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The Pen Doctor XXXII

(This page published September 1, 2019)

Reference Info Index | Glossopedia  ]

PO nib posting nib

What Type of Nib Is This, Really?

Q:I just acquired a Pilot 912 with a PO nib. I was intrigued to note that the profile of the nib on the pen in Colette’s hand is precisely that of my new PO nib. What I have read about the PO nib is that it was a Japanese innovation used for writing post cards, but here it is in the early 1930s being used by a famous French writer.

℞x:What you have read is essentially the following story: Early Japanese post cards, which could be mailed for less than letters, were made of very cheap, soft paper. The PO nib was created to reduce feathering on these postcards.

The part about early Japanese postcards may be true, but the part about the PO nib, I’m afraid, is pure Internet legend.

The Japanese word for postcard is はがき (hagaki). The Japanese term for these nibs, ポステング (posutingu), is completely unrelated to postcards. It’s a loan word into Japanese from English, meaning that the Japanese did not invent the term (and probably did not invent the nib design, either). As shown by the cut to the right, from Pilot’s 1935 catalog (red color added), they’re posting nibs, and that means that they were originally designed for posting entries in accounting ledgers. They tend to be relatively firm, and they have extra-fine tips, ideal for writing very small. Colette’s handwriting, as you can see in your photo, was relatively small.

To reduce feathering, one can reduce the flow of the nib or use an ink that flows less wetly — or use better paper.

Hard Starting with a BB Nib

Q:I have a new large Montblanc Boheme fountain pen with a BB nib which I absolutely love to write with, except that on too many occasions it is a “hard starting” pen. I usually hold the nib to the paper for a couple seconds before writing, but I should not have to do that, of course. There are some times that even in the midst of writing, when there's a slight pause, the ink doesn't flow even when I hold the nib to the paper as mentioned above. Then it requires either a shake of the pen or several strokes of the nib on the paper before the ink flows.

Hawkinson clutch puller

℞x:This problem can occur with any very broad nib, not just your Bohème’s nib. (I see it fairly frequently with Pelikan’s current broad nibs, especially on M400-series pens.) The writing pad can be a little flatter than it needs to be, or it can be imperfectly aligned, or both. What happens is that one tine is not touching the paper properly, either because of rotation or because of a misalignment. When this happens, capillary action can’t draw the ink down to the paper, and the ink won't flow. The situation can be aggravated if the tines are pressed tightly together, as they frequently are with Montblanc nibs, because in that case the nib doesn’t always allow ink to reach the paper at all unless you apply excessive pressure. Pressure will spread the tines enough to let the ink flow, and it can also “fix” the imperfect contact between the nib and the paper. Because of the myriad possibilities here, I recommend finding a qualified professional who can adjust your nib to make it write as it should.

Removing the Clutch from a Parker “51” Cap

Q:How can I remove the split/clutch ring inside Parker 51 aero caps? I'd like to be able to get inside and chase out a few minor dings.

℞x:A special tool is required. I know of two, either of which will work just fine for you. One is made by Laurence Oldfield and is useful not only for removing “51” clutches but also for removing the inner cap on virtually any pen. The other, shown with a “51” cap and its clutch in the photo to the right, comes from Stuart Hawkinson. Stuart includes collets, mandrels for a couple of caps, and a roller; with Laurence’s set, you’ll need to buy these parts separately.

One end of the clutch is split, the other is not. When reinstalling the clutch, be sure to insert the split end first.

Note that the cap lip is rolled very slightly inward to retain the clutch in the cap. Pulling the clutch will straighten the lip out, and you will need to reinstall the clutch so that it is very slightly below the edge (about 0.010" or 0.25 mm) and then re-roll the lip very carefully using the same roller that you use for de-dinging the cap.

  1. Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette (1873–1954), French author and woman of letters, also known as a mime, actress, and journalist; best known as the author of the novella Gigi, on which a film and a Broadway musical were based.  Return

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