Last week, I showed the Philadelphia Pen Show through the eyes of a vendor. Hopefully, this was a different viewpoint for some people, but I did end up leaving out some great times. Daytime during a show is often a blur for me, but there is one table that I always make the time to visit. That would be the Franklin-Christoph table.
The Philly pen show is not only the first pen show of the year, but it is also the show where Franklin-Christoph debuts their new color of the year (including a special ink, shown throughout this post) along with an occasional new product. This year, they even introduced a new pen – the 46! (The 46 can be seen in the photo above – the purple swirly patterned pens on the right tray)
In my opinion, though, the highlight of this year’s show was the reintroduction of the beloved SIG nib grind.
Background of the SIG
The SIG nib was brought about by the late Jim Rouse as an in-house specialty from Franklin-Christoph. SIG stands for Stub-Italic-Gradient, a nib that falls in-between a stub nib and an italic nib. The result is a smooth writing experience that has the smooth feel of a stub with the crispness of an italic.
I’ve been a huge fan of the SIG nib for several years. My first SIG nib came from the Colorado Pen show in 2014 – I was amazed that I could select my favorite nib from the testers laid out on the table (I chose a medium steel SIG nib) and pair it with the pen I wanted (an antique glass pocket 66). The most amazing part of the experience, however, was getting to sit down with the nibmeister Jim who wouldn’t allow me to leave until he was sure the pen fit me perfectly. I had never before experienced that level of interaction with a pen, having only purchased them online. I was absolutely hooked. Maybe obsessed is a better word!
The Changing of the Guard
Jim Rouse was taken from the world suddenly and much too soon in July of 2018. Because the SIG nibs were only made by his hand, the grind was removed from the Franklin-Christoph nib selections and the remaining SIG nibs were raffled and auctioned to raise money for his young grandchildren. A beautiful chapter had ended.
Unbeknownst to most of the pen world, however, Jim had taken an apprentice under his wing. Dr. Audrey Matteson, who also worked with Franklin-Christoph, began learning the SIG grind from Jim as a way to expand her skill in the craft.
Although Jim’s passing was a terrible blow to Audrey personally, she kept on with her work, developing her skill and comfort level with the SIG grind. At the Philadelphia Pen Show 2019, the triumphant return of the SIG nib was announced, with Audrey as the nib grinder.
Comparison of SIG to non-SIG
As stated before, the SIG grind is a blend of a stub and an italic nib. What does this do for writing?
I used two Model 45 pens, one with a gold broad nib and one with a gold broad SIG nib, ground by Audrey at the Philly show. Let me introduce to you Purple pen (broad nib) and Captain Sparkles (broad SIG nib), above.
A close-up of the nibs shows the difference in the shape of the tipping material (the color on Captain Sparkle’s nib is ink, not from the grind). The SIG nib has most of the tipping material removed from the top side of the nib and is somewhat squared off.
Another photo, this one taking advantage of the shadow from the nibs. The shape can be seen even more clearly here.
Above is the writing from the Purple pen, using J. Herbin Lierre de Sauvage. Purple and green are always wonderful together.
Above is the writing from Captain Sparkles usingInk ’19 (the 2019 Philadelphia Pen Show ink from Franklin-Christoph). The line variation can be seen clearly along with the crisp edges. The biggest difference can’t be seen. The smoothness of the nib is one thing that I haven’t figured out how to show through a screen yet.
I know the big question in the minds of Franklin-Christoph fans — “How does this SIG nib by Audrey compare to the SIG nibs that were made by Jim?” When I first decided to write about the new SIG nib, it was my full intention to compare the two. But the more I wrote for this article with each pen, I realized that this is a comparison that shouldn’t be done. It wouldn’t be fair to the memory of Jim, nor would it be a service to Audrey. A question you don’t ask a parent, “Which child is your favorite?” is the same that applies here.
The SIG nib by Audrey is an incredible nib and an incredible value. So were those made by Jim. More than just the shape of the nib goes into this grind; the personal attention to individual writing styles, the dedication to getting the nib just right, and the memories of the person talking and laughing with you through the process. My advice is to cherish each opportunity when you get the chance to buy one of these incredible pens and nibs.
Disclosure: All items in this post were purchased by myself and all opinions are mine. I was not compensated in any way for this article.