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Thread: Making Nibs / Handmade Nibs

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    Default Making Nibs / Handmade Nibs

    I'd like to attempt to make a 14k nib like a wet noodle, but would like to know if there are any resources about nib making. Are there any old books, websites, forums, craftsmen, that I might glean some info from?

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    Default Re: Making Nibs / Handmade Nibs

    Quote Originally Posted by Bielawski View Post
    I'd like to attempt to make a 14k nib like a wet noodle, but would like to know if there are any resources about nib making. Are there any old books, websites, forums, craftsmen, that I might glean some info from?
    I知 not aware of any.

    I知 curious, are you a Goldsmith (to have all the stuff for stamping, rolling, forging, heat treat and also having the metallurgic knowledge needed) ?
    What kind of 14k alloy are you planning to use?
    Do you already have specific gold sheet metal in mind or do you even create your own?
    How do you cut the nib slit?
    As far as I know very specific thin diamond wheels on special cutting saws are used.
    How do you plan to tip your nib?

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    Default Re: Making Nibs / Handmade Nibs

    Quote Originally Posted by Pterodactylus View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Bielawski View Post
    I'd like to attempt to make a 14k nib like a wet noodle, but would like to know if there are any resources about nib making. Are there any old books, websites, forums, craftsmen, that I might glean some info from?
    I知 not aware of any.

    I知 curious, are you a Goldsmith (to have all the stuff for stamping, rolling, forging, heat treat and also having the metallurgic knowledge needed) ?
    What kind of 14k alloy are you planning to use?
    Do you already have specific gold sheet metal in mind or do you even create your own?
    How do you cut the nib slit?
    As far as I know very specific thin diamond wheels on special cutting saws are used.
    How do you plan to tip your nib?
    I have only seen very basic videos on you tube or descriptions of manufacturing on google books.

    I am a jeweler and have all the necessary tools for metalworking. I have a tiny bit of gold bullion and can create the gold alloy. I have seen that a special high speed circular blade is used to cut the nib, I could search for one, but jewelers saw blades are made as thin as .15mm which is probably plenty small and I could probably get away with that for a one off or two. If it fails, I could always remelt, it roll it and start again.
    .
    Tipping the nib is actually one of the questions I have. I have seen that the nib is spot welded in factories. I wonder if the nib HAS to be tipped as some older nibs might not be tippped. I suppose I could use another metal, My first hunch is to use platinum, but I dont have any and am still researching this part of the process.

    Also, one of the things I am most interested in is the minute details of the craft - like where the nib has to be thinner for flex, where to make it a little more work hardened or thicker for springiness, are there any nuances like a making a slight pocket where the feed rests, etc? The shape of the pilot Falcon is interesting and Im sure has a lot of nuances that a nib making craftsman would know about that I have no knowledge of yet.

    I think there must be some old books or literature out there....

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    Default Re: Making Nibs / Handmade Nibs

    Thanks for your detailed answer, this will be an interesting project.

    Tipping is mandatory on gold nibs, the gold would wear down rapidly while writing.
    The tipping material has to be very hard to withstand writing.
    Usually an Iridium alloy is used for it.

    There are some (only few) craftsman who does retipping of nibs, who might also can tip your nib once created.
    So you do not get a setup for doing this yourself.

    I already modified nibs to increase their flexibility (Named it EMF Ease My Flex).
    Basically modifying the nib curvature (using a Drexel rotary tool) of the tines and the base of the nib to allow it to be more flexible.
    More info at:
    https://fpgeeks.com/forum/showthread...ltra-Flex-Nibs

    Do you own some good vintage flex nibs?
    I think studying the geometry of those would be a good starting point.

    Modern nibs are stamped/rolled instead of forged, this might be also an important thing to take into consideration to get a really flexible nib.

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    Default Re: Making Nibs / Handmade Nibs

    I imagine one could make nibs from almost any sheet metal using basic tools. In fact, the BBC programme about the history of writing shows the presenter, a calligrapher, making a nib from a coke can.

    One suggestion is to see what the Pen Museum has that might help. LINK: https://penmuseum.org.uk/shop-gifts/

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    Default Re: Making Nibs / Handmade Nibs

    Quote Originally Posted by Pterodactylus View Post
    Thanks for your detailed answer, this will be an interesting project.

    Tipping is mandatory on gold nibs, the gold would wear down rapidly while writing.
    The tipping material has to be very hard to withstand writing.
    Usually an Iridium alloy is used for it.

    There are some (only few) craftsman who does retipping of nibs, who might also can tip your nib once created.
    So you do not get a setup for doing this yourself.

    I already modified nibs to increase their flexibility (Named it EMF Ease My Flex).
    Basically modifying the nib curvature (using a Drexel rotary tool) of the tines and the base of the nib to allow it to be more flexible.
    More info at:
    https://fpgeeks.com/forum/showthread...ltra-Flex-Nibs

    Do you own some good vintage flex nibs?
    I think studying the geometry of those would be a good starting point.

    Modern nibs are stamped/rolled instead of forged, this might be also an important thing to take into consideration to get a really flexible nib.
    The only gold vintage flex nib I have is a #4 Peter Pan, super tiny, it looks like an italic nib and as far as I can tell it doesn't have any tipping material. The other flex nibs I have are steel with iridium tips. I understand that the tipping material will lend to a longer lasting nib, is iridium necessary? After all, rollerball pens use steel, stainless, or tungsten and they seem to hold up fine.

    Also, I have noticed contemporary flex pens like the FPR and conklin, they are made out of steel and the cutouts may improve flexibility, but no modern flex pen really matches that of something Ive seen from a 14k waterman and the waterman doesnt use any cutouts to achieve that flexibility. There is something remarkable about them that is missing from the contemporary pens of today. Is it a lost art? Are there any companies or crafstman today making gold nibs like that? If not is it because its not profitable? Goulet had a video saying just that, but waterman seemed to crank them out even back then without the benefit of modern machinery, with so many surviving examples and there are companies that already have 98% of the infrastructure to do it but just dont, even though they are as deep as any company will get into making pen nibs today.

    Also you mentioned "Modern nibs are stamped/rolled instead of forged" --- what do you mean forged? as in casting? hammered?

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    Default Re: Making Nibs / Handmade Nibs

    Forging means heating metal to a high enough temperature that it is malleable, and then (usually) using a hammer, or pressing it on or in to a mold, to form it into the desired shape.

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    Default Re: Making Nibs / Handmade Nibs

    Quote Originally Posted by An old bloke View Post
    Forging means heating metal to a high enough temperature that it is malleable, and then (usually) using a hammer, or pressing it on or in to a mold, to form it into the desired shape.
    Hmm, I don't think that's the usual meaning as used in industry. I think normally forging is thought of as a process which shapes a work piece by applying compressive forces. There is both hot and cold forging. Forging works on the grain structure to make it stronger and tougher and it is distinctly different from casting.

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    Default Re: Making Nibs / Handmade Nibs

    Quote Originally Posted by Ole Juul View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by An old bloke View Post
    Forging means heating metal to a high enough temperature that it is malleable, and then (usually) using a hammer, or pressing it on or in to a mold, to form it into the desired shape.
    Hmm, I don't think that's the usual meaning as used in industry. I think normally forging is thought of as a process which shapes a work piece by applying compressive forces. There is both hot and cold forging. Forging works on the grain structure to make it stronger and tougher and it is distinctly different from casting.
    OK FOUND SOMETHING! This excerpt was written in 1892

    Go to page 84 - Turns out they do hammer it
    https://www.google.com/books/edition...sec=frontcover

    here are some interesting tidbits:

    "The blank is now placed on a small anvil, with the point projecting over the side, and beaten with a hammer from the point midway up the pen. This is done to solidify it and give that stiffness and spring to the metal that is so necessary to a good pen. This hammering, and the thickness to which it has been rolled, determine in a great measure the hard or easy writing qualities of the pen."

    "Some writers like a hard, stiff nib; others a delicate, flexible one. The varying degrees of flexibility are obtained by grinding more or less of gold from the nib, between the nibs and iridium points, on the upper side of the pen."

    Bonus Tidbit: "There is a popular notion that the best gold pens are pointed with diamonds. This is incorrect. THere were a few made in that way about twenty-five years ago, but they were very expensive, and the discovery of the valuable properties of iridium put an end to thier manufacture."

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    Default Re: Making Nibs / Handmade Nibs

    Quote Originally Posted by Ole Juul View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by An old bloke View Post
    Forging means heating metal to a high enough temperature that it is malleable, and then (usually) using a hammer, or pressing it on or in to a mold, to form it into the desired shape.
    Hmm, I don't think that's the usual meaning as used in industry. I think normally forging is thought of as a process which shapes a work piece by applying compressive forces. There is both hot and cold forging. Forging works on the grain structure to make it stronger and tougher and it is distinctly different from casting.
    Yes, there are hot and cold forging processes. My understanding is that cold forging often requires greater force since cold, unheated metal is not as malleable.

    I recall seeing steel, dip pen nibs formed using a press in the pen museum in Birmingham (UK). The blanks were unheated. The press used a long lever to increase the forming force.

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    Default Re: Making Nibs / Handmade Nibs

    Quote Originally Posted by Bielawski View Post
    The only gold vintage flex nib I have is a #4 Peter Pan, super tiny, it looks like an italic nib and as far as I can tell it doesn't have any tipping material. The other flex nibs I have are steel with iridium tips. I understand that the tipping material will lend to a longer lasting nib, is iridium necessary? After all, rollerball pens use steel, stainless, or tungsten and they seem to hold up fine.

    Also, I have noticed contemporary flex pens like the FPR and conklin, they are made out of steel and the cutouts may improve flexibility, but no modern flex pen really matches that of something Ive seen from a 14k waterman and the waterman doesnt use any cutouts to achieve that flexibility. There is something remarkable about them that is missing from the contemporary pens of today. Is it a lost art? Are there any companies or crafstman today making gold nibs like that? If not is it because its not profitable? Goulet had a video saying just that, but waterman seemed to crank them out even back then without the benefit of modern machinery, with so many surviving examples and there are companies that already have 98% of the infrastructure to do it but just dont, even though they are as deep as any company will get into making pen nibs today.

    Also you mentioned "Modern nibs are stamped/rolled instead of forged" --- what do you mean forged? as in casting? hammered?
    I知 no expert regarding tipping and what can be used as tipping material and what not.
    What is sold currently as 吐lex nib out of the box is for sure not comparable with good vintage full flex nibs.

    I think the reason why there are no real flexible nibs on the market is a combination of several factors.

    Imho the most important one is that the vast majority of users can稚 write with such pens anymore.
    They never learned to write with a really light hand.
    Give somebody from the street a really flexible dip nib, let them write and look what happens.
    Most of the time the result will be catastrophic.

    So what reason could a pen maker have to produce a true flexible nib if the vast majority of customers can not write with it, will complain about bad behavior or even will destroy it by pressing way too hard?

    They are niche products these days, made for enthusiasts.

    Yes there is some movement in the last years, triggered first by Noodlers introducing kind of semi-flex nibs.
    And I like this movement.

    Last highlight was the Montblanc Calligraphy nib last year.
    I never wrote with this one but users were quite enthusiastic about it, not a full flex experience but at least a good semi-flex.

    It痴 really about the nib geometry, the metal alloy and it痴 treatment what makes a nib flexible.
    But it痴 not limited to a special metal.
    Even the vast majority of still existing flexible nibs are made of gold, there were also fantastic steel full flex nibs.
    Personally I own a awesome vintage Degussa full flex steel nib, which can easily compete with gold ones.

    I don稚 think itˋs really a matter of lots art/knowledge, it痴 more a matter of the market.

    Keep us updated on your project
    Last edited by Pterodactylus; November 22nd, 2020 at 02:10 AM.

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    Default Re: Making Nibs / Handmade Nibs

    Sounds like a fun project. You might want to look for an old kick press. You can make dies out of steel and the opposite die out of delrin. If you have done any raising it should be a snap. I think hammer forging may be necessary but you will have to be gentle and accurate. You can carve out delrin stakes too. As to tipping use a laser welder or if you do not have one there are people who do that to repair nibs. It should be a lot of fun. Getting the metal nice and springy will be your goal.

    I do a line of anticlastic jewelry and sculpture. So much fun..... Nancylinkin.com

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    Default Re: Making Nibs / Handmade Nibs

    Quote Originally Posted by Pterodactylus View Post
    Tipping is mandatory on gold nibs, the gold would wear down rapidly while writing.
    The tipping material has to be very hard to withstand writing....
    The most flexible gold nibs I have are those from late 19th/early 20th century dip pens and they don't have tipping. I have the (un-researched & unscientific) impression that tipped-nibs aren't as flexible.
    IMG_0259.JPG
    Last edited by jbb; December 14th, 2020 at 05:51 PM.
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    Default Re: Making Nibs / Handmade Nibs

    Quote Originally Posted by jbb View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Pterodactylus View Post
    Tipping is mandatory on gold nibs, the gold would wear down rapidly while writing.
    The tipping material has to be very hard to withstand writing....
    The most flexible gold nibs I have are those from late 19th/early 20th century dip pens and they don't have tipping. I have the (un-researched & unscientific) impression that tipped-nibs aren't as flexible.
    IMG_0259.JPG
    All my gold nib pens are tipped, also the more than 100 year old Watermans I have.

    Why do you think that a little hard blob welded on the top to increase the durability and ensures consistency (to prevent a changing writing geometry due to abrasion (like with a pencil) has any influence on the flexibility?

    Which pens do you have which are untipped?

    Did you took a close look at the grind on the underside?
    The tipping is often very tiny and only to see from the underside when you inspect the grind, not like the big blob on current pens.

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    Default Re: Making Nibs / Handmade Nibs

    Quote Originally Posted by Pterodactylus View Post
    ...All my gold nib pens are tipped, also the more than 100 year old Watermans I have.
    .....Did you took a close look at the grind on the underside?
    The tipping is often very tiny and only to see from the underside when you inspect the grind, not like the big blob on current pens.
    True, I have some older Watermans with amazing flex too. AND also true, the tipping on these older nibs is just much harder to see -- way less blobby than on modern nibs. Thank you for the correction.
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    Default Re: Making Nibs / Handmade Nibs

    Quote Originally Posted by jbb View Post
    The most flexible gold nibs I have are those from late 19th/early 20th century dip pens and they don't have tipping. I have the (un-researched & unscientific) impression that tipped-nibs aren't as flexible.
    A-ha! Have you been using your dip "pens" (a/k/a nibs) installed in fountain pen sections & barrels?

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    Default Re: Making Nibs / Handmade Nibs

    Quote Originally Posted by FredRydr View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by jbb View Post
    The most flexible gold nibs I have are those from late 19th/early 20th century dip pens and they don't have tipping. I have the (un-researched & unscientific) impression that tipped-nibs aren't as flexible.
    A-ha! Have you been using your dip "pens" (a/k/a nibs) installed in fountain pen sections & barrels?
    Yes, I have quite a few fabulously flexy fountain pens that I've put 14K dip pen nibs into.... BUT the letters I write to YOU are with a dip pen because I love to use an iron gall ink home-mix loaded with gum Arabic and godknowswhatelse that leaves a raised texture on the paper that would clog any fountain pen.
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    Default Re: Making Nibs / Handmade Nibs

    From my research, gold nibs on dip pens were not originally tipped with any material. To the extent that the large gold nibs you see on older dip pens served one purpose: being sharpened periodically. The gold will naturally dull over time, so you would take it to a jeweler and have them put a new point on the pen.

    Here is an old manual that outlines the nib making process:https://archive.org/details/historyofinventi00fole

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    Default Re: Making Nibs / Handmade Nibs

    That article was fascinating - not least because I use so many almost identical tools in my everyday work (I'm a goldsmith). Things haven't moved on as much as you might think - they just used to have to it faster!

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    Default Re: Making Nibs / Handmade Nibs

    Any updates?

    I have a friend who is a bench jeweler. She buys scrap gold and had a dozen or so nibs. I brought up flex nibs, and how no one really makes them anymore, and that there might be a market for them. We spent an afternoon/evening playing with the idea. Here were the hurdles:

    We used a Bock #6 as a template for shape and thickness, since ideally they would be swappable with a majority of modern pens. A die would be ideal, and cutting by hand is too tedious to be productive. We ended up going with a shape similar to Romillo, figuring it would be easier to taper the tines and get flex without the "wings" of the Bock shape.

    Her mill is old and wasn't really up to the task of rolling a uniform sheet.

    Slitting by hand is less than optimum. A dedicated rotary slitting saw would be better.

    Getting the tipping material (we used a bit of scrap platinum) into a ball the correct size, flowing the gold around it and then trying to slit it is way too difficult without specialized equipment. There's an arc-welder type of contraption (I'll post a YouTube video if you want) that should make both tasks easier.

    Flex is finding the right amount of work hardening. Lots of trial and error to get the right "recipe".

    At the end of the experiment, we had a rough 14k nib that would flex. It had no tipping (we were focused on the flex first). It did fit in a #6 feed assembly and worked. It was just too much effort without the special tools to be feasible, particularly since her normal backlog is so great (sizing, retipping, etc...).

    Good luck and keep us posted.

    p.s.: The beginning of this Romillo video might be useful.


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