Note: I wanted to let you know that I have been updating this post. I will continue over the next few days as I uncover additional information, add a few more pictures, and additional writing experiences from the nibs I have. Enjoy!
For the last year and a half, I’ve been doing some research and looking at affordable modern flex nibs for fountain pens. A few of my pen-friends have inquired or looked for information and reviews about flex nib pens, but I’ve mostly held off from forming an opinion or making any recommendations. Until now.
When a pen manufacturer labels their nibs with the word “flex” it conjures up images of doing fancy line variations while writing. Many folks feel the need to flex their nibs right out of the box not knowing what the nib can actually do and not do. There are limitations to how far a nib can flex and that depends on the nib material used and how the nib is cut/designed.
My Calligraphy Pointed Dip Nibs Experience
Let me step back a bit. Before I ventured into the fountain pen rabbit hole, I was using pointed dip pens for my other rabbit hole calligraphy adventure. I learned and practiced with using Zebra “G” dip nibs to create the line variations: heavy pressure on the down strokes and light pressure on the upstrokes. My heavy pressure would cause the tines of the nib to split allowing more ink to appear on the paper. On the upstrokes, the tines would spring back and normal ink would appear on the paper.
This was a great learning experience for me as I got to know how a dip nib feels and how much pressure to apply. The pointed dip nibs are disposable because they will eventually corrode which is why I was looking for a better fountain pen nib solution. Okay, back to our regularly scheduled post.
Back to the Fountain Pen Modern Flex Nibs
My first experience with fountain pen flex nibs was when I uncovered a fairly young boutique fountain pen company called Fountain Pen Revolution (FPR) based in Texas. That was back in July of 2019. I purchased a Himalaya pen in a pretty Peacock color with a #5.5 Ultra Flex nib. Shortly after that I picked up a Himalaya in Saffron Orange with a #6 Ultra Flex nib. Both had hard starts when the nib hit the paper. I flushed and clean the nibs. Still had some issues. I contacted FPR who referred me to a video and I learned about heat setting the nib and feed.
I was able to get both pens writing for a bit. Then I started having hard starts all over again. I sent pictures to FPR who then suggested I needed to push the nib further into the section. Another heat set with the nib and feed. I was still having issues with the Himalayas. That was getting old.
During this time a friend of mine, “M”, had gifted to me her two Noodler’s Ahab. She had the pens inked with of course Noodler’s Apache Sunset and Black Swan in Australian Roses. Both pens wrote beautifully, but I never tried to flex the nibs or even thought I should. I was thankful for “M’s” thoughtful gift and enjoyed the pen and ink combination.
I’ve read mixed reviews about the Ahab fountain pens. Similar issues with the FPR pens. Plus the Noodler’s pen line had an interesting odor that was hard to get used to or get rid of. My Ahab’s still have this distinguishable odor almost two years later.
My next pen adventure led me to a few Conklins including the beautiful Duraflex Elements in Water and Fire. The Duraflex (omniflex) nib on the Fire wrote brilliantly, but the nib that came with Water was a dud. It did not write at all.
Conklin JoWo #6 Omniflex Nib
In the Fall of 2020, Conklin came out with their JoWo Omniflex nibs. I loved the look of this new nib. Plus with the JoWo branded nib I knew this would be a nice writing experience. I ordered the Goulet exclusive Endura Abalone with Chrome trim and the new Omniflex nib. This turned out to a be an awesome combination!
You can see from the two previous pictures how much different the Omniflex nibs look.
This new nib is a stiff steel nib and I knew right away it might flex just a tiny bit. It does. About less than double its normal line width. I did not buy this nib for the “flex” that folks normally think of. I wanted this nib for the writing experience. The feel of the nib bouncing across the paper while I write. The springy-feeling when the nib goes up and down on the page.
I knew of this “bouncing” and “springy” experience when my friend “M” let me use her Pineider gemstone pen for a few minutes. This was a beautiful writing experience and especially with a gold nib. Pleasurable writing was the first thing that came to mind as I handed the beautiful gem back to her. Thanks “M” for sharing your lovely and beautiful pen that made a lasting impression and set the bar for what kind of nib I wanted.
Franklin-Christoph 14k Extra Fine Flex Nib
At the end of 2020, I treated myself to a fancy gold nib from Franklin-Christoph. I had this nib on my radar for a few months and when I saw they had a few in stock, I ordered one. I wanted to pair this grail nib with my Esterbrook Estie OS Sparkle. My grail pen was needing a grail nib. Hahaha!
I had issues with hard starts with this beautiful gold nib and my Estie Sparkle. The hard starts would happen on the first down stroke when I started to write a sentence and sometimes a few words later. It was a consistent problem with this gold flex nib. I cleaned and flushed the nib. Filled my pen with a wet ink (Sailor’s Sailor) and still had issues with the hard starts. It felt like something was starving the nib. I was not going to give up on this nib.
A lightbulb went off in my head. Maybe it’s not an ink issue at all, but something about the pen that I was using and preventing the flow of ink. I pulled out my Opus 88 Omar and swapped the Opus nib unit for the F-C 14k Flex gold nib unit. I filled my Omar with Sailor’s Sailor. Guess what? This combination wrote brilliantly.
I believe the problem I was having with my Estie was the converter filled with ink that could not keep up with the nib and basically starved the nib. Not enough ink flowed out. With my eyedropper (Omar) pen, the ink gushes out perfectly and keeps up with the nib as I write.
Same nib. Same ink. Different pen. Writing beautifully.
Franklin-Christoph #6 HPS Extra Fine Flex Nib
After the holidays, I had been watching and waiting for another Franklin-Christoph nib to appear in their inventory. I managed to snag their steel nib called: #6 HPS Extra Fine Flex nib. This nib reminded me of the FPR EF Ultraflex nib in appearance. I had a gut feeling that this F-C nib would be the affordable modern nib that actually works. Plus I read their nibs go through a multi-step testing process before it goes out the door.
Of course I needed to include a writing sample with this steel flex nib. I filled my Opus 88 Omar Tainan Blue with Rohrer and Klingner Verdigris blue black ink.
As you can see, the steel flex nib kept up with my handwriting. The ink flowed flawlessly through the nib and feed. No hard starts at all. I was able to flex this nib comfortably and without any hesitation. With that being said, this nib does not flex like the Zebra G dip nib or other calligraphy dip nibs. There is a difference in the thickness of the nibs with the Zebra G being thinner and lighter and disposable.
While I’m discussing the Zebra G nib, I did some research on some calligraphy dip nibs inserted into fountain pens. Desiderata Pen Company is known for this. They call their pens “vintage style flex” with modern design. It looks like a great idea, but you’ll end up replacing the Zebra G nibs frequently because they do corrode and wear down from use and I’m not sure how difficult it is to change out the nibs. Also, they are limited to the pen material/style. Right now, you will not see all the lovely resin designs and colors that are available for regular fountain pens. FYI. I haven’t seen any sparkly stuff. Hahaha! I’m starting to see more videos on their pens and it’s an interesting concept and I’m sure this idea will continue to evolve.
Based on my personal experience so far, it looks like an eyedropper pen works beautifully with both Franklin-Christoph flex nibs. If you want to do calligraphy writing with a fountain pen, you need a pen that has a wet nib and feed and it doesn’t hurt to use a wet ink as well. It’s also why I believe an eyedropper pen will work brilliantly as the ink will flow straight to the feed.
Update: I do want to add that I have purchased a second HPS #6 EF Flex nib that I upgraded on my F-C #31 Candystone pen. I used a converter with this pen and steel flex nib combination. Beautiful writing combination and no issues.
I have to add a note about Franklin-Christoph’s nibs. When purchased separately on their website, the nib comes with its feed and screw-in nib unit or collar/housing. This screw-in nib unit is a generic JoWo nib unit. That means it will fit other fountain pen manufacturers pen models (e.g. Esterbrook, Retro 51, Opus 88 Omar (#6) and Picnics (#5), etc). Just need to make sure you are matching the correct nib unit size with your pen. I also recommend double-checking with the pen manufacturer to make sure your pen uses JoWo nib unit.
So, am I out of luck by not having my grail pen with my grail nib? No. I’m curious by nature and will continue to figure out how to make this pen and nib combination work.
I’m extremely happy to have fantastic modern flex nibs in my collection. They each serve a different purpose. If you are interested in flex writing with the line variations, I do recommend the Franklin-Christoph #6 HPS Extra Fine Flex nib. I was pleasantly surprised how well it wrote and without any issues. No need for heat setting the nib and feed at all. That’s a huge plus for me.
For true Calligraphy writing with all the glorious flexing to get some of the finest thin lines and brilliant wide lines and let me include beautiful flourishes, I will still go with my pointed dip nibs (e.g. Zebra G, Tachikawa G, and others) with an oblique dip nib holder. Yes, there is a bit more you have to do for maintenance and setup and of course dipping frequently and writing slowly. For me, there is something wonderful about spending the time to create beautiful writings.