Author Topic: Reason for Vintage Nibs' Quality?  (Read 2162 times)

Offline Daniel Mastrofski

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Reason for Vintage Nibs' Quality?
« on: September 02, 2016, 07:01:04 PM »
I am really discovering the huge difference between modern nibs and vintage.
Albeit I have only bought vintage Hunt22 and Esterbrook354's but the difference is huge to my hands.

Can anyone help me understand further what it is exactly that makes vintage nibs so high quality?
How were they made different back in the day vs now?  Materials differ? Would love to know why
the modern state of nibs is less sought after vs vintage.  I may have just picked up a really expensive
but worthwhile habit.

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Offline prasad

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Re: Reason for Vintage Nibs' Quality?
« Reply #1 on: September 02, 2016, 09:42:41 PM »
Hi Daniel,
I have seen this too.  Not only in dip nibs, but also fountain pens. Even FP's that we're at their time considered entry level pens or student pens, write much better, on average, than most modern nibs.

I have read some posts on here and feel that most of it is down to manufacturing techniques.
Lot of the vintage nibs were stamped out and then ground by hand.
You can see grinding marks on the older nibs unlike the uniform grooves stamped out on later nibs.

As each nib was hand ground, they were also individually checked.  Better Quality Control.

 I don't think it would be material difference as we are probably better at material formulation now. 

Looking at a demand supply thing,  there obviously isn't enough demand for dip nibs today for them to manufacture the nibs to vintage standards. L P ef nibs are probably the closest we have to vintage and they are expensive.

So if you like the 354's,  Hoard away.  ;) :D

We are all guilty of hoarding.

Happy writing
Prasad
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Offline Daniel Mastrofski

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Re: Reason for Vintage Nibs' Quality?
« Reply #2 on: September 03, 2016, 02:15:30 PM »
@prasad hoard away i will! I appreciate you sharing your knowledge here. Would you mind explaining a little more about the other vintage esterbrook nibs that i might take interest in? I really dont know what the difference between them are. So far i have learned that the 354 is great for smaller lettering.  It reminds me of the gillott 303 but way higher quality.  I understand that the EB355 is a little harder than the 354.  Asides from that i have no clue what these other ones produce.  Thx for your thoughts on the matter!
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Offline Daniel Mastrofski

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Re: Reason for Vintage Nibs' Quality?
« Reply #3 on: September 03, 2016, 04:42:11 PM »
Just bought these on Ebay

Esterbrook 358, 356, 355, 354 & Hunt #100, 103.
Yum Yum.
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Offline penstaff

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Re: Reason for Vintage Nibs' Quality?
« Reply #4 on: September 22, 2016, 12:29:40 PM »
There was a vast difference between vintage steel and todays inferior steel, plus being hand-ground, much more quality control of the the nib while it was being made. Some of the old paperwork said it took 2 days to make a nib - hard to believe, but I suppose it is true. The only decent (good) currently made nib is the Leonardt Principal EF nib...for pointed pen lettering. When hard pressed to find vintage nibs try this one (I sell them 5/$11.95 plus postage so they are very reasonable). BUT, I have a vast inventory of vintage nibs that I sell on Ebay and around the world so if there is something that you want, need or want to try let me know...no order too large or too small.
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Offline AndyT

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Re: Reason for Vintage Nibs' Quality?
« Reply #5 on: September 22, 2016, 02:31:33 PM »
There was a vast difference between vintage steel and todays inferior steel ...

On the contrary, the main differences between modern spring steel as used in pens and "vintage steel" are improved consistency of analysis and marginally better corrosion resistance in the modern product due to carefully controlled use of improvers, notably silicon and chromium.  The much vaunted superiority of vintage nibs has nothing to do with magical materials, and everything to do with bygone employment practices. 

Offline melanie jane

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Re: Reason for Vintage Nibs' Quality?
« Reply #6 on: September 22, 2016, 03:29:25 PM »
Just to muddy the waters even further, there can be a vast difference in the quality of vintage nibs, depending on manufacturer, and when they were made.

With regards to age, as a general rule, the older the better.  Manufacturer is a little harder - generally English nibs are excellent, French and German nibs are also generally of a high quality.  From my experience, Italian nibs are a bit hit and miss.  I don't have much experience with American nibs, so I'll let someone else comment on them.
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Offline Daniel Mastrofski

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Re: Reason for Vintage Nibs' Quality?
« Reply #7 on: September 22, 2016, 06:02:36 PM »
Just to muddy the waters even further, there can be a vast difference in the quality of vintage nibs, depending on manufacturer, and when they were made.

With regards to age, as a general rule, the older the better.  Manufacturer is a little harder - generally English nibs are excellent, French and German nibs are also generally of a high quality.  From my experience, Italian nibs are a bit hit and miss.  I don't have much experience with American nibs, so I'll let someone else comment on them.

and the Soviet era nibs?    :P ???
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Offline melanie jane

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Re: Reason for Vintage Nibs' Quality?
« Reply #8 on: September 22, 2016, 06:21:52 PM »

and the Soviet era nibs?    :P ???

I've never seen anything that's made me want to try them out (and that from someone who has a LARGE collection of vintage nibs) ;)   

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Offline Elizgadus59

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Re: Reason for Vintage Nibs' Quality?
« Reply #9 on: June 12, 2017, 05:35:07 PM »
 I have become addicted to Esterbrook nibs which im finding are, hard to find.  My reason for using vintage nibs is that they work well for me... If I could get modern nibs that gave me the same play and feel as my Esterbrooks do I would'n mind the switch.  I also like Gillot and Mitchell. I like a stiff nib and Esterbrook works well , And unlike modern nibs it seems to be agreeable with a variety of stock.  So, that being said, does anyone know where to get some?

Eliz.

Offline AAAndrew

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Re: Reason for Vintage Nibs' Quality?
« Reply #10 on: June 13, 2017, 09:56:38 AM »
As someone who has a few nibs lying around and has personally tried several hundred different ones in my collection, I have a couple of thoughts.

As Andy said, it's not so much the steel as the way they were made. Each nib was hand pressed, hand ground, hand polished (granted, in large bins spinning round and round, but loaded and unloaded by hand) and inspected.

The change in quality over time of vintage nibs was due to the decreasing amount of hand work and increasing amount of mechanization, especially after about 1935. As fountain pens took over, and labor became more expensive, the dip nib companies reduced their workforce to try and survive. Only a couple have, the rest fell by the wayside. Some, like Eagle, dropped quality earlier and more precipitously, others like Esterbrook and Turner & Harrison kept quality pretty good up to fairly late. You do see in later Esterbrooks signs like stamped grooves rather than hand grinding that illustrate the shortcuts they were trying to take to reduce labor and therefor costs. The very best quality examples are from 1920 and earlier.

The British manufacturers kept up hand grinding, and even double grinding, much later than the Americans, but even they began to drop standards.

Modern pens are pretty much all machine-made and the quality is inconsistently inconsistent.

Like Eliz, I'm a big Esterbrook fan and have a fair number. I am especially fond of their more every-day pens, like the vertical writers and others. But don't overlook the other big American manufacturers like early Hunt, and Eagles that don't come in the 1930's boxes with the deco eagle. And one of my other favorites, Turner & Harrison. Not as well known but their quality was always spot on. All but one of their presidents through the life of the company started out on the factory floor actually making pens, so they knew what was needed, and important, in making a quality steel pen.

So, my collection is all vintage. I have fewer quality issues and a broader selection, and can often find them cheaper than modern.
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Offline schun

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Re: Reason for Vintage Nibs' Quality?
« Reply #11 on: June 14, 2017, 10:38:40 AM »
The change in quality over time of vintage nibs was due to the decreasing amount of hand work and increasing amount of mechanization, especially after about 1935. As fountain pens took over, and labor became more expensive, the dip nib companies reduced their workforce to try and survive. Only a couple have, the rest fell by the wayside. Some, like Eagle, dropped quality earlier and more precipitously, others like Esterbrook and Turner & Harrison kept quality pretty good up to fairly late. You do see in later Esterbrooks signs like stamped grooves rather than hand grinding that illustrate the shortcuts they were trying to take to reduce labor and therefor costs. The very best quality examples are from 1920 and earlier.

What a fascinating thread.

Does this mean that when you purchase vintage nibs, you have to make sure that they were made before the 1930s? I noticed that the manufacturing dates are not advertised on the ebay listings that I've seen.

I recently picked up a couple of Gillott 303s that belonged to a draftsman who worked in the 1960s. I assumed them to be of "vintage quality". I haven't tried them yet, but is there a chance I will be disappointed?

Offline AnasaziWrites

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Re: Reason for Vintage Nibs' Quality?
« Reply #12 on: June 14, 2017, 01:10:35 PM »
The change in quality over time of vintage nibs was due to the decreasing amount of hand work and increasing amount of mechanization, especially after about 1935. As fountain pens took over, and labor became more expensive, the dip nib companies reduced their workforce to try and survive. Only a couple have, the rest fell by the wayside. Some, like Eagle, dropped quality earlier and more precipitously, others like Esterbrook and Turner & Harrison kept quality pretty good up to fairly late. You do see in later Esterbrooks signs like stamped grooves rather than hand grinding that illustrate the shortcuts they were trying to take to reduce labor and therefor costs. The very best quality examples are from 1920 and earlier.

What a fascinating thread.

Does this mean that when you purchase vintage nibs, you have to make sure that they were made before the 1930s? I noticed that the manufacturing dates are not advertised on the ebay listings that I've seen.

I recently picked up a couple of Gillott 303s that belonged to a draftsman who worked in the 1960s. I assumed them to be of "vintage quality". I haven't tried them yet, but is there a chance I will be disappointed?
You'll probably like what you have. There are three types of Gillott 303 nibs. The vintage ones are bronze colored, the earliest is hand ground. Post WW1 they were stamped with grooves. The modern ones are blue colored.
You may find this discussion interesting:
http://theflourishforum.com/forum/index.php?topic=4119.0

and also this video by Schin, showing a comparison between the new and vintage G303. This video also shows good results can be had with either. It's more about the skill of the writer.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RlzQqyLqVEk



Offline AAAndrew

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Re: Reason for Vintage Nibs' Quality?
« Reply #13 on: June 14, 2017, 02:27:13 PM »
With American pens, if it says "Made in USA" it's 1930's or later. That doesn't necessarily mean it's bad, and because it doesn't say that doesn't necessarily mean it's good. With Esterbrooks, I do feel safe in generalizing that any of them without the Made in USA will be good quality. The really early ones ("R. Esterbrook & Co's" or any with no "R" just "Esterbrook & Co" or " Esterbrook & CO" are VERY good. The & Co's date to 1890 - 1922 or so. The "No-R" Esterbrook impressions are before that date.

You can also look at the grind on a nib and that can give you some idea of the care taken with it. If the grind is carefully done, like it might follow the lines of the side slits, or if it has a double grind (both perpendicular and parallel to the slit on different parts of the nib) it's most likely a nicely-finished nib.

Some brands are better known for solid quality control, like Gillott, Esterbrook, Turner & Harrison, Birmingham Pen Co., Perry, Spencerian (which I believe was made by Perry), and some others. Some had more "bargain" sub-brands like Esterbrook's Penesco line. Turner and Harrison had their standard line, marked Turner & Harrison, which was consistently good quality, as well as their premier line, Leon Issac's Glucinum Pens, which are always of very good quality.

So, to sum up, for American Pens, no Made in USA usually means an older (and better) pen (except Hunt and Eagle often put "USA" on their pens even before the 1930's, so it can be confusing with them). A carefully hand-ground pen (as opposed to a stamped, or messy grind) almost always means a good quality pen. A double ground pen ALWAYS means a very good quality pen. (but many very good quality stub nibs didn't have grinds, though some did even though it has no impact on a stub nib, it was still seen as a mark of quality). If you're looking for Esterbrooks, "& Co's" and "No-R" imprints are the best, "& Co" without Made in USA is still good, with "Made in USA" can still be good, "Made in USA" with stamped grooves instead of a grind should be avoided, though they will still often be more consistently good than some modern pens.

My two-cents worth
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