Nib Review: Grind from NibSmith

By Jessica Coles

As promised in last week’s review of the Pelikan Violet & White fountain pen, this week’s review is all about the nib I chose for this beautiful pen.


I have previously had experience with both steel (Amythyst M200) Pelikan nibs and gold (Honey and White M400) Pelikan nibs. I have enjoyed the quality of both the steel and gold nibs, however, my writing preference has always pulled towards very fine nibs. Even with the extra fine nib in the Pelikan line-up, I found they were still too broad for my taste.

With the Pelikan Violet & White fountain pen, I decided to look outside of the standard nib offerings from Pelikan into a custom ground nib.

For anyone who has not experienced a custom ground nib, I cannot recommend this option enough. No stock nib (extra fine, fine, medium, broad, etc.) can come close to the feel of a nib that has been ground by an experienced nibmeister.

Typical stock nibs (excluding stub nibs) are tipped with a small ball of iridium. The effect of this ball is to give a smoother writing experience (because of the rounded tip) and to give the nib a longer life (iridium is a very hard material, harder than steel or gold). However, the rounded surface of the nib also gives a wider line. Imagine using a used crayon with a rounded tip. It writes smoothly but puts down a wide line.

Enter a nib meister. Using various tools, a nib meister removes a portion of this tipping material to shape the amount of the nib that will come into contact with the paper while writing. by changing the shape of the nib tip, the width and shape of the written lines also change.

Common nib grinds include narrowing the tip (changing from a fine to an extra extra fine, for instance), a stub nib (shaping the tip of the nib into a rectangle rather than a ball), italic nib (a stub nib with sharp edges for a crisp line) and others. Here is a more detailed explaination.

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Now for the tough part. Because custom ground nibs are, well, custom, they are not an item that can be ordered from the manufacturer. Some manufacturers offer custom ground nibs for an additional fee with their pens, and nib meisters offer their grinding services on nibs that you already have purchased. Nib meisters, however, often have long waits for their services. Pen shows are the best place to find these services since the nib meister can also make minute changes to make sure the nib is right for your writing style.

Unfortunately, not everyone can attend a pen show. Even at a pen show, nib grinding services are in high demand and waitlists often fill as the show is starting. Dan Smith of Nibsmith offers an interesting way around this problem by offering a variety of custom nib grinds on any pen sold in his store. These are also offered at his table at pen shows where he grinds nibs to order.

The first time I tried a custom ground nib, my fountain pen experience reached a new level – a needlepoint nib that was finer than any I had ever tried previously. Stub nibs that created a thick line (but with clean edges) in one direction and a fine line in another direction! My writing looked completely different (much nicer in my opinion).

This is the reason I decided to obtain my Pelikan pen from Dan. I requested a cursive italic nib grind on a medium nib (this means the tip of the nib is made into a rectangle with somewhat sharp edges) and I asked Dan to make the cursive italic a bit on the crisp side (to make the edges a bit sharper).

These small changes in the nib (only a small amount of material is removed from the nib but in a very specific way) make a world of difference. The vertical lines are thick, the horizontal lines are thin and the edges of all lines are well defined and not rounded. I am amazed at the difference in the appearance of my line and each time I write, I smile at the feel and look of my writing.

If you are able to attend a pen show, Dan offers each of his nib grinds on sample pens to help with selecting the nib grind best for your taste. If you can’t get to a show, you can still experience these next-level nibs on pens purchased from Dan just by ordering online!

Disclaimer: Some of the items in this review were provided on loan for the purpose of this review. Other items in this review were purchased by me.  For more information, visit our About page.

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2 comments / Add your comment below

  1. I’ve just received a Pilot 74 with an architect nib from Dan. I’m so happy with this grind. And the customer service is very good! Couldn’t be more happy!

  2. I also purchased a Pelikan Violet and White fountain pen from Dan and had him do an italic grind on a medium nib. As usual, his work is perfect and the pen writes beautifully!!

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