Buying Nibs in Person - What to look out for

It is thanks to you readers that I understand how ignorant I am when it comes to topics such as understanding what beginners go through.

I had thought that my previous post regarding buying nibs would have helped beginners with their nib procurement woes. Yet after reading the post, one of my friends went off to the store and bought a few nibs, then went home to try them out. To her dismay, she found out that several of them were lemons. 

Now, it amazes me how she might have mistaken a lemon for a nib! Is not a lemon yellow, round, and awfully large? For the benefit of those who can not differentiate a lemon from a nib, here is a quick illustration:

Unless, perhaps she was referring to a metaphorical lemon, the "lemon law" lemon, where a sold item is deemed defective?

Anyway, I had to follow her to the shop to replace her lemon nib, and to give her an hour long lecture on how to buy nibs. So to make life easier for the rest of the world, I shall list down what I look out for when buying nibs in person. This list may not cover all bases, but this is what I personally look out for.


The tine gap


First and foremost, the gap between tines should be as small as possible. The nib works by means of capillary action, which is the ability of a liquid to flow in narrow spaces without the assistance of, or even in opposition to, external forces like gravity. Keyword: Narrow.

Capillary action is the reason why water can travel upwards when you stick a piece of tissue into a puddle. 

Capillary action requires the gap between tines to be as fine as possible for it to work its miraculous magic. You aren't supposed to be able to see through the tines of a working nib.

Hence, avoid any nibs which allow you to spy on others while hiding behind your nib.


The lack of rust

This point should be fairly obvious. Nibs come with a layer of protective oil to prevent rust. Sometimes, the layer of protective oil does not do its job well (as with any job in this world), and rust might form on nibs.

Why would you not want a nib with rust? Well... the presence of rust usually means some of the iron has reacted with the environment to become iron oxide, which also means the atomic structure of the nib has been altered. Bad.


the tine length


This point is a little more annoying, and harder to spot. I have had it on a few of my nibs before, and I only found out I was facing this issue when every stroke, up or down, resulted in my nib dragging a bunch of paper fibers with it.

When one tine is longer than the other, the point becomes sharper than it is supposed to be, and it becomes "scratchier" as well. This does not mean a scratchy nib is a lemon. Most of my nibs aren't as smooth as butter, and will create some gorgeous scratching sounds when written with. It only becomes a problem when your nib starts tearing paper fibers, dragging them along, resulting in very thick strokes (caused by the paper fibers).

This is a manufacturing defect, and I've only seen it several times.


The glide test

Just before I sign off on a nib, I will hold the nib and gently run the nib up and down on a piece of paper just to see how well it glides. Do be careful here, though, as you might bend the tines if you hold the nib too upright, or if you use too much force. Some shop keepers would also rather you not taking their nibs for a test drive, so do ask if you are allowed to do so.


I hope this post helps you with buying your nibs, but leave a comment below if you have any other questions regarding the purchasing of nibs!