Five steel nibs

Yesterday I posted a picture on Instagram where I had apparently alternated gold and steel nibbed pens. Steel nibs are often and unjustified thought “less” of than gold nibbed pens. Granted, there are steel nibs out there that are not really that impressive. However, when executed properly, steel nibs are often as enjoyable (and some even more so) than many a lesser well-finished gold nibbed pen. Basically, if you mess up a gold nib or steel nib, it is not going to write properly. If finished and set well, both are equally enjoyable in my opinion. Plus, steel nibs are often a lot more affordable. So this morning I selected five pens with steel nibs and I set myself one rule: that they still had the shape they left the factory with at some point. And all of these are still available in some way, either through regular sellers or through vintage sellers. These are the pens I ended up with: an Esterbrook “J” with a 9556 firm fine nib, a Montegrappa Fortuna with a medium nib, a Franklin-Christoph model 45 with an extra-fine nib, a Sheaffer 330 with a factory stub nib, a Pelican Twist with the standard medium nib.

Esterbrook “J”, #9556 firm fine steel nib

Esterbrook #9556 firm fine, Rohrer & Klingner Leipzicher Schwarz


This Esterbrook is one of my favorite pens ever. Not because of how it looks -to be honest, I am not a big fan of this material- but purely for its very democratic design and interchangeable nibs. Anyone can write with an Esterbrook and if you are looking into vintage pens, this is the brand to seek out. If you have any Esterbrook model, any of the screw-in nib units still widely available will fit in that body. My current tally is two bodies and four different nib units. This firm fine #9556 and the flex #9128 being my favorite two so far. The Esterbrook nibs are renowned for their smoothness. I dare say that these are the smoothest steel nibs I have had the pleasure of owning or trying so far. Always tuned properly, no misalignments, giving a decent but not too wet ink line. I do actually like nibs to be a bit toothy for control. My hands tend to shake a bit because of hyper mobility so a hint of tooth makes your nib not go all over the place. These nibs just seem to know where to go. If ever there was a steel nib suitable for school use and if cursive fountain pen writing was ever reinstated in schools, I would heartily suggest trying to make the nibs as great as these. If you are looking for a good value pen with a steel nib to practice cursive writing, try and find yourself an Esterbrook, with a properly working sac and lever. I bet you will not regret it. This nib has a slight hint of architect shaped tipping, which I absolutely love. It is pretty rigid, so no flexing here. If you are after that, try to hunt down the 9128 Esterbrook nib.

Montegrappa Fortuna Mosaico Marrakech, medium nib

Montegrappa Fortuna Mosaico Marrakech medium nib, Sailor Jentle Souten


Franklin-Christoph Model 45 XLV ES, extra-fine nib

Franklin-Christoph M45 extra-fine nib, Robert Oster Signature Spearmint

Okay, this particular finish may not be easily accessible, but the nib is the standard #5 extra-fine nib that is available on each of the smaller Franklin-Christoph (later mentioned as FC) models. This also goes for the larger models that hold a #6 nib. I have written with various broad grinds from FC, and all are beautiful. Italics are on the crisp side, though. This extra-fine is a perfect medium between smooth and toothy, a great nib to try if you want to explore fine-nib-territory. It is definitely a western extra-fine, comparable to medium-fine or fine Asian nibs. It has a bit of bounce, but do not flex it, it is not meant to be flexed so the tines may spring if you do that. I would definitely recommend this nib if you have to write on unforgiving feathering paper. The model is a great pocket pen and will definitely turn heads, in any of the available finishes. It is with reason one of the most collected FC models. Many a pen user who is familiar with this maker has set their heart on collecting a “rainbow” of FC Model 45s. The other nice aspect of the FC pens is that the nib units are changeable and most are readily available on the Franklin-Christoph website.

Sheaffer 330 (Quasi Imperial), stub nib

Sheaffer 330 factory (italic) stub nib, Diamine Oxblood

This Sheaffer from the 70s was a very fortunate auction find. The typical inlaid nib is also found in gold on more higher end models. I love this nib, even though changing nibs means changing entire sections. Which can be done, because these nib unit-sections are still to be found with vintage pen sellers. I have also spotted stub inlaid nibs on eBay and I suspect pen shows are also a place where you can find these pens. This model was quite common in the seventies. It is not the most refined Sheaffer material out there. The body is basically cast plastic but the section is very pretty and the pen has the Sheaffer aerometric converter. But back to the nib. This nib is in a league of its own. It is a crisp, italic-like stub. It puts down a very elegant ink line that is nice and generous. Definitely a nib for expressive writing. Granted, the crispness also gives it a bit of a sweet spot which can cause hard starts if held so that just one of the tines hit the paper. But hold it properly and it gives you the most gorgeous ink line. For some reason I keep inking this up with deep reddish inks. First Montblanc Corn Poppy, now Diamine Crimson. Diamine Oxblood may also have been in this pen at some point. Very dramatic and very chic. This is an adult pen. Businesslike exterior, but a naughty nib.

Pelikan Twist Bronze, medium nib

Pelikan Twist Bronze medium nib, Kaweco Caramel Brown

Talking about an adult pen, I think that this particular finish of the very affordable Pelikan Twist is a perfect alternative if you want to try this pen and do not care for the regular bright colors this model also comes in. The ergonomic grip makes this an ideal pen for adults who need a little support gripping their pen or for young(er) subtle-bling lovers getting into fountain pen writing. The Twist comes in only one nib size: medium. The three Twists I have tried so far have been pretty consistent in nib width and ink flow. As is common with Pelikan nibs, their nib width is quite generous. This medium ink line compares easily to other (also European) broad nibs. The ink line has a slightly stub-like character and it is in between rigid and bouncy. It has a good amount of tooth for grip on the paper. Perhaps just a bit too much for first-time fountain pen users, but for people with unsteady hands who want to keep on using fountain pens, this pens is ideal. I love using it for cursive, because of the grip it offers in shape as well as on the paper. At €8-9 it is a pen you can easily take it with you, toss in your bag and carry around. The triangular and sweeping shape makes it also pretty sturdy. One of the best pens in this price range, if you ask me.

So, great steel nibs to be had in every price range! It is good to know that you don’t need to sell a kidney or take out a second mortgage to be able to enjoy a great pen. Or two. Or… more… Of course, it is so very thrilling to buy that first gold nibbed pen, but until then, and after, there are so many pens with steel nibs worthy of our love and attention! What is your favorite steel nib? I would love to know! Do leave me a comment.

Thank you as ever for reading and until the next post!


Disclaimer: the link in this post is not an affiliate link.


Four more nibs plus one extra

Hi everybody and Happy Mothers Day if you live in a country that celebrates it today! Over here we Mothers Day is celebrated in May, but I do have the house to myself right now and I am going to make the most of that by taking it pretty easy in this post. I feel a cold coming on so I’ll be taking a load off after posting this by rewatching some amazing YouTube videos on Japanese Masters of Fountain Pens. So relaxing!

But first four nibs plus one extra. Why one extra? Because the writing sample of the fifth didn’t fit on the written page as shown above. Practicality first! Because of the budding cold I am keeping it mainly to writing samples and nib shots of:

  • Delike New Moon extra fine nib (for which I was completely inspired by Instagram’s @pixiegeek. Go check out her feed if/when you’re on Insta, follow and give her some FP love!);
  • Pilot Prera Vivid Pink fine nib;
  • Pelikan Twist Bronze medium nib;
  • Franklin-Christoph broad stub.italic.gradient (S.I.G.);
  • Jinhao 159 fude nib.

So as you can see, there’s a nib size for everybody in today’s post. I think writing samples are great references for nib performance, plus I really enjoy doing them. And I always enjoy seeing other people’s writing online. I have a couple of handwriting crushes, but I will go into that in a later post. Let me know if you do!

The paper used is a Rhodia Soft Cover A5 lined journal.

Hope you enjoy the pictures, and if you have any questions, please do leave a comment. I always enjoy reading your messages!

Delike New Moon extra fine nib


Pilot Prera Vivid Pink fine nib


Pelikan Twist Bronze medium nib


Franklin-Christoph M65 Antique Glass broad stub.italic.gradient (S.I.G.)


Jinhao 159 fude nib



Thank you for reading (watching :-)) this post and until the next one!

Franklin-Christoph broad steel nibs with grinds compared

Ever since I received the Model 65 Antique Glass recently, I knew I would be doing this blog post and so I held out on flooding my Instagram feed with photos. I think I managed to keep it to one picture. And then of course the one to announce this blog post. Having three different grinds on broad steel Franklin-Christoph nibs, a comparison is in order. Let’s start with the largest pen and the biggest nib. These writing were done in a Rhodia lined soft cover A5 notebook.

Franklin-Christoph Model 66 Stabilis Solid Ice, broad nib with a cursive italic grind by Mike Masuyama (BCI)


First, the Franklin-Christoph steel nibs are made of a company specific alloy called HPS, which stands for High Performance Steel. It is said to give a gold nib-like writing experience. The nibs are very beautifully polished with a laser engraved Franklin-Christoph logo and stamped (I presume) scroll-work. You will find the original nib size at the base of the nib where it meets the section.

The nib on the quite large Model 66 is a #6 steel nib, ground by nib meister Mike Masuyama into a broad cursive italic. When you order a pen from the Franklin-Christoph website, having a Masuyama grind is an option that is offered in the drop down nib choosing menu. The nib grinds are priced pretty decently, but there is no conferring up front on your writing preferences such as wetness or writing angle, so the grind comes as it is. Masuyama is a master at nibmeistering, so you can be assured that the italic is going to be super crisp and the stub is an actual smooth stub. The crispness is clear from the fact that there is no tipping material left on the tip of the nib after this grind.

The ink line that this broad cursive italic puts down is a really crisp italic. This means practicing to get your angle of writing so that you do not get the edges of the nib caught on/in the paper. I prefer holding stubs and italics in an angle (almost as if writing with an architect nib, but at a slight angle of 70-60 degrees instead of a full 90 degrees. I find I have to write with a very light hand with this nib so as not to get caught in the paper. It gives a very crisp and delicate thin stroke combined with a much broader thick stroke. Beautiful, but this is not a nib for daily note taking for me. I use it for letter writing, card messages or anything I want to write down with a certain flair. The nib is not scratchy, the pen stroke actually feels like writing with a freshly sharpened pencil that will not wear. Even when you have small handwriting, you can use this broad nib and remain legible.

Franklin-Christoph Model 65 Antique Glass, broad nib with a Stub.Italic.Gradient (S.I.G.) grind


The Model 65 is quite a bit smaller than the 65 and has an elegant #5 nib. For my Antique Glass FC (aka Coke Bottle) I opted for a broad stub-italic gradient, largely because I wanted to try that grind. And I am not disappointed. This is a great grind if you are used to stubs and want to venture into italic territory. It has the user-friendliness of a stub with just a dash of crispness to lure you into italic writing. The crispy touch of this nib fits this print writing style nicely. It will also work great for cursive writing. This nib and the nib that is up next, the stub, are fighting over which is my favorite broad FC nib so far… So, up next, the stub.

Franklin-Christoph Model 45 (XLV) Italian Ice, broad nib with a stub grind by Mike Masuyama


This is the most democratic of the grinds compared in this post. This stub has a boxy grind as you can tell from the picture above, which is just the way I like it. It is very forgiving and I use it daily. It has a smooth line with a hint of interesting line variation caused by the stub grind. As you can see, for a Western broad nib all broads nibs here are more like Asian nib sizes, so all are pretty nicely usable on paper that is not very fountain pen friendly. Although I would use fountain pen friendly paper for the broad cursive italic, or you might find yourself shredding copy paper while learning to wield that nib. These are broad nibs that are suitable for smaller handwriting, if you want to get the most shading out of your ink without your handwriting becoming illegible.

Let’s look at the ink lines side by side:

fullsizeoutput_43a.jpegThe line variation is clearly most pronounced in the broad cursive italic. The S.I.G. is italic on the upside of the nib and a stubbish bottom nib where there is a tiny bit of tipping left. The stub has tipping material left on the upside of the nib and on the bottom. The uttermost tip of all broads is pretty flat to account for the line variation. All pretty interesting nibs and I am happy I chose them. The BCI gets its use on special occasion writing and the S.I.G. and stub are pretty much daily writers.

Do you want to know what other nib options and nib grinds Franklin-Christoph offers? Check their site in this link. (Not affiliated, just an FC fan)

Have you used a specific grind by either Franklin-Christoph or from other nib misters? Be sure to leave me a comment.

As ever, thank you for reading!