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The Pen Doctor X

Reference Info Index | Glossopedia  ]

Changing Pelikan Nibs

Q:I’m really getting into the idea of italics and stubs and stuff. I have a Pelikan M600 with an EF nib. Could I have it made into a cursive italic?

℞x:Unless your writing is very small, any specialty shape ground on an extra-fine nib will be too small to produce discernible line variation, and it’ll also be pretty “pushy,” exhibiting an uncomfortable tendency to drag, especially on upward (push) strokes.

But all is not lost. Because Pelikan nibs are user-interchangeable, you can buy a broader nib and have it ground to whatever shape you like, italic or oblique italic or stub. So how do you swap nibs on a Pelikan? It should be obvious, but there’s a little trick to it.

This article was written in 2003. Pelikan nibs have changed more than once since that time, and the following description may or may not apply to nibs that are currently available. Use this information thoughtfully, and please do not disseminate it without proper documentation.

Flow Problems in Recent Pelikans

Q:I just bought a new Pelikan M1000. I love the pen, but the flow is terrible. Sometimes it won’t start, but other times it flows like the Thames. What’s wrong with it?

℞x:In the past year or so, Pelikan has changed the manufacture of its nibs; I believe the newer nibs are being made by a subcontractor instead of in Pelikan’s own shop. Regardless of where the nibs are coming from, the problem lies in this recent change. [This was written in 2003, and current production nibs (2018) are much better in this regard. I have retained this article to provide a possible answer to problems encountered in older pens you might buy used.]

Looking at the schematic figure here, you can see two versions of a nib lying on a feed. The upper picture shows the nib lying closely along the surface of the feed for the entire length of the feed. This is how it’s supposed to be. When the nib is in good contact with the feed, the channels in the feed can control the flow because capillary action is able to hold the ink in place. (Note that it’s not necessary for the nib to actually touch the feed; one way to increase a pen’s flow is to raise the nib one or two thousandths of an inch off the feed to allow more ink in the space there.)

Cause of flow problem

The lower picture shows how many M1000 nibs (and some M800 nibs) are coming through now. The nib, instead of being arched to lie along the feed, is simply being bent downward at the breather hole so that the tip of the feed touches the under surface of the nib. There’s a gaping cavern between the nib and the feed, a cavern that is often big enough that capillary action simply breaks down. Turn the pen so that its nib is uppermost, and all the ink flows back out of the feed into the barrel. Turn it nib downward, and gush!

The newer manufacturing technique compounds the problem, making the nib start hard, because instead of creating a slit with its walls parallel as they should be, it creates a V-shaped slit, with the walls closer together on the underside. When you get to the tip, this ends up creating a situation in which capillary action, which wants to pull the ink to the place where the slit is narrowest, keeps ink from reaching the writing pad. With no ink at the writing pad, the nib won’t start.

You can return the pen to your dealer for a nib exchange, but the replacement nib may have the same problem. Fortunately, the problems created by the improper manufacture are curable. A repairer who specializes in nibs and understands how to remedy the incorrect form can easily adjust the nib to work as it should.

The information in this article is as accurate as possible, but you should not take it as absolutely authoritative or complete. If you have additions or corrections to this page, please consider sharing them with us to improve the accuracy of our information.

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