for an illustrated companion to this article.
What is Flex, Why do some nibs have it and others don't
Actually that's two questions, but it it weren't for the second
part, the first couldn't be asked.
With increased hand pressure on the pen, some nibs respond
having the tine tips move apart and leave a wider ink line.
do not bend, they move apart like scissors. With the release
pressure, the tines snap back together quickly, and make their
have flex because they are designed that way.
Why Would Anyone Want A Flexible Nib ?
Flex nibs can give a wide variation in line widths and make
letters, where one part of a letter may be 3 to 5 times wider
another part of the same letter.
Don't Italic and Stub Nibs Also Give Line Variations?
Stubs and Italics usually give line variation because they
wide down stroke and a much narrower cross stroke. There usually
variance in the widths of the strokes as with a flexible nib.
there are Flexible Stub and Flexible Italic nibs, juts to
Do All Flex Nibs Flex The Same Amount ? [How Much Flex
Would A Flex
Nib Flex If A Flex Nib Flexed Full Flex?]
There is no fixed ratio. It seems that if a nib actually flexes
the tines separating (without bending) and snapping back to
'normal' line, the nib is at least "Semi-Flex:. Flex
and Super Flex are
likewise subjective evaluations.
anyone ever asked me to do it, but it seems to me that a
Semi-flex nib will make a line up to 3 times the width of
line; a flexible nib, up to 5 times; a Superflex up to 7.
standard exists, but using this as a working definition, the
between 'soft' nibs ( which may increase line width by the
the tines) and flexible one's is clearer.
What is a Nibs "Normal" Line
The "Normal" Line is the nib width as set by the
Manufacturer - EF,
F, M, B, BB, 3B etc. A flex nib should always return to its
line when pressure is released.
Don't All Nibs Make A Wider Line When Pressure is Applied
True, even a BiC will leave a wider line when its pressed
into the paper. But fountain pens leave ink "on' paper,
not 'in' paper
( except for those using Parker SuperChrome ink). The difference
amount of pressure. A rigid nib will act like a Ball Point
pressure will not change the width of the nib unless it breaks
or 'responsive' nib will bend under light pressure and may
even flex, but it will not 'snap back' to the 'normal' line.
can usually be reset.)
Can Too Much Pressure Be Put On A Flex Nib ?
Flex nibs become 'sprung' when too much force is applied.
may, under great force, break.
How Much Pressure is Safe To Use On A Flex Nib ?
The pressure will differ from pen to pen and nib to nib, but
press so hard that the nib tines bend after they have flexed
optimal width - the optimal point is "just before the
What Are Flex Nibs Good For ?
Flexible nibs make some people's handwriting look more interesting.
Sadly, no pen has the ability to make the content more interesting.
Flexible nibs are good for correspondence and short notes.
What Can't Flex Nibs Do Well ?
Flexible nibs are harder to use than Rigid nibs. Flexible
tend to be less smooth than rigid nibs. (Probably due to the
flexing.) Flexible nibs can't make carbon copies. Flexible
great for writing quickly.
Where Does One Find Flexible Nibs ?
For advertising purposes, nearly every pen boasts a "flexible
nibs." As a general rule, flexible nibs are somewhat
hard to find.
Even in the 'golden age' of pens, Flexible nibs were a small
a company's output. Some vintage pen dealers are very scrupulous
describing the amount of flex a given nib has on a given pen.
two Crocker Pens about 100 years old, one has a Superflex
other rivals a modern rigid nib like a Waterman or a Rotring.
way to know if a nib is flexible is to see if it flexes.
offers a 14kt Superflex Nib - but I never wanted to be parted
any of my OMAS pens long enough to have one retrofitted.
Are Any Modern Nibs Flexible?
Not having tried all modern nibs, I can't say. Pens with somewhat
flexible nibs that I have are Marlen Atellans, some Viscontis,
Pelikans, some MBs, some OMAS 18kt nibs, Diplomat 1922, Delta,
Stipula Namiki. None of these modern nibs has the same amount
an some vintage Flexible nibs. Most of these are Semi-flex,
spread a moderate amount.
Are There Modern Manufacturer's Who Don't Make Flexible
In general, I don't think that Rotring, Lamy, Waterman ( save
the Liaison and Serenite), Aurora, Ancora, Sheaffer, Alvin
What Vintage Pens Have Flexible Nibs?
Nearly every vintage manufacturer made some flexible nibs
these were a minor part of their offerings. Not only were
nibs made, but flexible nibs are more subject to breakage,
that fewer survived.
Are Flexible Nibs Hard To Use ?
They are hard to use well. First, one needs to write with
little pressure on the nib or the range of line widths is
your hand is so heavy that the nib is always flexed then there's
where to go.)
nibs tend to magnify handwriting problems - so if your not
happy with your handwriting as it is you'll be downright appalled
what a flexible nib can do to it. Getting the nib to flex
when you want
it to is only half the problem. The other is keeping it from
when you don't want it flexed.
because there is the possibility for wide variation in line
widths, letters have to be made consistently or the handwriting
hard to read.
have practiced Italic writing style and are used to the zen
pen - the discipline necessary to make handwriting into an
exercise (art or craft, if you prefer) the transition will
be easy. If
you see writing as finding out what the nib will do, you'll
a natural. If handwriting is making the nib do what you want
without any realization that nibs are different, your likely
What Advantages Do Rigid Nibs Have Over Flex Nibs ?
Rigid nibs are easier to write with and usually smoother nibs.
Rigid nibs aren't as touchy about handwriting style or angle
pre-Xerox, pre-PC office setting, Rigid (manifold) nibs were
needed to make carbon copies; to make accounting and bookkeeping
in large Ledgers with fixed columns (Most companies made an
nib, a EEF rigid nib.)
nibs are much more durable. The rise of the Lifetime Guarantee
by Parker and Sheaffer moved these companies even more heavily
rigid nibs - They don't have to be replaced nearly as often.
nib pens can survive being dropped nib first onto the floor.
This is a
death knell for a flexible one.
the flexible nibs, rigid nibs usually don't get sprung. If
do become out of alignment, they are not hard to realign.
How Do You Know If You Should Try Flexible Nibs ?
Even inexpensive fountain pens with flex nibs are a fairly
expensive item. The most economical way to practice with Italic,
flexible, oblique, reverse oblique, or scroll nibs is to get
of Speedball ( or other dip nibs) and some wooden or plastic
basic Speedball Lettering or Calligraphy manual, some ink
and paper, and
some time is all you need to experiment with all sorts of
Knowing the proper way to make letters isn't all that necessary
rigid nibs, but is a prerequisite for flexible nibs.
takes time, but the skills developed remain with you after
practicing ceases. Flexible nibs require the writer to be
what he or she is doing - so the learner must be disciplined
practice. If you have 15 minutes a day, do it for 15 minutes
each day -
don't try to do 90 minutes once a week (its really too boring
to do for
90 minutes of correct letter formation for most of us -- although
people can seem to do it endlessly -- like that roommate you
tuned a guitar string for an hour per string, but never played
Can you Tell If A Nib Is Flexible Just By Looking At It?
In comparing flexible nibs to rigid nibs: the tines of a flexible
nib may be
be longer and thinner, the breather hole will be further from
the tip, and the
shoulders of the nib will not be as blocky.
from the side, a rigid nib will probably have a constant thickness
a flexible nibs thins out towards the nib tipping. But this
especially if you don't have a known rigid nib for comparison.
obvious evidence that a nib is flexible comes by flexing it.
nib on a white piece of paper and press very lightly, if the
tines separate, its flexible.
If the tines both separate and bend, they may not go back
to their normal line.
Are Only 14kt Nibs Flexible ?
Flexibility depends on how a nib is made, not what its made
Steel nibs can be as Superflex as springs. With Gold nibs,
of other metals in the alloy means that a 12kt nib could be
flexible than a 14kt . . .18kt. But all materials can be made
flexible or rigid nibs.
Have You Told Us Everything You Know About Flexible Nibs
I've probably told you more than I know - but we have space
Where Did You Get The Flexible Nib Pens You Have
I've picked up a flexible Conklin Nozac 5M at a pen show.
have come from dealers and individuals over the internet To
individual names and purchases risks being a commercial endorsement
also risks not mentioning the names of very reputable dealers.
Are There Web sites With Information On Nibs ?
As this is for information, you might want to check:
nibs.com, vintagepens.com, seattlepen.com/nibs.html, jimgaston.com,
pencentral.com. They will all have good links to other sites
Are Fine, Medium, and Broad the only Sizes of Flex Nibs
In Vintage pens, one can (infrequently) come across flexible
semi-flex nibs in Italic, Stub, and Oblique. Combinations
fine Italic nibs occasionally turn up.
Are Flexible Nibs Worth More Than Non Flexible Nibs ?
Worth and price don't always have a direct relationship in
often they've never been introduced properly. Flexible nibs
probably scarcer than rigid nibs, but then they're also more
break and harder to use It seems a toss-up to me, but then
selling any. The price the seller gets is related only to
how much the
buyer wants the item.
What Credentials Do You Have To Write This Piece ?
I'm not a nib meister, calligrapher or graphic artist, nor
known pen collector, metallurgist, pen repair specialist nor
that knowledgeable on pen history and design.
use and like flexible and semiflexible nibs. They aren't even
the organizing principle of my collection- they just sort
of happened as
I was collecting odd filler mechanisms. Having practiced Italic
calligraphy about 30 years ago -so that my handwriting could
be read by
me - I found that the techniques, though rusty, still carried
light hand and the ability to adapt yourself to find out what
the nib is
capable of doing is probably the best indicator of whether
should use flexible nibs.
flexible nibs are not good for all writing - trying to take
on a lecture with a flex nib is a recipe for disaster - and
when one has to write fast. In these situations, break out
or Rotring 900.
and opinions expressed are not necessarily the opinions
of Pentrace.com nor the people associated with it. The secretary
disavow all knowledge (oops, wrong channel.)