Custom Nibs And Expectations01/14/2011
Recently, I sent two Levenger True Writer nibs off for modification hoping they would return in time for my birthday yesterday. Mike Masuyama came through with days to spare. That worked out well because it has given me some time to get acquainted. Thank you, Mike!
No complaints about Mike’s work but the truth is that customizing nibs is unpredictable. There is no certainty you will love your newly sculpted mate so be prepared to experience anything from joy to disappointment to any shade in between.
More than thirty reground nibs from nearly a dozen different sources have passed through here in the last few years. That doesn’t make me an expert at custom nibs but it does make me leery of them. I’ve had lousy ones from one of the “best” nibmeisters and fabulous ones from newbies and rank amateurs.
Sound a bit like gambling? Indeed! Still there are a few things that might help you decide whether a custom nib would be right for you.
- If you like a good bit of tipping material, buy a good quality pen with a stock nib. Any modification to the shape of a nib will reduce its iridium. Even if you buy a broad nib for modification, the original tip may wind up in the trash in order to make a nib that will meet your desired width. Sometimes sacrificing that bit of iridium can leave the nib with a scratchy feeling and a sharp edge. A talented pen person can grind a nib that has neither issue even if the tipping material is removed but that isn’t assured.
- In my experience an iridium tip has a larger sweet spot than a nib without tipping material. This might be dependent on the skills of the person doing the regrind but even those who are considered to be tops can produce results that don’t suit my nib requirements.
- Flex and ink flow are interrelated. The rate at which you write makes a difference as well. Making a nib more flexible is as much art as science and it can be a challenge to get a nib just right for you – not impossible – just challenging.
- Be prepared to practice with your new nib but also stay in touch with the person who did the modification in case your nib needs a bit of tweaking. It can make the difference between loving your pen and tossing it in the pen drawer out of frustration.
- Stellar reputations aside, if the person modifying the nib won’t back up his/her work, find someone who thinks enough of his customers to make things right.
- Many fountain pen users adore custom nibs. If you wind up with what to you is a stinker, the next person may think it’s fab so consider selling it. However, do reveal what you perceive as shortcomings. When I hear a nib is juicy (yuck) or free-flowing, I will pass but to others that may make a nib sound delicious. Matching your pen to its new owner will make everyone happy including the pen!
Before you ask me to name names when it comes to nibmeisters, I won’t. Many of you knew some of my pens were spending some quality time with Mike and I am happy with his work, so his name is the only one you will hear from me for now. There are two amateurs whose names I will gladly reveal if they ever turn pro. Promise!