Thursday, July 7, 2011

Pilot Varsity - Nib Grinding Update

Several weeks ago, I presented a project I am working on about learning to grind nibs on the Pilot Varsity, which has a steel nib in a medium point. It is difficult to tell in the photo above, but the Varsity on the left is the one that I ground down to a fine, possible medium fine. The one on the right is the standard medium point that has not been modified. I am still saving up for a better camera, so I was not able to get a better image than this for comparison.

Here we have a writing sample comparing the two Varsity pens. Again, the one on the bottom has not been modified. If you look at several of the letters closely, you can see a fairly dramatic difference in the line width. 

Overall, I have was quite satisfied with the results, but there is some scratchiness on the upstroke that I am not a fan of. After consulting Tyler Dahl, of 777 Pen Repair, I will be utilizing a rotary tool to work on reshaping subsequent Varsity nibs so that I am not burning through the fine grit sandpaper so quickly. Steel eats up buffing material pretty quickly, unlike 18-22 karat gold, which is obviously much softer. 

This has been a fun project so far, and I will be looking to acquire some gold, iridium-tipped nibs soon so that I can get practice with softer material, too. 


  1. Nice, one of my complaints about this pen was that the nib is a bit thick. But now I'm used to it. I find that I tend to prefer a pen which lays a lot of ink on the paper. Have you thought about grinding an italic?

  2. I, too, am getting more accustomed to larger nib sizes, so long as the paper is agreeable. Getting a fine nibs to lay down a lot of ink might require adjusting the feed, which is not difficult to do on some pens, but it can be done.

    I have thought about grinding an italic, but I need to read up a little bit more on how to do correctly. There are also right and left oblique italic nibs, so I need to play with it a bit.

    I will get pictures up when I do something new. Thanks for the comment.

  3. Hi,

    Great job with the grinding. In fact, reflecting on your success, I've decided to give grinding some Varsity pens a go myself. Did Tyler give any hints on what kind of abrasive pad is best to use? I have a Dremel which would make things easier if only I could figure out the best size of bit to use.

    I would be careful with the oblique nibs as they are not strictly "italic" nibs. I use quotes here because to calligraphers, italic is a style of lettering. Strictly, what are called "italic" nibs are broad-edge or stub nibs. Obliques are generally cut for those who write with the pen at angle to the paper (Richard Binder's website has some good diagrams to show what I mean here). The do produce a difference in line thickness, but are not strictly "italic" nibs.

    I think it would be interesting to grind a cursive italic. A stub italic is pretty much just an edge, so unless one is used to handling such a nib, it will catch on the paper. Cursive italics sacrifice some of the difference in line thickness by smoothing the edges to make the nib move more easily over the paper. For example, I have a Parker 75 with a fine italic nib in my collection, and I personally love it - in my opinion the fine italic for the 75 was one of the finest nibs that Parker ever made. Anyway, others have great difficulty writing with it because it is so sharp, but if you can learn to use it, the hairlines it produces are fantastic!!!.

    Anyway, hope this helps,