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Finer Nibs Vs. Broader Nibs: What Do You Prefer?


Zlh296830
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I have been writing with fountain pens since elementary school. However, I did not start investing in gold nibs until the beginning of this year.

In this particular post, as we are talking about the nib, I will be selectively focused on the broadness of the nib only. Since I am a college student, functionality always dictates my affection for any nib. As a result, none of my pens has a nib that is broader than a Pilot Custom 823 M. Currently, I have two Montblanc 146 pens, one in F and the other in EF; I have a Justus 95 in F, a Lamy 2000 in EF, a Pilot Custom 823 in M, a Pilot Falcon in EF, and a Sailor 1911L in MF. As you can see, reflected in my rather a small collection, finer nibs are truly special to me. They make it possible for me to write more information on a single page and draw clear graphs/chemical structures. It is also worth mentioning that on a practical standpoint, the nib has to be suitable for me to write rather fast - these fine nibs have all aligned this requirement quite well (except the Falcon EF since it is too soft and can, therefore, get scratchy during fast writing). Furthermore, even though these are rater fine nibs, they still allow my inks to show their color variations (I use Irushizuku inks, Montblanc ink, Kobe ink, and Kyoto ink).

Since I never own any broader nibs, I am very curious about your thoughts. Do you think I should get a broader nib? Here are some pictures of my pens and the things I write for your reference.


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Edited by ByronZ
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Like any nib size, broad is rather undefined.

 

I have a couple of fine nibs, but find that they have to be really well made to be comfortable to use. The best fine nibs I have are on a P45 & P51 - they're older and have probably smoothed with decades of use.

 

Broad nibs are something else - the Japanese ones are great and the closest you get buttery smooth for Japanese pens. I've tried both Pilot and Platinum's broads and they are really smooth and pleasant to use - the extra width makes a difference. If you are looking for something like MB medium smoothness in a Japanese pen, then a broad nib is the way to go. There again, Japanese broads are about the same size as some Western mediums such as Cross.

 

The question you have to ask yourself is what use would you have for a broad pen? Most of the maths & science folk I know use smaller nibs to fit the numbers into the boxes.

 

Broad nibs are great for (fp friendly) greetings cards, signatures, journaling and showing off inks with sheen and shimmery particles. I have a Faber Castell loom with a broad nib for those jobs. It cleans easily. The Japanese broads are good enoug for everyday writing - letters, and other stuff.

 

So, if its an occasional pen, a cheaper - easy to clean C/C pen (or even a dip pen) would be better.

 

Broad nibs write fast - there's no problem with the feed being able to keep pace - unless you get a dud. But you get more ink on the page - so unless you are using quick drying ink - blotting paper might be of use.

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I tend to prefer nibs on the finer side, too. For my everyday journaling it's usually an F with a hint of tooth, my current faves being an MB Boheme XL and a Marlen.

 

I have very recently discovered the joy of the broader side of things, however. When I feel like being more expressive with the way my writing looks rather than purely the content of what I am saying in my various scribblings, I have been having immense fun with a 1920's MB #4BB full-flex retractable safety pen. The nib is almost literally like a paintbrush! Writing so broad makes me want to spend more time improving the discipline of my writing skill in pursuit of ever-greater beauty in the appearance of what I leave on the page.

"Every job is good if you do your best and work hard.

A man who works hard stinks only to the ones that have

nothing to do but smell."

Laura Ingalls Wilder

 

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Like Sandy said, a smaller nib might be more useful for your field of study. On the other hand--since you're interested in broader nibs, why not just get a good, but not very expensive one to check out how you like them?

 

I prefer very broad oblique nibs for writing text, which I usually do. But I do have several fine nibs as well for my agenda. They're quite useful for that purpose; I couldn't write a real text with them. But that's just me. Other writers wrote their texts with pencil and so small that you need a microscope to decipher them. If I were a chemist, I'd prefer fine nibs.

 

You have to find out yourself what suits you best; I don't think, we can be of much help here.

Iris

My avatar is a painting by Ilya Mashkov (1881-1944): Self-Portrait; 1911, which I photographed in the New Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow.

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You can guess my preference based on my profile.

 

Yes, try a broad, then try a stub, then an oblique and decide what you like in various situations. It's ok to have a set of pen like you have a set of screwdrivers with various widths and shapes.

If you want less blah, blah, blah and more pictures, follow me on Instagram!

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You can buy a Lamy Safari or Al-star and all the extra nib widths for not much money and you can swap easily. That's a low cost way to try 1.1, 1.5, and 1.9 nibs with pretty forgiving nibs.

If you want less blah, blah, blah and more pictures, follow me on Instagram!

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Since I am a college student, functionality always dictates my affection for any nib. As a result, none of my pens has a nib that is broader than a Pilot Custom 823 M. _...‹snip›... Do you think I should get a broader nib?

OK, I'll ask the obvious question: "What for?" You've already implied that you have no use for it in consideration of functionality. Broadening your horizons or your experiences is not a requirement to being a hobbyist or lover of fountain pens; and you don't need to have written with broad nibs for "street cred".

 

Here are some pictures of my pens and the things I write for your reference.

Are they the only things you intend to write (or draw) with fountain pens, and are you happy enough with what you've already got for that purpose?

 

I personally prefer nibs that leave very fine lines at the narrowest; that holds true for 'nails' that cannot leave thicker lines, as well as soft nibs, flex nibs, italic nibs (that leave very fine lines on cross-strokes but thicker lines on down-strokes), bent nibs (e.g. Naginata Concord, Fude de Mannen) and so on. There are many fans of broad (and/or wet) nibs out there, and I have no argument with them when neither side is claiming its preferences to be representative, in the majority, or the 'right' or 'only' way to actually appreciate fountain pens and inks.

 

If you want to try a broad nib and see whether you like it, then get one in the name of experimentation; it's just money. Maybe you'll find it usable after all for what you already write most of the time, or maybe you'll find something else interesting to write or draw with it, even if that has nothing to do with your college 'work'. On the other hand, if you're operating within a narrow scope for which you've already chosen your parameters and boundaries, and you're happy with how things are going, then why "should" you get a broader nib? How would it benefit you in your application(s)?

I endeavour to be frank and truthful in what I write, show or otherwise present, when I relate my first-hand experiences that are not independently verifiable; and link to third-party content where I can, when I make a claim or refute a statement of fact in a thread. If there is something you can verify for yourself, I entreat you to do so, and judge for yourself what is right, correct, and valid. I may be wrong, and my position or say-so is no more authoritative and carries no more weight than anyone else's here.

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...a set of screwdrivers with various widths and shapes.

 

This. Tools for the job. Finer points for taking notes in meetings and general administrivia; broader points for the joy of writing.

Vintage. Cursive italic. Iron gall.

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OK, I'll ask the obvious question: "What for?" You've already implied that you have no use for it in consideration of functionality. Broadening your horizons or your experiences is not a requirement to being a hobbyist or lover of fountain pens; and you don't need to have written with broad nibs for "street cred".

 

Thank you for your question "what for." I would like to clarify my original question by adding a precondition to it: Does it worth my effort to make an exception from the consideration of functionality to get a broader nib? My intention for this question is to see different positivity others may associate with a broader nib. It is important to note that the fact that I ask such question does not indicate that I am already quite determined to acquire a broader nib for “street cred.” I was simply trying to learn more from others’ experiences. I appreciate your belief that there is always no “right or only way” to value a fountain pen. Your critical viewpoints on “experimentation” and “narrow scope” also remind me to reexamine my purpose for collecting and using fountain pens.

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My intention for this question is to see different positivity others may associate with a broader nib. _...snip... I was simply trying to learn more from others' experiences.

Note: my emphasis

 

In which case, two prerequisites would be that:

  • you use a broader nib for the purpose(s) and/or application(s) to which those other users who regard broader nibs positively put them to use; and
  • you evaluate such an experience with some semblance or imitation of their subjective criteria,
for you to see through their eyes, so to speak. It wouldn't make sense to try to appreciate the merits of a crisp italic nib, if you aren't going to (at least attempt to) write in an italic hand with it, for example. It wouldn't make sense to use a 'fire hose' of a pen to drown the page in broad ink tracks, if you aren't going to use it (almost exclusively?) with non-absorbent paper to chase saturation and sheen.

 

That's a different exercise from just using a broad nib for your purposes and judging it by your subjective criteria for evaluation, which then wouldn't be inherently aligned with or to share "others' experiences." I don't want to be inappropriately provocative here, but as an analogy, I can't reasonably "learn more from" others' experiences by kissing another guy, when I'm a heterosexual man who simply does not share certain others' preferences. Trying to see (or feel) what 'others' see (or feel) is a completely different thing from not caring about 'them', then disassociating 'them' from the activity in its own right, and judging it from my subjective criteria alone without regard for 'theirs'.

 

Edit: grammar

Edited by A Smug Dill

I endeavour to be frank and truthful in what I write, show or otherwise present, when I relate my first-hand experiences that are not independently verifiable; and link to third-party content where I can, when I make a claim or refute a statement of fact in a thread. If there is something you can verify for yourself, I entreat you to do so, and judge for yourself what is right, correct, and valid. I may be wrong, and my position or say-so is no more authoritative and carries no more weight than anyone else's here.

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Note: my emphasis

 

In which case, two prerequisites would be that:

  • you use a broader nib for the purpose(s) and/or application(s) to which those other users who regard broader nibs positively put them to use; and
  • you evaluate such an experience with some semblance or imitation of their subjective criteria,
for you to see through their eyes, so to speak. It wouldn't make sense to try to appreciate the merits of a crisp italic nib, if you aren't going to (at least attempt to) write in an italic hand with it, for example. It wouldn't make sense to use a 'fire hose' of a pen to drown the page in broad ink tracks, if you aren't going to use it (almost exclusively?) with non-absorbent paper to chase saturation and sheen.

 

That's a different exercise from just using a broad nib for your purposes and judging it by your subjective criteria for evaluation, which then wouldn't be inherently aligned with or to share "others' experiences." I don't want to be inappropriately provocative here, but as an analogy, I can't reasonably "learn more from" others' experiences by kissing another guy, when I'm a heterosexual man who simply do not share certain others' preferences. Trying to see (or feel) what 'others' see (or feel) is a completely different thing from not caring about 'them', disassociate 'them' from the activity in its own right, and judge it from my subjective criteria alone without regard for 'theirs'.

 

 

Thank you for the replay, I appreciate your unique thought.

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I came back to fountain pens after 40 years a slave to a ball point. I had my One Pen, after all I was just One Man. It was a semi-nail P-75 and in M....which was what the sales lady told me was more popular in 1970..................We were incredibly ignorant back in the Day, and it had been 5 or so years since I last used a fountain pen....so M or F wasn't much of a factor.....to a ball point user.

 

Often some one comes in with an M and then goes narrow or wide, and poor M gets noting but disrespect. :( It shouldn't, it is a great nib width...........smoother than F, so a good nib for classically rough Laid or Linen effect paper.

 

When I came back to fountain pens some decade + ago, I went wide.....B, BB, OB, OBB...............those were '50-70 semi-flex so are a 1/2 a width narrower. They are also nibs that give line variation and flair with out having to do anything. Stubs, so gave a good clean line. An OB is a writing nib, not a signature nib.....more like a fat M than a B.

 

The only F's I bought from that era were only place holders....sooner or later I'd find one in a proper wide width and sell the skinny nibbed thing. ...after a while I 'had to use' F's....the wider pens ran out of ink and that skinny nibbed thing was sitting there in the cup with ink in it. :unsure:

 

.I was a real semi-flex snob, took me quite a while to get to like and admire regular flex nibs......called 'soft' by Japanese companies. Semi-vintage Pelikan and the 200/100 nibs............................some Sheaffers, Esterbrooks, had some Wearevers with regular flex also. And some Wearevers (their best) just before and after the war were very good solid second tier pens.

 

Regular flex is not as wet as semi&maxi-semi-flex, so is a better nib for two toned shading inks. Gives a comfortable ride and a good clean line. The wetter Semi-flex requires a very good match of paper and ink to give two toned shading.

 

I had a nice regular flex '90's 400, and a Celebry in steel. (Would later get an = gold nibbed Celebry.) (Gold is not always better than steel, depends on who made the steel....and I have vintage steel nibs as good as anyone's gold nib, in either semi-flex or regular flex............a nails a nail, who cares if someone bought steel and ink and paper or gold bling.....there is no 'soft' gold nails....what that is is a gold semi-nail like a P-75 or a Pelikan 400/600..)

 

There are idiots in Germany who refuse to ship outside of Germany. I trans-mailed regular flex 200's nibs to a passed pal in England and got to like them. I had a few semi-vintage or vintage 400's so didn't really need a 200. Therefore bought a 215, in it wasn't a 200 but had the same great nib. It was in M.

So was the Pelikan pen of the year Amethyst. M.

Semi or maxi-semi-flex I often write an EF to F being still slightly heavy handed...............actually didn't have them in mind at all, when deciding I needed a new EF editing pen. Being tired of my 1745, with the EF nib; a tad thin too. Got the Marbled Brown 200.

 

Right now the pen in front of me is a vintage 1951 Osmia-Faber-Castell 540 steel Supra nib; maxi-semi-flex in M.

Second picture.

Permission of the Pelikan from Fritz. 200 EF.

So I don't just use one width.....and have learned to like an F too. M is what I reach for now.

Of course I'm due to switch over to vintage OB.....any week now. :)

Why have a lot of widths and not use them..........whim of the day! B)

DSPqv6F.jpg

ndEYUCd.jpg

I have Osmia Supra nibs (maxi-semi-flex) in both steel and gold....both are =. :notworthy1: Picture pirated from somewhere just to show a Supra nib.....can be monotone gold also or steel. :D

o2PJXYR.jpg

In reference to P. T. Barnum; to advise for free is foolish, ........busybodies are ill liked by both factions.

 

 

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

 

 

 

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OK, I'm going to admit right off the bat here I only read the original OP and none of the replies so far, so sorry, if this has already been said several times or whatnot.

 

Looking at your statement, then looking at your pictures, my blanket answer to you would be "Why do you think you need a broad nib? Are you just curious about it?" It's clear from the majority of your pictures that your majority use of fountain pens is for note-taking in your studies, that you need fine nibs to be able to do your diagrams and calculations clearly. So investing in a broad nib at this point would purely be for curiosity's sake, if you wanted to branch out from writing more than just notes and equations and diagrams and, say, start journalling perhaps. Or sketching, though most people I know who sketch with fountain pens also prefer the finer nibs and then a wet paintbrush if they want to get crazy with things later on, not a broader nib. It also sounds from your own summary that you already know all of this and are just looking for someone here to justify collecting a broad nib. Hey man no shame in that, I understand completely and and often guilty as charged, at least with inks. ;-)

 

That's an awkward segue into a reason why you might actually want to look into broader nibs if you need a better excuse than the collection one. If you start using many different inks, you'll find that the pen, the ink, and the nib all react differently depending on how you combine them (well, and the paper too, but that's another story). A wetter ink might be a pleasure in a fine nib, and a nightmare in a broad one. Conversely, a very dry ink you just can't get to work well in your fine nibs might become your number one beloved shading ink in a broader nib. Or if you got a stub, you might like the way it makes your lettering look without going to the effort of flexing a flex nib or slowing down your writing speed.

 

Just as a quick example, I have Pelikan Smoky Quartz, a really interesting chameleon of an ink. If I put it in my Wing Sung with the F nib it came with, the result is a scratchy, dry, washed-out light brown that I really hate writing with. But if I pop the F nib off of that pen and put in a 1.1 Lamy stub, suddenly Smoky Quartz becomes my favorite brown ink, rich, saturated, almost black and with incredible shading. Nothing changed except my nib, but the ink looks completely different.

 

If you're not a serial ink shopper like I am, and you have a core set of inks you know, love, and know how to combine with your pens to get the maximum enjoyment out of them, you probably don't need a broad nib. If you're an experimentalist like myself and you have a short ink attention span, a broad nib might suit you very well just to extend the possibilites of your ink collection.

 

Hope this helps a bit! Whatever decision you make, as long as you have the disposable income to responsibly support it, it's the correct one. ;-)

Edited by Enkida

sig2.jpgsig1.jpg



Events may be horrible or inescapable. Men always have a choice - if not whether, then how they endure.


- Lois McMaster Bujold

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My tools run the gamut, but I find that I’m more pleased with the pens on the medium-to-broad end of the spectrum. I like to see variations in line thickness, and finer nibs (with the exception of some very fine and very flexy dip nibs) tend to present less variation.

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I prefer finer nibs and if I get a broadish nib I prefer for it to be stubish so it has some character to it's writing. My writing is rather small and broad nibs for normal writing tends to just run the letters together.

PAKMAN

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I generally prefer extra fine to fin nibs because my writing tends to be on the small side and is italic [printing] rather than cursive. But, having attended a Susan Wirth seminar where she extolled the beauties of the italic nib as something that adds character to anyone's writing, I decided to try one or two. I now have two or three stubs and obliques that I use solely for special writing; for general writing I stay with my fine and extra fine nibs. If you do get a broad, get a stub or an oblique.

Baptiste knew how to make a short job long

For love of it. And yet not waste time either.

Robert Frost

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I started this journey off with a couple of low-end modern Parker c/c pens (Reflexes) that had medium nibs. When they got replaced with a Parker Vector, I bought the one the store had -- with an F nib. Didn't think I'd like it till I discovered how much further a cartridge full of ink went (back then I was ONLY using FPs for my morning pages journal).

I now vastly prefer fine nibs. Once I started down the vintage pen rabbit hole, F nibs were the majority of the ones on the pens I was finding. I'm still not overly enamored of EF nibs, but have a couple that I like (plus a Japanese F on the Pilot Decimo); I'm slowly starting to explore broad, oblique and stub nibs, but I'm still an F-nib girl at heart.

To the OP: I'll concur with Enkida -- what is the reason to look at broader nibs *for you*? If you want to explore? Great. Go for it. If you want to be talked into it by people who prefer italics and stubs? Ehhh... (shrug) it's your money. If you think that you should have a variety of nib widths for whatever reason? Ditto. But you might want to consider looking at inexpensive pens, such as vintage Esterbrooks, rather than springing for a really expensive pen and then discovering you don't like it.

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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Fine to Extra Fine.

Soft or some flex is fine.

Easy flowing.

Not toothy, no grabbing on the page. No picking up paper lint or smudging.

Large sweet spot.

Nib as smooth as it can get.

 

So far, 2 Pelikans (one with custom nib is my best writer), 1 Sailor 1911, 1 Pilot Metro (unusual one), fits the above.

None of the many other pens I've tried have been as good.

 

Price does not seem to make for a better writing pen.

Edited by AlohaJim
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I am a theoretical chemist doing chemical physics, so I have to write a lot of math equations but also sketch graphs for my students or write chemical formulae. And I do this exclusively with fountain pens (going along well with the quirky reputation we theoreticians have :) ). It's obvious that finer nibs are most suitable for the task to write these things legibly. But I have a large collection of pens, most of them vintage pens, with a wide variety of nibs and they all go into rotation to be used. And honestly, I enjoy writing with broader nibs much more than with finer ones. Especially the vintage broad and oblique nibs, which are much more stubbish or italic than modern ones, are really fun to write with. I love to see the line variation that gives so much character to the writing. I once wrote the entire manuscript for the lecture notes for a group and representation theory class with a vintage pen having a fabulous OBB 14k gold nib. It was neither hard to write nor hard to read. It's just a matter of practice how to use such a nib to write the many symbols and small subscripts and superscripts. However, this wouldn't work so well with most modern broad or broad oblique nibs because you have much less control over the line width. My practical solution is that I carry more than one pen and select some with different nibs. The one and probably only task that I really prefer a fine nib for is editing papers.

 

That said I think there is no "should I try this or that". Do as you please and feel free to explore other options. If you try different nibs, you will find out how they influence your handwriting and how usable they are for certain tasks. The vast variety of nibs and pens is what makes fountain pens so fascinating for me.

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Right now I have eleven (11) pens inked. of those four are F or EF, two M, one OB, two B (one Japanese, one German) and two stubs. One of those was a B from the factory that I had stubbed, the other a Lamy 1.1.

 

For practical purposes at work (I am an accountant) on crappy paper, I use my finer nibs mostly. On better paper (Made in Brazil composition books, Rhodia and Tomoe River), I tend to use a mixture of nibs, but the wider nibs really show off in that environment. Like when writing to pen pals. I also use a variety of inks

 

My first two pens were a Lamy Al Star with I believe a M (it has a F currently, but had a 1.1 at one time), and a Waterman Phileas with a F. I used those two pens from 1998-2013 when I got my first B, which I bought from Goulet to put in a Noodler's Konrad.

 

I keep a B and an F in my shirt pocket at the office and others at my desk most days. All that being said, from a pure utilitarian perspective given how paper in the USA is made/purchased (lowest cost), fine and maybe even medium nibs might be like the guy on a baseball team who can play the outfield and one or two infield positions too. Problem is, he is ok at most, and pretty good at one or two but great at none. Why not have a full assortment?

Brad

"Words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind" - Rudyard Kipling
"None of us can have as many virtues as the fountain-pen, or half its cussedness; but we can try." - Mark Twain

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