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Big Rant About Poor Quality Nibs In Costly Pens

scratchy costly premium fountain pen poor nib rant

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51 replies to this topic

#1 Samrat



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Posted 09 July 2016 - 18:28

Hello everyone
How often you've craved for a particular costly fountain pen? As a fellow pen lover, these moments of longing are quite frequent for me. Out of all these desires, a few materialise through months of penury and self deprivation, saving each penny by carefully substracting the same from daily home budget. There is the intense but sweet time of going through all the choices from online stores or local shops and selecting the desired model at the most appropriate price, ordering it and waiting anxiously for the pen to arrive. There is this tremendous anticipation and joy running through the body. Everything looks so positive and happy. Then the pen arrives, I open it, marvel at the beauty of a marvellous and precise instrument. I ink it up, draw a line on paper and WHAM. All my romanticism, all my happiness, all my effort stands vilified. The nib doesn't write like those famed nibs I was expecting, rather is one of the most scratchy nibs I have encountered. Now, how often you face this?
I can take such below the belt turn of events with a broad smile, if, the pen is one of those 3$ Chinese pens, we more than half expect that while ordering. But the same thing, if it happens with a Waterman hemisphere, or a Sheaffer Taranis, or a cross century, or a Lamy 2000, how are you supposed to console yourself? Deep down my brain I know may be the nib can be tuned or salvaged. May be!!!! Are you kidding, how this 'may be' cropped up with so much care and so much fame of these companies? Are not they supposed to supply tested and super smooth nibs? Why I have to take up the stress of using micro mesh and loupe on my precious buy, even if it's mid range or even low range fountain pen? And I can assure you, these even happen with much higher range pens.
Somehow Waterman, Lamy, Cross and any reputed non Chinese fountain pen makers must realise, it's our heart they are playing with. The pens must be tuned before being put on sell. Otherwise what advantage can they claim in this competitive market other than their reputation?
Hope to know your experiences with such disappointing purchases. If that somehow help us to cope with these miniature disasters of our lives.

Edited by Samrat, 09 July 2016 - 18:32.

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#2 Maurizio



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Posted 09 July 2016 - 19:02

I feel your pain Samrat. I've experienced the same pain with a Pelikan 400 and a Waterman in years past. The Pelikan was taken back and adjusted at no cost to me but I never felt the same way about the pen after that. That's why I now buy, almost exclusively, Japanese pens.

I did recently receive a very pleasant surprise when I paid $3.93 on Amazon for a Jinhao 159 which writes very well, as if it were a $150.+ pen. I wrote an enthusiastic post here about it a few weeks ago.

To salve your pain I say this: I'm assuming the pen is from a reputable manufacturer and you have bought it from from a reputable dealer. Contact them immediately. State your problems clearly and succinctly and request a substitute, or, your money back. If they offer you a repair instead, insist that they bear all costs of shipping to and from in addition to insurance. If they refuse these reasonable accommodations, you should post here which pen it is, who the manufacturer is, and who you purchased it from. I'm a firm believer that "the squeakyest gear always gets the most grease". And companies and dealers who won't stand behind their products should be publicized. If everyone did this when they received a disappointing pen from an ostensibly reputable manufacturer, maybe at least some of these companies would sell a more quality-controlled product from the get-go.

Sorry for your disappointment. Good luck and hope things work out.

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#3 shawndp


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Posted 10 July 2016 - 04:38

Samrat - I have been in your situation a couple of times and count myself lucky that it only has been a couple of times... I have a thing for Italian pens and Italian pens have a thing for being a bit hit and miss. Somehow I have been fortunate that it has been only a couple of times. Now "expensive / costly" in the FP world can be a bit of a subjective call - complicated by who the manufacturer is. A $250 Pilot will be on the more expensive end of their general offerings vs a $250 Visconti, so you have to factor in that to the equation as well. It isn't just pens - a $25,000 Honda Civic can function smoothly without any drama but it something of a grocery cart, whereas a $250,000 Alfa 8C is a tricky proposition that requires some playing with. The question is - what do you want out of it? If you want a daily driver, get the Civic and do not look back - it works, it is fuel efficient and it can take most streets adequately. The Alfa is terrible at all those things, but the good moments in it are phenomenal - and for some, that is what matters. I imagine in the pen world too, there are work-horse pens with the proven reliability to writes pages on end and there are the more ornate stuff designed for shock and awe. I have a few pens that tip the $500 point (so still not expensive in the grander scheme of pens) - 146's. M800, M1000, Homo Sapiens and it feels like the QC on them was spot on. There is always the alternative - if you really like the look of a pen but want a drama-free writing experience - get the RB version... My gf has the Divina and Starwalker as RB's (sometimes Fineliner) for those moments when she needs a nice pen but doesn't want to bet on reliability. I have been burnt by Sheaffer a few times (but love the widebody look), so now the only one I have in regular rotiation is a Legacy Heritage RB. All the best!

#4 KublaiKhan



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Posted 10 July 2016 - 05:09

I am in your corner on this. My Reynolds pen (a Jinhao 159 clone) has been better right out of the box than have my Pelikans, Parker and Sheaffer. Even after some mending and micromeshing the fancier pens (with mild improvement), it still hands-down beats these pens for smoothness. I've had my eye on a Platinum and Nakaya for a while, but am wary of buying any expensive pen online anymore, without writing with it first, and writing a lot, before parting with my money. I'm going to hold off until my next trip to Japan, for that, I suppose, and that's not going to happen soon.

#5 Inky-Fingers



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Posted 10 July 2016 - 05:49

'Vilified'? it is more like defiled, defouled, stained, grotty.

Manufactured as trophies not to be put into daily slavery. That's what the other pen is intended for.

#6 joshua.andrews59



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Posted 10 July 2016 - 05:57

I feel your pain and echo the same thoughts as the other members. 


My first pens were Pilot Metro's and was please at an affordable price and pleasant writing experience. Logically, I thought my experience can only be better once I saddled up and purchased a higher end pen. Upon opening and marveling at the craftsmanship of the material, much like you did, I was met with equal disappointment when the nib scratched at my paper and heart. I now stick to a $30 or less range unfortunately until I am ready to try again. So far some of my favorite pens to write with are Jinhao's and lower end Pilot's.


Echoing the other members, you should contact the manufacturer and seek a resolution that is at no cost to you. Hope you have a better experience next time!


#7 lionheartlee


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Posted 10 July 2016 - 06:27

Recently I've ventured into the world of "expensive" pens. "Luxury" if you will. Before friends and family would be blown away that I spent 30$ on a Lamy...it's a pen they all would say....i would let them write with it. It would perform well, they are decent pens.

Then I decide to spend the money I was saving on a few higher end pens. My friends and family are shocked to the bone when they here my Bronze Age cost me 450$...but when they write with it...feel it in their hands...it's the closest thing I've seen to an "outsider" understand why we spend our time and hard earned money on a "pen". That luxury pen not only looked the part but also performed exactly how I expected it too. I stand by Visconti whole heartedly, and am the proud owner of 4 (one art of writing set, Casanova erotic art, Bronze Age, and a limited opera) they have all performed amazingly. I've heard stories of QC issues, thankfully I have not had them. This step into a different weight class of pens wasn't about money, it was about expectations...mine were met.

Sorry to hear about your experience, but I wouldn't let that hinder you from buying a pen that you want because of the price tag. Buy what motivates you to put pen to paper, buy what makes you proud to carry.

#8 estie1948



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Posted 10 July 2016 - 06:46

I stick with fountain pens that are vintage and a few modern pens that are inexpensive. The most expensive modern pens I own were made in Japan and they cost less than $40 (US). There are three reasons for this: (1) I am very poor; (2) I am also very cheap; and, (3) I met a man that had a collection of very expensive fountain pens (all the most well known name brands) that he kept in specially made, air-tight, locked drawers. Not one of his fountain pens ever touched ink. In fact, I don't think he owned a bottle of ink. The friend of mine who was personally acquainted with this fellow asked him why he didn't use the pens. The fellow explained at great length that the pens were works of art and were not really meant to be used. Now it has come to pass that this pen collecting fellow has passed away. His pen collection was duly divided among his survivors, most of whom promptly put them up for sale and I imagine made a tidy bit of money off them. I happen to know two of those who inherited pens from this deceased fellow. Both of them were quite fond of him. One is one of his daughters. She inherited a drawer and its pens. She does not use them, but saves them just like her dad. The other is one of his sons. He inherited several of the newest pens. Now he is a long-time fountain pen user. Although he tried, not one of his dad's pens could be used without having to go to a fountain pen restorer for work on the nibs. All of these pens cost in excess of $1,000 (US).


I have a couple of friends that are about Parkers as I am about Esterbrooks. They have told me that they have been so disappointed with Parker Fountain Pens since they moved to China, that they now only buy those made before the fateful move.


How is it that my Hero fountain pens made in China perform so very well while their Parkers made in China are junk? Is it a matter of expectations. I don't expect as much so I am pleased with my inexpensive Hero fountain pens? 


It may dent my ego a bit, but I have found that there aren't any people wanting to watch me write my letters, notes, checks, or anything else. So if there is no one wanting to watch me write with my fountain pens, why should I pay fantastic sums of money for "artsy" fountain pens? The person receiving my letter may be able to tell that it was written with a fountain pen, but that person won't be able to tell if it was written by a $3 Hero or an expensive, beautiful fountain pen with a world famous name.


-David (Estie).

No matter how much you push the envelope, it will still be stationery. -Anon.
A backward poet writes inverse. -Anon.

#9 Pensei



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Posted 10 July 2016 - 07:15

That's quite a story about the guy who had all the pens and never used them. His money, his choice, but it does not make sense to me. It particularly caught my attention that you said he did not have a bottle of ink. I more or less consider a pen a vehicle for delivery of ink. One pen is enough, theoretically, but many inks are needed. 

#10 ethernautrix


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Posted 10 July 2016 - 07:28

For years before I found FPN, I ordered pens by catalogue, and if there was any problem with the pen, I sent it back for an exchange (if I wanted to keep the pen; I returned at least one pen because I didn't like it after I saw it in hand, didn't even ink it up).

It's frustrating to receive a pen at any price that doesn't write out of the box, but having the seller make it right is typically what I do. When the pen returns in proper working order, then I enjoy it as I would have if I hadn't had to send it back.


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#11 Sandy Fry

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Posted 10 July 2016 - 08:29

I must be super duper lucky!


I have 150+ pens and a few of them are well north of $1000 and all of them have worked perfectly, straight out of the box except for one. The one that didn't? The nasty Zebra one...such a horrible little pen.



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#12 estie1948



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Posted 10 July 2016 - 08:40

That's quite a story about the guy who had all the pens and never used them. His money, his choice, but it does not make sense to me. It particularly caught my attention that you said he did not have a bottle of ink. I more or less consider a pen a vehicle for delivery of ink. One pen is enough, theoretically, but many inks are needed. 

It didn't make any sense to me, either. He was a wealthy fellow and spent pretty heavily for various forms of art as investments. I guess he felt the fountain pens were another type of art. Personally, I thought he was a nut.


I completely agree with you about the fountain pen being "a vehicle for delivery of ink". I enjoy using my fountain pens for that purpose. I will also admit that I have a good many more fountain pens than I need. I guess, when you come right down to it, I am just a different kind of nut.


-David (Estie).

No matter how much you push the envelope, it will still be stationery. -Anon.
A backward poet writes inverse. -Anon.

#13 praxim


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Posted 10 July 2016 - 09:17

Every pen I have bought new has worked impeccably, at any price, and I buy them for my pleasure when writing, not so someone else will detect the difference in the writing, remembering mine is awful anyway.


It would be nice to collect a few numbers, such as:

  • ​reasonably expected proportion of faulty pens from the factory (it will be non-zero);
  • number of pens manufactured;
  • number of people on FPN buying such pens;
  • biases of people related to their expectations against price (this works both ways, so to speak);
  • "pickiness" of FPN users; and
  • biasses toward a certain feel for the pen.

Just the first three of those, excluding all preferences, tastes and biasses , will produce a surprising (to some) number of 2+ failures, especially given the fact that the proportion of unhappy people who complain exceeds by orders of magnitude the proportion of happy people who praise, for any product whatsoever and especially where you already have one less happy experience.


If we assume my vintage pens are not cheap then combined with my new and more recent second hands I have zero cheap pens, so instant success on all expensive pens and the one miss on a second-hand was cured by me, no resort to a nib magus.


#14 Bo Bo Olson

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Posted 10 July 2016 - 09:35

Well of my 60-70 pens only three or four were new right out of the box....they worked fine.


The rest were flea market, Ebay buys or live auction, vintage or semi-vintage. 


After I learned to adjust the tines, most worked fine.


And I was getting the Grand Nibs, that many are looking for.

Looking fro "Grand Nibs" on modern pens is hard to do, when all you are after is a nail or semi-nail....


Being able to adjust tines, is as basic as having a 10-12 X loupe to do so or having a rubber ear syringe for cleaning the C/C pen.

Should learn to adjust tines, so the tempest in the Tea Cup is smaller.

Edited by Bo Bo Olson, 10 July 2016 - 09:37.

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,


The cheapest lessons are from those who learned expensive lessons. Ignorance is best for learning expensive lessons.




#15 TheRealMikeDr


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Posted 10 July 2016 - 11:22

I've purchased 25 pens over the past 6 months. All but one were new. I had trouble with 3 of them not writing properly - one was a $3 Jinhao which didn't bother me - the other two had Babys bottom which luckily I was able to fix and now they write great.


The most expensive new pen I purchased as just north of $700 and while it writes very well - it's also the scratchiest pen of the bunch. In fact I've been slooooooooooooowly working with mylar and micromesh over the past few weeks to smooth it out some with great (albeit slow) sucess - so it's much much smoother today.


So I would have to agree - price paid is not a direct ratio of the writing experience you can expect.


One point to make - I've purchased three pens from nibs.com. They test and tune your pen to your style before shipping and all three of those pens wrote magnificently out of the box. You pay full retail from nibs but from my experience it's worth it.

#16 jar


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Posted 10 July 2016 - 13:15

I've been using fountain pens almost exclusively for well over a half century. So far I have had almost no problems or come across any poor quality nibs. There have been a few issues granted, one pen that had hard starting if left overnight that was solved by a quick trip back to the seller for adjustment, one that arrived with the wrong nib but the seller sent me the correct nib as soon as I notified him and told me to just keep the other as a spare, one where the prior owner had severely creased the nib likely by hitting it on the edge of a desk or other hard object.  Then there have been the pens that did not write the way I wanted, but there was nothing wrong with the nib, it was just not exactly as I wished.  Those either got adjust by me or sent to someone who actually knew what they were doing.


So if pushed, I would say that I found maybe as many as a dozen pens out of about 300 or so where there was an actual problem with the nib or feed but it is probably much less than a full dozen.

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#17 sd10521



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Posted 10 July 2016 - 13:29

For new purchases I have been pretty lucky.  A Montblanc Classique with a F nib that wrote OK to good out of the box, a Pelikan 600 series with a F nib that was just like velvet out of the box, an Edison with a B nib which was really nice, and z few Pilot Metropolitans that were really amazing considering the price.

For used pens out of 18 to 20 of them I had three stinkers, one was cleaned up a bit and the other two are just sitting there.  The rest are really amazingly good and a joy to use.

#18 Inky-Fingers



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Posted 10 July 2016 - 13:33

Be the master of your own domain.

If you drive, learn the basics of mechanics. Learn how to use a wrench to change the tires. Where the engine is at. Where you keep the spare tire. Not everything is "hold on, I gotta call me dad!"

Sometimes, you need a mechanic. Sometimes you bought a lemon. Return that lemon, no need to make lemonade.

#19 alexander_k


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Posted 10 July 2016 - 14:01

It seems to be true: many current manufacturers opt for the safe and easy option and produce nice pens with mediocre nibs and similarly mediocre overall performance. I don't mind having to fine-tune a pen - new or second- hand - but it's admittedly disappointing when after all the care performance remains uninspiring. Thankfully, there are enough new pens that deserve our money and interest but above all there are many more vintage ones that deserve to be rescued and re-used, at a relatively low cost. Interestingly, quite a few require little knowledge and few tools to give us endless hours of pleasant writing, as they were intended back then. 

#20 jmccarty3


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Posted 10 July 2016 - 14:08

I was fortunate to attend Richard Binder's course in nib adjustment at the DC show last year. I discovered that most of my problems were due to simple tine misalignment, and that with a good loupe I could correct these myself. Like TheRealMikeDr, I tend to buy from nibs.com if the pen I want is available there. That way, I know that the nib will arrive in optimal condition. John's prices are not the lowest available, but he often charges less than list price, and his nib customizations are excellent.


If I buy from other sources, especially for vintage pens, I now am in the habit of checking the tine alignment before I ink the pen for the first time. Any 10X loupe is adequate for doing this.

Rationalizing pen and ink purchases since 1967.

Also tagged with one or more of these keywords: scratchy, costly, premium, fountain pen, poor nib, rant

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