Which Kind of Nib?

11Feb08

Types of Nibs

Nibs come in two basic flavours: the ‘round nib’ and the ‘italic nib’. The plain vanilla round nib is by far the most common type of nib found on fountain pens today. The reason for this is that a round nib is easy to write with. It doesn’t matter whether it is a horizontal, vertical or diagonal line – writing experience is smooth in any direction. Not only are they easy to write with, round nibs also produce lines of uniform thickness in any direction. Since the average guy on the Putra LRT is likely to be able to use round nibs without any difficulty, fountain pen manufacturers naturally tend to use round nibs on the majority of pens that they produce.

round-nib.pngitalic.png

Italic nibs, on the other hand, do not produce lines of uniform thickness in every direction. Instead, they will produce thin horizontal lines while their vertical lines will be much thicker. This phenomenon is often referred to as ‘line variation’ and is the primary allure of italic nibs. Many fountain pen users prefer the calligraphic appearance of their handwriting that is a result of the line variation inherent in using italic nibs. But because of the way the italic nib is shaped, it is often more difficult (slower?) to write with an italic nib.

Round or Italic?

Perhaps the easiest way to tell whether a pen is fitted with a round or italic nib, is to look at the nib from the side. As the illustration shows, round nibs will have a small bulb at its tip. Italic nibs, on the other hand, will show a streamlined tip that tapers off almost into a point.

When viewed from the top, a round nib will also show the characteristic bulb at its tip. In the italic nib, however, the plan view of the nib will show a flattened tip with very sharp edges. This flattened tip may be either horizontal or diagonal. If the cut across the nib is horizontal, this is usually called a ‘stub nib’. If it is diagonal, it is either an ‘oblique italic’ or a ‘reverse oblique’ italic nib.

Do I Need/Want an Italic Nib

If you don’t mind uniform line thickness throughout your writing, stick to the easy-to-use round nib. Round nibs allow you to write faster, too. However, as you progress and try to improve your penmanship, I believe you will want to experiment with italics.

As the illustration shows, italic nibs will have two very sharp edges. These edges have a tendency to get caught in the paper to produce a scratchy feel when writing. Naturally, care and very light writing pressure is required when writing with these nibs. Writing speed will sacrificed when using italics. However, the lines produced will show crisp line definition and great line variation.

italic_topview.png

But there is a happy medium between the round nib and the standard italic nib. This nib is known as the ‘cursive italic’ nib. In cursive italics, the sharp edges are ground slightly to produce a smoother writing point. Cursive italics write faster than the standard italic but will give you less line variation.

What about Oblique Italics?

Generally, there are only two kinds of people who will need oblique italics. The first are left-handers. Because of the way they write, left-handers will find that reverse oblique italics are more suited to the way thy write.

reverse-oblique.png

Right-handers, however, will find the oblique italic more suitable if they tend to hold the pen slightly rotated in a counter-clockwise direction. In most cases, as stub nib with its edges slightly rounded (a type of cursive italic nib) do the job quite well.

oblique.png

Summary

Round nibs allows fast writing but will only produce lines of uniform thickness.

Italics produce crisp writing and great line variation but will be slower to write with.

Many people believe that the happy medium lies in the cursive italic nib.

You may want to consider oblique nibs if you are either left-handed or if you tend to hold the pen with the nib slightly rotated in the counter-clockwise direction (in the case of right-handed people).

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