My girlfriend, who is a righty, has been looking for a really fine-nibbed pen to take notes with at work on small pieces of paper. She recently got a Sailor Pro Gear Slim in fine, and a Sailor 1911S with a 21k zoom nib. She got a zoom nib so that it could eventually be ground into an extreme predator nib, which is an extra fine held normally and an architect when flipped over. We both have TWSBI minis in EF, and she always writes EF in quotes because it’s not fine enough. So last week, she decided to try and write with that pen with the nib flipped over (or reverse writing) and had a great experience!
I’ve been afraid to try reverse writing since I ruined my first fountain pen by doing that. Now that I’m more versed in the way of the fountain pen, my girlfriend encouraged me to try it again because the ink will dry faster while writing quick notes.
The photo above is a sample of both my girlfriend and I trying out some currently inked pens while reverse writing. Gold nibs ended up working well across the board, while steel nibs ended up being more finicky. The Pelikan m200 and MontBlanc Monte Rosa are both steel nibs that performed very well reversed. The m200 is normally quite broad for a fine nib, and with Noodler’s Golden Brown it’s extra wet. Reversed though, the nib is more akin to a Japanese fine. In the photo below I tried to get a close-up of the Pelikan nib. The tip is pretty ball shaped, with some raised tipping material on top. Theoretically, any nib with raised tipping material like that should work for reverse writing.
Now the MontBlanc, written in green on the sample page, is an elevated reverse experience. Both me and my girlfriend loved writing with this, it’s great.
The Monte Rosa is a vintage pen by MontBlanc, the model I have is from the late 1950s. The nib is labeled medium on the piston knob but the tip is upturned like a waverly nib. I don’t know if all MontBlanc steel nibs are like this, or if this nib was worked on at some point in its lifetime, but it writes very smoothly. Writing reversed at a high angle you’re using more of the ball at the top of the nib. So, you get a finer line without sacrificing smoothness or ink flow. Writing reverse with this pen is what I imagine writing with a kugel nib feels like. I just found out about that type of nib yesterday and I’m very excited about them.
Using the two zoom nibs was interesting because I didn’t know how versatile they are, or how nice 21k nibs feel. The tips are ground into a triangle shape, so the lower the angle you hold the pen, the broader the line. For me, using my zoom nib at a nearly 90 degree angle gave about a medium line. When reverse writing though, no matter what angle the writer holds the pen, they’re using the pointiest and finest part of the nib. I didn’t try reverse writing with a fude nib but I imagine it would have a similar outcome.
The finest line I was able to get was with a Pilot Custom 98 with a #3 fine nib.
This nib doesn’t have much tipping on top, but the nib seems slightly downturned with a round point. With this I was able to write as tiny as I can with a 0.4mm Hi-tec Maica. I also have a Pilot Legno 89s with the same size fine nib, but it writes less smoothly than the Custom 98 no matter what. I took a close-up of them side by side and I think the 98 tip is a little bit rounder and blunter. I did purchase the Custom 98 used and the Legno new, so the older nib is more worn in.
The Pilot Custom 912 with a Waverly nib gave a similar experience to the Monte Rosa but the 912 just has the upturned tip and no ball on top. This nib is fantastic anyway, and is so pleasing to write with for a lefty like me because you’re always writing at the correct position. With reverse writing, it’s like you’re using a posting nib because it ends up being downturned. You get a considerably finer line that could probably be used for writing checks.
The most surprising pen to try with this experiment was a Pilot Falcon, not the most lefty friendly pen. But, it writes really well reversed. I have it inked up with Namiki black right now, which is normally really wet out of this pen, but reversed it’s just the right amount of wetness. While overwriting normally with a Falcon I usually use light pressure so that the tines don’t catch on the paper, but reversed I haven’t had to worry about that.
The Vanishing Point Decimo was another surprise for both me and my girlfriend. This is another pen that is problematic for lefty overwriters because of the clip by the nib. Reverse writing with the Decimo was weird, and I still didn’t find it comfortable to hold.
Overall, this experiment was fun and revealing. Reverse writing doesn’t work with every pen, but Japanese gold nibs had more consistent results. I recommend trying out reverse writing with your pens if you like writing tiny and fast drying ink.