what happens when a flexible nib flexes?

I’ve written several times about my continuing love affair with flexible nibs from the 1940s and earlier. While there are flexible nibs still being made nowadays by Nakaya and Pilot, to name a couple, to my mind none of them give the flex you get from vintage pens. While I’ve posted several sets of pictures of writing samples done with flex nibs, I haven’t shown you yet how flex nibs perform their magic.

For this demonstration I chose the Parker Duofold Jade ringtop from the late 1920s.

Parker Jade Duofold with a bottle of Pilot Iroshizuku momiji (autumn leaves) ink.

Fountain pens are easier and less stressful to use than ballpoint pens because a light stroke  lays a line of ink; you don’t need to press down as hard as you do when you use BPs. For long sessions of note-taking, poetry-writing, or doodling, that’s an advantage.

However, when coaxing line variation from flex nibs, you need to bear down harder to make the tines spread and make wider lines. To make thinner lines, ease up a bit – or a lot – on the pressure. With practice, you’ll explore the individual personalities of your flex nibs and find out how best to get the most out of them.

The ink is Waterman Green. See the pretty outlines around the wide lines.

The ink glistens as you write; the outlines are darker than the fill.

FP nibs should be held at a slant, not upright. Experiment to find what works best for you.

This is as wide as I can get this nib to spread without deforming it.

Vintage nibs were made of gold, a “soft” metal, and the way nibs were created decades ago, they spread and sprung back to their original shape, a necessary feature to create the thick and thin lines of copperplate and Spencerian handwriting.

For the serious fountain pen user and collector, a vintage flex-nibbed pen purchase is one of the best investments you can make to possess a thing of beauty that will be a joy forever, to crib a line from that poet guy Keats.

For more on flexible nibs, see Bleubug’s posts on unusual Sheaffer flex nibs and Leigh’s calligraphy samples.

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14 Comments on what happens when a flexible nib flexes?

  1. Mona
    28 June 2010 at 2:13 pm (2761 days ago)

    Enjoyed this post very much :)

  2. TAO
    30 June 2010 at 2:19 am (2760 days ago)

    Me too!

  3. JennyO
    3 July 2010 at 9:16 pm (2756 days ago)

    Thanks lots, Mona, TAO, and Inkophile! :) I learned to flex from Leigh. I just hope I’m not overdoing it. You gotta hand it to these nibs – they spring back like nothing happened. :)

  4. Gq
    10 July 2010 at 4:12 pm (2749 days ago)

    So, I was reading Torn and Frayed in Manila’s blog where he mentions the death of Santa Ana Racetrack and I followed his link to gogirlracing. One link leads to another and before you know it, I’m the proud (and amazed) owner of several vintage fountain pens bought from local antique shops, and awaiting arrival of two new ones coming from parts unknown (through eBay, of course). I knew I shouldn’t have made that detour–now I’m hooked. Thanks a lot!

  5. Gq
    11 July 2010 at 12:16 pm (2748 days ago)

    Thanks for the invitation. I wish I could, but I can’t–I don’t live there. I’m out here in the desert in Phoenix AZ, where I think I’ll devote some time to practicing better handwriting and, more importantly, begin writing once more. My wife, a student of literary history, is bemused at my new interest. She thinks my high tech gadgets won’t make good media for my new writing instruments. We’ll see…

    By the way, your gogirl cafe website, with its excellent pictures and good format, looks great on an iPad.

  6. JennyO
    12 July 2010 at 12:28 am (2748 days ago)

    Oh, I didn’t realize you’re not from around here! :) How interesting! Do you have a blog? I’d like to read about your adventures in fountain pen and high-tech gadget use. :) Thanks for your kind words on how my blog looks. I wish I had better webdev skills so I can make this theme walk and talk. As it is, I can barely get it to crawl. :) All the best to you and your wife! :)

  7. Gq
    12 July 2010 at 3:47 pm (2747 days ago)

    Sorry, no blog. I swore I’d never do one, but now I feel these pens tugging–just like I used to write. Perhaps use them along with that 1930′s Royal portable typewriter I just finished cleaning up? That’ll really be going back. I’ll post some pics of my few pens and email you a link. Unlike you folks though, I’m really not a collector. My wife calls me ‘an eccentric consumer’. I don’t have the patience necessary for true collecting.

    Your blog has enough legs and you seem to have the stamina, so keep it up. If I ever do a blog, it’ll look just as elegant. In the meantime, I’ll be visiting yours often.

  8. Jorge L Blancarte
    7 September 2010 at 1:12 pm (2690 days ago)

    Thanks for share, excellent pictures, and great calligraphy¡¡¡

  9. fozzy
    21 September 2010 at 12:12 am (2677 days ago)

    hi Jenny! i really enjoy reading your blog :) i’m totally envious of your flex pens and i hoped that my dad’s Skyline was my first trip into the beautiful land of flourishes after i got it repaired… until i broke it before the fpn-p moderator could even approve my invite request. it’s absolutely sad and i think the pen was cursing me in its silence.

    would you recommend a vintage/flex pen i could look to acquire to relieve me of this somberness? i do hope to meet you and your group as well soon.

  10. JennyO
    21 September 2010 at 7:28 am (2677 days ago)

    Thanks, Jorge!

    Hi, fozzy! Glad you enjoy reading the drivel I post here. :) Do try to get on the FPN-P group list and attend a penmeet. Some of us sell vintage pens from time to time. You can get one that way. That’s where I get my pens – from friends. :) The next penmeet is in October.

  11. fozzy
    21 September 2010 at 10:20 am (2676 days ago)

    thank you! looking forward to be able to join your October meet :) i’m just waiting for my email to be added to the list. also just signed up in the FPN forum and everyone’s been so helpful to a newbie like me.

    i think i will allocate October’s shoe-shopping budget to a pen :)

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