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The Myth Of The Artist Pen

waterman artist pen artist nib 751 882 b82 needlepoint safety pen

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7 replies to this topic

#1 phaus



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Posted 08 June 2020 - 21:07


  It has been a while since I have posted. While I have many pens the focus of my collection is vintage Waterman pens. In particular, I focus on pens with flexible nibs.


  A few years ago I picked up a Waterman Artist Pen (Model 751) from the Fountain Pen Hospital. I can't remember if it was advertised as "New Old Stock" but it appeared to be brand new. Recently I was looking for more information about it. Having not found much at all, I decide to post my observations from the limited information that seems to be available. If anyone else has any experience with these pens, please feel free to share, as I am curious to find out whether or not my observations are accurate.




  As you probably know, much like the Pink nib, and the Black nib, the Artist nib has reached mythical status. Over the years there have been posts describing the writing qualities of the Artist nib. They are alleged to be the ultimate "wet noodle" with amazingly soft flexibility and the most delicate hairlines. Furthermore, one of the trends I have noticed is that many of the Waterman nibs that are called "artist" nibs, have unusually long tines. Generally, the long-tined flexible pens do indeed have incredible writing capabilities.


  While long-tined, ultra-flexible nibs exist, I am not so certain that these had anything to do with being examples of Waterman "artist" nibs. When it comes to the actual pen marketed by Waterman as having an Artist nib, I can only find a few photographs and mentions on the Internet.


  However, based on the little information I have found, the three examples of legitimate "Artist Pens" seem to have very similarly shaped nibs, and none of them have long tines. If you check the links to two other posts, the nibs seem to have an almost identical shape to mine. However, whereas my pen is not very flexible at all, other examples of "official" artist pens with nearly identical nib shapes are in fact very flexible.









  As you can see in the photos above and in the examples I have linked ,the nibs seem to have a moderate length, but as it gets close to the tip the taper gets much sharper to form a needlepoint. This aligns well with the pen's documentation that claims it can write lines from "filament width to 1/32nd of an inch" or from hairlines to about .8mm.


  I initially purchased the pen hoping that it would live up to the legendary status of the "artist" nib. My example is semi-flexible. It feels moderately soft, but the tines only open up very slightly, from XXXF (maybe thinner) to approximately an F. However, the nib is about as smooth as one could hope for such a fine point and it has become one of my favorite pens.


  I do have a couple of other nibs that are not on Waterman Artist pens that have unusually long tines and have all of the wonderful properties that are typically associated with what is popularly known as an "artist " nib. However, I think perhaps due to a lack of information the times have caused two separate, distinct things to be conflated.


  Another observation I have from pens from Waterman's Safety / 52 lever filler era is that, generally speaking, nibs that are fine or smaller with round breather holes seem more likely to have excellent flexible writing properties. I doubt its from the breather hole alone. Perhaps the round breather hole on a fine nib indicates that it was manufactured as an artist nib.


  Finally, if a vintage Waterman nib has unusually long tines, there is a really good chance that it is going to be an amazingly flexible pen. I don't see pens with what I consider abnormally long tines often, but from my experience its the most reliable indicator of flexibility other than the pens that are labelled as such.


  So in parting I leave some pictures, a writing sample, and a question.


  It has been a while since I have used any of my fountain pens, so my handwriting with the Artist pen is very shaky. The lines would probably be even thinner if I was able to use it confidently, but right now I'm a bit rusty. Notice that my writing with both EF nibs is much smoother.




  Does anyone know what era the Waterman 751 was manufactured in? I believe they were from the 1930s but I'm not certain. As you can see from the picture, the clip is rather modern looking compared to a Waterman 52. The paperwork that came with the pen doesn't have a date:





Edited by phaus, 08 June 2020 - 23:46.

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Posted 08 June 2020 - 23:07

Since it is a safety eyedrop filler I would actually guess it is from the 1920's. I would not follow the suggestion in the paperwork to use Higgins India ink in it however!


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#3 phaus



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Posted 08 June 2020 - 23:40

Since it is a safety eyedrop filler I would actually guess it is from the 1920's. I would not follow the suggestion in the paperwork to use Higgins India ink in it however!

Thanks for the tip. I haven't tried India ink yet but I think I'll stick with fountain pen ink if its not safe.

#4 artart



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Posted 09 June 2020 - 08:17

nice and unusual pen in very good conditions!

I suspect that what made this pen desirable for artists and illustrators was the possibility to use it with india ink, even more than the flexibility of the nib

#5 FarmBoy


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Posted 10 June 2020 - 04:15

Note that 1/32 inch width is mentioned NOT hairline to 2 something mm.
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#6 CS388


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Posted 10 June 2020 - 17:11

Very nice.


I wonder how they made it fit for India Ink? Wider feed channels?

Now, with the range of fountain pen inks available, I shouldn't bother with India ink, unless for a specific purpose.


Thanks for sharing.

#7 pen tom

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Posted 20 June 2020 - 22:44

I really liked this article. It was very well written


I too have a collection of Waterman pens from the 1920s mostly. It includes a few of the pink nibs and other with long tines.


I had been under the assumption that the "artist nibs" were the long tined examples. But I had too many such pens for them all to be artist nibs. So this article clears up a lot of confusion on my part.


I bought a Waterman 52 at a pen show that was sold to me as an "artist nib" by a well respected vendor. So I know that there is a lot of confusion about the "artist nib"


So, again excellent article

#8 sidthecat


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Posted 28 June 2020 - 21:19

I’m an artist, so possession of an Artist’s Nib is one of the vague goals of my collecting. Thus far, however, the goal is not achieved. What I’ve done instead is collect other brands of pen with extremely flexible nibs (there’s a Conklin you’d have to pry from my cold, dead hands) and in one or two cases, I’ve had transplant surgery done to put old gold dip nibs on some of my pens...now THAT’S flex! The thing about doing art with one of these things is that you don’t merely need flex: you also need a certain robustness that will allow you to sketch rapidly without worrying about damaging a fragile instrument. My best choice for an art pen, therefore, has been a Doric ringtop with a broken #5 Adjustable nib. It’s a big strong nib, and without its slider it’s like a brush.
I might have gotten lucky with this nib, but to me it’s a great tool.

Also tagged with one or more of these keywords: waterman, artist pen, artist nib, 751, 882, b82, needlepoint, safety pen

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