Tale of a Vandal Pen User: Nibs Part 3 Revisiting Japanese Favorites

Bigger than some collections, far smaller than others, my fountain pens still number a baker’s dozen. It’s a couple of pens more than I would like to admit to having, but some are also treasured gifts. Somehow they all get used, one pen at a time.

There have been no changes to my core writing pens listed on  A Writer’s Dozen. That group remains a solid collection of day-to-day intensive writing pens with great ink tanks–written about ad nauseum.

My very two favorite nibs, however, are not among the core writing pens. Those nibs happen to be found among the variety pens—the ones used for writing notes, letters, and bad poetry: a Nakaya Soft-Medium, and the Pilot capless (aka Vanishing Point or VP) nib.

It Will Always Be About the Nibs

Platinum #3776 nibs have the largest representation in my pen stash. There’s also a Platinum spear shaped nib; making a total of six Platinum related pens. “Related” because one pen is from Platinum’s sister company, Nakaya, and two of the pens are not made by Platinum but have #3776 nibs installed in them.

platinum
Nakaya Tortoiseshell on left; Top to bottom: Newton Shinobi, Danitrio Cumlaude, Platinum Rabbit/Moon, Platinum Century #3776, Platinum Sai

I’ve been lucky enough to have tried a large range of Platinum nib points. I’ve liked them all, but not all suit my purposes. I’ve settled on these six Platinum nibs: two Fines, two Mediums, and one Coarse (aka double broad), and one Nakaya soft-medium nib.

Left to right: Medium, Course, Fine, Fine Spear,
Left to right: Medium, Coarse, Fine, Fine Spear, Medium modified to Stub, Nakaya Soft-Medium
plethora of Platinum nibs
plethora of Platinum nibs – subtle but meaningful difference going from Fine to Medium – the Double Broad/Coarse, though, is a big leap!

For whatever reason, I’ve not always had good writing experiences—usually  stop/start ink flow problems—with nib tipping sizes over 1.mm. The Coarse, however, has provided me with a fantastic writing experience. The tipping size is 1.1mm. The Platinum fine nibs are just under .3mm. In the small writing sample above, you can see the shading the coarse nib provides with the right ink and paper combination.

☮ →Note: Basically shading means both light and dark versions of an ink appear in the writing.

So what is it about that Soft-Medium in the Nakaya? The tipping point is “just right” size at .4mm. Plus the nib has a bit of spring, and the nib brings some shading to a good ink. Not as much shading as the Coarse, of course. The experience for me is kinda like, uh, eating really great bread in Paris.

Hmmm…. Why do I love Platinum nibs so much? Must be that pencil-like feel the nibs so often mimic. You know what a good pencil feels like, I hope. The Soft-Medium I have is pretty silky smooth, though, unlike my other Platinum medium nibs which are smooth but more pencil-ly.

☮ → A different nib most closely resembling the Platinum pencil-ly nib experience, I think, is a Titanium nib made by Bock. I’ve not had one of these nibs in a long while, but my recollection is that the titanium may be slightly rough in comparison. (What do you think?)

Representing Pilot are nibs from the capless Decimo, Custom 92, and Namiki Sterling Turtle.

3pilots
Namiki Sterling, Pilot Decimo, Pilot Custom 92

The only Pilot nib I love-love-love is the capless nib. Why? Um… the feeling of writing with a capless nib is like, um, petting a cashmere bunny rabbit. Yeah, yeah, like that. Or perhaps it’s like sliding over ice. Not like ice skating, though—that would be more like writing with a pencil-ly-feeling Platinum nib.

VP/Decimo nib unit
VP/Decimo nib unit

If it turned out I could only have one nib, it would be the Pilot capless. Yes, despite the tiny ink tank of its converter. Okay, you’d also have to let me keep my Edison Huron so that I’d have something to write a lot of pages with.

I’ve tried living without a capless nib/pen. But why live without your one true love if you don’t have to?

Edison Huron, Pilot Decimo
Edison Huron, Pilot Decimo

Listen up, if you’re a Pilot zealot reading this post, please skip reading the next paragraph:

Pilot consistently makes reliable nibs and fountain pens. Yet somehow, overall, I just find their nibs lacking in character. The Namiki Sterling inlaid nibs are also decent nibs, but I’m not sure their inlaid quality makes them super special as writers. (Certainly not as special as a Sheaffer inlaid nib.)

That said, a Pilot 92 with a B nib has been added to my pen box. It has been a very nice, smooth nib, certainly quite serviceable. The pen has given me some needed variety in nib point size.

I’ve kept the 92 thus far, but the nib doesn’t grab my heart like the VP nib or the Nakaya Soft-Medium.

Pilot Decimo, Nakaya Chinkin
Pilot Decimo, Nakaya Chinkin with 2 oh-so-different looking nibs

Maybe a nib shouldn’t grab one’s heart, ay? Dunno.

My taste in nibs exemplifies how personal the selection of fountain pens really can be from one person to another.

Left to right: Pilot Capless Fine, Medium modified to CI, Broad, Pilot #5 Broad
Left to right: Pilot Capless Fine, Medium modified to CI, Broad, Pilot #5 Broad

Among the VP nibs, I’ve settled on a Fine (a necessity for notes), a Cursive Italic Kinney Medium (a necessity for joy), and a Broad (for just because some people’s eyesight needs it).

My exposure to Sailor nibs has been quite limited. Their more interesting nibs are way too expensive to even touch. But of all the modern factory stubs I’ve tried over the years (from Danitrio, Pilot, Stipula, Bock, as examples), the one I like the best is the Sailor Music nib.

If you love the Pilot or the Platinum music nib, you may not like the Sailor Music nib at all. The Sailor nib has nothing really in common with those other two music nibs. It’s truly the most stub-like of them all—that is, smooth with not much italic variation.

Go figure. The Sailor Music nib speaks to moi.

Over the last couple of years, I’ve had several of these Sailors with music nibs, before settling on one fitted in a transparent Sailor Sapporo.

Sailor Music nib
Sailor Music nib

Sailors can be finicky out of the box. Out of ten different Sailor pens that have passed through my pen box, two of them came to me with problems. For what reason I don’t know. User error, manufacturer or retailer error, or too much transport jostling?

The music nib on my current Sapporo was misaligned when it arrived. The misalignment was easily rectified by pulling and resetting the nib. Not a problem since then. YMMV.

Cost Issues

As of this writing, IMHO Japanese pens continue to be the best value for fountain pens with 14K nibs, particularly if you buy direct from Japanese vendors, or buy them used on the fountain pen forums.

So…uh, yeah, I’m suggesting 14K or other gold nibs when you can afford them. Gold nibs can add a hefty price tag to your new fountain pen.

Steel nibs can be a great writing experience, but IMHO they can also be more problematic—hard starting, stop and go, writes one day and not another, la-la-la. Not all steel nibs are created equal, and again Pilot and Platinum, in particular, make excellent steel-nibbed pens. The most magnificent steel nib, IMHO, is Pilot’s integrated steel nib in the MYU-701 or M90.

Other pen people will disagree with me, and that’s—as Stuart Smally would say—okay. I’ve posted references for steel nibs in the reading list below.

Gold nibs are a great conduit for inks; true in the 19th century and true today. However, fewer then ever fountain pen manufacturers offer gold nibs as a standard feature. In time, gold nibs may become so over priced, only the wealthy will be able to afford any of them.

A Platinum Century #3776 with a 14K nib can be had for under $150 new; often for under $100 new. I paid $70 for the ever so slightly used #3776 with the Coarse nib. Limited edition #3776 fountain pens will cost much more.

You won’t find the same Platinum price tags for a Nakaya, however. These are expensive pens, even used. Lucky me, my pen was a gift.

The Pilot Custom 92 came to me relatively unused for less than $120. New Pilots—such as the Pilot Custom 91—can be had under $100 direct from Japan, and sometimes from Am-a-zon. Be aware there are some Pilot offerings, such as the Pilot 91, that US dealers are unable to offer. (Some of us remember that it took years to finally get the Pilot Decimo into the US via authorized dealers.)

US dealers average $140 for a Pilot Decimo, but for other Pilot fountain pens the price jumps over $200. A new Pilot Custom 92 averages $220 from USA dealers.

My Sailor Sapporo was a little over $100 new, direct from Japan. If you’re squeamish about buying from Japan directly, then buy from a reliable dealer, such as Anderson Pens. (Do I have to say I get NO COMPENSATION for my blog posts? Just writing from my experience. Opinions are my own.)

The Sapporo is known as the Sailor Pro Gear Slim in the USA; pricing is a reasonable, IMHO, $156 at this writing. Bigger Sailor fountain pens jump to over $200.

Then again, given current volatile political conditions, prices on these pens may jump out of the reach of many of us. Perhaps we’ll even find it difficult to order direct from Japan. More to be revealed as we live along, ay?

C’est la vie

Truly, this post is meant to encourage you to think about, and share what you love, about your own pens. Perhaps your favorite is:

  • a Bock Titanium nib because it has a bit of spring in its write;
  • or a selection of steel JoWo nibs because they are inexpensive and offer an easy exchange between tipping points for a single pen or two;
  • or vintage flex nibs are your jones;
  • or even a Delta steel/18K gold Fusion nib.

For a long time, I used only a certain kind of fine or extra fine point. As my eyes have grown older, my nibs have gone to more medium tipping points. The only time I really need a fine or extra fine, is for note taking out and about in the world. In those moments, a reliable tiny nib point comes in handy, esp. if writing on a small scrap of paper.

There are a lot of choices for everyone, each nib and pen with its own characteristic and aesthetics.

May all your pen adventures be stress-free. If they’re not, fix or get rid of that recalcitrant fountain pen, and try another!

Thanks for reading. Stay kind and curious, my friends!

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