Fountain Pen Basics: What size of nib should I get on my first fountain pen?

(LAMY fountain pen nibs)

When choosing your first fountain pen you may notice that they are outfitted with a variety of nibs. The most common nib choices are extra-fine, fine, medium and broad. Other types of nibs include soft fine, BB, stub, italic, calligraphy, music, left-handed and more.

When you pick up a ballpoint or rollerball pen to write, not much thought is given to the way you hold the pen. Pretty much no matter which way the pen is oriented in your hand, the pen will write – assuming you are not out of ink of course! Fountain pens are different. Most of them need to be held correctly, with the nib oriented in the right direction, in order for the pen to write well. Depending on how coordinated you are this can take a little practice.

Nibs that are in the middle of the nib size spectrum are often the easiest to write with because they will usually write even if the fountain pen is not held exactly right. We would recommend a medium nib as a good choice for a beginner, or if your writing is small, a fine nib. Left-handed nibs are often medium-fine in size, so they are also a good choice for a beginner that is left-handed. However, a left-handed nib is not essential for a left-handed writer.

Something to keep in mind is that nib sizes are not standardized. For example, generally German-made nibs are broader in size than the equivalent size of Japanese-made nibs. This does not apply 100% of the time though, sometimes there are exceptions. A couple of popular brands with German-made nibs are LAMY and Pelikan. Pens with Japanese nibs include brands such as Platinum, Sailor, Nakaya, Pilot and others. Japanese extra-fine and fine nibs may seem very very small compared to the tips on the ballpoint and rollerball pens that Westerners are used to writing with.

These recommendations are based on our own personal writing experiences. If your first fountain pen does not have a medium or fine nib don’t let that hold you back from enjoying the satisfying experience of writing with a fountain pen. With a little bit of practice and experimentation you may find there is a place in your pen case for nibs of many different sizes! If you are an experienced fountain pen user, what nib size recommendations would you like to pass along to a beginner?

(Platinum President Fountain Pen nib)

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Do I need a left-handed nib on my fountain pen if I’m a left-handed writer?

I am a left-handed writer and the first time I used a fountain pen I had no idea left-handed fountain pen nibs even existed. It didn’t occur to me that there would be any problem using just a regular nib and I didn’t notice any problems. Years later, I’m back to using fountain pens regularly and have discovered that there are a few nibs out there specially designed for lefties. Many ask the question: Is it really necessary to have one of these special nibs if you are left-handed?

Left-handed fountain pen nibs are generally more rounded on the tip with the idea of producing a smoother writing experience. This particularly applies to languages such as English that are written from left to right. When left-handed people such as myself write, the pen is often angled in such a way that the pointiest part of the pen, the nib, is being pushed along paper made of fibers that are not impervious to tearing and which offer some resistance. It’s like taking a sharp nail or a pin and pushing it along a piece of paper at a 45 degree angle with the pointy end facing the direction it is being pushed. Likely you’re going to end up piercing that piece of paper with your pin! In contrast, try taking that same pin and pulling it along that same piece of paper with the pointy end facing away from the direction it is being pulled. It feels smoother as you pull it and it is much less likely that you will pierce the paper. That would be more like the experience of a right-handed writer. So as you can see, pen nibs of all kinds have a huge influence on whether or not a lefty has a good or a bad writing experience.

I personally find that a good writing experience for a lefty does not stop at the kind of nib on the pen. It is extremely important to me that whatever ink I’m using dries quickly or else I’ll smear it all over the place. The type of paper I use is also important since this affects the drying time of the ink. In addition, if paper is of very poor quality or tears easily, I may find myself poking holes in the paper with my pen or pencil. Each writer needs to experiment with different combinations of pen, ink and paper before discovering what works best for them.

I own many fountain pens with a variety of nibs, and three of them happen to have left-handed nibs. I personally find that the left-handed fountain pen nibs aren’t necessarily any better or any worse than using a regular fountain pen nib. I’m not sure if you will have the same experience. I must say though, that I can’t go wrong with my left-handed Pelikano Junior fountain pen. I don’t always want to write with such a broad nib, but I appreciate its smoothness when I use it.

(Pelikan Pelikano fountain pen with a left-handed nib compared to a Pelikano with a regular nib. Note the modified grip and the rounded nib on the left-handed pen.)

For the left-handed writer that is new to fountain pens, I would suggest starting out with a nib that is middle-of-the-road, perhaps something like a LAMY Safari with a left-handed, fine or medium nib. You might find extra-fine nibs to be too sharp and “pokey” at first, and broad nibs may lay down so much ink that you are smearing your writing too much. Another pen that I felt was easy to write with from the first time I picked it up is the Platinum Preppy with a fine nib, or for a nicer version of this pen with the same nib, the Platinum Plaisir fountain pen. If you get a chance to purchase a fountain pen with a left-handed nib, it is worth giving it a try. The Pelikan Pelikano and Pelikano Junior are both readily available with left-handed nibs. The Pelikan Pelikanos also have a grip that is modified to fit a left-handed writer. I’ve also heard of some lefties sending in their expensive nibs to be customized by a nibmeister, but I’ve never felt the need to do this myself.

Are you a left-handed writer? What kind of pen or fountain pen do you like to write with? Do you own any fountain pens with left-handed nibs?


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Steel vs Gold Fountain Pen Nibs

Platinum President Demonstrator Pen 18K Gold Nib

Some people feel that to obtain the ultimate experience in writing one needs to invest in a fountain pen with a gold nib. But is this really true? Is a gold nib really superior?

There are a couple of reasons that a gold nib could indeed be superior. For one, acidic or alkaline ink will not discolor or corrode a gold nib, whereas a stainless steel nib can eventually discolor and corrode. This was more of an issue in years past when inks generally tended to be more acidic than they are today.

As well, the workmanship is usually superior on high quality pens with gold nibs, with these pens and nibs getting much more care, attention and hand-work in the factory. Plus the appearance of some gold nibs is truly stunning! High quality fountain pens are considered by some to be family heirlooms and are valued by collectors around the world.

Since gold is a softer metal than steel some think that the writing experience with gold nibs is "softer" or more flexible. But this is not truly the case because once gold is bent or flexed it does not tend to return to its original shape.

During writing, the gold portion of a fountain pen nib is not actually the part of the nib that comes in contact with the paper. All gold and stainless steel fountain pen nibs (except some of the cheapest with a low quality) have a ball under the nib made of hard metal, such as iridium, that comes in contact with the paper. The quality and workmanship of this ball, or tip, will definitely have an effect on whether or not the pen has a superior performance.

We have found that some stainless steel nibs can rival the performance of some gold fountain pen nibs. Even an inexpensive LAMY Safari fountain pen can write "like butter" and provide a very satisfying writing experience.

So should you purchase a fountain pen with a gold nib? That’s entirely up to you! Once you get started with your fountain pen collection you will likely come to appreciate the beauty and workmanship that goes into high quality fountain pens with gold nibs. Happy shopping!

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How to Install a LAMY Converter

The LAMY converter has been carefully designed to help it stay securely attached to your LAMY fountain pen. When used correctly, this can help prevent accidents from leaking ink.

LAMY converter – notice the 2 small plastic nubs in this picture – one pointing up and the other pointing down.

The converter can fit in the pen with the nubs facing this way, but this does not help to secure the converter.

The nubs are designed to fit into these slots on the main part of the pen. This helps to keep the converter securely in place.

LAMY pen with converter securely in place.

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How to Replace the Nib on a LAMY Fountain Pen

If your LAMY fountain pen nib gets damaged, or if you just want to use a different kind of nib for writing such as a fine nib instead of a medium nib, it is nice to know that LAMY fountain pen nibs are easily replaced.

First, wipe off any ink from your fountain pen nib.  Next, starting at the edge of the ink feed and working your way down to the end of the nib, firmly adhere a few inches of clear, plastic tape to the front of the nib. Be sure to make the piece of tape long enough so that you will be able to pull on the end of the tape. Do not use magic tape, as this will tear too easily. Transparent tape for general office use or packing tape should work. Then, pull the tape slightly down and away from the pen and the nib should slide off of your fountain pen.

To put on the new nib. just line it up with the ink feed and push it on firmly. This method is commonly used by LAMY fountain pen users and will not scratch or damage the nib. Easy!

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