6.0 What do the different nib sizes mean?
Nibs are rated several ways: the size of the nib itself, the size of the point
(actually the width of the line it leaves), the orientation of the point, and
the flexibility of the nib. The physical size and shape of the nib affect the
nib's flexibility and how well it writes.
However, nibs are typically rated by their tip size, and tips are produced
in several sizes: extra fine, fine, medium, and broad. There are, of course, additional
variations in each manufacturer's product line, but those are the general sizes
available almost everywhere. Be careful on tip sizes: one pen manufacturer's ìfineî
tip may leave a narrower or wider line than the "fine" tip from a different
manufacturer. For that matter, two pens from the same manufacturer with the same
tip size might leave considerably different looking lines!
For example, a fine tip may leave a line no wider than a single hair, and
a medium tip might leave a line as wide as, maybe 5 of those same hairs. A broad
might leave a line as wide as 20 of those hairs. You get the idea: extra fine
is a smaller line than fine, broad is wider than medium, etc. Some of us call
a broad nib a "paint brush" because of the width it leaves.
Then, there are ìitalicî nibs. These are nibs whose tips are
ground mostly flat across the tip. They are wonderful for calligraphy, or for
writing signatures: horizontal lines are much narrower than vertical lines. You've
seen that kind of writing. Imagine using your own pen to do it.
Stub nibs are different from italic nibs in one basic way: the edge of the
point. Italic nibs are ground to be straight across the tip, and to have sharp
corners. The sharpness of the corners contributes to the calligraphic line that
the nib lays on the page. Stub nibs are basically the same as italic nibs, except
that the corners are much more rounded, thus making them write smoother on the
page, but with a much less calligraphic line.
Keep in mind that the nib size measurement reflects the width of the line
that the tip leaves on the paper. The shape of the nib also varies slightly to
provide either more support and a wider set of tines for broader tips or less
support and a narrower set of tines for the finer tips.
Generally, the smaller the tip, the scratchier the nib. Look at it this way:
the smaller the tip, the easier it is for the tines to ìcatchî on
the individual fibers in the paper. As the tip gets larger, it 'catches' less
and less on each of the fibers.