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Nib sizes (as in physical sizes,not tipping)


essayfaire
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This is an informal poll; many of you have more pens/nibs at your disposal than do I, and I am curious as to your personal experiences.

 

Goulet recently had a podcast on Sailor nibs where he was discussing the size differences.  The smaller nibs were 14K, but two other pen groupings, those I consider "normal size" and the KOP group, had two different size 21K nibs.  He thought there was an actual difference in the performance of the nibs, and that this was due to the large size of the nibs on the KOP group; he was not talking about nib width.

 

I was a bit surprised, as I had recently seen a bit by sbrebrown, where he was comparing nib sizes based on the current popularity of No. 10 nibs.  He came to the conclusion that the performance of the pens were independent of the nib size(again, I am talking about size as measured by calipers, not by the size of the line the nib produces).

 

I have found both these gentleman to be reliable sources of information in the past, and this is the first time I recall them coming to incompatible conclusions.  Do FPNers think there is a relationship here?  I don't have any huge pens(yet, @amberleadavishas been nudging me in that direction)so my collection is insufficient for  experimenting.

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Can you clarify what factors are included within "performance?" Wetness and flow, flex, feedback, something else? 

 

I have lots of vintage nibs in the smaller sizes that function beautifully as nibs, but I'm not sure if I'm comparing the same factors that you and they are evaluating. 

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1 hour ago, Paul-in-SF said:

Can you clarify what factors are included within "performance?" Wetness and flow, flex, feedback, something else? 

 

I have lots of vintage nibs in the smaller sizes that function beautifully as nibs, but I'm not sure if I'm comparing the same factors that you and they are evaluating. 

Goulet was discussing flex/springiness/smoothness writing samples, etc.

 

sbrebrown did a bunch of writing samples and basically said nib size doesn't make a difference, other factors are much more important than what the calipers say 

 

 

 

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The KOP nibs, I have read, have a little more softness to them as compared to the Pro Gear/ 1911L nibs. It might just be the larger nib size causing the greater give, or the 21K alloys might be different.

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If the alloy is identical and they are the same thickness then I would expect a larger nib to be a bit more flexy/springy. Of course, change the alloy, change the thickness, shape, processing, the way the nib is mounted, maybe add some specific flex features, and this may or may not hold true.

 

By the way, I often notice differences in nibs of similar sizes and even in multiple copies of the same nib.

 

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I've watched both videos, and they aren't really disagreeing in substance.

 

Goulet is talking only about Sailor nibs (and let us not forget that a large part of his motivation with these videos is to sell larger and more expensive pens). Along the way, he says some things that I find questionable:

  • The 21K nib on the 1911L (among other pens) is longer than the 14K nib, but it looks to me to be the same basic size, and the extra length is due to the longer tines. These longer tines may account for the increased softness, rather than either the material or the "larger size" of the nib -- or more likely, all of them along with other factors. 
  • He says that 21K gold alloy is "slightly softer" than 14K gold alloy, as if this is always true. It may be true among Sailor nibs, but not a universal rule. 
  • He also says that gold is the softest metal in the gold alloy. Again, while it may be true of Sailor nibs I don't think it is a general rule. Different nib makers use different alloy ingredients. 

 

After that, he is just comparing different line-widths available on some Sailor nibs. 

 

Brown is talking about general nib sizes, and how size is not a particularly good predictor of nib performance. I found nothing in Brown's video to disagree with. 

 

 

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1 hour ago, Paul-in-SF said:

He also says that gold is the softest metal in the gold alloy. Again, while it may be true of Sailor nibs I don't think it is a general rule. Different nib makers use different alloy ingredients. 

Well, gold is one of the softest metals, I doubt any elements they Sailor puts into their nibs would be softer than pure gold. Only alkali metals and metals which melt near room temperature are likely to be softer.

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I am not a metallurgist, so my comment is based on things I have read here, especially in discussions of why 18K gold nibs are often not softer than 14K nibs. It is quite possible I misunderstood some (or all) parts of those discussions. On further reflection, a soft metal nib is not necessarily desirable, as it is more likely to get sprung from too much pressure. Goulet's demonstrations of the 21K nibs seemed to show springiness more than softness. 

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7 hours ago, IlikeInksandIcannotlie said:
8 hours ago, Paul-in-SF said:

 

Well, gold is one of the softest metals, I doubt any elements they Sailor puts into their nibs would be softer than pure gold. Only alkali metals and metals which melt near room temperature are likely to be softer.

Metallurgy is a funny thing, and it can be difficult to predict the effect adding a certain metal will have on an alloy.

 

The question isn't really how hard or how soft the alloyed metal is, but rather how it "fits" within the crystalline structure of the metal, and doing so can dramatically change the properties in ways that don't on the surface make intuitive sense.

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1 hour ago, bunnspecial said:

Metallurgy is a funny thing, and it can be difficult to predict the effect adding a certain metal will have on an alloy.

 

The question isn't really how hard or how soft the alloyed metal is, but rather how it "fits" within the crystalline structure of the metal, and doing so can dramatically change the properties in ways that don't on the surface make intuitive sense.

I get that, I was just talking about the individual softness. I do not think any manufacturers use any element softer than gold in their nibs.

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Given the previous two posts, then I would re-state my reservation about what Goulet said in his video: he said that gold is the softest metal in the alloy, as if that was, by itself, an accurate predictor of the behavior of a 21K nib vs. a 14K nib. 

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There’s a page on Richard Binder’s site where he says that nibs with higher gold amounts than 14K tend to be either too hard or too soft to make an optimum nib. In fact, somewhat lower is usually better for physical properties, except for corrosion – the latter being why nib makers tend to settle on 14K.

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It's a funny thing, I was calling Larry Dromgoole @DromgoolesHouston to ask about an IB, OB or larger nib for an M1000.   He was surprised that the medium lays down a larger line than many prefer.  I will do more comparisons, but I don't think the larger nib produced a larger line.

 

large.20220503_007.jpg.e15e7883372450204f4b069967de9dd4.jpg

Fountain pens are my preferred COLOR DELIVERY SYSTEM (in part because crayons melt in Las Vegas).

Create a Ghostly Avatar and I'll send you a letter. Check out some Ink comparisons: The Great PPS Comparison 

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@essayfaire I don't think the larger M1000 - Medium nib lays down a bigger line than the M800 or M600.

 

large.20220502_001.jpg.e9f544024bf744b6a6059708e6ac60a0.jpg

Fountain pens are my preferred COLOR DELIVERY SYSTEM (in part because crayons melt in Las Vegas).

Create a Ghostly Avatar and I'll send you a letter. Check out some Ink comparisons: The Great PPS Comparison 

Don't know where to start?  Look at the Inky Topics O'day.  Then, see inks sorted by color: Blue Purple Brown Red Green Dark Green Orange Black Pinks Yellows Blue-Blacks Grey/Gray UVInks Turquoise/Teal MURKY

 

 

 

 

 

 

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5 hours ago, amberleadavis said:

@essayfaire I don't think the larger M1000 - Medium nib lays down a bigger line than the M800 or M600.

 

large.20220502_001.jpg.e9f544024bf744b6a6059708e6ac60a0.jpg

That's the conclusion sbrebrown came too, also.

 

@Paul-in-SF, I suppose Sailor could use two different 21 K alloys for their nibs, but I do think that would be odd...

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Wow, lots of confusion here. I'll add my own confusion to the mix. 

 

On 6/11/2022 at 9:59 PM, Paul-in-SF said:

The 21K nib on the 1911L (among other pens) is longer than the 14K nib, but it looks to me to be the same basic size, and the extra length is due to the longer tines. These longer tines may account for the increased softness, rather than either the material or the "larger size" of the nib -- or more likely, all of them along with other factors. 

 

If you look at the nib nook, you'll see that they are quite different in size. 

 

On 6/11/2022 at 9:59 PM, Paul-in-SF said:

He says that 21K gold alloy is "slightly softer" than 14K gold alloy, as if this is always true. It may be true among Sailor nibs, but not a universal rule. 

 

Actually, it's almost universally technically true. Brian is saying that the alloy itself is literally/"chemically?" softer. However, just because the material is a technically softer material does *not* mean that the resulting nib will be softer. There are many softer nibs made out of technically harder materials. 21K gold is almost guaranteed to be a softer metal than 14K gold in any standard composition. That does not mean that the resulting nib will *feel* soft. Softness of the metal is not the same thing as softness of the nib. Brian has pointed this out in other videos as well, specifically "myth busting" the misconception that many have that the gold content is a reliable way to judge softness between various nibs from different makers. 

 

On 6/11/2022 at 9:59 PM, Paul-in-SF said:

He also says that gold is the softest metal in the gold alloy. Again, while it may be true of Sailor nibs I don't think it is a general rule. Different nib makers use different alloy ingredients. 

 

It's almost certainly the case that the gold in the nib is the softest material there, and it would certainly dominate the "softer" side of the composition, regardless, especially for pen nib alloys.

 

On 6/11/2022 at 9:59 PM, Paul-in-SF said:

I've watched both videos, and they aren't really disagreeing in substance.

 

Goulet is talking only about Sailor nibs (and let us not forget that a large part of his motivation with these videos is to sell larger and more expensive pens).

 

I agree that they aren't disagreeing at all, and in fact, they are saying much the same thing. In particular, both Brian and Stephen consistently point out in various videos that neither the size of the nib or the gold content is a reliable indicator of how a nib is going to feel. It is well known that the feel of a nib is dependent on a wide range of factors, two of which are the gold content/alloy and the nib size, but neither of them is inherently the most significant contributor to nib softness. 

 

Brian is also *not* saying that Sailor's 21K nibs are softer *because* they have 21K gold in them. It is true that Sailor's 21K nibs may be a little softer in practice, but that is not just a factor of the gold content. However, it is likely true that since the nibs tend to share a common overall design and shape, and that they tend to use similar feeds in similar pens with similar grinding techniques and similar or identical tipping material design and so forth, it is more likely that a more significant portion of the change in feel between the nibs can be attributed to the two factors that *are* quite different between the nibs, which is gold content and relative size. That's a different claim than saying that the nibs are softer just because the 21K gold content is softer, and Brian isn't saying that. 

 

On 6/11/2022 at 12:48 PM, essayfaire said:

He thought there was an actual difference in the performance of the nibs, and that this was due to the large size of the nibs on the KOP group; he was not talking about nib width.

 

In general, Brian and Stephen would both agree that the size of the nib and the gold content are not the primary determining factors in how a nib is going to feel. You have to pay a lot of attention to the shape of the design and the thickness of the gold material, for instance. Platinum #3776 and Pilot #10/#15 nibs are a pretty good comparison example. 

 

However, in the case of the Sailor video, we're dealing with a much more constrained situation. We're dealing with three different types of nib shapes from the same company with the same basic techniques used in all three and also likely to be more consistently designed around the same basic parameters than other nibs of similar or different size from other makers. This means that many of the variables that would otherwise contribute strongly to the difference in a nib feel are controlled for in the Sailor vs. Sailor comparison. This means that it is more likely that we *can* attribute changes in the nib behaviors to things like gold content and size. 

 

In the case of Sailor nibs, I can attest that the KOP nib has a distinct feeling to it around softness that is very unlikely in the smaller Sailor nibs. While the 21K gold undoubtedly has some effect here, as Brian points out, it is very likely that the main difference is that overall design of the nib is kept more or less the same but the length and size have been increased. With *all* other factors kept the same, that larger nib will in general tend to feel softer than a literally equivalent nib done in a scaled down size, even if only because of the increase in practical leverage introduced by the length of the nib. 

 

However, it is also the case that Sailor intentionally used to label their KOP nibs without the "hard" designation while they did use the "hard" designation on their smaller nibs. This leaves open the distinct possibility that they not only scaled up the KOP nib but also did some other things to the nib to increase the softness of that nib relative to their other nibs, or, equally so, they did something to the smaller nibs to make them harder. Of course, it is also possible that they did nothing intentional, but simply noted the differences and chose to label them in accordance with their already inherent properties. All of these are adequate explanations that could happen here. 

 

In any case, there are differences in feel and the like between the three nibs, though some of those differences can be very small. It is ery likely that some of those differences are due to the gold content and the size of the nibs, and a disproportionate amount of the difference is likely to come from size and gold content simply because the nibs are otherwise very similar to each other in design, ruling out other factors. 

 

This does not take away from the fact that, in general, you cannot predict softness and the like from gold content or size of the nib alone, as Stephen rightly points out. In the video, Brian is observing on differences, and remarking on some likely contributing factors, but he is not saying that these are the sole or primary factors, only some potential factors that can be highlighted for this particular set of nibs. Indeed, they are not saying anything different, but more like confirming the same things. 

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Posted (edited)

So, what I had found the most intriguing was not the 14K versus 21K, but the two 21K nibs - those used on 1911L versus a KOP.  The latter is clearly a much larger nib, but they share the same gold content.

16 hours ago, arcfide said:

While the 21K gold undoubtedly has some effect here, as Brian points out, it is very likely that the main difference is that overall design of the nib is kept more or less the same but the length and size have been increased. With *all* other factors kept the same, that larger nib will in general tend to feel softer than a literally equivalent nib done in a scaled down size, even if only because of the increase in practical leverage introduced by the length of the nib. 

Which is consistent with what Brian is saying and my original question.  Because his appraisal is dealing only with Sailor, and two of the three nibs possess the same gold content, it seems that the difference in usage is being attributed to the size of the nib.

 

This is a different conclusion than that drawn by sbrebrown, but @Stregaraises an interesting possibility - that the two 21K Sailor nibs may have the same gold content but differ in another substantial way, such as thickness, which would allow for the sbrebrown's (and @amberleadavis Pelikan tests) conclusion to be consistent with Robert's findings.

 

 

Edited by essayfaire
typo

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I had one experience with an extended Faber Castell Loom nib and it was match made in heaven. It amplified the writing feel, almost like a living extension of my hand.

I can't imagine the larger nibs with a stiff bounce. Heaven on Earth!

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33 minutes ago, essayfaire said:

This is a different conclusion than that drawn but [sic] sbrebrown

 

I don't see it that way. sbrebrown is *not* saying that size doesn't matter, he is saying that size doesn't determine how a nib is going to feel. That's consistent with what Brian is saying. They aren't saying anything different from each other and aren't contradicting one another. Among all of the nibs that are out there, you cannot use size to classify how they will feel. However, given two very similar nib designs and construction techniques, such as the Sailor nibs, size is one of the major contributing factors to the overall feel of the nibs. That is not a contradictory statement. 

 

In the case of Sailor, since they were designating the nibs differently, at the very least, they are aware that there are differences in feel between their nibs, and that this is at least intentional to some degree. The size of the KOP nib undoubtedly has some part of play in this, but it is also perfectly plausible that Sailor does some other things to help make the KOP nibs a little softer than just size would account for. However, it is also perfectly plausible that they did not need to do anything of the sort to get this effect. 

 

If you look at the overall design of the 21K 1911L nibs and the KOP 21K nibs, you can see that the overall shape is very similar. This means that leaves only very few other things that could contribute to the feel of the nib. Size is one of these, and the thickness of the nib would be another. There may be hard to visually detect changes in the nib geometry, but I suspect those are very low, since the nibs really do look very similar. I haven't taken the two and scaled them up against one another to see just how closely they match, but I'd suspect that they are quite close. This means that probably only the thickness of the material and the size of the nib are the two main contributing factors. 

 

That above conclusion is not contradictory to either Brian or sbrebrown's conclusions. Even if the thickness of the material were exactly the same, and the nib size was the only contributing factor (a distinct possibility), this would *still* not contradict what sbrebrown says. 

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On 6/12/2022 at 3:48 AM, essayfaire said:

He thought there was an actual difference in the performance of the nibs, and that this was due to the large size of the nibs on the KOP group; he was not talking about nib width. …‹snip›… Do FPNers think there is a relationship here?

 

All else being equal, yes; but correlation is not causation.

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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