Nib Tuning 101
By Alex Zonis
|Sketch by Alex Zonis|
So you got yourself a fountain pen – congratulations! You took it out for sketch or several, and it is nice … but … There is a little something that is not quite… Perhaps the nib is catching a little when doing a big gesture… Or perhaps you wish it were a little juicier. The experience is not terrible, but could be better.
There are a couple of simple things you can do to help your pen along. Just a little adjusting, or as we say in Pen World – a little nib tuning.
Here’s what you need:
- Micro-mesh 12000 grit https://www.amazon.com/Micro-Mesh-Micro-Mesh-12-000/dp/B001F7LVNC
- Brass sheets for flossing 0.002” https://www.gouletpens.com/products/goulet-brass-sheets?variant=11884650463275
Have a little ink in your fountain pen, because you will be tuning and testing, tuning and testing.
To smooth the nib:
- Put a small drop of water on the micro-mesh, place the nib into the drople
- Draw a few figure-eights, infinity signs, small circles clockwise and counter-clock. Only make a few, then test the nib on your regular sketching paper.
If it feels great, stop there and enjoy your pen. If a bit more smoothing is needed, do a couple more figure-eights and circles, and test again.
- Be careful to not over-smooth, over-smoothing will make drawing/writing difficult. Fountain pen works on the principle of Controlled Leak. If we over-smooth and there isn’t enough friction left between the nib and paper, the tines will not open up, and the ink will not flow. So proceed very slowly and test after every couple of smoothing motions.
- Be sure to rotate the pen in your fingers as you are drawing your smoothing figures on the micro-mesh. This is done to make sure that the filing motion does not create a flat surface at the business end of the nib. You want a dome there.
To increase ink flow:
- Insert the brass sheet vertically between the nib tines.
- Do a few flossing motions – up and down, forward and back.
- Remove the brass sheet and test the flow.
Better? Stop there.
Not quite? Do a few more flossing motions and test again. Go slow and test often. What you are doing is opening up the tines a tiny bit so that more ink can flow through.
Be careful to not over-floss. Remember Controlled Leak principle. Opening up tines too far (or splaying) will mess up the capillary action needed for Controlled Leak. If this happens, you may need to send the pen to a pen hospital for the nib to be repaired or replace the nib altogether.
These steps are very simple. They will take you less time than reading these instructions here. The main thing to remember is to test often, after every couple of motions. After you filed away a few microns of metal, it is not possible to put it back!
Please do not practice on gold nibs, rare nibs or pens still on warranty. Get a few inexpensive pens, like Jinhao 992, and practice. When tuned right, these little $2 Jinhao’s will draw as well as pens 20 times the price.
A special thanks to Atlas Stationers who hosted this demonstration by Alex for Urban Sketchers Chicago's August 21st meetup!