What do the different nib sizes mean?
FAQ 6.0 by Burt Janz
  Article # 224 Article Type: FAQ

6.0 What do the different nib sizes mean?

Nibs are rated several ways: the size of the nib itself, the size of the point (actually the width of the line it leaves), the orientation of the point, and the flexibility of the nib. The physical size and shape of the nib affect the nib's flexibility and how well it writes.

However, nibs are typically rated by their tip size, and tips are produced in several sizes: extra fine, fine, medium, and broad. There are, of course, additional variations in each manufacturer's product line, but those are the general sizes available almost everywhere. Be careful on tip sizes: one pen manufacturer's ìfineî tip may leave a narrower or wider line than the "fine" tip from a different manufacturer. For that matter, two pens from the same manufacturer with the same tip size might leave considerably different looking lines!

For example, a fine tip may leave a line no wider than a single hair, and a medium tip might leave a line as wide as, maybe 5 of those same hairs. A broad might leave a line as wide as 20 of those hairs. You get the idea: extra fine is a smaller line than fine, broad is wider than medium, etc. Some of us call a broad nib a "paint brush" because of the width it leaves.

Then, there are ìitalicî nibs. These are nibs whose tips are ground mostly flat across the tip. They are wonderful for calligraphy, or for writing signatures: horizontal lines are much narrower than vertical lines. You've seen that kind of writing. Imagine using your own pen to do it.

Stub nibs are different from italic nibs in one basic way: the edge of the point. Italic nibs are ground to be straight across the tip, and to have sharp corners. The sharpness of the corners contributes to the calligraphic line that the nib lays on the page. Stub nibs are basically the same as italic nibs, except that the corners are much more rounded, thus making them write smoother on the page, but with a much less calligraphic line.

Keep in mind that the nib size measurement reflects the width of the line that the tip leaves on the paper. The shape of the nib also varies slightly to provide either more support and a wider set of tines for broader tips or less support and a narrower set of tines for the finer tips.

Generally, the smaller the tip, the scratchier the nib. Look at it this way: the smaller the tip, the easier it is for the tines to ìcatchî on the individual fibers in the paper. As the tip gets larger, it 'catches' less and less on each of the fibers.

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