The number of pens in my possession with regular – i.e. fine, medium, broad- nibs can be counted on one hand. Perhaps one hand and a finger or two. I love expressive nibs. Italic, oblique, flex… I have tried them all and I own at least a few of each. Don’t worry, all these nibby attributes will be dealt with in due course. But the nib type I love best is the stub. Why? Most of all because of the smooth writing experience and the beautiful ink line good stubs put on the paper. Let me tell you how that stubby love came to pass.
When I was a teen and just as occupied with handwriting as I am today, I happened upon a nib (the pen was rather nondescript, a simple all black, plastic pen) that I thought was worn to a peculiar angle. I cannot for the life of me remember how I got it, I think it came from a box of old pens of my father’s, but the angle of the nib intrigued me. Nowadays I would classify it as an inlaid oblique stub; there was definitely tipping on the tines. That pen allowed me to write with line variation, and I fell in love with that boring black pen just because of the nib. No matter which other, much fancier pen I wrote with, I kept coming back to that crazy nib. Until the body cracked. And I started doctoring with the section, I put it on any other pen body it would fit on, until the nib one day just stopped writing. Whatever I did to clean it, the nib just did not want to write anymore. My pen heart broke.
That is when the hunt for the perfect nib started. Many pen people are forever on the hunt for the perfect pen and as such, a perfect nib. Because we all kid ourselves that once we have that pen, we will never ever need another new pen again. Ha, who are we kidding! Our partner? Bank account? Conscience? Forget it, they all know better by now. Anyway, no digressing here. My hunt for the perfect nib started then and there. The looks were secondary, the nib had to fit my ever changing writing styles, the section had to be comfortable and looks? OK, I fell for a pretty pen every now and again, but at heart I knew and know if the pen will get used by taking a look at the nib.
So, how did I move from that worn-out oblique to stubs? At the time I had no idea about nib types. Nib sizes I knew, types not so much. Then I saw Sheaffer calligraphy pens. Hooray, a nib that in shape somehow, if only faintly, resembled my old pen. As I wanted to get a similar line variation, I turned the nib a bit toward me while writing. See the picture for the writing angle I adopted to get the oblique effect.
Sheaffer calligraphy nibs have zero tipping. Those are pretty crisp italics so I snagged many a page using those nibs. Until I thought I might as well grind off the sharp edges… So out I took my nail files and ground ground ground until the files were dull and the edges of the nibs behaved more decently. I was secretly ashamed that I ‘ruined’ my nibs and saw it as my shortcoming that I could not use them as they were. Not that I did ruin my nibs. I always liked them better afterwards and as such used them. So unbeknownst to myself I had started to take another step towards the stub. As well as to a very crude form of nib grinding.
But just to clarify some terminology. If you are new to the pen game, I will show you in a very crude drawing of the tip of an italic and stub nib, seen ‘full frontal’.
Excuse my ‘in your face’ letters here. Well, a stub is much like an italic nib, only most often with some tipping on the end of the tines for a smoother writing experience. The edges are ground round in each direction, so snagging your nib on the paper is much less likely with a stub. There are a number of ‘ in between’ nibs, which I will get to another time.
Next step to stubbalicious writing were the Online calligraphy nibs, those nibs are also untipped, but the the tines were a lot thicker than the Sheaffers’ and the grind was also a lot more stub-like. Then at some point the TWSBI 1.1 nibs happened. Granted, the 1.1 Eco is much more like an 0.8 Online nib, but the 1.1 580 was already a good deal more towards my beloved stub. And every time I felt I had purchased THE pen. No Sir Ree Bob! Many more followed the latest great stub.
Now, you ask me, what is your favorite stub? Hhhnnggg, that’s hard. Because it depends. It depends on the ink, the paper, the occasion, the weather… But let’s say in general. All things considered. Well, okay, here are my five favorite stubs. For now. In no particular order:
- There is the Sheaffer Quasi Imperial. A magnificently juicy stubbalicious stub. Ever so slightly leaning towards a crisp. But does that tip ever glide across the paper! Not in an uncontrollable annoying way. That nib writes with every ink, every time, all the time. Plus that inlaid nib…
- The Lamy 2000. A classic. One of those pens I thought I never wanted to own, but then I took a second look at the beautiful torpedo design. I tried one and I fell in love with the surprising spring in that hooded nib. Not long after I bid on one online. It came in a set with the ball point and an odd Lamy roller ball. Odd as in not a 2000 model. For around 100 Euros I was the new owner of a pre-loved Lamy with a medium nib. I stubbed the nib myself and it is one of the loveliest writers I own.
- Bexley Jim Gaston Holiday 2002. This will always have a special place since it’s my first Pen Show buy. I hovered around Sarj Minhas’ table at the Tilburg Penshow 2016 and asked if he had a nice stub. He handed me the bright red and greyish-white Bexley with its beautiful ‘factory’ Bexley stub and I knew I was sold. I say factory here, because a lot of the still available Bexleys out there come with a Bexley 18ct stub nib option. I use this pen every day. It is always in my leather ‘pocket pen carry’. Very close to THE pen. But once you have one of THE pens, you want more of them. And so…
- Bexley Gaston’s Angels, no. 31 of 100 happened. I saw it at a very tempting price point at Vanness and waited a month. Then I still wanted it and the pen was still available with a stub, so then I felt justified to order it. It is even smaller than the Holiday 2002, but with my small hands that is not a problem, not even unposted. This nib is also an 18ct stub and it writes just as beautifully as the Holiday. The material is the same, only with a red end cap and finial on a white body and cap, where the Holiday 2002 has a white end cap and finial on a red body and cap.
- Franklin-Christoph model 45 Italian Ice with a Masuyama broad stub. I chose this grind because I was curious. Franklin-Christoph offers so many intriguing grinds, that you want to try them all. At least, I do. This pen is also always with me. The stub writes on the dry side, compared to the above pens, but at the office I find that pretty practical. Also the broad is a very usable broad. It is not like you are writing with a ceiling brush or a water hose. It puts down an well-behaved line with just enough line variation. Definitely a favorite.
So, that is how I moved from a worn-down oblique to stubs. Obliques have entered my pen hoard as well, but those are another story for another time. You are so brave and kind for sticking around to read through this ramble on stubbalicious nibs. If you want to know more or if you have a specific question, please feel free to contact me.
Thank you for your time and attention and until the next time!