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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Know your nibmeister

Today's post is a lesson in business. As a customer, you really need to know who you are dealing with. When you're preparing to send your pen to someone, and pay for there services, you need to be sure you can trust them. You want to see if they have a track-record of excellent work, and good customer service.

As an example today, I am going to show you two pens that came to me for nib work. I'll begin with the full story - The client sent these pens off to a semi-well-known nibmeister, who's name will remain undisclosed. The client requested both nibs (a  modern Sheaffer Balance and a Pilot Custom 74) to be ground to stubs. After coming back to the client, they were found very unsatisfactory. "Why?" These nibs were not ground properly. They presented this client with the following problems:

  1. They were not quite stubs. When I got them, and checked them with a loupe, they were more shaped as a cursive italic than a stub.
  2. They wrote like a cursive italic. Sharp, and more than normal. This client prefers his nibs very smooth, so this was a big problem.
  3. The nibs had extremely bad skipping issues. Due to over-smoothing of the inner tines. They had what is known as "babies-bottom". The illustration below demonstrates how this keeps ink from flowing off the nib, and onto the paper. The left-illustration is a well-ground nib. The ink flows all the way to the bottom of the tipping, and easily transfers onto the paper. The right-illustration however, exhibits rounded inner tines. Notice how capillary-action and surface tension keep the ink from touching the paper.

And here is a note the client sent to me. Click on it to view it larger. Notice the massive skipping! I personally considered these nibs unusable - completely.

Here are pictures of the tipping shapes - before I worked on them. A stub is more box-like, with a flat end and rounded corners. These came to a sharper rounded-point, as is normal for cursive italics.

Sadly my camera doesn't have a good enough macro-setting to allow you to get a full view of the nib. Hopefully you'll still be able to see the shape of it in these pictures though...

The tipping on this pen (Pilot Custom 74) is close to a stub. But it's still round-ended like a CI - and not squared like a stub.

This Sheaffer Balance, on the other hand, is most-decidedly a cursive-italic. Notice how little tipping is left on the nib.

Now, I don't as of yet do nib re-tipping, so there was a limit to what I could do for these poor nibs. But luckily I was able to save them! By carefully reshaping the nib in the right places, the skipping completely disappeared. Then, some smoothing brought these nibs up to this client's standard of smoothness!

Take a look at this writing sample, after the nibs were worked on by me ( Click on it to view it larger):

I am glad to report that the client is very pleased with these pens now. Here's what he had to say about them when he tried them out:

"Hi Tyler,
I got them today and it is huge improvement from where they were. I believe they will be keepers and your work surpassed my expectations, given what you had to do.

Thanks again for your efforts,"

- David S.

The moral of this story is to get to know who you are dealing with, before you send your pens in. Can you trust this person to get things working right, the first time? And if they make a mistake, will they correct it immediately? I'm glad that David has found a trustworthy nibmeister in me. It was a pleasure to work on his pens. I always love seeing a disaster turned into something great!

Let me know if there's anything I can do for you. My nib grinding prices are very competitive, at only $25.00 a nib! My average 1 week turn-around time for nib grinding has amazed many of my customers. Send me an email anytime if you're interested! I'd love to assist you in any way I can.

Lastly, a few more shots of these pretty pens. They deserve to have great nibs, and now they do!

I have to admit - after regrinding these nibs, I was really liking this Pilot Custom 74! I was quite tempted to go out and buy one for myself right away. :)

777 - Tyler Dahl


  1. Wow, what a disaster! In Europe we have (to my knowledge, which is pretty limited) only one nib meister. I am still deciding what I want before I send my pens there, but thankfully his reputation is extremely good.

  2. Hey Sven,

    I can assure you by saying it was a USA based nibmeister that did this. 

    Which nibmeister are you thinking of? I can't quite remember his name... John Sorowkra, or something like that... 

  3. Thanks for the in depth description of the issues, even though I never was clear on the differences between stub and CI, other than I like the look of a CI better.

    The nibs you were sent, as you said, started off pretty good, but the dryness and oher issues ruined the otherwise interesting line variations which, to my eye, are much greater than the stub nib. Your ability to save the pens, and the warning that there are unqualified nibmeisters out there was a wakeup call.

    I just sent you some pens coincidentally, requesting CI grinds, and, again coincidentally, a request to fix a CI nib that's too knifelike and grabby. I was wondering if that one was done by the nib man you were reluctant to name. Anyway, please fix them!?!?

  4. You will like what I'm coming up with soon Jim. I've got a HUGE article on nibs coming out in a day or two. It will explain how a nib works, anatomy of nibs and feeders, nib shapes, nib problems, and more! It ought to be fun and educational. :)

    I can't say that the nibmeister who did this is unqualified. Everyone makes mistakes, even me on occasion. I was very unimpressed with the work though...

    The CI you had done, from what you describe to me, is probably not as bad as these. Imagine a nib you can't even write 1 letter with without it skipping! Crazy... Once I get that "CI" I'll take a look at it. I have an idea of what it might be though.

    And for the record, I don't think the nib guy who did your nib is the same as the grinder of these. :)

  5. If that is "not remembering", I'd like to have your memory ;)
    It is John Sorowka (oxonian auf FPN).

  6. Haha... Well, my memory is pretty decent right now. But, who knows in the next few years... ;)

    I've tried John's work and it is indeed fabulous! I'd love to meet him in person, but he doesn't come to US pen shows - nor I to UK ones... :|