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Fountain pen : Your choice of nib

"Writing exhales the scent of ink and paints the voice. Black alphabetical signs follow one another and take the form of feelings and landscapes. It is only three fingers that write, but it is the whole body that is involved: says the saying of the Cassinese monks, who knew well the craft of the scribe. Writing is music. Music is produced by the instrument, which is the nib, by the vibrations of the words that break the silence.
Writing is a vanishing pleasure. Perhaps this is precisely why those who use fountain pens are increasingly demanding because they are urged not only by the need to write but also, and above all, by the desire to have a "perfect instrument for writing".

I take my cue from an article written by my friend Nino Dolfo, for the catalogue of the "Fountain Pen Exhibition" that I organised a long time ago in Brescia (it was 1996), to talk about the choice of the nib.
Following these particular, sometimes unique needs, I understood how different the way of writing is from person to person and how different the performance of the same pen is when held by different hands.

There are different types of nibs, but let's start by defining their stroke size:

  • EF, extra fine; diameter of the iridium sphere, approximately 0.3 mm
  • F, fine; diameter of the iridium sphere, approx. 0.5 mm
  • MF, medium fine
  • M, medium; diameter of the iridium sphere, approximately 0.7 mm
  • B, broad; diameter of the iridium sphere, approximately 0.9 mm
  • BB, double broad
  • BBB, triple broad
  • Italico (flat cut) 1,1
  • Italico 1,5
  • Italico 1,9 (there are also broader ones, but here we are talking about pure calligraphy)

Ef to B nibs usually have a round section of the iridium sphere, (even if this is not 100% true for the Broad. Each manufacturer has its own broad....), while BB and wider nibs have, often, generally flat nibs with rounded edges. Italic nibs, instead, have a real calligraphic vocation. The nibs are "sharper" and the width, therefore the richness of the stroke, requires an expert hand.

Sailor Nibs.

The techniques used by master Nagahara are really exclusive and his creations are in some cases unique in terms of shape and performance, such as the creation of a model that can write at 360  or as the extra wide one obtained by crossing two different nibs (Cross point). The writing produced by this nib is soft, pleasant and as wide as that of a marker. Then there are special nibs, always by Sailor who, with the experience and passion of Mr Nagahara, adds 3 types to the standard version:

  • MS, music
  • Z, zoom with a rather wide writing and the legendary
  • Saibi togi, a super extra-fine nib where the nib tips are ground and reduce the diameter of the nib to 0.1 mm. The special construction of this nib allows a constant ink flow and ultra-smooth writing. But this is true for all Sailor nibs.

In addition to these, Mr Nagahara invented unusual nibs for Sailor, such as:

  • Naginata togi, where the elongated shape of the iridium sphere allows multiple types of stroke (the same nib can be, for example, extra fine and wide only by tilting the nib differently on the paper)
  • Naginata Fude De Mannen ,with the tip bent upwards
  • Naginata Concord, with the tip bent downwards
  • Naginata Cross Point, two 21 Kt gold nibs are coupled, one on top of the other, so that the nib has 4 points, two more than usual. You can well understand that in this way the variety of writing nuances reaches unimaginable horizons.
  • Naginata King Eagle e king Kobra, where the overlapping nibs are three (not available at the moment)
  • Naginata Cross Concord, like the concord but with two overlapping nibs.

The wide range of products on offer could be frightening but, apart from particular needs such as the desire to have fun signing or to write in calligraphy, the most commonly used nibs are those with a round tip, from EF to M and sometimes B.
In the folder opposite, I give an example of how one might write with a particular tip but, there is always a but. Everything depends on a sum of variables:

  • Steel or gold nib. Moreover, the gold nib can be: 14; 18 or 21 karats with different flexibilities. The nib manufacturer can vary the section of the nib as he likes, following his own philosophy. For example, nibs from the Far East are definitely thinner than their European counterparts. American nibs are stiffer, etc. etc./li>
  • Light or heavy pen
  • Light or heavy hand
  • ink used; above all the colour makes a difference, but density and freshness also count


Above all, when choosing your first pen, you should consider that a fine nib will always write coarser than the medium biros usually used. So don't be fooled by the saying "In medio stat virtus", ask to write a few lines before buying your first pen and get professional advice.

Some clarifications:
with the same nib size: EF or F or M etc., a large nib will have a more generous stroke compared to a smaller nib of the same brand and shape. Sometimes the manufacturer's choice to have a generous or more defined flow determines a stroke that is significantly different from brand to brand (see Sailor compared to Montblanc for example). Perform the test by dipping the nib distorts the stroke, which may be greater than the loaded pen. Use the same paper as a reference so as not to add another variable that counts The caring and professional shopkeeper will willingly assist you in making the best choice considering your way of writing and your personal needs.

"Nib Fitting"

The nib adjustment is an important and often underestimated service offered by Maurizio Abrami once the choice of pen has been made. If it is essential to evaluate the gradation of the nib, it is even more important to "set" the nib for the uniqueness of the hand that will use it.

Discover the Nib Adaptation service


The shop offers an express personalisation service: you can pick up your personalised product the same day, sometimes even after a few minutes. Personalisation can be carried out on both pens and small leather goods.

Discover our Personalised Engraving service

Repair and after-sales service

Maurizio Abrami repairs both new and old pens and with more than 30 years of experience has specialised in the repair, calibration and adjustment of fountain pen nibs.

Waterman Etalon Pen Repair

Montblanc Solitaire 146 Vermeille Nib Repair