Looking to get in to fountain pens but are curious about nib sizes and materials? Our team has put together a guide for finding the right nib to suit your writing needs!
“The magic of the pen lies in the concentration of your thoughts upon one object.”
- George Henry Lewes
A nib is the iconic tip of a fountain pen - the part that comes in contact with paper and draws ink from inside the pen. Most nibs have a tapering slit (called tines) cut down their center which carries ink from the inside of the pen to the paper via a capillary action.
Nibs vary in shape, size, purpose, and material. When selecting a pen, you can often choose from several nib options. This guide will help you narrow down nib options to find the perfect fit for your writing style!
The size of the nib determines the thickness of the line. Smaller nibsizes create a line width closer to that of a typical ballpoint or gel pen, making them ideal for everyday writing. Larger nib sizes allow for bold lines, which are ideal for stunning calligraphy. Nibs generally come in these sizes: Extra Fine (EF), Fine (F), Medium (M), and Broad (B).
In addition to line width, the size of the nib also impacts the ink flow. Finer nibs usually have more controlled ink flow, allowing you to use them on everyday paper. However, finer nibs tend to feel less smooth than broader nib because of this controlled flow. Broader nibs have higher ink flow, creating a smoother writing experience. On the flip side, more ink on the page means it is easier to smudge what you’ve written (blotting paper helps with this), and it can bleed and feather on lower quality papers.
Pen aficionados would argue that it’s best to have several pens in different sizes in your collection, each suited for a different purpose.
Nibs are made from many different materials, but most fountain pens will have either a gold or stainless steel nib. Some claim that the material a nib is made from does not have much effect on the way it writes, but the Oblation staff disagrees. In our opinion, gold nibs provide a smoother writing experience due to being more flexible than a stainless steel nib.
Specialty Nib Shapes
Additional options are available for nibs for specialized use:
Also called italic nibs or stubs, calligraphy nibs can be used to create wide vertical strokes and narrow horizontal strokes. Because of their wide and flat shape, these nibs do require a bit more practice to use compared to standard round nibs, but the style they lend to writing - especially calligraphy - make it worth it.
Nibs divided into two or three tines with broad stub tips and smooth edges are called music nibs. This is because their line - which varies from broad to fine - is suited for writing musical scores. Because of the number of tines, ink flows quickly from the pen with these nibs and the pen must be held at a high angle to the paper for proper use.
Q&A on Nibs:
Can I switch the nib size of a pen I already have?
It largely depends on the brand of the pen. Lamy is known for having interchangeable nibs on most of their pens. We encourage further research if you’re wanting to regularly change the nib on a fountain pen - we are also happy to answer questions if you give us a call!
Are there differences in nibs from other countries?
Yes, Japaneses nibs are generally a bit finer than European nibs. This is because Japanese characters are more complex and require finer lines to write clearly.
What’s the best nib size for a beginner?
It really depends on what you plan to use the pen for - if you know you want to do calligraphy, a calligraphy nib would be fitting. For every day writing, our staff recommends starting with a fine nib.
How do I care for my pen’s nib?
Don’t drop it, and make sure the cap is on every time you are not writing. As long as you protect the nib from physical damage and rinse your pens out between inkings, your nib will continue to perform at its best for years.