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Is It The Nib Or The Feed? (Or: Why Are Feeds Presumed Innocent?)

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A question stemming from curiosity, rather than any present need.


I like a juicy flow. If my pinky finger is getting stained by damp lettering as I drag my southpaw across the page, then the flow is too wet. But just short of that -- perfect. On a scale of 1 (the Sahara) to 10 (a river), I'll go for an eight or a nine.


Quite understandably, most pens don't write this wet out of the box. So, I have a long history of nib tuning -- both by professionals (Mottishaw, Oxonian, others) and by my own hand. I'm well into flossing and gentle spreading. I'm good with all that.


But here's my ignorant question: When questions come up on FPN about increasing the wetness of a given pen, the advice almost always -- 9 times out of 10, perhaps? -- goes to tweaking the nib, and/or to flushing and cleaning.


Only very, very rarely do responses address the feed as the potential culprit of dryness and a potential site of constructive intervention. Why is that?


Why, in other words, do we presume the nib is constraining flow, and not the feed? Isn't it just as likely that the feed could be starving the nib of sufficient ink to provide greater flow onto the page?


I know folks may be intimidated by the prospect of even removing the feed, much less hacking it, but the question remains as to why the presumptive diagnosis, when presented with paltry ink flow, is a too-tight nib rather than a miserly feed that's holding back the waters.


I would have thought that thorough advice to the flow-hungry would have to include either a combined -- or at least sequential -- approach to considering the nib *and* the feed. No?


Looking forward to enlightenment, by my betters, with great anticipation.


...for which, thank you, in advance.


In prospective gratitude,




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Normally a feed can keep with with non-flex nibs no problem and is not the bottle neck. Also some companies use different feeds for different nibs. For example TWSBI uses a wetter feed on stub nibs then the rest of their nibs. Nibs can go out of adjustment, feeds normally don't unless someone damages them, are clogged with oils from making them, or dried ink.


Feed problems normally happen when a company uses a standard feed on a flex nib that needs a lot more flow to keep up with a wet line that is 3-4 times wider then normal, if not more.


Wet music nibs don't normally have issues, but in the case of Platinum the feed has two channels to match the two slits in the nib.


Companies have spend a lot of engineering money on feeds and modifying feeds for more flow is not easy to reverse if done wrong and it's hard to get replacement feeds. Easier to adjust a nib.

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As a flex pen user, it's almost always the feed.

Followed by filling mechanism in 2nd & the nib last.


I've spent many hours modifying feeds.

In hybrid pens, it's the most difficult thing to design.

(The nib & pen are the expendable parts)

Edited by Nail-Bender
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I guess there are many pens where one yanks out the nib easily....so cleaning or widening and deepening the channel is no problem.


I have a number of pens with screw in nibs....wouldn't dream of touching them. MB nibs are glued in with a pine tar....again mine work fine. Then I have nibs on old pens, that don't want to start twisting out....so I let them stay the way they are....in to me they still work just fine.....I'm not heavy into extra wet nibs....and if I want that I have lots of semi-flex nibs which are naturally wetter than regular flex, which in it's self is wetter than a nail.


So getting a regular flex could wetten one's writing if one is use to nails; in the tines both bend and spread.... somewhat naturally in it's springiness. . Getting a semi-flex will be wetter.

I find regular flex in M&F to be great with shading ink. Semi-flex has to have a much better match of ink and paper than regular flex to shade, in it is that much wetter. Much easier tine bend and spread.



Wetness can be controlled by which ink one uses...with out screwing around.

Nails are a limiter to wetness with out nib spreading...is a WOG of mine.


It is much easier to just take one's thumb nails and very gently widen a nib, than to take it apart and put it back well for some folks....like me.

It is a lie, I have ten left thumbs on my hands....only seven. Six actually, one's a right thumb.


Sigh, my Ahab worked just perfectly, didn't have to deepen the channel, nor cut off combs. :gaah:

Edited by Bo Bo Olson

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.

RIP...200's once great nib, now a double ball.:crybaby::wallbash:


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




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Feeds are usually capable 'enough' for normal nibs unless somehow air exchange is inefficient, i.e. a vacuum is formed after ink leaves the pen. The ink channel will not hv any problem, no need to carve out wider ink channels. Find the air channel and widen that.


Nibs are the bottleneck. the tine slit distance and angle (taper to the tip) are important.


I am not a flex pen user.


Also, nib tipping shape and finish can determine how much ink and how ink is laid onto paper. Contact between tipping and paper can make a huge difference.

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You can generally work on the nib while it is on the pen.


To work on the ink channel on the feed, you have to pull the feed.

On some pens that is a difficult task, on others, surgery is required.

On vintage pens, it is NOT recommended to knock out the feed and nib, because you can damage the section or feed while doing that.

San Francisco Pen Show - August 28-30, 2020 - Redwood City, California


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Speaking theoretically. In other words, I've never tried this. Modifying the vent groove in the feed might increase the flow. That's the narrow, deeper groove at the bottom of the ink channel which allows air to flow back into the reservoir.


But modifications are risky. Not only is it a challenge to work such a narrow groove, but widening it could allow ink in the ink-channel to flow down into the vent groove and reduce its function of feeding air back into the reservoir. So I would first try deepening the vent groove.


Of course, flexible sacs don't need a vent. So lever pens might have the potential to deliver more ink.


Why not experiment with some cheap pens? I once bought a bunch of Jinhao nibs and feeds for only a few dollars.


Of course inks vary greatly. But I'll bet you've already tried very wet inks. Inks might be modified to make them even wetter, perhaps with a drop of detergent. But again, I've never tried that.



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when we're talking non-flex nibs, a feed either works or doesn't. If it dries out as you write and needs priming, it isn't flowing well enough. if the tines are not too far apart and the pen is just firehose wet all the time (but consistently so) it's probably the feed. if it's just belching ink now and then, like with the pilot metro if the feed isn't seated deeply enough, the problem is an air gap and the feed isn't set.


Feeds are pretty simple to diagnose on a firm nib.


I have yet to need to modify the air channel to make any nib keep up with anything. I've deepened channels from time to time, and the feed on my TWSBI is wide open for the custom wet noodle 14k nib, but I've never had to open the air exchange.

Selling a boatload of restored, fairly rare, vintage Japanese gold nib pens, click here to see (more added as I finish restoring them)

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some times, ink is also might be the culprit.. my KWZ Iron Gall ink really dont like nemosine singularity and lamy vista, it write dry as heck in those pen...


but it works wonder in wing sung 698, noodler's ahab and penbbs 299..

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So, all of that advice is gratefully received, in addition to being knowledgeable and sensible.


Let's put aside, for the moment, the practical consideration that it's easier/more convenient/less hassle/lower risk -- especially for the non-expert -- to tweak a nib than to hack a feed. This is undoubtedly true, and I certainly agree with jekostas and others on the pragmatic point about addressing the nib first -- but that wasn't really where I was coming from with the question.


I was wondering why the feed is so seldom brought to the witness stand, at all, as a possible culprit in a low-flow crime.


And I'm still keen to hear why folks think the following would be my experience, if feeds are generally thought to be innocent, well-designed elements. Some of my pens write a beautiful, juicy line when I've first filled them from the bottle. That's the moment when the feed isn't really a factor, at all, because the entire nib-feed assembly is, for a time, still soaked from having been dunked in the bottle. Even after judicious wiping-off, there is surplus ink in the nib/feed, so there isn't a need to draw ink from the reservoir down through the feed. And, during that period, the pen writes with a wonderful, wet, bodacious flow.


So, the nib is clearly not standing in the way of the ink. It is allowing plenty of ink to get to the page.


But, after some number of lines -- perhaps a page or so, depending -- when the post-filling (ie, bottle-dunking) ink surplus in the nib-feed assembly has been exhausted, and the pen is required to draw ink down from the reservoir, via the feed, the flow is reduced considerably...and, for me, often to a state of unsatisfactory non-juiciness.


Is this not evidence that, for those pens, the nib is well-adjusted for a wet flow, but the feed is providing insufficient supply?


With interest and gratitude,



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One interesting way to test a feed I saw in a TWSBI manufacturing video. take the tail of the feed and dip it into some ink that is very visible, I use noodlers white of the whale. capillary action should literally draw the ink all the way up the feed. if it slows hugely or stops anywhere, you've got a problem with the feed. I did this to diagnose a faulty feed in my first VAC700R. But out of all my pens, that is the ONLY one that has ever had a dud feed.


I agree with driften that a faulty interaction with the converter is likely an issue there. A converter can really make a pen not work properly, which is why eyedropper and other self-filler pens just seem to keep up with super juicy and flex nibs better than C.C's


If you have to prime it constantly, you have a problem with the feed or the converter or where the two meet. But it's also important to temper expectations. The super, super juicy line I usually crave from the C nib in my 3776 is just never going to be inherently part of the feed's capability, So I prime that pen every 10-20 minutes of use. That's inherently part of the feed's flow. but there's nothing wrong with the feed, it never skips or stops flowing or burps ink, it's just not as wet as I usually want it.

Edited by Honeybadgers

Selling a boatload of restored, fairly rare, vintage Japanese gold nib pens, click here to see (more added as I finish restoring them)

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The TS is right.

There are hard rubber feeds (ebonite) and ABS feeds.

The hard rubber feeds are drilled 1 by 1 and costly to produce. It is difficult to have a uniform quality, but when they are OK they work perfectly.

The ABS feeds are produced in a mold by great quantities and are cheap. They have a uniform quality, except when there is a tiny little minuscule particule that remains in the feed and escapes to the even minutious control with a loupe. This happens even in the first rate brands. Even when they test each nib-feed unit, there is always a pen that writes perfectly 3 lines and starts skipping the 4th rapidly written line, escaping the quality control.

Replacement is easy and cheap, but the culprit is indeed frequently overlooked and the poor consumer starts erroneously to damage the nib in a vain attempt to correct the flow.


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Pilot custom series (74,91,92,912,742,743,843) for example, have capable feeds. But somehow, the fine nibs run very dry. It is the nib. The feeds can support BB and Music nibs with no problem at all.


So do we say Pilot has dry flow?

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I dunno, the feed on my custom 91 soft fine REALLY struggles to keep up when that nib is flexed a little bit.


And the music nib feeds are different.

Selling a boatload of restored, fairly rare, vintage Japanese gold nib pens, click here to see (more added as I finish restoring them)

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  • 4 months later...

Where's the typical bottleneck in a feed?

I swapped out a 1.1mm stub nib for the Goulet 1.4mm stub nib. It starts out wet, then gets less wet, then dries out and stops. I can get it going again, but it won't go as far before drying out. When it's dry, it's like a new pen to get the ink flowing. If when it's still writing, I set it aside for a while, it'll start out wet again. So I'm pretty sure it's a feed problem. It's like the ink in the body isn't filling up the reservoir faster than the ink is writing to the paper.

I've flushed it out and cleaned it twice, carefully aligned everything.... Swapped out the feed.

I've even started carving out the feed channels. So far: no difference.


And just how critical are the fins? I've screwed them up on some pens and it doesn't seem to matter. What I've observed is that 95% of the time if the fins are holding ink, it's way up under the nib where it can't be seen. The outer parts of the fins we can see only seem to hold ink when I push ink through from the body or dip it in a bottle.


I guess I should go back to my old 1.1 nib. Has anybody been told "Just shut up and type."? Good, because that would really be snarky.


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I guess I should go back to my old 1.1 nib.

If the nibs are identical except for one being new, I suspect oil contamination.

Scrub the underside of the nib thoroughly as if it was a new steel dip pen nib & maybe floss the slit.


You can find instruction on that using the search feature.

I'm partial to tooth paste & spit. :D

You could try sticking a potato but not a fan of the flame trick.

Edited by Nail-Bender
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