Nib grinding experiences

Nib grinding experiences

So, I had this Edson, with a broadish medium nib, and a small burr on the right-hand side of its tip. How it all got this far, is a story I might share some other time.

However, the nib with the burr was a deliberate choice. It was the broadest medium nib available at the store, as the broad was more than double its width. This medium was just right for me, and I had been reading on the Internet that it was possible to change the nib style anyway. Fixing a nib with problems was something the good men and women of PenTrace were hinting at as well. As I had promised to share my experiences, I decided to take notes of my adventures. Well, here they are…

I went out and found 1200 grit wet&dry sandpaper. Some people on the Internet had suggested that 1000 grit was good enough, so I wanted to give it a try. I already owned a small black Arkansas stone, which seemed smoother than the wet&dry; so why not try that too, I thought.

And one evening, after checking that the tines were aligned correctly, I just did. Very carefully, by writing on the wet&dry; in a small puddle of water, I tried to get rid of the burr.

Moving up and down, left and right, in a slow, almost pressureless fashion, and lots of testing in between by cleaning and dipping the pen, the burr was removed. I tried to use some very fine car polish paste to try and polish the end result, but it was rather difficult to apply to a surface as small as the tip of a fountain pen, and I did not dare use a buffing pad on my Dremel. Anyway, as it was, this only required less than fifteen minutes of work. Great, I thought.

However, when using the pen in practice, in real-world use, it felt a bit rougher than before. So, out came the Arkansas stone. Holding the pen still, and moving the stone in a circular motion over the tip in all directions, no pressure applied, seemed to do the trick.

After using the pen “in the field” as it were, for a couple of days, I was not at all that satisfied anymore. The pen tended to write drier and more scratchy than ever before. A kind of grinding experience…

Asking more questions on PenTrace learned that one should really use a very fine grit mylar (12000 grit or thereabouts) for the final finish. Scouring all the hardware stores in the neighborhood of my hometown and my workplace did not result in tracing any mylar whatsoever, or anything like it.

What I did find was a 30 X loupe normally used for small gemstones and diamonds, and a Dremel emery polishing disk, however. The latter was not only very cheap, but also finer than either my Arkansas stone, or the 1200 grit wet&dry, and was flexible as well. learn more about parker pens at

Good. Gave that a try, holding the pen once more in my left hand, and the disk in the right one. A lot easier to work with than the Arkansas stone, making circular movements in a single plane, and rotating my hand all the way around the tip of the nib. Just making sure not to catch the nib in the hole in the middle.

The result was quite a bit better than before, and basically, it became a double-sided nib as a side effect, medium on the one side, and fine when reversed, a bit akin to the ItaliFine nibs of Richard Binder, I guess (not Italic obviously, but certainly a dual nib).

In the meantime, I had also acquired an ST Dupont Orpheo, with a fine nib, which was incredibly smooth. Smoother than the Edson either way around, or than it ever had been.

Listen, it was writing very well indeed now, better than any other pens in my possession, like my Pelikan M800 for example (yes advancing my pen collection rather rapidly), but, after all, I happen to be a perfectionist.

Getting frustrated and all, and not having too much time to spare, I decided to do a search on the Internet, and finally found what I was looking for. 3M 12000 grit on a plastic film, called International Lapping Film (that would be the mylar, I assumed), and Micromesh, up to grit 12000, in Micromesh terms, which in fact turned out to be approximately 6000 grit.

Both could be had from the same shop, in Belgium, but not very far away from where I live, only 25 kilometers (15 miles) down the motorway. My hometown is in the Netherlands, but only just.

So, one morning after a phone call to see whether this shop sold to private persons as well, as it seemed to be an industrial supplier rather than a retail shop, I found out they actually did and set off to visit them. I ended up buying a Micromesh set up to grit 6000, good for polishing a perspex airplane canopy to perfection, added additional sheets in grade 8000 and 12000, a sheet of 3M’s International Lapping Film grit 8000, and one in 12000, plus a quantity of water-soluble polishing paste, also for use with perspex, and thus only very mildly abrasive.

Tools used

  • plenty of water
  • plenty of ink
  • plenty of toweling
  • different kinds of writing paper
  • loupe (30X, diamond loupe)
  • small black Arkansas stone
  • grey Dremel emery polishing wheel
  • 1 sheet 1200 grit wet-dry sandpaper
  • Micro-Mesh set (6 sheets MicroMesh grainsize1500, 1800, 2400, 3600, 4000, and 6000, 1 bottle of antistatic water-soluble polishing fluid, 1 foam rubber polishing block, 1 very fine linen polishing/cleaning cloth), with an additional
  • 1 sheet of 8000 and 12000-grain size.
  • 1 sheet 3M Imperial Lapping Film, light green, 1 micron1 sheet 3M Imperial Lapping Film, white, 0.3 micro
  • scanner, and simple rig to scan the nib at 2400 dpi

A couple of days later I had the opportunity to try out my newly acquired set, on a pen that had its nib bent 90 degrees, and straightened again. It needed buffing, as the pen repair person had to do a job for me in a hurry. I needed the pen the day before yesterday.

So I buffed at the little nick it was showing because some of the gold on the nib had burrs where it was bent previously. It worked out really wonderfully, no problem. Using the 12000 Micromesh on the foam buffer pad that came with the set, the burrs were worked away quite easily. Finishing it to a shine was achieved by using the liquid polish and the buffing cloth that was provided with the Micromesh set.

Lovely. No damage could be seen anymore at all, and the pen wrote like a dream, smoother than my Edson, comparing favorably to the Dupont. Ok, I thought, this is it, I just have to try it. Not today, though, other things to do, and I want to play with this on some cheap pens as well, before having a go at the Edson.

A week later or so, the converter of the Edson happened to be empty again while I was sitting at my desk in the basement. Right in the weekend. what an opportunity! It was 

Saturday night late, and I was not going to disturb anyone doing it either. I cleaned it out, rinsed, splashed, flushed, and gargled, got all the tools out, and worked the nib first with the 12000 Micromesh on the buffing pad. This was done again by making circular movements in the three dimensions of the nib point, while holding the pen still, using plenty of water as a lubricant, and checking often with a 30 X loupe.

Now over to the International Lapping Film, 12000 grit. A piece was cut, big enough to cover the foam pad and hold it comfortably. The same technique was applied, and now I noticed that the nib point, the “iridium”, started to shine, which it did not do before.

Testing it revealed that there was a slight bit of sharp tooth left on the right-hand side of the nib, so I worked it a bit more, concentrating on that side.

Next try: it was fine now, it felt smooth. A good rinse, flush, and cleaning followed suit. Testing it on 5 different kinds of paper, from cheap, rough stuff to very smooth and G. Lalo, proved that it was writing absolutely fantastically now, on any paper! Well, at least the stuff I had around.

Time to fill the converter, and do a comparison. Seemed to be as smooth as the Dupont now, with still some feel to the paper. It was gliding marvelously across the paper, totally effortlessly.

Ok, what about my M800? That was still a bit rough also and tended to start with some difficulty. Studying its nib with the loupe revealed a couple of very sharp edges to the point, so it got the same treatment. A bit more carefully, though, as it was (is) an oblique nib. I wanted to maintain its specific character after all. Well, needless to say, really, but this seemed to succeed as well. It now has still some bite, but it writes smoothly, rather than catching the paper as it did before, and the shading it produces is still ok.

As I had this awful Duofold Centennial lying around as well, which used to be messed up due to dried-up Penman ink in combination with a bad nib. The second nib it had now, was still a rather scratchy one, even having been back to the manufacturer or importer twice in the last six weeks or so. Ok, why not take a look at that one as well, while I was busy torturing nibs anyway.

Got it out of its pen wallet, and tried to scratch some words with it on paper. This actually made me furious, and I got working on it like a madman for about ten minutes. Actually, before doing so, I noticed, having a bit more experience, that it really had a funny sweet spot. You could only write with it well when holding the thing at an awkward, almost vertical angle!

It was fixed for the most part, as I can write with it now under any angle, almost, but it is still a bit of a scratching exercise. Maybe I’ll just turn it into something else sometime, but rather not now. Enough for a day’s (night’s) work…

You may wonder how much time was spent doing all these jobs. Getting all the stuff out, fixing these pens, and cleaning up took all of about fifty to sixty minutes, that’s all. And I was getting faster at it as well…

A couple of days into writing with the Edson, the converter was getting empty again, I noticed that there still was some bite in the nib, especially moving it sideways, to the left. Of course, I did not like that, and got out all the tools again, cleaned the pen, and looked at the tip aided by the loupe. I noticed the edges of the “iridium” on the inside, where the slit is, seemed rather sharp, so I stuck the Lapping Film between the tines and started to move it forward and backward while bending the film a little, both around and over the nib, to catch all sides of the slit. Turned the film around, and did the same with the other tine.

Less than 10 minutes later, I could see the difference with the loupe and tried to write with it again. Wow, smooth! No catching anymore. Cleaned everything up, flushed out the pen once more, and refilled.

This is now my best, smoothest writer, even better than the Dupont. Absolutely no effort required.

It’s two weeks later now, several refills later, and it is absolutely great. Wow! I love it.

Now, you may ask, would I recommend this practice to others?

Well, if you’re not afraid to do this kind of thing, in very little doses with the right kind of tools, I would exclaim wholeheartedly “Yes, go for it!”. However, make sure you’re comfortable with it and practice on some cheaper pens first. I know, I did not in the end, but I think I have been lucky…

As long as you take it in small, tiny steps, exert no pressure, check your work continuously with a loupe, and by trying out the pen, you are fixing, on paper, the chances of doing harm to a pen are minimal.

Use your common sense. If you can’t get at least some of the results I described here in 20 minutes or less, you should send your pen to a nib meister.

Don’t grind away all of the “iridium”. You should not really be able to see you’ve ground anything away, apart from seeing smoother edges on the tip, unless you’re trying to achieve stubs, obliques or italics starting off from a standard type nib point. But that might just be something for another installment.