Pen nibs are an integral part to the art form of calligraphy. There are so many styles and varieties available on the market, that it can be quite confusing about where one should exactly start. What are the best nibs? When should I replace them? Heck, what even are calligraphy nibs? What’s the difference between pointed pen and broad-edge. In this post, we will give an introduction to the pen nibs you will need for copperplate, Spencerian, and other modern calligraphy scripts.
Part One. What are Calligraphy Nibs?
Pen nibs, or more precisely, metal dip pen nibs for calligraphy come in many different variations. There are two main kinds of pointed pen nibs and broad edge pen nibs.
Pointed pen nibs are sometimes called pen points and those with some flex are used for Copperplate calligraphy, Spencerian script, and the more casual pointed-pen script called Modern Calligraphy. The main characteristics of interest to calligraphers and penwomen (and penmen) are nib sharpness, nib flex, nib durability, and nib size/shape.
Broad edge pen nibs are used for Italic, Blackletter, Uncial, and similar hands. They are also called broad-edged nibs, chisel-edged nibs, broad nibs, or calligraphy nibs. They will be discussed in another blog post.
What are the Best Nibs? What are the Differences in Pointed Pen Nibs?
Pointed pen nib sharpness determines how smooth a paper you can write on. The sharper the pointed nib, the smoother the paper needs to be. For example, the Gillott 303 pen nib is very sharp and will easily catch on the upstrokes of all but the smoothest of papers. Other examples of sharp nibs are the Hunt 101 and the Leonardt Principal EF (or EF Principal). The Nikko G pen nib (one of several G-pens) is less sharp and is easier to use on papers with texture. The sharpness of a metal pen point will affect how thin the hairlines (thin strokes) will be, as will the type of paper and ink being used. The other G-pens are the Zebra G, Tachikawa G, and Leonard G.
The amount of flexibility in the pointed nib determines how wide the thick strokes can be. These wider strokes are also referred to as stressed strokes or shades. The more flexible the pen nib the wider the thick strokes possible. The Gillott 303 nib is very flexible and is widely used by skilled scribes for Copperplate script. The Hunt 101 nib and the Brause 66EF (Brause EF66) nib are also very flexible nibs capable of creating wide strokes. The lower flexibility of the Nikko G nib makes it more suitable for Spencerian script, where only a few strokes of the lowercase letters are stressed. The more flexible nibs require a lighter touch. Those with a “heavy hand” will find the stiffer nibs easier to use.
How Long do Calligraphy Nibs Last? When Should I Replace My Nibs?
The durability of a pointed pen nib correlates strongly with the sharpness and flex of the point. The sharper the metal pen nib the more rapidly it will dull, resulting in a need for replacement. The more flex the pointed nib has, the quicker it wears as well. Flexible nibs tend to be thinner than those without flex.
The paper on which you write will also determine how long the pointed nib lasts. Generally writing on papers with a rougher finish will wear out nibs sooner than writing on super smooth papers like Rhodia, Clairefontaine, and Maruman. Unfortunately, some envelopes used for wedding invitations are especially hard on nibs.
The popular pen nibs for pointed pen script are Brause Rose, Brause Steno, Brause 66EF, Gillott 303, Gillott 404, Hunt 101, Leonardt Principal EF, Nikko G, Tachikawa G, and Zebra G. John Neal Books offers a Pointed Nib Sampler (product code N154) with one each of these nibs.