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Thread: Newby question

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    Default Newby question

    FP'ers,

    This is a newbie question that probably been answered a zillion time but could find it so don't shoot me over it. I keep reading and watch videos that talking about nib number, as in "this is a #5 nib". I know the last number on the MB Meisterstuck, such as 146 or 149 is the nib number. Can some explain to me what are the difference with these nib numbers?

    Thanks
    Ken

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    Senior Member Jon Szanto's Avatar
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    Default Re: Newby question

    Nib numbers are almost meaningless, with the small exception of the last 10-20 years. For all the decades before, many pen companies, if not most, made their own nibs and used various numbering systems. As would be obvious, the smaller the number, the smaller the nib. There are pens from 100 years ago that even sported #0 nibs.

    However, in recent years fewer pen makers make their own, and there was a great reduction - in Western pens - down to nibs from two main makers: Bock and JoWo. Of these, they pumped out primarily two main sizes, #5 and #6. If you go to any number of online pen / hobbyist sites, you'll find a variety of nibs in those sizes, often branded (such as Goulet) but made by one of those two makers. Proprietary nibs vary in both size and nomenclature, and if you start going backward in history, it's all over the place.

    The biggest takeaway? There is very little standardization, and while a fair number of lower-end pens will come with a basic nib that you can pull out and plop in another ("Hey gaiz, I found that the #6 nib from Bonzo's Nibs will fit a PenCCT 488 pen perfectly!"), nothing is certain and a certain degree of trial and error are needed.. The thing is, nibs have length and width that must be matched, as well as shape and curvature, so that they mate well with the feed.

    Others can and will expand and correct on that, but it gives you a bit of the lay of the land. It's a jungle out there!
    Last edited by Jon Szanto; October 23rd, 2020 at 10:55 PM. Reason: Clarity
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    Default Re: Newby question

    Standardisation is the enemy of profit, Jon. That's why we all have a closet full of chargers. Within a brand the numbers usually have meaning. I work mostly with Mabie Todd pens and the numbers are a true guide. Conway Stewarts have more complex designations but it's perfectly possible to work out which nibs go with which pens. The same is true of Waterman and Parker - the UK varieties anyway. I don't know about those made in France or the US.

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    Default Re: Newby question

    Quote Originally Posted by Jon Szanto View Post
    Nib numbers are almost meaningless, with the small exception of the last 10-20 years. For all the decades before, many pen companies, if not most, made their own nibs and used various numbering systems. As would be obvious, the smaller the number, the smaller the nib. There are pens from 100 years ago that even sported #0 nibs.

    However, in recent years fewer pen makers make their own, and there was a great reduction - in Western pens - down to nibs from two main makers: Bock and JoWo. Of these, they pumped out primarily two main sizes, #5 and #6. If you go to any number of online pen / hobbyist sites, you'll find a variety of nibs in those sizes, often branded (such as Goulet) but made by one of those two makers. Proprietary nibs vary in both size and nomenclature, and if you start going backward in history, it's all over the place.

    The biggest takeaway? There is very little standardization, and while a fair number of lower-end pens will come with a basic nib that you can pull out and plop in another ("Hey gaiz, I found that the #6 nib from Bonzo's Nibs will fit a PenCCT 488 pen perfectly!"), nothing is certain and a certain degree of trial and error are needed.. The thing is, nibs have length and width that must be matched, as well as shape and curvature, so that they mate well with the feed.

    Others can and will expand and correct on that, but it gives you a bit of the lay of the land. It's a jungle out there!
    Thanks for the informative post. So basically don't concern myself with these nib numbers and buy the nib according to F,M, or B. That makes life so much easier.

    Thanks
    Ken

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    Senior Member Jon Szanto's Avatar
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    Default Re: Newby question

    Quote Originally Posted by sgt1255 View Post
    Thanks for the informative post. So basically don't concern myself with these nib numbers and buy the nib according to F,M, or B. That makes life so much easier.
    Well, yes... to a degree. Of course, the first thing is you choose what type of nib you want - unless you are replacing a damaged nib or want something fancy or visually enticing, the reason for picking another nib would be the business end of it. Because of the word 'size' and the issues above, I tend to call it the nib's type or style. Or be direct and say the "size of the tip".

    In any event, choose that nib as EF, F, M, B, BB or any other tip width nomenclature; you might also then choose a particular grind on the nib, be it stub, italic, and many more. The main thing is that whatever nib type you are considering, the body of the nib will need to be the right size and shape to fit the intended pen and feed.

    At times like this, pen forums and discussion groups are invaluable for asking questions as to "I have pen X and want to use nib Y, will that work?". You'll find people are very happy to answer that...

    ... potentially with a number of differing results, but we'll deal with that another time!
    "When Men differ in Opinion, both Sides ought equally to have the Advantage of being heard by the Publick;
    and that when Truth and Error have fair Play, the former is always an overmatch for the latter."

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    Default Re: Newby question

    Quote Originally Posted by sgt1255 View Post

    Thanks for the informative post. So basically don't concern myself with these nib numbers and buy the nib according to F,M, or B. That makes life so much easier.

    Thanks
    Ken
    Generally and historically most nib makers (there used to be hundreds) used larger numbers to indicate larger overall size nibs. But the size and type of the writing bit, the tip, was a separate issue. There was no standardization though between makers and most larger fountain pen companies made their own nibs so Sheaffer and Parker and Waterman and Conklin and Conway Stewart and Mabie Todd all had their own internal numbering systems.

    There was another originally unintended consequence though. To keep their staff working and employed some major makers often made more nibs than needed and sold the excess to other companies without the corporate branding names. Those nibs were marked as Warranted which was simply an indication of the gold content. Smaller companies that could not afford an internal nib manufacturing bought and used those Warranted nibs.
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    Default Re: Newby question

    It seems that these days people sometimes buy a pen regardless of nib, then go hunting for a replacement nib to suit their hand. Seems a strange way to work, considering that the nib is the most important part of the pen, and most suppliers offer a variety of nibs.

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    Default Re: Newby question

    Quote Originally Posted by eachan View Post
    It seems that these days people sometimes buy a pen regardless of nib, then go hunting for a replacement nib to suit their hand. Seems a strange way to work, considering that the nib is the most important part of the pen, and most suppliers offer a variety of nibs.
    And the big takeaway here is that there is a new audience for pens, one that is immediately taken by the package (the pen), the eye candy nature of it, how cool it looks, that it is some limited edition color. How it writes is something they can deal with later, being from a generation of "modders". But you're right: I see a lot of people buy a pen (often not expensive) and first thing they do is pull the nib and put something else in. Not always successfully.
    "When Men differ in Opinion, both Sides ought equally to have the Advantage of being heard by the Publick;
    and that when Truth and Error have fair Play, the former is always an overmatch for the latter."

    ~ Benjamin Franklin

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    Default Re: Newby question

    Guilty as charged. I prefer a smooth, wet nib. But I don't swap or replace nibs. I do as I've always done--just adapted to the writing implement in question, whether it's a finger dipped in paint or a fine flex nib.

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