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"buttery Smooth" Whaaaat?


TassoBarbasso
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I remember the good old times when I was a child and I would get a new fountain pen: whatever its writing features, it was always good. I used to write with some horribly scratchy nibs. Yet after thousands of hours on the FPN, after reading hundreds of reviews and watching tens of videos about fountain pens, I also developed what I call the "buttery smoothness obsession": an overwhelming majority of collectors seems to believe that a nib is not "good" unless it glides on the paper like a piece of ice wrapped in silk thrown over an oil-covered glass. Influenced by this behaviour, I started freaking out every time a pen shows the minimum sign of tooth. Only recently (and thanks to my Auroras) did I realize that a nib doesn't actually need to be "buttery smooth" to be enjoyable; quite the opposite: buttery smooth most of the times means dull. And if you think with a bit of perspective, when has humanity ever treasured "buttery smoothenss"? Were dip pens smooth? Not at all. Were quills "buttery smooth"? Even less so. Is any single one of my vintage pens (up until the 1950s) "buttery smooth"? No way. They were all toothy, feedbacky, even to some extent scratchy. So why are we so obsessed with this feature? Why do we measure the quality of a writing experience based on how similar it is to that of a... ballpoint pen???

Edited by TassoBarbasso
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Well, some might call it progress ... I'm not unhappy about smoothness and a tooth doesn't necessarily add character but I agree that we have to accept and learn how to use older pens. I'm still learning not to write in a hurry.

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We are spoilt.

 

As comparison, I remember being jostled about on a train ride, you would have to be careful drinking something from a paper cup... These days every train glides over the rails. We would not accept these old trains any more, except of course on a fun steam train ride.

 

These days fountain pens should compete with Ballpoints and rollerballs. To lure someone over to the joys of fountain pens, those pens should not provide a bumpy ride, lest people hurry back to their easy ballpoints.

 

 

D.ick

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Is it a paradox to say buttery smooth with a hint of toothiness? As defined by Nakaya? >sigh!<

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I'm eagerly waiting the development of this thread. In the last two weeks I started little by little tasting this "revelation". Until now I was so obsessed with smoothness that sometimes I had to stop writing when any feedback was present, not to mention the two nibs I destroyed beyond repair in search of butter...

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I know exactly what you mean when you call such nibs "dull". I dislike writing without feedback; feedback is what gives me more control over my writing. I need a nib with character, or to be a bit "edgy", to use a modern vernacular. If a nib is overly smooth I either don't buy it or I make it less smooth.

Verba volant, scripta manent

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Most of my pens have a little bit of feedback to them (but then, most of mine are vintage and semi-vintage). OTOH, there's a difference between "feedback" and "scratchy", just that I think there's a difference between "buttery smooth" and "boring".

I would defy anyone calling my Parker 45 with the 14K medium nib "boring".... B)

Ruth Morrisson aka inkstainedruth

"It's very nice, but frankly, when I signed that list for a P-51, what I had in mind was a fountain pen."

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Most of my pens have a little bit of feedback to them (but then, most of mine are vintage and semi-vintage). OTOH, there's a difference between "feedback" and "scratchy", just that I think there's a difference between "buttery smooth" and "boring".

I would defy anyone calling my Parker 45 with the 14K medium nib "boring".... B)

Ruth Morrisson aka inkstainedruth

I think the OP said "dull", not "boring"; to me there's a difference. For example, I don't get bored by any FP nib, because I think they are all different, but I do find overly smooth nibs to be a rather less involving experience, and less engaging, hence "dull". Edited by migo984

Verba volant, scripta manent

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Yes, there's an obsession about it. But if you write quickly and angularly, then butter-on-glass, along with all the other fanciful descriptions, soon becomes bald-tyres-on-black-ice-after-an-oil-spill.

 

Outside collecting circles and online forums, most people who use fountain pens get on perfectly well without buttery smoothness... or gold nibs, piston fillers, flex and everything else. Having tried quite a few of the higher-priced makes, I get a sense that they tend to polish nibs more than necessary, in order to give a feeling of sumptuousness. However, for me, the nibs just don't feel completely controllable, and a knackered old Osmiroid beats them every time.

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I like feedbacky nibs for the sense of precision and responsiveness. Some are audibly toothy, verging on scratchy. The scratchiest makes a nice angular line for drawing. Not great for cursive, though.

Super smooth nibs are getting into rollerball territory for me: pleasant, but lacking character. My smoothest nib is the one I use least. Thinking about getting it ground to something a bit edgier.

Edited by catbert
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I can't deal with my nibs writing like a stick of butter--too unwieldy for me. I prefer a bit of tooth and control with my fountain pens.

Ink, a drug.

― Vladimir Nabokov, Bend Sinister

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These days fountain pens should compete with Ballpoints and rollerballs. To lure someone over to the joys of fountain pens, those pens should not provide a bumpy ride, lest people hurry back to their easy ballpoints.

 

 

True. But we as experts and collectors should be able to go beyond and floar above these marketing-dictated requirements B)

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Outside collecting circles and online forums, most people who use fountain pens get on perfectly well without buttery smoothness... or gold nibs, piston fillers, flex and everything else. Having tried quite a few of the higher-priced makes, I get a sense that they tend to polish nibs more than necessary, in order to give a feeling of sumptuousness. However, for me, the nibs just don't feel completely controllable, and a knackered old Osmiroid beats them every time.

 

That's actually an excellent point: in fact, entry level pens (except Lamys, probably) are indeed less polished and less carefully smoothened than high-end pens. So probably the argument that "buttery smooth is needed to compete with rollerballs" may not be true at all.

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I'm eagerly waiting the development of this thread. In the last two weeks I started little by little tasting this "revelation". Until now I was so obsessed with smoothness that sometimes I had to stop writing when any feedback was present, not to mention the two nibs I destroyed beyond repair in search of butter...

 

Same here! :(

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I like 'em all, except scratchy - and even then the sharp italic nibs are enjoyable for the dramatic line variation they produce. I like picking up a new pen, feeling its idiosyncrasies, using it for a while, adapting to it, moving on and repeating the process. I don't find slick-as-snot-on-a-glass-doorknob nibs difficult to control; when they're bold, they're especially fun to use for large flowing script. Why limit yourself?

James

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My experience has been with vintage pens (mostly). Nearly all of the vintage pens I have collected in the wild had misaligned tines. I suspect this was due to feeds that warped over time. After tine alignment, they either became smooth or slightly toothy, depending on the figure of the point.

 

Some dip pens come smooth from the factory: spoon-pointed or "ball-pointed" ones especially. The others, with the patient application of some abrasives, can be as smooth as you like. Or not. Playing with dip pen nibs is a cheap way to learn nib smoothing. If you have the patience, scratchy dip pen nibs will wear themselves smooth. This happens just before they develop sharp edges and must be either replaced or touched up with abrasives.

Can a calculator understand a cash register?

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Without being scratchy or sharp edged, I prefer my stubs & CIs to have tad of "tooth". Highly polished fountain pen nibs give me the same lack of control as a slick ball-point or a rollerball.

*Sailor 1911S, Black/gold, 14k. 0.8 mm. stub(JM) *1911S blue "Colours", 14k. H-B "M" BLS (PB)

*2 Sailor 1911S Burgundy/gold: 14k. 0.6 mm. "round-nosed" CI (MM) & 14k. 1.1 mm. CI (JM)

*Sailor Pro-Gear Slim Spec. Ed. "Fire",14k. (factory) "H-B"

*Kaweco SPECIAL FP: 14k. "B",-0.6 mm BLS & 14k."M" 0.4 mm. BLS (PB)

*Kaweco Stainless Steel Lilliput, 14k. "M" -0.7 mm.BLS, (PB)

 

 

 

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