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Making A Flex Italic Nib For The Noodler Ahab Or Konrad

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A friend gave me a vintage music nib to see if I could make it fit the Ahab/Konrad. The conversion attempt was successful; I really only had to cut a bit off the nib base (to allow the cap to fit over the nib) since the rest of the nib fit the feed just fine. I wrote with it, had fun, but decided I probably would not use it. I sent it back, with thanks. After it was in the mail, I felt sender's remorse *smiles*. So, I set out to see if I could duplicate the music nib experience by converting a standard, stiff italic nib into a flexible italic nib.

I converted a stiff, Goulet 1.1mm stub italic nib to a flexible italic nib using the same procedure outlined in my thread "Converting A Regular Nib Into A Flex Nib For Noodler's Ahab/Konrad". Briefly, I extended the slit of the nib using a Dremel cutoff wheel, and then ground the sides of the nib following Pterodactylus' Ease My Flex mod.


The nib became very flexible, and will lay down a nice wide line when flexed. The width difference between the thins and thicks for the unmodified, stiff italic nib is about 2.4x, while the width difference for the flexible italic nib is about 7x.

The pen gobbles ink. As you can see from my writing sample (comparing pointed flex, regular italic, and flex italic), flex italic writing lays down Lots more ink than the other styles. In addition, the modified nib writes very wet - the inked line displays a convex cross-section before drying, even when un-flexed. The wet line shows little shading; 50% dilution of the ink improved the shading, as seen on the second writing sample page. Noodler's Cactus Gruen Eel lays a wet line in my other pens and nibs, so I am not sure if the wetness of this nib is due to the conversion process, or the ink. I suspect the nib has something to do with it, as this nib's lines are Very wet. More testing will be done :-)

Since this pen gobbles ink, unless I wrote Real Slow, I would draw down the ink in the ink channel so fast that the tip would go dry, usually railroading first.

This high rate of ink consumption meant that I had to modify the ebonite feed to boost the ink supply. First, I connected all the fin's "canyons" to the ink channel. I cut away the factory “dam” between the fins on the right side of the feed, using a razor saw. Noodler's pens come with half the canyons not connected, to allow the user to modify the feed for their ink, paper, and style of writing.

I found that even connecting all the right-side canyons to the ink channel was insufficient - the pen would write, but would exhaust the ink supply very quickly. I could see ink in the fins, but it was not refilling the ink channel on the top of the feed. One nice thing about the slot conversion: you can see what the ink in the ink channel is doing :-)

Further investigation with a loupe found the cause: the canyons, as milled by the pen factory, don't actually reach the bottom of the ink channel. The canyons are cut shallow, leaving "hanging valleys" for those of you who studied geology. As a result, once the ink level in the ink channel drops below the base of the canyon, capillary action can no longer pull ink from the canyon across into the ink channel. Thus, the nib runs dry, and won't be resupplied by the canyons. (See diagram - black=ebonite, green=ink, red=#11 blade cut)

To fix this problem, I made a cut in eight canyons on the right side with an Exacto #11 blade (red section on drawing). This allowed the canyon ink to reach the bottom of the ink channel; it was no longer disconnected from the ink in the channel, even if the ink level fell to the bottom of the channel. The cut is just a knife blade slit, I did not remove (with a razor saw) all the ebonite that made the hanging valley problem in the first place. This is because I don't know if the hanging valleys provide some other positive factor in the feed design.

With this modification of 8 of the hanging valleys, I can now write 70-90 italic letters (or 40-50 letters of cursive) before exhausting the ink channel and its fin&canyon ink supply. Then, I can either wait for the channel to refill naturally, or make a small push of the piston plunger to recharge the feed and channel immediately.

I did not cut all the canyons with the #11 blade. I was concerned that if I cut them all, the feed would become too wet for the other nibs I have. If I really get into flex italic writing, I might dedicate this pen to that style, and cut the "hanging valleys" of the rest of the canyons. Hopefully this would allow even longer writing stints before exhausting the feed.

The nib works, it flexes easily, and is fun to use.

Storing pen vertically with nib-down, and cap off, did not lead to ink dropping from nib after 11 minutes. So, pen is safe to hold vertically while pondering your next sentence. But I'd still store the pen nib-up when you are done.

The feed can't keep up with long stints of writing, and must be manually recharged with the plunger if you don't want to wait for natural recharge.

Further modification of the feed is possible, but might result in a feed that only works with this nib.

The nib writes very wet, which will prove a problem if you have cheap paper.

Dilution of the ink will increase shading. But, dilution of the ink’s surfactant may reduce the max line width the ink can handle (ie. reduce max flex), and may reduce the speed of natural recharge of the feed.

Refinements for the next conversion:
I will reduce the flex a little by not taking as much off the sides (less EMF mod). This nib is almost a wet noodle, and a little more stiffness would be welcome.



1.Comparison of pointed flex nib, regular italic nib, and flexible italic nib. Note; the flex italic was written with un-diluted ink.

2. Flex italic with 50% dilution ink to increase shading.

3. Cross section of the black ebonite feed, showing the failure of green ink in the fin/canyons to flow into the ink channel when the channel ink level drops below the bottom of the canyon. Red section is placement of the #11 blade cut.

4. The converted nib. It fit loose in my Ahab, so I added a piece of masking tape to the top of the nib as a shim.





Edited by Brooks MT
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I should mention that several of my other pens & inks need periodic manual recharge of the feed. This flex italic feed is the first one I have modified to increase ink flow; I might do some more mods on the other pens' feeds :-)


Periodic manual recharge is much easier on the Konrad than the Ahab since you don't have to remove the whole body to get at the plunger. I just leave the blind cap off the Konrad when I write with recalcitrant inks. A 1/16-1/8 turn of the piston knob does the trick.

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I like the experimentation you are doing with readily available (in the US) components. Thanks for posting the descriptions and photos of your processes and results.

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I bit the bullet and gave the #11 blade treatment to the rest of the right-side fin canyons. This seemed to fix the slow recharge when the nib runs dry. Actually, I wrote over 150 characters without any nib drying or railroading, see sample. So, maybe the problem is solved (unless you are a fast writer using lots of flex).


In testing in my lab, if the nib does start to railroad (ie. you have almost drained the ink channel), tap the tip of the nib tip vertically on a hard surface several times. The inky dots will show you when the channel has refilled automatically, and you can resume writing. Pushing the limit, if you continue writing until the nib dries up completely, then it will take longer time-wise, and more tip tapping, to get ink going again. Of course, you can manually recharge by pushing the plunger (Ahab) or turning the knob (Konrad) if you don't want to wait.


I switched pens, to a Konrad Ebonite. The flex italic nib was loose in this pen body also. A small piece of thick yellow teflon tape worked as a nicer shim than the blue masking tape. I know that the teflon won't react with the ink, and that the teflon won't leave a sticky residue when I pull the nib at a later date. In the US, the thick yellow teflon tape is used for wrapping threads for natural gas lines in the house. It should be available at any hardware in the US. The thinner white tape would work also, but it'd take several layers piled on top of the nib; I'd not wrap the tape around the feed because that might impede ink flow (but I've not tested that supposition).


It is a great help to do the lab work with a clear demonstrator. I was able to debug the slow flow problem by watching where the bubbles appeared (or didn't appear) when I wrapped Kleenex around the feed to suck out the ink. (actually, I expelled most of the ink, and slurped up water, this let me see what was going on in the section). Looking for bubbles is a technique mentioned by Natan Tardif in one of his videos.


For this feed, the ink channel does not automatically refill once it's dry - the ink must come from the fins&canyons that are buried in the section. So, by opening up the hanging valleys by cutting more #11 slits, I gave the ink channel a source of replenishment ink. Ta Da :-)


It's still possible to exhaust the ink channel - I did this by quickly drawing a series of large 3" figure 8's. As I said above, if you stop immediately you start getting railroading, the channel (with the newly opened canyons) will refill automatically. This takes a few seconds: you are letting the pen refill the section, not just the fins&canyons. I saw this emptying of the section while draining off the ink from the feed (not the nib) via Kleenex (another Nathan debugging technique).



Edited by Brooks MT
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  • 2 months later...

While experimenting with increasing the ink flow, I noticed if I put a piece of masking tape across the Dremel slot, the flow increased. Interestingly, Nathan Tardif, in his recent interview with Brian Goulet, mentions this trick while discussing increasing ink flow with his experimental Music nib :-). Apparently its an old trick....nothing new under the Fountain Pen Sun *smiles*.


If you can accept the look a a tiny piece of tape on your nib, this is an alternate way to increase ink flow if you don't feel comfortable cutting your feed fins. The masking tape, btw, soon gets covered in ink when you refill the pen, disguising it somewhat :-).


The tape started out stuck to both tines, but soon lifted off one tine as the tines spread. This did not hurt the tape mod, it still increased ink flow. I think it works by increasing area for the wicking action of capillary flow. Thus, just having one tine with more surface area to attract ink still increased ink flow.


A more elegant fix would be to stick a piece of frosted Mylar, or some other ink-friendly material, over the nib's slit (Dremel slot). If this cover was heat-formed to match the arch of the nib, it would still touch both sides of the slot as the pen flexed, and could be attached to the nib on the non-flexing part of the nib above the slot.

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Are you using the tape as an overfeed? FPN member Tom Gartin has been doing this with a piece of razor blade. He details it in a thread.


Edited to add: the thread was his review of a Gama Duofold type pen.

Edited by Scribblesoften
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Thanks for the info, Scribblesoften. Here are 2 Tom Gartin threads with the razorblade overfeed:





It looks like my tape might work the same way. The razor blade is certainly a more elegant fix :-)

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The metal overfeed might last a bit longer too. I guess overfeeds used to be made from ebonite. I like the work you do.

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  • 5 years later...

~ This thread is very informative.

I admire the thought which went into preparing a flex italic.

Tom K.

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