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Glossopedia of Pen Terms

(This page revised October 28, 2022)

Introduction  A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z  Numbers

Reference Info Index | Glossary of Paper Terms  ]


nacre See Pearl and Black (definition 2).
nail Mildly derisive colloquial term for an extremely rigid nib, such as those found on most vintage Parker Duofolds and Sheaffer Lifetime pens from the 1920s and 1930s. See also manifold, nib.
nanoparticle Nanoparticles are particles that are from 1 to 100 nanometers in size (0.0000001 to 0.00001 cm, 0.00000003937 to 0.000003937 inch). Nanoparticle pigments are used as colorants instead of aniline dyes in some modern fountain pen inks because these inks can be made waterproof without being corrosive like iron gall ink. Nanoparticles do not settle to the bottom of the bottle as do the larger particles of pigment in many calligraphy inks. See also aniline dye, ink, iron gall ink.
Nassau (Nassau Fountain Pen Company, Inc.) A pen manufacturing company located in Newark, New Jersey; founded in 1915 by William B. Wilson, Sidney S. Smith, and Mabel Smith. In 1918, the Salz brothers bought Nassau and moved its operations to New York City, where it continued producing cheap pens of generally poor quality until sometime after the beginning of World War II. In late 1928 or early 1929, Nassau was reincorporated as the Nassau Pen & Pencil Corporation. See also Salz.
Nassau Green Arguably the most desirable of the more collectible high-cachet colors used for the Vacumatic-filling version of the Parker “51”; shown below. See also Blue Cedar, Buckskin Beige, Yellowstone.
Color chip
National (National Pen Products Company) A pen company located in Chicago, Illinois; founded in the early 1920s, it grew — partially by acquiring other companies for their trademarks and machinery — to become one of the largest pen companies in the world. Machinery and equipment acquired by National might have ended up in the factory of C. E.Barrett & Company; there is speculation that National was owned by Clarence E. Barrett, and it is likely that National itself manufactured nothing, instead merely assembling parts supplied by Barrett and others. National sold medium- to high-quality pens under its own brand names and also jobbed pens to retail chains, including Sears, Roebuck & Co. (Gold Medal, Tower, Webster) and Montgomery Ward & Co. (Lakeside, Wardrite), and other private brands. It may also have sold pens to major pen companies for retail under those companies’ sub-brands. National’s offerings ranged from traditional hard rubber flat-tops during the 1920s to the hooded-nib resin Tower pens it sold to Sears in the 1950s. Shown here are a Gold Medal and a Tower, both Sears brands. See also Barrett.
Fountain pen
Fountain pen
native iridium See osmiridium.
Navy Gray A color used for the Aero-metric version of the Parker “51”; shown below. The origin of the color name is obscure, as Navy Gray is distinctly greenish, not a true gray.
Color chip
neck See gripping section.
needlepoint An extremely fine nib designed to produce hairline strokes, finer than an accounting nib. See also accounting nib.
Newark (Newark Pen Company) A pen manufacturing company located in Newark, New Jersey; founded in 1925 with C. I. Prouty, formerly vice-president of De Witt–La France, as president and Joseph Wustman, who actually owned the company, as plant manager. Newark’s pens featured own-branded tipped gold nibs and were well made. The company initially sold its $2.50 “Newark Fountain Pen” by mail order only; the pen came with five premium cards, each priced at 50¢, the premise being that the purchaser could own his pen for nothing by selling the cards to others who would apply the cards’ value to the purchase of their own pens. The company later expanded its line to include other brands, such as “Secretary.” Newark remained in operation at least into the World War II years, as evidenced by the Secretary pen shown below; in its imprint, this pen bears O.P.A. symbol No CA-2 and a price of $4.00.
Fountain pen
New Banker See Bankers.
New Old Stock (abbreviated NOS) A term usually used to describe an item that was not sold at retail and has been out of production for some period. Does not specify condition, as such items can be shopworn or faded. See also mint.
New Silver See nickel silver.
Niagara  1  (often referred to by collectors as Brain or Coral) An engraving pattern used by Wahl on metal pens, with panels of silver divided by gold “muntins.” In the panels is a pattern resembling the appearance of brain coral. Shown here is a close-up of the Niagara pattern.  2  A brand used on pens produced for McLean, Black, & Company. See also McLean Black.
Color chip
nib (also neb or nip [generally archaic]) The part that carries ink from the pen and deposits it on the paper. Nibs are generally made of 14K or 18K gold alloy or of stainless steel; nibs have also been made of palladium and titanium alloys, and of glass. Nibs are made in varying degrees of firmness ranging from extremely flexible (“wet noodle”), for producing attractive line variation, to extremely rigid (manifold), for writing on multipart forms. See also adjustable nib, glass nib, hooded nib, Inlaid Nib, manifold, open nib, “TRIUMPH” point, wet noodle. [Historical note] Before the advent of the fountain pen, and for a time thereafter, the part that we now call the nib was called the pen, and it was inserted into a pen holder for use. The nibs were the tips of the tines, and particularly high-quality pens had small bits of ruby fitted to their nibs for smoothness and wear resistance. See also dip pen, gold pen, ruby, steel pen, tipping material.
Nib anatomy
nib creep The spontaneous accumulation of ink on the top surface of a nib; the ink is said to “creep” up out of the slit. Some inks are more prone to creep than others, but the root cause of the phenomenon is a nib slit that is either damaged or manufactured with insufficient attention to finishing; nicks, scratches, etc., can create a capillary path across the edge between the slit wall and the top surface. (Shown below is an 18K nib whose slit was left rough after being sawn.) Platinum-plated nibs are more prone to nib creep than are unplated nibs because platinum is more wettable than gold. See also capillary action, wettability.
Crudely finished slit
nib grade Term for the size of a nib’s tip. Historically, the standard round grades are Needlepoint (3XF), Account (XXF), extra fine (XF or EF), fine (F), medium (M), broad (B), double broad (BB), and triple broad (3B). Most pen manufacturers today limit their production to fine, medium, and broad nibs, with a few offering extra fine and an even smaller number offering italics (including, in some cases, stubs). There is no true standard among manufacturers, but most European nibs are similarly sized. Japanese nibs tend to run about a size finer for a given marking; a Japanese M is about the same size as a European F. See also italic, nib number, oblique, stub.
nibmeister (Feminine form: nibmeisterin) A term for a nib technician who has mastered the arts of repairing and customizing nibs; applied by others out of respect for the individual’s skills, never claimed by the technician himself or herself.
nib number A number imprinted on a nib to indicate the physical size of the nib, used commonly on vintage nibs but almost never on modern nibs. Nib numbers do not indicate tip size or whether a given nib is firm or flexible. From smallest to largest, numbers ranged from No 0 to No 10 (e.g., Waterman) or No 12 (e.g., Parker). Waterman used No 17 and No 18 for its Hundred Year Pens, indicating nibs roughly the same sizes as its earlier No 7 and No 8 nibs. There is no standard numbering; thus, nibs from different manufacturers, even though they bear the same number, can be radically different in size (see below, WARRANTED and Waterman No 4 nibs). Nib numbers commonly referred to by collectors include Waterman No 2, and Sheaffer No 33 and Feathertouch No 5. See also nib grade.
Fountain pen
nib size See nib grade, nib number.
nib tuning Term for adjusting a nib so that it writes at its best for the owner of the pen. Basic tuning includes alignment, smoothing, and flow adjustment. An experienced professional nib technician can also reshape the tip to accommodate the uniquely individual way in which the owner holds the pen.
nickel A hard silvery metal (atomic number 28) that is malleable, ductile, and resistant to corrosion; used in alloys and as a plating material (frequently as an underplating for gold). Nickel is one of the principal nonferrous metals in stainless steel. See also nickel silver, plated, stainless steel.
nickel silver (also Alpaca, Argentan, German silver, New Silver, paktong) A silvery tarnish-resistant alloy, one of the Monel metals; contains no actual silver. Used for making furniture on some pens (e.g., the lever and the very attractive accommodation clip on the 1910s no-name pen shown below), nickel silver was first produced in 1770 to duplicate a Chinese alloy called paktong that was used to mimic real silver at much lower cost. One common formulation (ASTM B122, alloy 75200) contains 65% copper, 18% nickel, and 17% zinc. Do not confuse nickel silver with Nikargenta. See also Monel metal, nickel, Nikargenta, paktong.
Fountain pen
niello  1  A black compound of sulfur with silver, lead, or copper, used for filling in engraved designs in silver or other metals.  2  An object, such as a pen, that is decorated with niello. Shown below is an early Pelikan with a barrel Binde of sterling silver and niello. See also Binde, silver, Toledo.
Fountain pen
Night and Day (also Day and Night) See Moderne (definition 3).
Nikargenta Aurora’s name for the silvery-white alloy of nickel and silver used for the caps on some models of the vintage Aurora 88 (shown below, upper), 88K, and 88P. Do not confuse Nikargenta with nickel silver. Note that the “Nikargenta” caps on modern Aurora 88 pens (below, lower) are made of chrome-plated brass, not true Nikargenta. See also nickel, nickel silver, silver.
Fountain pen
Fountain pen
nipple (also peg) The tubular back portion of the section, onto which the sac is cemented in most sac-filling pens. See also gripping section.
no-name Term applied to a pen that has no manufacturer’s imprint, almost always a third-tier (or even cheaper) pen. See also third tier.
non-leakable Synonym for safety, used before the word “leakproof” came into use in the latter half of the 1920s. The pen shown here is a “Moore’s Non-Leakable Safety Pen.” See also leakproof, Moore. Read a discussion of non-leakable pens here.
Fountain pen
Fountain pen
No Nonsense (frequently written NoNonsense by collectors) A low-priced Sheaffer model introduced in 1969 as a blister-packed $1.98 pen and subsequently offered in several additional trim variations, including a stainless steel version. In 1999, Sheaffer redesigned the No Nonsense with a snap cap and a soft rubberized section. The newer version, considered by most users to be markedly inferior to its predecessor, is still in production as of this writing. Shown here is an example of the original version.
Fountain pen
noodle See wet noodle.
Norma A brand of two-, three-, and four-color mechanical pencils and pencil-pen combinations produced by Gebrüder Fend of Pforzheim, Germany, and based on French Patent No 807,275, issued to Kurt Fend on January 8, 1937. Offered in three- and four-color versions, these pens and pencils were made of metal. Shown below is a Norma Model 304, a rolled-gold four-color pencil. Norma pencils were produced from the 1930s until the late 1960s, being joined around 1950 by a combination featuring three pencils and one ballpoint pen. Sometime in the 1930s, a company called Norma Multicolor (later Norma Pencil Company) appeared in the United States, manufacturing and selling identical pencils and pens, and remaining in business until 1967. It is not known whether Norma Multicolor was a subsidiary of Fend or a separate company created to operate in America. See also Fend.
NOS See New Old Stock.
nose cone See nozzle.
Nostalgia A series of limited-production Sheaffer models introduced in 1970; featured styling reminiscent of pens from Sheaffer’s early years such as a vermeil all-metal pen and overlay models in gold and silver such as the pen shown below. See also overlay.
Fountain pen
Nozac (“No sack”) Conklin’s name for two 1930s pen models styled like the Endura Symetrik, of which the better known is a piston-filling model that was initially marketed as the Nozac Endura. The Nozac uses a “single action” piston mechanism, in which the operating knob does not screw away from the barrel end as the knob is turned. Shown here is a 1937 Word Gauge Nozac in the type of pattern that Conklin initially called V-Line but later renamed Herringbone. The lesser known model is the relatively uncommon Nozac Q.F. (Quick Filling), whose plunger filler is functionally the same as early versions of Sheaffer’s Vacuum-Fil. See also Conklin, Endura, herringbone, piston, Word Gauge.
Fountain pen
nozzle  1  The cone-shaped front end of a mechanical pencil. See below, upper; the illustration has been altered to emphasize the nozzle.  2  (archaic usage) The forward end of the barrel of an eyedropper-filling fountain pen, generally the removable gripping section (illustrated below, lower).
Mechanical pencil
Fountain pen
NPT Nickel Plated Trim. See also nickel, plated.
nurse’s pen A pen designed for use by a nurse, typically by coloring it white. Esterbrook made a nurse’s set in white, using the Model SJ and coloring the end jewels red (shown below), green, or black to indicate the color of ink in the pen. (The three ink colors were used for the three 8-hour shifts in a 24-hour day, to distinguish entries made on patients’ charts.) See also doctor’s pen.
Fountain pen

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