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Use Caution: Getting A Butter Smooth Nib With Household Items

nib smoothing polish grind

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#1 yixiel

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Posted 28 May 2016 - 20:05

Hi everyone, 

 

I recently bought a Pelikan M400 EF nib that was smooth like butter and wrote very nicely, except it had restricted flow in certain directions (typical of Pelikan EF nibs). In the past I have attempted to adjust myself several nibs with more or less success.

 

Now all I have in my house is a nail buff and other items like leather, glass, what not. 

 

After increasing the flow and correctly re-aligning the tines, it wrote perfect except it had a bit of tooth, something to be expected when opening up a nib which was not polished with having it open like this in mind. I took a nailbuff and only gently did some figure 8's on the 12000 grit surface and although it writes smooth like butter in horizontal strokes, when doing a normal downwards stroke it has a very fine friction like tooth as if writing on sandy paper. Hard to explain it, it's not scratchy but it's not a smooth feedback either. It just doesn't glide downwards, it's got surface friction and is extremely annoying.

 

I tried to do more 8's and also sideways, downwards, all sort of directions like recommended in classic nib smoothing textbooks, but it won't go away. In fact I even managed to get it toothy in all directions and then smooth again but on downwards strokes it keeps having that friction thing. 

 

Please help! I ruined many nibs before and they are expensive. I only have this nail buff and nothing like mylar or lapping film in my house and buying them will take weeks from where I live. I thought maybe using a leather strap? A paper bag? A glass mirror? Tried them all and no success. The paper bag makes it worse actually. 

 

Does anyone know of any household items with the right abrasion for making a butter smooth nib? And how about fixing it on downwards strokes in particular because the other directions seem to be just fine.

 

Many thanks in advance!



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#2 welcmhm

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Posted 28 May 2016 - 20:35

Up front, I'm going to say that if you try this, it's at your own risk. I have not tried it (I use some micro mesh and lapping paper), but if you really don't want to purchase those, I've heard that you can use a paper grocery bag and run some figure eights over it.

#3 Sasha Royale

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Posted 28 May 2016 - 20:52

A toothy nib, that offers feedback, is not a disaster.  Some nib / ink / user combinations are smoother than others.  

"Buttery smooth" is elusive, and, in my opinion, mythical.  Pelikan fountain pens are still being manufactured, and Pelikan nibs still being produced.   Feel free to destroy as many nibs as you can afford in pursuit of the "buttery smooth" unicorn.  

 

Consider lowering your expectations.  .


Auf freiem Grund mit freiem Volke stehn. 
Zum Augenblicke dürft ich sagen: 
Verweile doch, du bist so schön ! 


#4 davyk

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Posted 28 May 2016 - 21:15

I wouldn't say "buttery smooth" is elusive, its just subjective. I've managed to get perfectly smooth extra-fines and fine nibs using variations of the methods Mr. Binder shared with the fountain pen community. 



#5 linearM

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Posted 28 May 2016 - 21:18

I had heard that doing the figure 8's on a brown paper bag, like from the grocery store can help.  I tried it on one of my pens and it seemed to help.  It certainly couldn't hurt.



#6 cellmatrix

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Posted 28 May 2016 - 22:44

Hi Yixiel

 

I think its good that you looked at the nib in a loupe and tried to align the nibs together. This is the usual cause of scratchy nibs, and many people don't do this before resorting to destructive methods like nib smoothing. 

 

So if you've done that and still want it smoother, then you will need to use use some type of abrasive. But it you've ruined nibs before, I would try to avoid repeating the incident again with an expensive pelikan M400 nib. I recommend sending it off for a professional nib smoothing/tuning.

 

But at the same time, as a fountain pen user, you really should learn how to eventually do this your self, just not with an expensive nib. Instead, I recommend getting some cheap jinhao pens for a buck or two off Ebay. You can buy them for a really low price like around 10 pens for 15 bucks with free shipping. Once you get them, try practicing nib smoothing on these. Once you go thru a few of these and finally learn how to smooth them well, you will be prepared for future expensive pens.

 

And yes, a nail pad is perfectly good to use for smoothing. Its best to get a salon quality one that has coarse and fine sides. Use the coarse side as little as you can get away with. Try not to overdo it even with the fine side. Less is more when it comes to nib smoothing because once you lose the iridium it won't come back unless you retip it, and retipping is expensive. 

 

Also, another thing to consider is writing with a very light touch. Often when people move from ballpoints to fountain pens, they have to spend some time developing a very light touch. Sometimes people try to compensate for a less than light touch by getting broader nibs and trying to make them as butter smooth as possible.

 

But if you can learn to adopt a really light touch, you will find that even a scratchy nib is easy to write with. In fact you just might eventually find, after writing with a light touch after a while, that you do appreciate a little tooth, to help guide you on the paper.

 

Anyway, I hope this is helpful advice,

 

C

 

Edit to add: I reread your post and realize you've been on FPN for a few years now, so you must have adopted to a light touch by now.

 

Here are some additional ideas:

 

1) when you say you adjusted the flow, did that mean you widened the tines? I've found that sometimes when you widen the tines too much it causes scratchiness

 

2) Even if the spacing between the tines is perfect, your adjustment of your tines in relation to one another may be off. This depends on your writing style, i.e. whether you rotate the nib a bit. It may be useful to very carefully adjust the nib a little more, moving one tine a very little up or down, just a tiny amount (be careful) and then try writing to see if the scratching is better.

 

3) did you flush out/ clean the pen well? sometimes poor flow in the feed can cause scratchiness.

 

3) if the above three did not work, then you may have made things worse by your initial attempts at using the nail pad. You will need to correct that. Like I said before, it may be useful for you to send it to an expert to smooth it out. There are many here on FPN and some are quite reasonable, especially just for a nib tuning/ smoothing

 

good luck



#7 yixiel

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Posted 29 May 2016 - 00:59

Hi Yixiel

 

I think its good that you looked at the nib in a loupe and tried to align the nibs together. This is the usual cause of scratchy nibs, and many people don't do this before resorting to destructive methods like nib smoothing. 

 

So if you've done that and still want it smoother, then you will need to use use some type of abrasive. But it you've ruined nibs before, I would try to avoid repeating the incident again with an expensive pelikan M400 nib. I recommend sending it off for a professional nib smoothing/tuning.

 

But at the same time, as a fountain pen user, you really should learn how to eventually do this your self, just not with an expensive nib. Instead, I recommend getting some cheap jinhao pens for a buck or two off Ebay. You can buy them for a really low price like around 10 pens for 15 bucks with free shipping. Once you get them, try practicing nib smoothing on these. Once you go thru a few of these and finally learn how to smooth them well, you will be prepared for future expensive pens.

 

And yes, a nail pad is perfectly good to use for smoothing. Its best to get a salon quality one that has coarse and fine sides. Use the coarse side as little as you can get away with. Try not to overdo it even with the fine side. Less is more when it comes to nib smoothing because once you lose the iridium it won't come back unless you retip it, and retipping is expensive. 

 

Also, another thing to consider is writing with a very light touch. Often when people move from ballpoints to fountain pens, they have to spend some time developing a very light touch. Sometimes people try to compensate for a less than light touch by getting broader nibs and trying to make them as butter smooth as possible.

 

But if you can learn to adopt a really light touch, you will find that even a scratchy nib is easy to write with. In fact you just might eventually find, after writing with a light touch after a while, that you do appreciate a little tooth, to help guide you on the paper.

 

Anyway, I hope this is helpful advice,

 

C

 

Edit to add: I reread your post and realize you've been on FPN for a few years now, so you must have adopted to a light touch by now.

 

Here are some additional ideas:

 

1) when you say you adjusted the flow, did that mean you widened the tines? I've found that sometimes when you widen the tines too much it causes scratchiness

 

2) Even if the spacing between the tines is perfect, your adjustment of your tines in relation to one another may be off. This depends on your writing style, i.e. whether you rotate the nib a bit. It may be useful to very carefully adjust the nib a little more, moving one tine a very little up or down, just a tiny amount (be careful) and then try writing to see if the scratching is better.

 

3) did you flush out/ clean the pen well? sometimes poor flow in the feed can cause scratchiness.

 

3) if the above three did not work, then you may have made things worse by your initial attempts at using the nail pad. You will need to correct that. Like I said before, it may be useful for you to send it to an expert to smooth it out. There are many here on FPN and some are quite reasonable, especially just for a nib tuning/ smoothing

 

good luck

 

Hi Cellmatrix,

 

Thank you for re-reading my post and providing a more comprehensive answer :) Yes, indeed, I have widened the tines and that has caused a bit of scratchiness. I managed to somewhat fix that using the good old paper bag trick ( actually I used a brown moleskine that has paper covers ) and it's much better now. This technique has undone about 80% of the damage done by improper nail buff polishing. Still it won't write as smooth as it did originally.  

 

Do you happen to know a nibmeister in the UK? Or somewhere in Europe? I also have other pens that I would like adjusted and I'd rather leave it to professionals from now on :) 



#8 cellmatrix

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Posted 29 May 2016 - 02:27

I recommend John Sorowka (Oxonian on FPN). I believe he is based in Oxford and he's very good with a nib. Another thing to try is to really clean the nib well with dilute ammonia and an ultrasound ( if you bring the nib to a jewelry store they might do it for you). It's possible that you might have gotten some precipitate clogged in the nib already and if you clear it out, the ink might flow better and you can then bring the tines closer together which would reduce the scratchiness.

#9 Bo Bo Olson

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Posted 29 May 2016 - 19:59

According to Ol' Grizz (RIP) doing just figure 8's will cause baby bottom.

 

 

Smoothness depends also much on what ink and what paper you are using.


www.nibs.com/blog/nibster-writes/nibs-germany      Info on Bock nibs

 

Due to Mauricio's improved definition of Super-flex, I try not use the term Easy Full Flex, but fail...sigh.

 

Semi-flex is an “almost” flex; not a ‘flex’ nib. It is great for regular writing with a touch of flair. It can give you some fancy; but it is not made for real fancy writing. For bit more of that get a maxi-semi-flex. Both spread tines 3X.  Those are not "Flex" nibs. 

 

Wider than Normal does not exist. Wider than Japanese does. Every company has it's very own standard + slop/tolerance. Developed from the users of it's pens and inks only; not the users or inks of other companies pens. The size you grind a nib to, is your standard only. Paper and ink matter to nib width. Thank god for 1/2 sizes or it would be boring.


#10 pajaro

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Posted 29 May 2016 - 21:56

I have read that the nibmeisters recommend doing circles in each direction instead of doing figure eights. 


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#11 ac12

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Posted 30 May 2016 - 06:12

You are missing a few variables.
A smooth writing experience depends on 4 variables.
Changing any one of them can turn a smoother writer into a bad one, or a bad one into a good one.
The variables are:
- the pen, including the nib, and including something call wetness which is actually an interaction between the pen and the ink.
- the ink,
- the paper, some papers are worse than others, an EF nib is more sensitive to lack of smoothness of the paper.
- you the writer, press hard and you have more friction, more friction = scratchy feel

As CM said, learn on cheap pens, because you WILL mess up/damage pens as you learn.

Edited by ac12, 30 May 2016 - 06:12.

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#12 tmenyc

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Posted 30 May 2016 - 12:45

If you're going to do the brown paper bag method, please do be careful to use a brown paper bag that is not made of recycled material...there are all kinds of chips and particles of stuff in there that can catch on a nib and make matters worse for you.  I think the trick used to be great, was developed during an era when brown paper was a much more standard substance.  

 

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#13 Bo Bo Olson

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Posted 30 May 2016 - 21:28

I have used the brown paper bag to remove the 'iridium' rust/micro-corrosion of old vintage pens that sat in the back of a drawer for a generation or two. They are Not good for making a pen Butter Smooth.

 

For a long time getting micro-mesh of any kind was 'expensive' for me due to mailing it with super expensive US mail to Germany. And being an addict in the Pen of the Week in the Mail Club.

Now it is cheap and can be had in many pen places, Richard Binder, Goulette(sp) or others.

 

The brown paper bag...of good quality, will only remove the 'iridium rust' and take away drag. It will give you 'only' good and smooth, the level under butter smooth.

 

No matter what you do, you won't get butter smooth....nor can you grind a nib with a brown paper bag.....it is just enough an abrasive that if you do not rotate the nib constantly while removing drag, you can make a flat spot, if you work at it...wrong, long enough.

 

Micro-mesh needs more care, and a light hand of rotating the nib.

 

Believe it or not, almost all 'noobies' want butter smooth over everything. Many to most change their minds over a year or two.

Butter smooth means there are slick papers you can not use....you nib skates on it.

 

I have read various posts were some one wants to put a bit of feel back onto the butter smooth nib. :o

Toothy is the feeling of writing with a lead pencil. Many want that...eventually. They like feed back, some like it less than toothy, others want tooth. On most of my pens I prefer 'good and smooth' over toothy.

I do 'of course' have some that are toothy, and some that are 'butter smooth', but most of mine 50-60 are 'good and smooth', that gives me a touch of feel, with out a feeling of drag. Some pens are 'supposed' to be a tad toothy like Aurora.

 

For butter smooth, you need a good buff stick/micro-mesh...and taking your time. And be ready to ruin a nib or two.

 

As suggested, there are wetter inks and papers that are smooth, that will give you butter smooth, with out you having to do much.

 

First you need a loupe, 10-12X to see is your tines are aligned. Some have ground on a misaligned, nib trying to get it smooth, when 3 x 3 seconds of downward pressing from the breather hole would have aligned the tines, and it would not have been scratchy.

 

95% of scratchy, is miss aligned tines or holding the fountain pen like a ball point. Cutting the Grand Canyon through the paper, means the furrow is ink poor. You want a small puddle of ink for the tines to glide on.

 

Holding a fountain pen like a fountain pen instead of a ball point, can make a fountain pen feel real smooth, in instead of plowing a furrow in the paper by holding the fountain pen like a ball point....before the big index knuckle.

 

You should be holding the fountain pen behind the big index knuckle at 45 degrees, or at the start of the web of the thumb at 40 degrees..or if the pen is long or heavy in the pit of the web of the thumb at 35 degrees.

This also, lets the tipping lay flatter to the paper, so it can skate in the puddle of ink.

 

You should let the pen rest where it will behind the big index knuckle, that way you are not forcing it to be at say 45 degrees with excessive pressure (the dreaded Death Grip), when it might want to rest at say 40 degrees at the start of the web of the thumb.

A shorter pen rests more towards 45 degrees a longer one or one that is posted more towards 40 degrees. Let the pen rest where it will.  

 

Hold the pen lightly like it is a featherless baby bird.

Don't make baby bird paste. :angry:

That will help the search for butter smooth. ;)


www.nibs.com/blog/nibster-writes/nibs-germany      Info on Bock nibs

 

Due to Mauricio's improved definition of Super-flex, I try not use the term Easy Full Flex, but fail...sigh.

 

Semi-flex is an “almost” flex; not a ‘flex’ nib. It is great for regular writing with a touch of flair. It can give you some fancy; but it is not made for real fancy writing. For bit more of that get a maxi-semi-flex. Both spread tines 3X.  Those are not "Flex" nibs. 

 

Wider than Normal does not exist. Wider than Japanese does. Every company has it's very own standard + slop/tolerance. Developed from the users of it's pens and inks only; not the users or inks of other companies pens. The size you grind a nib to, is your standard only. Paper and ink matter to nib width. Thank god for 1/2 sizes or it would be boring.


#14 yixiel

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Posted 30 May 2016 - 22:14

Guys, thank you all for advice and opinions. Especially to Bo Bo Olson for his very good advice which I intend to follow. 

 

By the way I also lived in Berlin until a month ago, but for now I will order from a UK hardware store where they have all shapes and sizes of mylar sheets and lapping films, and no customs, no fuss. I even found they have a 0.05 micron version which most likely could cause the glass smooth nib effect which doesn't write on Rhodia at all. But I digress. 

 

In regard to smoothness, I have a Sailor that has a toothy nib which is also smooth, absolutely glorious. And also a Platinum which has the same smooth toothy feeling. That is probably what people crave after a while. But this Pelikan here has a nasty drag, it's not toothy, it's harsh as if writing on sandstone instead of paper. I believe my nailbuff was too abrasive and I was too indelicate. 

 

I will order some micro-mesh next week and see if I can undo the damage I've done. Will post my results back here. 



#15 pants

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Posted 22 November 2016 - 13:05

Hi Yixiel,

 

Which UK store is it you order mylar and films from? Is it The Pendragons (eBay store)?

 

I also found Schleifartikel in Germany (eBay store), even with the postage to the UK they have some good deals.

 

 

Guys, thank you all for advice and opinions. Especially to Bo Bo Olson for his very good advice which I intend to follow. 

 

By the way I also lived in Berlin until a month ago, but for now I will order from a UK hardware store where they have all shapes and sizes of mylar sheets and lapping films, and no customs, no fuss. I even found they have a 0.05 micron version which most likely could cause the glass smooth nib effect which doesn't write on Rhodia at all. But I digress. 

 

In regard to smoothness, I have a Sailor that has a toothy nib which is also smooth, absolutely glorious. And also a Platinum which has the same smooth toothy feeling. That is probably what people crave after a while. But this Pelikan here has a nasty drag, it's not toothy, it's harsh as if writing on sandstone instead of paper. I believe my nailbuff was too abrasive and I was too indelicate. 

 

I will order some micro-mesh next week and see if I can undo the damage I've done. Will post my results back here. 


Edited by pants, 22 November 2016 - 13:08.


#16 woleizihan

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Posted 22 November 2016 - 16:34

If it's only scratchy on downward strokes, it may not be caused by the opening of tines. I guess the polishing is not perfect in some directions. I would try to rotate the nib a little bit, still do downward strokes and see which is the worst direction. Paper and ink may also cause the problem because finer nibs tend to be more sensitive to paper and ink combinations. But again if it's only scratchy on the downward strokes, paper and ink may not be the problem. In general I found EF nibs much harder to work with than say M. Much much harder, especially if you want to smooth them without destroying the fineness. It's not only about the correct tools, which are generally not common household items but also about the correct skills and experience.

#17 Chi Town

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Posted 10 November 2017 - 22:33

Hi everyone, 
 
I recently bought a Pelikan M400 EF nib that was smooth like butter and wrote very nicely, except it had restricted flow in certain directions (typical of Pelikan EF nibs). In the past I have attempted to adjust myself several nibs with more or less success.
 
Now all I have in my house is a nail buff and other items like leather, glass, what not. 
 
After increasing the flow and correctly re-aligning the tines, it wrote perfect except it had a bit of tooth, something to be expected when opening up a nib which was not polished with having it open like this in mind. I took a nailbuff and only gently did some figure 8's on the 12000 grit surface and although it writes smooth like butter in horizontal strokes, when doing a normal downwards stroke it has a very fine friction like tooth as if writing on sandy paper. Hard to explain it, it's not scratchy but it's not a smooth feedback either. It just doesn't glide downwards, it's got surface friction and is extremely annoying.
 
I tried to do more 8's and also sideways, downwards, all sort of directions like recommended in classic nib smoothing textbooks, but it won't go away. In fact I even managed to get it toothy in all directions and then smooth again but on downwards strokes it keeps having that friction thing. 
 
Please help! I ruined many nibs before and they are expensive. I only have this nail buff and nothing like mylar or lapping film in my house and buying them will take weeks from where I live. I thought maybe using a leather strap? A paper bag? A glass mirror? Tried them all and no success. The paper bag makes it worse actually. 
 
Does anyone know of any household items with the right abrasion for making a butter smooth nib? And how about fixing it on downwards strokes in particular because the other directions seem to be just fine.
 
Many thanks in advance!


Here is something you can do in your FREE time! Go onto YouTube. Type in “The Pen Habit” Adjusting Your Fountain Pen - Part 1: Ink Flow. ( These must be done in this order) The move onto - The Pen Habit Adjusting Your Fountain Pen - Part 2: Aligning the Tines. Lastly, The Pen Habit Adjusting Your Fountain Pen - Part 3: Polishing the Nib. NOW, regarding your POSTING, Part 3, Polishing Your Nib seems to me, to be exactly what you are looking for! But for it to be successful you MUST complete Parts" 1 & 2. If after doing this, should you choose to do so, Please re-post and let us know which method you choose and it’ success rate?

Mike

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#18 minddance

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Posted 15 November 2017 - 11:10

Maybe take a look at the inner part of the iridium tipping instead of the exposed portions.

#19 woleizihan

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Posted 15 November 2017 - 16:30

I can confirm that polishing the interior can matter a lot, depending on how smooth you want the pen to be. For instance, if you just finish the tip using 12000 grit buff stick, you are not going to feel the inside edges that much because even the outside is not that smooth. However if you finish the tip using .3 micron sheet without the interior of the tines properly polished, you are going to feel that because the outside is butter smooth.

From the nib smoothing notes by Richard Binder:

"With the nib properly aligned, you need to smooth it. The first step is to round the slit edges ever so slightly with sandpaper. (See Section VII for a list of abrasive ma- terials.) Raise one tine slightly off the feed, exposing the under edge of the opposite tine’s tip. Sand that edge, all the way around to the tip of the nib. Also sand the ex- posed upper edge on the tine you raised."

I have also seen the result of skipping this step in practice and you are definitely going to feel it as you increase the smoothness of the exterior of the nib. You feel this more on smaller nib sizes but even for a big stub nib with a huge sweet spot, skipping this step will affect how the nib writes.

#20 Mulrich

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Posted 15 November 2017 - 18:04

I visited a nibmeister (Stephen Pustilnik) at Dromgooles in Houston, TX who worked on a very toothy Nakaya nib. He first used the normal high-quality sandpaper but finished smoothing the nib using some type of whetstone designed for nibs (note – don't use a normal whetstone to smooth a nib). This was the first I've heard of a whetstone designed for nib smoothing (it was also the first time he'd tried it). The result was terrific, and made a previously awful nib into a terrific writer. I think he said he got the stones from someone in Arkansas but I don't remember more than that. I'm not sure if you can source a similar stone in the UK but it wouldn't hurt to shoot an email to Dromgooles to learn more about the whetstone. 







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