To the uninitiated, a fountain pen might seem like an overpriced writing tool used to write fancy letters. And for the most part, that’s exactly what it is. But if you want to master your fancy calligraphy, you’ll have to choose the right fountain pen nib size.
There are 4 fountain pen nib sizes to choose from—extra-fine (0.5 millimeters), fine (0.6 millimeters), medium (0.75 millimeters), and broad (0.9 millimeters). However, Japanese fountain pens use might finer nibs, measuring between 0.3 and 0.6 millimeters.
Today, I’ll explain the different fountain pen nib sizes and other characteristics you should know about the nib/
What Is the Fountain Pen Nib Size?
When you pick up your first fountain pen, you’ll notice that the nib—the tip of the pen—is not permanently set in place. This allows you to swap the stock nib with a replacement for different writing styles. So, you don’t have to invest in multiple pens, which can set you back by quite a lot financially. That said, what are the fountain pen nib sizes?
There are four fountain pen nib sizes, known as extra fine, fine, medium, and broad. In order, the nib sizes are progressively wider to produce thicker downstrokes and cross strokes.
The table below will provide a quick breakdown of the different fountain pen nib sizes and their measurements.
Something worth mentioning is that where the pen is made will affect the nib size. Western fountain pens generally come with wider nibs than their Japanese counterparts. Here are the different pen nib sizes in Japanese fountain pens.
|Japanese Nib Size
The reason for this is the intricacy of kanji characters. In order to add minute details to the characters and make them distinguishable, Japanese calligraphers need to utilize finer nibs. However, if you’re more interested in narrower, neater writing in English, you could certainly opt for a Japanese fountain pen.
Why Does Nib Size Matter?
After knowing the different fountain pen nib sizes, you should also try to understand why they exist in the first place. Why don’t manufacturers just go with a one-size-fits-all solution for fountain pens?
The thing is that the writing experience differs from nib size to nib size. For instance, people claim that larger nibs—i.e., medium and broad nibs—produce a softer writing experience. Narrower nibs, while somewhat neater, can be difficult to work with, especially for first-time fountain pen users.
Another thing to consider is that finer fountain pen nibs use considerably less ink than wider ones. This is because the tines don’t separate as far apart from each other, thereby reducing the flow of ink to produce finer, neater lines. However, as an aspiring calligrapher, you should familiarize yourself with all pen nib sizes.
What Are Fountain Pen Nibs Made of?
Something else that you should be aware of is what the fountain pen nib is made of. In general, there are two metals that are used to construct pen nibs—steel, gold, and titanium.
Steel nibs are the more common option as it’s less expensive, highly durable, and can be made to become somewhat flexible when applying pressure. By no means is a fountain pen with a steel nib the “cheap” option since it can do virtually anything a gold nib can do.
If you take a look at fountain pen manufacturers, you’ll find that many of them offer gold pen nibs in their high-end models. The reason gold is used is that it is much softer than steel, thus giving it a softer flex when applying pressure. Apart from that, owners of gold fountain pens can brag about how much they spent on their pens because, to be frank, they can be quite costly.
Titanium pen nibs fall somewhere between stainless steel and gold in terms of price and flex. The metal is actually quite springy, and owners claim that it offers a much softer writing experience than steel and gold pen nibs. However, titanium pen nibs might not be as smooth, which can make it difficult to write straight lines without using a straight-edge ruler.
Parts of a Fountain Pen Nib
While it might look insignificant from a distance, fountain pen nibs are actually intricate pieces of engineering. They are comprised of five main components—the tines, the shoulders, the breather hole, the slit, and the tip.
The tines of a fountain pen nib are the triangular portions that pull apart from each other when applying pressure to a sheet of paper. As the tines pull apart, ink slowly flows out of the reservoir and onto a sheet of paper. The length of the tines varies from long tines that produce thinner lines to short tines for thicker, darker lines.
The shoulders keep the tines in place from the bottom.
The tiny hole located at the base of the tines is called the breather hole. Its purpose is to allow air into the pen’s ink reservoir, allowing for ink to flow smoothly out of the pen as the tines pull apart.
The slit is the empty space between the fountain pen’s tines. It starts from the breather hole and runs down to the tip of the nib. As the slit grows wider, the ink comes pouring out of the reservoir.
The tip is the portion of the nib that comes into contact with your sheet of paper. Ink flows through the reservoir, down the tines, and coats the tip, which you rub against sheets of paper to write or draw.
What Else Should I Know About Fountain Pens?
Before splurging on a fountain pen, take the following points into account.
Fountain pens typically weigh 22 grams with the cap and 19 grams without it. However, you can find fountain pens that are considerably heavier and lighter than these average-weight figures. The pen should feel comfortable in between your fingers without weighing them down.
The weight of a fountain pen will almost always be correlated to its girth or thickness. Some fountain pens can be 5 millimeters wide, but there are narrower and wider options to choose from.
I’ve repeatedly told you that fountain pens can be quite costly, but this isn’t always the case. If you’re just beginning your calligraphy journey and need a reasonable calligraphy pen, I highly recommend trying out the PILOT Metropolitan. If you’re looking for something more “gentlemanly,” you can try upgrading to a Waterman fountain pen.