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European or Japanese nibs?

April 08, 2021 3 min read 2 Comments

European or Japanese nibs?

Japanese or European fountain pens?

In a fountain pen that aspires to excellence, all the materials have to be excellent: the body, the clip, the cap, the charging system, the projections, the case... But if there is one element that makes the difference, that is the nib.

The point or measure is perhaps the characteristic that will most affect the type of writing. It refers to the width of the nib, which determines the width of the stroke it provides.

Which nib point to choose will depend on its intended use and personal preference. The smallest ones are indicated for daily use and for amateurs with small print, while the larger dots create a wider and abundant line of ink, which allows you to better enjoy certain qualities of the ink by appreciating a certain variation in its flow in the strokes. Obviously the resulting letter, for its correct definition, is larger.

In the following picture, you can see the differences between a Platinum Ulta-Extra-fine nib and a Platinum Music nib.

For practical purposes, what is the difference between Japanese and European nibs?

As a general rule, and with reference to nibs from European and Japanese manufacturers, nibs made in Asia will have a finer writing point than analog nibs made in Europe.

Notably, there are two main countries in the manufacture of fountain pens: Germany and Japan. In Japan, the most famous brands when it comes to making nibs are Pilot, Platinum and Sailor. Precisely, their in-house or internal production distinguishes them from other brands. As you know, the nibs used by the famous Namiki brand are manufactured by Pilot; and in Sailor's case, some of her nibs are used by Taccia. Another curious fact is that Nakaya has hired retired Platinum artisans to produce its nibs.

14K- gold nibs of Platinum, Pilot and Sailor


In general, the sizes in which the difference is more pronounced are EF and F, where for the same point, the result of an Asian nib is much finer. Nibs M and B are usually the same size.

In the following picture, we can see the difference between a European nib (Montegrappa) and a Japanese nib (Nakaya)



Why are the Japanese tips thinner?

The complexity of the Japanese kanji characters requires precision instruments. Medium or thick points are totally unsuitable for blurring details.

In this way, we could not conceive a Japanese fountain pen without the influence of the art of calligraphy, drawing and, above all, swordplay. The long tradition of the land of the rising sun in these arts has allowed refining manual techniques to achieve fountain pens of magnificent beauty and precise nibs.

In the picture, the fountain pens: Pilot Custom 845 and Sailor 1911


European fountain pens

In Europe there are several companies that manufacture nibs, but Germany is the main producer country. LAMY and Pelikan are German brands that manufacture their own nibs in house. As well as Aurora and Visconti produce its own nibs in their Italian headquarters.

Likewise, there are important producers of nibs in Germany that do not work for a single brand. This is the case with Bock and JoWo. Bock manufactures for Caran d'Ache, Kaweco, Faber Castell, etc. The second company provides nibs for Esterbrookand Conklin, among others.

Knowing these aspects will undoubtedly help you choose your next fountain pen.

From left to right: Conklin All America and Esterbrook Estie Cobalt

In case you missed it, and you don't know what size to choose for your pen, we invite you to check out our guide to choosing the perfect size for your fountain pen on our blog!

Do not hesitate to contact us if you have any doubt, we will be more than glad to help you.

2 Responses

Jeremy Nottingham
Jeremy Nottingham

April 10, 2021

I’m curious why you chose to compare a gold Japanese nib with a steel European one. Surely like with like would have been better.

Nonetheless, my experience has been that a fine Japanese steel nib is comparable with an extra fine European, and is sometimes even more fine. ( I do have more experience with steel as the premium price for a gold nib is often more than I wish to afford)

I prefer an extra fine nib – as available on pens sold in the UK. What is most surprising is the number of nibs that I have had " tuned" sold by some of the leading brand names. Having been seduced by some of the beautiful bodies it is a disappointment to find a scratchy nib. Mercifully the shop that I like to browse in offers that as a complimentary service.

Roll on Monday and being able to browse once again.

Peter Allinson
Peter Allinson

April 10, 2021

A well described article.Very useful for fountain pen collectors.

My experience initially with UK and European high end manufacturers was excellent particularly as I am left handed.

When I then discovered Pilot/Namiki and Sailor the experience moved to a higher plane.

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