiff end of the scale.

 

By the way, in the Eleanor Winters Copperplate calligraphy book I've been learning from, she recommends not flexing the nib more than about 55% of its total flex capability. Not sure that's at all helpful for a fountain pen nib though, as I wouldn't want to flex one to find out its maximum flex capacity.


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#18 KBeezie

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Posted 25 May 2015 - 16:12

Okay then, I just tried the thumbnail test. The zebra G starts to flex at about the same time as the nail goes white. So, semi-flex? The Hiro 41, Hunt 101 and Gillot 303 are miles apart before the nail goes white, so they are full flex, yes? Having said that, if the zebra G is only semi-flex what on earth are people doing to it to get swells out to 3mm or more?


It's not an exact science, but more or less an indicator of the nib's potential to flex in comparison to other nib giving you a point of reference (the whiteness) of pressure used to achieve. The Zebra-G as I noted in my write sample is capable of going pretty wide, but the amount of pressure required is higher (if you note where I point the arrow on the strokes of the zebra-G nib, it doesn't match that of my Doric at the same point of pressure, since the thickest stroke done with the Doric was at or less, than before the arrow points on the zebra-g stroke list).

But it's also why I say if it does it before or at the white, then it's either flex or semi-flex, and if shortly after springy, least in regards to ease-of-flex. IF you have to press really hard, can you really write out fluid cursive with line variation if you have to consciously apply that much pressure for every stroke?

Also I think it was Bo Bo who came up with this rough guide :

Springy/Soft = 2x the starting width (ie: an EF showing Fine with a little push)
Semi-Flex = 3-4 the starting width (ie: EF showing around M-B with a little push)
Flex = 5-7x (something like the Doric or a nice waterman going from an EF to BB or BBB with only a little push)

the 'little push' part is the key because some of the nibs, like the Zebra-G *can* spread a bit (As can the Noodler's or FountainPenRevolution nibs with some modification or fearless determination) but doing so easily is a different matter. Plus dip nibs are a less likely to railroad when spreading that far as there's no feed to separate from, the ink is coming off the nib itself.

In the wild you don't know exactly what a nib will take beyond that little push, and better not to risk it. The modern stuff like the Noodler's nib, Zebra-G, Falcon's soft nibs etc, there's enough guinea pigs out there to test the mass produced (an in theory identical to each other) nibs to show what they're capable of, and as a result where they start to fail. But like I said earlier, if you're having to give a good push every time you want to consistently write those broad strokes, you're going to be taking forever to finish a paragraph, and might not look like it flows fluidly (which can impact the way the ink shades or sheens, or how wet it gets laid on).

Edited by KBeezie, 25 May 2015 - 16:13.


#19 delano

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Posted 25 May 2015 - 16:16

OP, thanks for this topic!  It's been VERY informative.

 

KBeezie, thank you for making it so!







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