James Crawford's Blog

Pens are a Passion

I may have mentioned that I’m a fountain pen user. More than that, I’m probably a fanatic. My local pen store, Bertram’s Inkwell, has more of my money than I’m going to admit to.

I’m okay with that. Supporting small businesses is very important, especially when they’re one of the most valuable local resources for a niche product. Bert’s knowledge about pens is encyclopedic.

Over the past two years, I’ve delved into customizing fountain pen nibs. It started off with simple smoothing of the tips, then adding extra flex to the nib. In turn, that opened me up to the current passion: layered fountain pen nibs.

Layered Fountain Pen Nibs

kissaki five layer nib

You can see the Kissaki 5 nib above. That monster has five layers welded on top of one another. If you want to talk about line variation, this baby is it. Depending on the angle you choose, you can get fine, medium, broad, and extra broad lines. It’s excellent for expressive writing and above all, sketching.

This sort of nib was pioneered by Mr. Nagahara of Sailor Pens in Japan. As far as I know, he never did more than three layers, but his work is legendary. Sailor still produces them in small quantities now that he’s retired, and they are in serious demand.

My friend Ralph Reyes of Regalia Writing Labs took Nagahara’s layered nib designs and started making them in steel nibs, rather than gold. Ralph’s work is amazing and he’s done quite a bit to innovate with new variations on the designs. They are sublime to write with.

As for me, I’m spinning of from Ralph’s work, and trying to make nibs that write how I want them to. It’s similar to when I was making knives, they must perform exactly how I want, and I’m equally fastidious about the nibs.

This is what is eating up a lot of my craft time. Things like this are not easy, or cheap, to make. I do sell some of them to feed the habit, but I don’t take orders.