Ask the Desk: “Razor Fine” Fountain Pens

Pen comparison

Reader Phil asks:

Can you recommend five or so “razor fine” nibs/pens? I am always looking for a good razor fine nib. Is the TWSBI one of them?

The first thing to know is that European and American pen manufacturers use a different criteria for nib widths than the Japanese manufacturers. A Lamy pen labelled as a fine nib is going to create a wider stroke than a Pilot pen that is also labelled as a fine nib.

That said, my best recommendation for razor fine fountain pens are all Japanese made. Pilot makes an XF nib that is very fine. My Pilot Prera is a fine nib as is my Pilot FP 78g and they both create the finest line widths of all the pens in my collection. I’d compare it to a sub-0.5mm (0.38, etc) stroke if you want to compare it to a gel or rollerball measurement.

The TWSBI 540/580 and the Mini both use a European nib. When I initially purchased my TWSBI Mini, I ordered it with a fine nib instead of an XF nib and it was too wide for my taste. Luckily, TWSBI nibs can be swapped out. The XF nib on a TWSBI is comparable to a 0.5mm gel pen to my eyes.

Sailor may be another brand worth checking for a fine width nib on their fountain pens. I have the Sailor Clear Candy in the medium nib which is comparable to a Lamy fine nib in terms of width so the Sailor fine is going to give a fine line for sure.

In the European pens, Lamy, Kaweco and TWSBI all offer XF nib widths which give a fairly fine line but I wouldn’t describe them as “razor fine” as I would the Uni-Ball Signo Bit gel pen.

Budget Fountain Pen comparison sample

Other factors can contribute to how bold or fine your lines look with a fountain pen. Paper quality can affect how thick your lines look. Good paper will keep the ink from seeping into the paper and bleeding the line widths. Also, the viscosity of the ink you are using can contribute to your line widths and overall ink flow. Some fountain pen inks are more liquid-y than others. I find that De Atramentis inks do very well in my finer nib pens as the inks feel more liquid-y. Diamine inks seem a bit stiffer which is great for stub nibs and wider widths but sometimes clog up my razor fine pens.

Did that help or just confuse the issue?

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  1. I have two Hero 616 “accountant” pens. The nibs are very fine and both pens write very smoothly. I think that any of the “accountant” style fountain pens from Asian pen makers would fit the razor fine criteria.

      1. They are considered one of the leading Chinese brands of fountain pens, but you need to be careful when purchasing them. Evidently, there are fake Heroes out there that do not write well. Buy Heroes from a reputable pen dealer or recommended eBay seller. The Hero 616 is a very affordable fountain pen similar to a Parker 51.

  2. I have a Platinum Desk Pen and a Pilot Penmanship. Both pens have an XF Japanese nib, and are fairly fine. The have different flows, so the same ink can seem pretty different in both of them. The Platinum pen has a higher flow (wetter), which I tend to prefer as a lefty underwriter. I have also found Diamine to be fairly dry. One of my projects on the drawing board is to dope a Diamine ink with surfactant to increase the flow.

  3. Pilot Prera – Got it
    Kaweco Sport – Got it
    TWSBI EF – Want it
    Sailor: The Clear Candy uses an F-2 nib for their fine, which is not as fine as the Sailor Hi Ace Neo F-4 Fine or the sailor desk pen. However, the Hi-Ace Neo is only average in my opinion. My favorite to date is the Prera, but I was hoping to get one or two other ideas… looks like only the TWSBI EF is on the wish list.

  4. Don’t forget all the nib miesters that can grind a nib even finer, if needed. For a fee, of course. Just balance the value of a pen and the cost of a nib grind. You can use those cheap Hero pens as nib grinding fodder if you want to learn to grind your own nibs too.

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