When you are blessed with a truly unique pen, it only seems fitting to pair it with a truly unique nib. I have had my Lamy custom Urushi pen for a couple years now. If you are not familiar with this pen, several years ago, Brad, Myke and I ** challenged Jonathan Brooks of the Carolina Pen Company to make the most ridiculous pens imaginable. We posed the question, could he Urushi a Lamy Safari or AL-Star? And even, should he? Jonathan is always up for a challenge and at the Atlanta Pen Show some years ago, we handed him two Safaris and one AL-Star to test his skills.
The final results* were nothing short of stunning. This video from Jonathan shows my Urushi-Star in all its glory.
So, between the pandemic and my sheer awe at how awesome my Urushi-Star was, I hadn’t really considered how to best take it to the next level. Until a couple of weeks ago at the Atlanta Pen Show.
I met Matthew Chen who is a relatively new nibmeister and we got to talking about his work and training. He has been honing his craft with Mr. Nagahara of Sailor Pens fame and has been working closely over the last few months with Mike Masayama. Matthew’s dedication and the seal of approval from these two nib grinding legends made me quite comfortable that Matthew was up to the task of making my Urushi-Star even better.
I gave him a Lamy B nib to work with and though it does not have quite as much tipping material as he would have liked, he was able to craft what I think is a delightfully unique writing experience.
I asked him to put a Naganati Togi grind ($50) on the nib. This is an unusual grind that features some of the characteristics of an architect nib coupled with some of the characteristics of a zoom nib. The Naganati Togi has the reverse volume of tipping material like an architect nib so that it will write thicker on cross strokes and thinner on vertical, up-and-down strokes. That is, unless you are a lefty. For me, the architect grind often provides me with a perfect simulation of an italic or stub nib so my down strokes become thicker than my cross strokes which is more consistent with an italic, cursive italic or stub nib.
The zoom nib aspect is what allows the nib to write a finer line when held at a 90º angle on the paper versus a more standard 45-75º angle that most people usually write at. The Naganati Togi does a good just of writing a very fine line when held at a 90º angle which allows me to write in small spaces, add details to drawings or purposely vary the size of my writing as needed.
The overall final line width for my standard writing is similar to a medium cursive italic — it provides a range of line width variation that brings out the colors in my ink and in my handwriting that I really like.
I tested the grind writing with a lefty overhand grip, underhand grip and a side writer with slight variations in the overall line quality but not significant. The nib also wrote smoothly at all the angles I used which is not always the case for me with italics or cursive italics without some adjustment either in the grind or my hand position.
I love the Naganati Togi nib and it is the perfect accompaniment to this extraordinary pen. I will definitely have Matthew grind some other nib for me soon. I think there will be a Concord nib in my future for sure!
- Paper: Rhodia Uni-Blank No. 16 with 6mm guide sheet
- Pens: Lamy AL-Star Bronze with custom Urushi by Jonathan Brooks of Carolina Pen Company (priceless) with custom Naganati Togi nib by Matthew Chen of Matt’s Nibworks ($50)
- Ink: Robert Oster Cherry Blossom ($18 for 50ml bottle)
*NOTE: Do not ask Jonathan Brooks to make you an Urushi Lamy. He made four and he said he would not consider ever making another so don’t ask. That doesn’t mean that there are not other special, rare or unique pens out there for you to have a custom nib grind added. Just not this one.
** To hear me gush about the beauty of my Urushi-Star, listen to Episode 413 of the Pen Addict Podcast. Maybe I’ll be asked onto the show again to gush about the Naganati Togi nib?