An Introductory Guide to Nibs

Nibs are a fascinating and complex topic that encompasses a wide range of factors, including materials, shapes, sizes, and manufacturing processes. As a result, it’s difficult to cover everything in just one article. In this series of articles, we will delve deeper into the world of fountain pen nibs, exploring the different types of nibs, their unique properties and characteristics, and how they affect the writing experience.

In this particular article, we will focus on mass-manufactured nibs such as Bock, Jowo, and Schmidt. These nibs are produced by companies that specialize in manufacturing fountain pen nibs and supply them to a wide range of pen makers. While they may lack some of the uniqueness and character of in-house nibs, mass-manufactured nibs offer a reliable and consistent writing experience that is highly valued by many pen enthusiasts.

By the end of this article, you will have a better understanding of the differences between Bock, Jowo, and Schmidt nibs, their pros and cons, and how to choose the right nib size for your writing needs. Whether you are a seasoned fountain pen user or just starting out, this article will provide you with valuable insights into the world of fountain pen nibs.

Jowo, Bock and Schmidt are probably some of the best-known nib makers in the business, with all three providing nibs to small businesses such as Black Robin Pens, Carolina Pen Company, Dens Pens, Ryan Krusak too more established companies such as Kaweco, Diplomat, Visconti and the list goes on. Pretty much most of the industry is in fact supplied by one of these three companies! 

Using a mainstream nib such as the aforementioned brands has several advantages, especially for small businesses. The primary advantage is that mainstream nibs are readily accessible and affordable compared to handmade nibs. Manufacturing nibs is a complex and expensive process that requires specialized training, equipment, and materials. Therefore, smaller businesses may not have the resources to invest in nib manufacturing. By using mainstream nibs, small businesses can focus on designing and making pens without worrying about the technicalities of nib production.

As we move up the scale in the world of fountain pens, we start to see more established companies that use the same mainstream nib manufacturers but with added customization. One such company that comes to mind is Onoto, an English pen manufacturer with a long history of making high-quality writing instruments.  However, what sets Onoto apart from other manufacturers is the fact that every nib is tuned to perfection by the legendary John Sorowka, one of the UK’s leading nib tuners.

John Sorowka is a well-known figure in the world of fountain pens, having been involved in the industry for over 35 years. He is known for his expertise in tuning nibs to perfection, and his work has been praised by fountain pen enthusiasts all over the world. In fact, many consider him to be one of the best nib tuners in the business.

At Onoto, nibs come in a variety of both Bock and Jowo, with the steel nibs being a mix of both and the gold nibs being Bock. However, it’s worth noting that the nibs used by Onoto are not your typical Bock or Jowo units. Instead, they use a unique Number 7 nib unit that is designed specifically for their pens.

The Number 7 nib unit used by Onoto is a proprietary design that is optimized for fountain pens. The design of the nib allows for smooth and consistent ink flow, as well as a comfortable writing experience. It’s important to note that because the Number 7 nib unit is unique to Onoto, it may not be interchangeable with other brands of pens.

This idea of customising nibs at the factory level is certainly not a new idea, the former debunk Omas in the early 2000’s utilised Bock nibs in their manufacturing and it is believed that the successor to Omas, Scribo, has continued that tradition. 

However, I think one of the biggest advantages of using mass-made nibs is the sheer range of nibs which are available. Bock, Jowo and Shmidt all offer a wide range of nib materials, sizes and line widths. This can only really be a good thing for the consumer wishing to take advantage of customising their pens.

So what are the cons to owning such a readily available nib? It’s pretty simple, to be honest. If you have written with one Jowo/Bock/Schmidt, you’ve pretty much written with them all. Now, of course, certain brands do add their own turning, but for the vast majority of nibs, your experience may be somewhat generic.

Tune into the next article where I will be talking about the pros and cons of-in house made nibs.

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