Nib Customization: A Guide to Common Nib Grinds

Array of Pelikan nibs with custom grindsIt has been five years now since Pelikan discontinued the production of their most interesting nibs.  The sizes lost to us include the BB, 3B, OM, OB, OBB, and O3B nibs not to mention the more exotic IB and I variants.  If all of those letters amount to alphabet soup for you, you can check out my post explaining Pelikan’s nib designations here.  What we have been left with is the staid though faithful line-up of EF, F, M, and B sizes.  In many of my posts, I have lamented the lack of character found in today’s nibs.  The current philosophy behind Pelikan’s modern stock offerings seems to focus on providing a reliable though unvarying line, good for novices and advanced users alike.   This “one-size-fits-all” mentality may suit the market but can leave the advanced user somewhat uninspired.  What you get out of the box today is referred to as a round nib which produces the same line width on the cross stroke as it does on the down stroke.  Modern nibs are wide and wet thanks to Pelikan’s generous feed but there is little to no character imparted to the writing.  Contrast that with the nibs of yesterday, those from Pelikan’s early days through the mid-1960s, which provide a writing experience which I would argue is second to none.  While I appreciate the focus on dependability, I do sometimes miss the excitement that a good nib can lend to the writing experience and thereby elevate the text beyond mere words on the page.  Another theme that you may have seen me return to time and again is the generous and sometimes blobby amount of tipping material on Pelikan’s modern nibs.  What this allows for is a robust canvas for a custom grind.  There are many accomplished nib meisters out there, specialists with an expertise in nib adjustments.  They can help your nib achieve a sorely missing degree of character and I wanted to highlight for you just what can be done.  Now I tend to be a traditionalist and a purist and don’t often favor customizing my nibs but I have opened up to the notion and have been handsomely rewarded.  If a reliable, unvarying line suits you just fine, then read no further.  If you’re at all curious to learn how you might breathe new life into a boring nib then read on.

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