Upturned & Downturned Nibs

Take a look at a nib of yours. Is it straight, or does it have a slight upturn or downturn? Is the tipping ball on the top or bottom? There’s an entire spectrum of nibs from an upturned fude all the way to a downturned concord or reverse fude. Fude nibs somewhat resemble a painter’s pallet knife and allow for different line widths based on your writing angle. Reverse fude allows for an extra-fine line while writing normally, and a regular fude while reverse writing. These nibs aren’t for everyone, but the spectrum in between these two poles is very diverse with a nib for any writing angle and preference. I decided to write this post after using the Midori fountain pen, which has a downturned nib. I wasn’t sure how the nib would feel when being used at a high overwriting angle, but it’s very nice. Starting with upturned nibs, lets work our way through the nib spectrum.

Fude~

These nibs are pretty easy to find on Chinese pens on amazon, or Sailor has a fude nib. You can also make one yourself or have one made by a nibmeister. Sailor offers these nibs at 40 and 50 degree angles. I’ve been using a 50 degree fude, which writes like this:

A fude takes some getting used to, and doesn’t have to have such a firm angle. On instagram there are many examples of what a fude can look like along with writing and drawing examples.

Waverly~

A Pilot Custom 912 Waverly

Waverly nibs have a gentle upturn and almost look like they’ve been dropped on the floor. Pilot offers a Waverly nib on their Custom 912 and 742 that is (in my opinion) the best writing experience a lefty overwriter can find. In the 1940’s Sheaffer made their conical triumph nibs that are Waverly nibs. With the gentle upturn, it doesn’t matter how you hold the pen or at what angle. It’s always just right, and I’ve found that my handwriting is neater while using my Pilot Waverly nib. Certain nibmeisters, like on fpnibs.com, can turn a regular nib into a Waverly.

PenBBS~

PenBBS nibs are in between a Waverly and a Kugel. They have a slight upturn with the tipping ball on top, and the very tip of the nib where it meets the paper is rounded. This nibs produce a slightly stubby line that is wider than a traditional fine. I haven’t tried a medium nib from PenBBS, but I saw that they have a rounded medium.

Kugels~

I have two nibs that can be considered kugels, which means ball tip. They’re different so I’ve listed them separately.

Montblanc Stainless Steel Medium:

A Monte Rosa.

I have a vintage Montblanc Monte Rosa with a steel nib that has the tipping ball on top and no upturn, but it’s labeled as a regular medium. The steel has some springiness and looks to have originally been gold plated. These nibs work very well for reverse writing. Even though the nib itself is not upturned, the tipping ball on top creates a wide sweet spot.

Lamy Kugel:

These nibs are not upturned like the previous examples, but the tipping material is rounded to be shaped like a ball. A kugel nib is smooth from most writing angles, and can be pushed across the page. Lamy used to make kugel nibs within the last 20 years, which can be found on eBay. Pelikan used to make kugel nibs as well, but they are harder to find. The only kugel nib that I have right now is a Lamy medium kugel, and it feels different from their regular medium nibs and even their left handed nib. It comes close to Lamy’s 14k gold nibs, but silkier.

Postings~

The following nibs can all be under the posting umbrella, but are different. Different brands manufacturing in different countries and decades have varying standards, and that is very interesting to me.

Esterbrook Ex. Fine Ex. Firm Posting:

When Esterbrook was making their “J” series of pens, they offered an exceptional range of nibs that could be easily swapped out. This made it easy to find the right nib for your purposes without buying a whole new pen. The 9450 EF Ex. Firm Posting nib has very little tipping material with the nib itself being quite thick. This nib has a slight downturn and produces a very fine line. These nibs were made to withstand a firm hand while writing on forms that required carbon copies. If you’ve never had the pleasure of making a carbon copy, you have a regular sheet of paper on top and underneath it is at least one sheet of carbon transfer paper. If you write on the top sheet with enough pressure, your writing is transferred to the bottom page. Today, you could use this nib to write out a check.

Posting:

Regular posting (PO) nibs can be hard to find nowadays, but Pilot offers one on their Custom 912 and 742. A traditional posting nib is designed for the same purpose as the Esterbrook one above, but has more of a downturn. It’s called a posting nib because it was designed for writing on postcards. The Pilot posting nib is still stiff, but has some give because it’s a gold nib. I haven’t tried one of these PO nibs myself, but reviews say that this nib writes without feathering even on copy paper.

Manifold:

A manifold nib is the German version of a posting nib. I have a vintage Pelikan manifold gold nib that is slightly obliqued and super stiff. There are two breather holes that allow for shorter tines, which helps make the nib so stiff. I have to rotate the nib a little to accommodate the left foot oblique, which feels natural. This nib feels very buttery and writes silently.

Pilot Falcon~

The Pilot Falcon is a unique bird. Pilot actually makes two “falcon” nibs: one for the Falcon, and one for their 912 and 742/743 pens called the FA. For the purposes of this post I’ll just be discussing the Falcon nib. Falcons have a small hump in the nib and feed where the tines begin to accommodate extra springiness. These nibs are labeled soft, but I’m not sure how these compare to Pilot’s soft #5 gold nibs. From the hump, the nib is angled downward and the tip remains straight. These nibs can be used while overwriting as long as you use minimal pressure. While underwriting, the springiness is extremely satisfying and you can get about one millimeter of line variation.

Midori MD “Beak”~

Midori added a downturn to the medium nib on their MD fountain pen. It’s advertised as being beak shaped and suitable for all writing angles. This nib has more of a downturn than a PO nib, and really is smooth at different writing angles. It also has more give than a posting nib.

Reverse Fude~

I’ve never written with a reverse fude nib, but I’ve watched Mark Bacas’s instagram videos that show him writing with one. Here is a link to his page.

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