a little flair: architect nib grind
The wind whispers through the buildings, through the open window, in between the curtains. It carries the sound of distant church bells and a damp chill. A thick mist curls around the towers, turning them into ominous shadows and blurring the details. Some planes pass overhead, impossible to see their bodies, but their muffled engine sounds seem directionless, scattered by the thick clouds. It’s the greyest morning we had in a while, a herald of the rainy autumn days ahead.
Lately, I’ve been realising that my fountain pen journey is not carrying me to acquire more pens, but to enjoy the ones I have. My collection has been fairly stable for a while, thinned from the sales of the past half a year. Not many new pens have entered it.
That brings a little less exploration on the pen shape, but some more on the nibs. I used to think that as long as a nib wrote decently comfortable out of the box, an intervention was not necessary. Why mess with a lovely thing?
Well, there’s a reason why the nib of this TWSBI Diamond 580 AL R got ground. The medium nib was fine in the hands of other people, but refused to write comfortably and consistently in my hand. I tend to write with almost no pressure, the barest whisper of the nib touching the page.
So, I packed my pen nicely to be dropped off at the end of my day. It’s a dangerous thing to have Fontoplumo in the same city as your university, especially on days when you’re only working half day. To be honest, I didn’t really know what I wanted -the most dangerous type of customer.
I was thinking about getting an architect nib, because it was the summer and I was marching on towards my last year in architecture school. A little moral support for the upcoming year. The only problem was that the architect nibs that I had tried before were too large, my handwriting getting swallowed in the thick strokes.
So, I did what I could. I walked into the shop, showed the pen, and asked for an architect nib. Frank said he’ll send it off and it should arrive within a couple of weeks. Then, I left.
Well, I never said I was not an awkward person.
Thankfully, both Frank and Bruce, Fontoplumo’s nib whisperer, are amazing at their jobs. When I went back to get my pen back, I also had a little bottle of ink hidden in my makeup bag. A quick on-desk filling operation later, I was ready to test it out.
It worked perfectly. I doubt I could’ve described what I wanted better than they delivered. The tiny wedge shape looks beautiful on the pen. The thin vertical strokes are sharp, but the edges never snag the page. The thick horizontal strokes are almost soft, the nib gliding over the page.
It’s a finer architect grind than I’m used to seeing, which enables me to use this pen every single day. It’s not reserved for slow writing sessions, it keeps up with meetings and lectures. The squared off lines give a beautiful sketch-like feeling to fast writing. The nib is on the wetter side, which requires an extra moment to dry before you can turn the page.
The reverse of the architect nib is an extra fine, which is dry enough to close the notebook on the writing almost immediately, but flows good enough that you cannot feel the slightest discomfort. I’ve been keeping this pen in my planner’s loop, as it lets me have a variety of writing experiences in a single pen.
Sometimes architect nibs can be a little finicky due to the angle that they require you to hold the pen in, especially if you were like me and gave no specifications whatsoever. The grind on mine is extremely forgiving, it will continue to write comfortably in pretty much any writing angle, but it definitely has a sweet spot. If you hold it on the slightly lower side, it has a thinner stroke, the line variation not as obvious. If you hold it on a higher angle, the line variation becomes really obvious, and the precision of the vertical strokes contrast with the broad, loose strokes of the horizontal strokes.
For some reason, the feedback and the line variation reminds me of the chisel tip of alcohol markers. It’s nowhere as thick as those, but the feel is still there. Bonus points for being familiar to an architecture student’s hands. The feedback also has a little sound that reminds me of pen scribbles on movies and games. Simply delightful.
The TWSBI Diamond 580 AL R is a great pen to put such a nib into, as you can switch nibs between pens easily. With friction-fit nibs, I’m somewhat afraid of being too hard on them, as I did crack a couple of pens like that. The screw-fit of the Diamond 580 AL R ensures that a nib-changing mishap is less possible.
So, the big question is: will I use this nib grind? Despite that I don’t think it is particularly complimenting my writing style like italic nibs tend to do, I have been having a lot of fun with this nib. It’s just so easy to use, it makes me look for reasons to pick up this pen. Grocery lists are written with a fancy architect nib grind, all of my notes have this nib popping up.
All in all, I think my foray into nib grinds was a roaring success. I got a lovely nib that lets me have fun writing boring stuff, and Bruce the nib whisperer got a customer that will bring back a couple of pens.
Thank you for reading!
Disclaimer: This post is not sponsored by anyone. I wanted to mention the names simply because Fontoplumo and Frank has been great in the years I’ve shopped from them, and their lovely window display always makes me pause and take a look. Bruce is also very good at what he does, and both of my pens that went through his hands write as good as they possibly can.