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Sunday, March 23, 2014


The Google Plus Fountain Pen community hosted a post on Frankenpens Friday, about putting the best parts of fountain pens together to make a super pen. I mentioned that I had shaped a worn nib into a cursive italic, which created several requests for more detail. This post is from three comments.

At New Year’s, I became dissatisfied with my over ten year old red Pelikan Future fountain pen. It was blobbing, just worn out.

Not an expensive pen, but one of five different color Futures of my EDC. There’s a principal involved.

I read a post on Brad Dowdy’s blog, The Pen Addict,  Grinding Your Own Nibs - Ludwig Tan, and bought the stone and sandpaper on ebay.

Then I started watching sbrebrown on YouTube, and collecting nib maintenance posts:

How to turn a fountain pen nib to italic or stub,

Fountain Pen Guide Series, Session 1: Nibs, Feeds, and How They Come Together, and

Richard Binder’s 3 part series on Nibs.

The wet/dry sandpaper and foam nail file more useful than the stone (too fine), and I've come to work tentatively, coming back a day later rather than going too fast.

First I smooth off the bottom of the nib ball, to make it somewhat flat. I want to leave some iridium on the bottom.

Then I hold the pen straight up, top of nib facing right. I set the top of the pen toward me to get the cursive slant and draw the nib over the abrasive surface, left to right, checking by dipping the nib in ink and trying it, every five to ten strokes.

When I get a good difference between wide down and narrow across, I polish with a few strokes on the manicure foam board. This is all shown on the web pages above.

A cursive differs from a stub in that my pen is held at an angle to the lines on the paper. A cursive is ground slanted 20 degrees so the right edge is shorter than the left. When it is naturally held above the paper, the front of the nib lines up with the horizontal lines.

I don’t use the figure ‘8’s to check the italic, I use a small vertical line next to a small horizontal line. I’m done when it looks like a 3 to 1 difference.

This is for taking notes, about the size of 14 point type, so a really wide nib isn’t as good as a narrower one. I like something about as wide as the Lamy Safari 1.1 stub nib or the Nemosyne Singularity .6mm calligraphy nib.

That foam board nail file is my preferred tool for final smoothing of each nib.

The red Pelikan took the longest because I was so tentative. After a dozen sessions, occasionally despairing it would ever come back, as of yesterday it is lovely, and back in rotation. During the same 10 weeks, I cursived the blue Pelikan future, a custom wood pen with a #6 nib, a new Kaigelu 382 and a new Jinhao 500.

I learned  that I like cursive italic nibs for line variation more than flex or broad nibs. I write fast, with light pressure, and enjoy an interesting swath of ink.

When I started, I was quite concerned about destroying a nib. That blotto red pelikan forced me to try. After all, I’m not cheap, I’m frugal!

So far I haven’t destroyed a nib, yet. I figure by now I’m well ahead.

For other how-to maker stuff, try Square, Triangle, Circle.  
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