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Will a flex nib work properly?


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#1 Oso

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Posted 16 December 2005 - 23:15

I have been admiring antoniosz ‘s work with flexible nibs, especially his review of the Pilot custom 743
http://www.fountainp...?showtopic=5200

I am a left handed over writer, which means that many of my strokes are push strokes and a good number lateral strokes. This has worked out fine with italic nibs, and of course the more conventionally tipped nibs. Intuition tells me that a flexible nib will not work properly with push strokes as the nib is likely to dig into the paper with any pressure applied. Is this the case? As an over writer should the thought of gaining line width variation with the use of a flexible nib be out of the question?

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#2 James Pickering

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Posted 17 December 2005 - 01:09

Some notes on flex/semi-flex fountain pen nibs from my Web site ..........

Just about all fountain pens came equipped with what are now popularly called "flexible" (or "semi-flexible") nibs when I was growing up. Nobody knew they had a "flexible" nib in their pen and they didn't attempt to develop a technique of consciously producing pressure induced thick and thin strokes in their writing. Of course, everybody I was acquainted with used a light and relaxed pen hold touch when writing -- a technique that seems to have become generally lost -- the nuance of letter form line weight was incidental.

The general public just used their fountain pens as they had their school dip pens -- some wrote with light paper contact (as I always have) and produced writing similar to that on the following exemplars. Some wrote with moderate pressure and produced writing with nicely "shaded" (as they say these days) letter forms. Some wrote with heavy pressure and produced noticeably (but often erratically) "shaded" writing -- and lots of blots. Heavy pressure writers also risked ruining their nibs -- all that excessive tine spreading eventually took its toll -- fountain pens saw an enormous amount of daily use in those days.

Modern users of fountain pens with these "flexible" nibs can write normally with them -- as they do with any fountain pen -- but with a relaxed and light hold -- or they can use them to produce deliberately "shaded" writing by developing a conscious "pressure on the nib" technique (or even employ them for Copperplate writing).

I derive my own greatest pleasure in using these nibs from the soft feeling and tactile feedback that I experience when writing on fine paper (the subtle line variation is incidental). I believe that is what they were originally designed for.


The kerned ascenders -- and many of the Majuscule letters -- in the following exemplar commence with push-strokes ..........

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#3 TMann

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Posted 17 December 2005 - 02:02

I have been admiring antoniosz ‘s work with flexible nibs, especially his review of the Pilot custom 743
http://www.fountainp...?showtopic=5200

I am a left handed over writer, which means that many of my strokes are push strokes and a good number lateral strokes. This has worked out fine with italic nibs, and of course the more conventionally tipped nibs. Intuition tells me that a flexible nib will not work properly with push strokes as the nib is likely to dig into the paper with any pressure applied. Is this the case? As an over writer should the thought of gaining line width variation with the use of a flexible nib be out of the question?

As I recall, one of our left-handed FPN members, Southpaw, ended up selling a very nice, flexible nib pen, (see this link,) because it just didn't work with his overwriting style.

I suspect that you'd probably be similarly disappointed. Even as a right-handed FP user, I have been a bit disappointed at how much alteration in my writing style I had to make to make good use of a flexible-nibbed FP. I have decided not to even bother, and have just stuck to standard and italic nibbed pens. YMMV.

TMann

#4 antoniosz

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Posted 17 December 2005 - 04:26

Oso, thanks again for you kind compliments :blush:
My message tonight is: Take courage my friend, I have not seen lefties have problems with any aspect of life - why should calligraphy be an exception? I have been thinking about this for a while (since a left hander asked me a question in the Pilot thread). I was hesitant there and I should not be before giving it some thought. So here is what I came up with - a method to use flex nibs by lefties. :)

The use of a flex nib by either a left or a right hander has two crucial aspects.

1) The need for pressure control . It is actually obvious but we forget it often that normal writing includes many ascending and decending lines. Whether you are a left or a righ-handed there are as many aasccenders as decenders. Pressure control is absolutely necessary in both cases. If you have great, if not then the first task it to acquire it. As James menioned above - the key issue is to master the light touch. In the old times - this was the way that people wrote - maybe many nibs were scratchy so they had to :) Today everybody can press down (trained by the ball points), but modern users have difficulty to move the pen while it just floats above the paper. This is the motion that creates the thin stroke and is the one along which the pen may dig into the paper. Trust me even right handers" have a problem if they can not master the light touch.

2) The need for proper position of the nib with respect to the slope of the letters and the requirement to press ONLY on the "downstrokes" , i.e. when the nib moves "backwards" with respect to the tip. The "best" orientation of the nib is along the slope of the letters. Now the trick in using flex nibs is to press only on the “downstroke”. I put quotes around downstroke because for I am referring to the motion of the pen away from the point it touches the paper and this will be “downwards” for a underwriter and “upwards” for an overwriter.

Therefore the “secret” for good flex is to understand the relative position of the pen with respect to the line. The “classic” (right-handed) calligraphy has an optimized motion of the pen for the formation of each letter. If an overwriter follows the classic sense of letter formation the result is odd. In this case the thick line forms in the "wrong" side of the letter.
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So let's think about the possible positions. There are four - two for overwriters and two for underwriters. The classic calligraphy position is the one shown in the bottom left of the diagram below (see also discussion here) If the natural position of the hand brings the pen to another angle, you can always correct it by rotating the paper. Or if a reverse slope is acceptable you can use the position in the lower right of the diagram.
Actually if we think about it, it does not matter whether someone is left or right hander. What matters is, whether you are an overwriter or an underwriter.
The problem there for is for the overwriters. My idea :eureka: is that the overwriters can produce a nice script by forming the letters in the opposite way than the classic one. See top left and right sketch below in the formation of letter "b"
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Does it work? Of course. I tried it myself - with my left and right hand in the overwriter's position (top and bottom in the sketch below respectively).
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The only problem is that there is a large gap between the end of a letter and the beginning of the next one. The classic letter formation is optimized to minimize this gap. I believe people could experiment and come up with now letter forms :)
Posted Image
So there you have it. I hope it helps.

Edited by antoniosz, 17 December 2005 - 04:47.


#5 James Pickering

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Posted 17 December 2005 - 04:40

Excellent explanations and diagrams, Antonios!

#6 James Pickering

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Posted 17 December 2005 - 19:05

The following links are to online reference and instructional pages that offer specific information for left-handed writers:

Teaching Left-Handers to Write - Handedness Research Institute

Left Handness -- Gunnlaugur S.E. Briem

Left-Hand Writer's Notes from John Mottishaw's Nib Works

John Mottishaw's Left-Hand Writer's Page

Pen hold and hand position for writing left-handed

Varieties of left-handed writing

#7 southpaw

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Posted 17 December 2005 - 20:38

As I recall, one of our left-handed FPN members, Southpaw, ended up selling a very nice, flexible nib pen, (see this link,) because it just didn't work with his overwriting style.

I suspect that you'd probably be similarly disappointed. Even as a right-handed FP user, I have been a bit disappointed at how much alteration in my writing style I had to make to make good use of a flexible-nibbed FP. I have decided not to even bother, and have just stuck to standard and italic nibbed pens. YMMV.

TMann

Actually, southpaw is an underwriter. The reasons I had problems with the flex nib are:
1) no time to practice / haven't taken time to practice
2) haven't really learned light touch
3) high angle of attack
4) other pens in my sights that I wanted :D

One day I will perhaps learn to handle a flex nib, but for now, just looking forward to improving my basic handwriting in '06.
"But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." (Rom. 5:8, NKJV)

#8 antoniosz

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Posted 17 December 2005 - 20:40

To add to the links that James posted, some books from Amazon that maybe of relevance:

The Basics of Left-Handed Calligraphy by Margaret Shepherd

and

Left-Handed Calligraphy by Vance Studley

which I am sure offer even better advice.

#9 Oso

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Posted 17 December 2005 - 21:00

I thank all of you for your detailed and well thought out responses. I haven't thought of reversing the formation of the letters. I have thought about, and even tried learning to write with my right hand, but that was discouraging. I will do some more reading, research and practice with the light touch.

#10 TMann

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Posted 17 December 2005 - 21:05

Actually, southpaw is an underwriter. The reasons I had problems with the flex nib are:
1) no time to practice / haven't taken time to practice
2) haven't really learned light touch
3) high angle of attack
4) other pens in my sights that I wanted :D

One day I will perhaps learn to handle a flex nib, but for now, just looking forward to improving my basic handwriting in '06.

Ahh...my mistake. I must have been thinking of someone else. :doh:

TMann

#11 southpaw

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Posted 17 December 2005 - 22:16

James, thanks for the links.
AZ, thanks for the illustrations and book recommendations.
TMann, no prob - had it all right but the overwriting part ;) .
"But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." (Rom. 5:8, NKJV)

#12 southpaw

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Posted 24 December 2005 - 23:30

To add to the links that James posted, some books from Amazon that maybe of relevance:

The Basics of Left-Handed Calligraphy by Margaret Shepherd

and

Left-Handed Calligraphy by Vance Studley

which I am sure offer even better advice.

Kurt,

The Vance Studley book just arrived today. In the new year, I plan on using it to help revamp my handwriting. Looking forward to it. Thanks for the recommendation.

southpaw
"But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." (Rom. 5:8, NKJV)

#13 antoniosz

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Posted 30 May 2008 - 02:01

I have lost the photos that I had posted in my post http://www.fountainp...n...ost&p=55412 above regarding left handed and flex. Has anyone kept them on their disk? If yes, could you please send them to me or post them here?

Thanks.

AntoniosZ.

#14 Gran

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Posted 10 March 2009 - 13:11

Thanks much for the thread topic! Antonio, you answered several of my questions. I do appreciate it.
May you have pens you enjoy, with plenty of paper and ink. :)

Please use only my FPN name "Gran" in your posts. Thanks very much!

#15 vidalia11

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Posted 10 March 2009 - 18:43

I'm a lefthanded underwriter. My philosophy is, you can write with a flexible nib if you adapt it to your way of holding a pen. Don't give up.

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#16 wykpenguin

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Posted 10 March 2009 - 22:27

QUOTE (vidalia11 @ Mar 11 2009, 03:43 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
I'm a lefthanded underwriter. My philosophy is, you can write with a flexible nib if you adapt it to your way of holding a pen. Don't give up.


My philosophy is left-handed underwriters are born to use flex nibs. When I hold the pen (left-handed underwriter speaking), it's already in the direction of the slant.

Overwriters on the other hand may have some difficulty using a flex nib, left-handed or right-handed doesn't really change that. A lefty overwriter might benefit by using an oblique holder with the nib coming out from the right side instead of the left (as it is "meant to be"), that way, you can "side write" with the nib being aligned with the slant. Of course that would only be useful for dip pens.






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