Posts Tagged ‘nib service’

Nib work (hey, this pen writes by itself!)

Wednesday, October 12th, 2011

I’m a fan of books about WW II aircraft, and all that stuff.   Given the chance, I’ll spend hours reading the books and looking at pictures.  I love air shows, especially when I have a chance to get into one of the airplanes.   A tour through a B17 was an eye opener.  One real treat though was when I got into a B29.  Really.  The (then) Confederate Air Force B29 FIFI was in Syracuse for a few days.  A kid who was working for me doing lawn work at the radio station knew a guy who was a pilot for Eastern Airlines (this tells you how long ago it was), who was one of the pilots that flew the plane. We were in.  While I didn’t get a chance to go into the back part of the aircraft, I did get onto the flight deck, look down the connecting tunnel, and watched while they worked on one of the engines.  Seeing the thing take off on a test flight was cool.  I came that close to getting to fly in it out to Michigan.  The only thing that stopped me was that I couldn’t figure out how to get back.  Bummer.

In case you don’t believe me, here’s a picture of a much younger and thinner me (with hair no less) on the flight deck.

But I digress…

What caught my eye as I was reading through a book was a comment that once in a while an aircraft would come off of the line that just about flew itself.  These things were made with the same parts, to the same specifications by the same crews, but once in a while one came out that was just right.

I think that the same thing happens with pens.  Manufacturers have the same parts, same people, and most of the nibs are acceptable and write to most people’s expectations.  But then you get one that’s just right.

I dare say that few folks ever experience a really good nib.  Most experience nibs that are good, or pretty good.   The job of a “nib meister” or skilled repairman is to produce pens that write better than the average nib, to consistently produce pens that “fly themselves.”

It is my contention that this skill is not learned over night.  It takes years to develop a true understanding of what is going on, and what it will take to make a particular nib into a smooth writer.  It’s nearly impossible to describe, so don’t be surprised if I hedge if you ask me,    On several occasions I have gone back to visit a nib that I worked on several years before, and have been surprised that I was satisfied with the work at the time.   😛    This is one area where experience really does count.

It’s unlikely that I will use the same techniques today that I used even a year ago.  Repair/nib guys are constantly growing and evolving.  If we’re not, we’re dead.  If I were to suggest just one key to learning how to do good nib work it is to observe…. the shape of the nib, the feel of the nib, and what subtle thing you did that made the difference and how you got there.

I think that I do pretty darn good nib work.  But I know that I’ve done really good work when a client writes and says “Ron, that pen you repaired has become a favorite of mine.  I just can’t put it down.”