Friends who are polite say that I am a rich resource for trivia. Those who are less polite simply call me a purveyor of useless information. And true to form, today, I’d like to share with you some trivia (or useless information, as the case may be).
Like all long, cylindrical instruments, the most important component is usually the tip. Think of spears, screwdrivers, needles, pneumatic drills and you’ll get the picture. How useful (or useless) the instrument is, depends entirely on the properties of the point. Some say that this rule even extends to the functionality of the penis. But since I have never been on the receiving end of a penis, I really don’t know (nor would I like to find out). However, since I do know a thing or two about fountain pen nibs, this is where I’d like to go.
Fountain pen nibs generally come in three sizes, known as nib-stroke. These are ‘fine’ (F), ‘medium’ (M) or ‘broad’ (B). Naturally, the nib that lays down the thinnest line is the F nib while the thickest line is produced by the B nib. Simple. Here, the notion that ‘bigger is better’ simply doesn’t apply. The most suitable nib for you depends really on your handwriting style and personality: All boils down to personal preference.
However, do bear in mind that since fine nibs lays down the thinnest line, it also uses the least ink. Thus, expect your ink to go further with a fine nib. On the other hand, your signature is going to look pretty lame if you use a fine nib. The broad nib, therefore, would be more suitable when you need to sign something. So, most folks just plonk down their money on a medium nib and trust that this is a good compromise.
Regardless, which way you go is truly a question of preference. Chances are, if you have big handwriting, you’d probably be more comfortable with the medium or broad nib. If your handwriting is on the small side, more likely than not, you’d be more comfortable with a fine nib.
DO YOU PREFER IT ROUND OR STUBBY?
Apart from the size of the nib, the shape of the tip is also important. Though it may be difficult to discern with the naked eye, the tip of a fountain pen nib comes in two basic shapes. Nibs can have either a round-tip or stub-tip. With round-tips, imagine a small ball at the end of the nib. With a stub-tip, imagine that the tip of the nib has been cut, leaving a flat end. Naturally, each type of nib will produce different writing characteristics.
As a general rule, round-tipped nibs will produce lines of the same thickness regardless whether they are drawn horizontally or vertically across the page. On the other hand, a stub (flat)-tipped nib, will produce vertical lines that are thicker than horizontal lines.
What all this means is that the round-tipped nib will prove easier to use than stub-tipped ones. However, in the semi-skilled hand, the stub-tipped nib will produce beautiful calligraph-like handwriting. However, in Malaysia, stub-tipped nibs may be hard to come by.
DO YOU LIKE IT HARD OR SOFT?
Apart from variations in size and shape, fountain pen nibs can either be stiff of flexible. A flexible nib isn’t necessarily better. In fact, it can prove more difficult to use effectively. Because flexible nibs are softer, the line it produces differs with the pressure used by the writer. The more pressure is exerted by the writer, the thicker the lines that it produces. Conversely, the lighter pressure, the thinner the line. Thus, unless you are particularly skilled, a flexible nib may produce inconsistent lines and result in ugly handwriting. However, in competent hands, the flexible nib is capable of producing the most beautiful handwriting specimens.
Similarly, a stiff nib doesn’t necessarily mean that it is a cheap pen. Quite a part from its inherent durability, it is probably more suitable for people who who have been brought up learning to write with ball-points and roller-balls. This is because writing with ball-points and roller-balls have taught these people to write with heavy pressure. Having acquired the habit of writing with heavy pressure (like most people in Malaysia) the stiff nib would arguably be the best choice.
Now that you have all this trivia about nibs under your belt, I hope that you will be able to make a better informed decision the next time you hit the market for a fountain pen.