Know Your Nibs

     Print Edition: Oct 28, 2012

Yukio Nagahara of Sailor Pens talks about the precision and strength of high-end nibs.


The most common myth is that fountain pens are difficult to maintain. They actually last longer and give your handwriting a definite style, one that you cannot acquire through a ball or roller pen. Earlier, fountain pens had to be filled directly into the barrel or via unreliable aerometric rubber sac fillers. Today, this old fashion writing instrument features advanced technology, and comes with disposable cartridges that are easily replacable.

Always store or carry a fountain pen with its nib facing upwards. To clean the nib after washing it, dab it dry with an absorbent tissue paper. For cartridge-based pens, just remove the cartridge; hold the writing block or the nib section upside down under room temperature running water for about 10 seconds. Subsequently wipe it off with a dry lint-free tissue paper. Although modern fountain pens rarely leak, it's good to fill only 75 per cent of a fountain pen if you're used to travelling with it. This enables the ink to move within the chamber without leaking whenever there's a change in air pressure.

A good sheet of paper is an important part of the overall writing experience and is a must have for every fountain pen user. When you own an expensive fountain pen it is important that you invest in good paper. Having said this, a lot depends on the ink, the nib, and the ink flow of the pen. Different textured papers give different dimensions to one's writing. One must steer clear of hand made, fibrous papers as the lint could get between the tines and affect the ink flow or even damage your pen.

Unlike a ball pen, fountain pens can be customised for different writing styles. This is because there's an amazing array of nibs available for different kinds of writing styles. Oblique nibs are recommended for writers who rotate the pen a lot while writing; a well rounded stub nib is recommended for those who exert pressure on the nib. Italic nibs have fine edges and are best suited for caligraphy and cursive writing. Being too harsh or hasty with these nibs can lead to scratchiness and skips.

The writer is the resident nib specialist at Sailor Pens.

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