Author Topic: Why do people use vintage nibs?  (Read 4473 times)

Offline Carina_I

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Why do people use vintage nibs?
« on: December 20, 2015, 04:28:26 PM »
I have a question. Why do people use vintage nibs? I don't mean nibs that have been in production for 100+ years; I mean the nibs that have been discontinued and are no longer being made. What if you use those nibs and decide that you really liked that nib -- like it became your favourite nib? Then what? If that nib is no longer in production, then you can't get any more. Especially for rare nibs, once you use up your current supply, even if you loved that nib, you can't get any more and you have to resort to using a nib that you don't really like as much.

Or is it because the nib is rare that you want to use it?

Does anybody who has a particular liking for rare/vintage nibs have an answer?

Offline Heebs

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Re: Why do people use vintage nibs?
« Reply #1 on: December 20, 2015, 08:18:56 PM »
Everyone will have their reasons but I use them because they're great to write with and make my writing experience much better. I'd rather enjoy using them while I can, even if I risk running out and switching to something else, than keeping them stored away and not fulfill their purpose for being created.

Some people collect them and never use them and that's fine, their nibs so they can do what they want.

There's a reason why prices are skyrocketing for the sought after vintage nibs, not only because people want to try them but because they want to get as many as they can before they're too expensive/gone.

I got in before inflation went wild and I've gotten very lucky so I've got no problem using my vintage Spencerian 1's or Gillott 303's because it'll be years before I run out of either but not everyone is as fortunate. There are also cheaper, lesser known, vintage nibs that work great and area relatively easier to collect in gross quantities but everyone wants the dream points...

Offline Carina_I

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Re: Why do people use vintage nibs?
« Reply #2 on: December 20, 2015, 10:15:17 PM »
Everyone will have their reasons but I use them because they're great to write with and make my writing experience much better. I'd rather enjoy using them while I can, even if I risk running out and switching to something else, than keeping them stored away and not fulfill their purpose for being created.

Some people collect them and never use them and that's fine, their nibs so they can do what they want.

There's a reason why prices are skyrocketing for the sought after vintage nibs, not only because people want to try them but because they want to get as many as they can before they're too expensive/gone.

I got in before inflation went wild and I've gotten very lucky so I've got no problem using my vintage Spencerian 1's or Gillott 303's because it'll be years before I run out of either but not everyone is as fortunate. There are also cheaper, lesser known, vintage nibs that work great and area relatively easier to collect in gross quantities but everyone wants the dream points...

That's interesting. Would you say vintage nibs, on average, write better than modern day nibs?

Offline prasad

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Re: Why do people use vintage nibs?
« Reply #3 on: December 21, 2015, 12:03:26 AM »
From what I gather and from using a few vintage nibs, they are better made than the modern ones.

A direct comparison could be the Gillott 303 nibs.  They have 3 varieties, (that I know of), Oldest which are hand ground and bronze in colour, 2nd type that have stamped grooves and are bronze and the modern ones that are blue.  The oldest ones, being hand made had better quality control and write better.  The new (in production) ones are hit and miss.  You could get 50 nibs and just 20 or 30 would even work. 

Of course, the new nibs are much much cheaper than vintage and that is a consideration to keep in mind. 

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Offline Heebs

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Re: Why do people use vintage nibs?
« Reply #4 on: December 21, 2015, 01:18:52 AM »
There are a few trade-offs but for the most part vintage nibs will write smoother due to that quality control Prasad mentioned along with the attention to detail paid back then. The one thing modern nibs give easier access to is the super high flexibility found in the Principal EF, (modern) Gillott 303 and Brause 66EF to name a few however it comes at a cost of quality control (most modern super flexible nibs are quite sharp as well, nothing a light hand wont cancel out).

The more sought after vintage nibs will usually be high quality control, smooth and high flexibility all in one package while modern nibs usually offer one of those traits.

Offline sybillevz

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Re: Why do people use vintage nibs?
« Reply #5 on: December 21, 2015, 02:37:04 AM »
For my part, I can't really find the great vintage nibs here (303, spencerian, Esterbrook...) but I do try quite a lot of the french vintage nibs.
The reason I look for them is they are much cheaper (0,13 - 0,30 most of the time) than modern nibs and some of them are really nice. The only modern nib I really use is the EF Principal, because they are the most flexible, but not as cheap.

Heebs once recommended a good belgian nib I would have loved to find and try... but it's become very rare here as collectors got them all  :'( !

Offline AndyT

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Re: Why do people use vintage nibs?
« Reply #6 on: December 21, 2015, 04:40:05 AM »
The whole vintage nib thing is the reason why I became interested in quills!  For the most part the hype is true, because the old ones were made when labour was cheap so they're invariably better finished and the proportion of duds is close to zero.  Price and availability are problematic though, and the situation is unlikely to improve.  Taking the Gillott 303 for example, since it's the nib I know best, the modern item is very capable but it's far more difficult to get on with than the vintage and the chances of getting a bad one are pretty high.  They're cheap though, do the job and the supply is assured, so I've decided to put up with the scratchiness, sudden nib death syndrome and all since in the end they're consumables.

Provided you don't develop a taste for the sought after pens, the less well known nibs can often be an absolute bargain, so it's definitely worth keeping an eye open.  Don't expect to stumble across boxes of Principalities for $5 too often though - those days are gone.

Offline melanie jane

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Re: Why do people use vintage nibs?
« Reply #7 on: December 21, 2015, 07:55:30 AM »
For me, I find them nicer to write with, and with better consistency due to better quality control.  There are a lot of good nibs out there still going for $20-$30 for a box of 144, which makes them an absolute bargain compared to modern nibs.  It takes a little trial and error to find the ones you like, but as long as you buy at sensible prices, you should be able to resell any that you don't like and recoup your money.

The only slight issue with buying boxes of them is occasionally a large percentage of them are rusty.  However, if you go for an open box with a photo of the contents, you should be fine.

Carina, my offer of sending you some vintage nibs still stands - if you find one you like you could then watch out for a box, which would be the cheapest way of buying nibs.
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Offline Carina_I

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Re: Why do people use vintage nibs?
« Reply #8 on: December 21, 2015, 01:27:47 PM »
So why are vintage nibs a higher quality than modern day nibs? Shouldn't it be the other way around -- as technology increases and advances, shouldn't nib production also advance to produce higher quality nibs?

Offline Heebs

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Re: Why do people use vintage nibs?
« Reply #9 on: December 21, 2015, 02:10:51 PM »
There's quite a few discussions about that (however I don't remember where they are) but basically the supply and demand for calligraphy supplies today is not what it was back then. The industrial revolution did away with the demand for high quality penmanship but before the typewriter took over there was such a high demand for nibs that it was very profitable to spend the time and money on perfecting the production of nibs. Nibs were individually hand ground and inspected in many cases.

Today the demand isn't nearly as high so spending too much time on R&D along with quality control isn't much of a priority. Unless calligraphy comes back in a huge way, and we can argue that with the advent of social media it (relatively) has, there's no motivation for nib makers to invest in making a higher quality item that matches products from the Golden Age.
« Last Edit: December 21, 2015, 02:12:43 PM by Heebs »

Offline schin

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Re: Why do people use vintage nibs?
« Reply #10 on: December 21, 2015, 02:21:25 PM »
I like modern day nibs, I compare it to a good ol Ford Fiesta, easy to drive, great mileage, gets me to the shops, I can put my groceries in the trunk, gets the job done. A perfectly good car for any job!

But sometimes... I like to use the 604EF Musselman Lamborghini... it's expensive, it's show offish, I can't fit more than two bottles of water in it but it's a joyyyyy to drive in the countryside or a spin at the race track! I also have Ferraris, Zondas, Koenigseggs... each with their own little quirk that make it fun to write uh I mean drive with. A regular Toyota driver (or calligraphy beginner) may not understand it or may even crash the car if they try too early!

Unfortunately our great 21st century technology do not apply to vintage nibs, simply because there is not much demand for it. People now just use ballpoints or gel pens, and there is no need for nibs anymore, so production quality (plus it's kinda illegal to hire cheap child labor now) went downhill. Even the best quality nibs (Nikko/Zebra) weren't meant for calligraphers, they were meant for artists lol.
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Offline AndyT

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Re: Why do people use vintage nibs?
« Reply #11 on: December 21, 2015, 02:42:49 PM »
So why are vintage nibs a higher quality than modern day nibs? Shouldn't it be the other way around -- as technology increases and advances, shouldn't nib production also advance to produce higher quality nibs?

Labour costs and a much smaller market, in a nutshell.  Also loss of toolmaking and setting skills.  The materials and processes are much the same as they ever were (although many corners have been cut), but there doesn't seem to much investment in technology.  If a manufacturer, almost certainly Japanese, perceived a market for a premium product there's no real reason why exceedingly good nibs shouldn't be made again, but I wonder how many of us would be prepared to pay for them?

Schin: I saw you showing off all your cars last night - very nice.  I think the modern 303 is more of a Mini Cooper than a Ford Fiesta though ... surprisingly nippy.  :)

Offline AnasaziWrites

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Re: Why do people use vintage nibs?
« Reply #12 on: December 21, 2015, 05:35:54 PM »
  Also loss of toolmaking and setting skills.
I wonder if a 3D printer could make them.

Offline AAAndrew

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Re: Why do people use vintage nibs?
« Reply #13 on: December 23, 2015, 07:40:37 AM »
Even vintage nibs are not all the same. Take Esterbrooks, for example. I'll use them since I know them best.

When dip pens were the norm and Birmingham was pumping out millions of the nibs a week, quality was, ironically, the best. There was money to be made and labor was relatively cheap. It was mostly women, not children or men, who did most of the work. Men ran the furnaces and foundries to do the tempering and coating, but mostly women did the stamping, shaping, cutting, and, most importantly, the polishing.

Even though steam power was used for power, it was still mostly a hand-made object. Each of those millions of nibs had to be handled each step of the way. And where the care and expertise of a skilled operator came in, was in the polishing.

Take a look at any old Esterbrook, or another good example is the Spencerian No. 1. The early Spencerians, the grind on the top of the nib is even, carefully done, and follows the contours of the side slits. Later, when speed was important and cost was king, they used fewer people so grinding got sloppy. You'll see nibs where they just ground it across the whole top from side to side. Then you'll see the grinds get even sloppier to just a quick swipe on the emery wheel in the center. And finally, you get what you have today on most pens, stamped grooves. These came in at most manufacturers like Esterbrook in the 30's, when fountain pens began to truly win the writing wars. Stamping requires much less hand-work and so you can use just a few people for a lot of nibs. Some models of nibs, like the higher-end nibs for decorative writing that required sharp points and real flexibility, they continued to hand-grind, but most went for grooves, or just stopped doing anything (like the Esterbrook 14 Bank Pen).

This all is the same for tip shaping and overall quality control. Eagle pen nibs from the 30's onward are especially prone to poor quality control, especially compared to the very superior products made prior to that time. You'll find poorly stamped slits and holes, misaligned tines, even broken tines, in nibs that got shipped out. And Eagle wasn't the only one. The very best quality nibs seem to come from the 1920's and earlier, with the late 19th-century as the hight of quality and care of manufacturing for most companies.

For me, vintage nibs are great because of the variety. Just like vintage fountain pens, they were made at a time where these were everyone's primary means of writing, so they were actually made for serious, daily writing. There were also a lot of different schools of handwriting, from the well-known Spencerian and Roundhand, Palmer and Italic, to the less-known, and sometimes quickly-passing fads, like Vertical and Modified Slant writing. The big houses made nibs for all of these, sometimes just re-labeling an existing nib that seemed to work, sometimes designing one, or stealing someone else's design from scratch.

There are also the aesthetics of some nibs. The breather hole, the shape, the cuts, the grinds can all give a unique aesthetic experience that I just don't get from a Zebra G.

And recently, I've become interested in some of the history as well. But that's a whole different topic.

A bit long-winded, but there you go. But I think the rest of you should stop buying vintage and just patronize the modern nib makers to encourage them to keep going. Yeah, that's it. I'll do the dirty work of collecting preserving these vintage nibs, just purely for ecological reasons, to keep them out of landfills. I'm just a nice guy that way.  ::)
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Offline AAAndrew

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Re: Why do people use vintage nibs?
« Reply #14 on: December 23, 2015, 12:44:52 PM »
To illustrate the variety of vintage nibs, here are the four nibs I just happen to have in holders, writing the same word. The visual differences are not nearly as great as the difference in experience in writing with them all. Size of nib, smoothness of point, spring (especially the 126 Double Spring) can all impact the writing experience. You don't get quite that much variation in modern nibs.

Do they even make modern stub dip nibs?

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