My email inbox gets a plethora of interesting pen related questions, and I spend a good deal of time crafting thoughtful responses to each person who writes to me. A lot of times, the questions I get are good ones that I feel are worth sharing with you! I’ll be posting highlights of some of my more interesting email questions every Mailbox Monday. These are some emails of mine from the past week or so:

I’m rather
new to fountain pens, and currently have a Parker and a Cross, both
with medium nibs. However my handwriting is a bit small / tight at
times, which makes me think I would be better off with a fine nib.
But I would also like to get a nib suitable for fancier italic
handwriting. Would it be fair to say that the 1.1 mm nib is equiv. to
a fine in one direction, and a medium / bold in the other direction?
Also, how difficult is it to change the nibs on the Monteverde pens,
and is their any issues with adjustments afterwards?

I just wanted to add my two cents about the italic nibs, sorry I’ve taken so long to respond! I would say the cross-stroke is about like a fine nib, but the down stroke is much wider than a medium or broad. That’s where the italic number gets its designation….1.1mm means it’s 1.1mm wide, so that’s how wide the downstroke will be. Most broad nibs only go to about .8mm, so it’ll be a noticeable difference. You can compare writing samples of the nibs in the Nib Nook and see for yourself.

I actually just posted a video on changing out a Monteverde nib!

For a short time you offered the Pelikan 200, 205, and I believe the 215. Why did you discontinue these Pelikan Pens? Can different nibs be placed on them? Can you get the nibs? Will you be offering these pens in the future?

We did use to offer the whole m2xx Pelikan series, but they pens are somewhat ubiquitous and they weren’t flying off our shelves. They were a bit pricey for what you got, and when Pelikan announced they’d be undergoing a pretty hefty price increase (that’s been in effect since mid-July), we saw that the sentiment that most users had towards the m200’s went down the toilet. An m200 now has a list price of $145….that’s nearly 3 times the price of a TWSBI 540 and 10 times the price of a Noodler’s Nib Creaper. It’s worth it to some folks, but we knew we wouldn’t be able to sell enough at that new price to justify our keeping them on hand. We can still order them though, along with separate nib units. Steel nibs start at $32 (I think), gold nibs are significantly more. We aren’t planning to carry them regularly again in the near future, but the possibility is always there if demand is there for them. You’re the first to ask me about them since July though, so it’s not looking likely.

One of my pens’ acting up, so I hit the web to find a loupe. My first stop,, doesn’t carry any! Are loupes something you guys might carry in the near future? This BelOMO loupe seems quite popular on…

I know, I know! I need to carry them, and I’m currently looking for them. There are a lot of really crappy loupes out there, I’m not even all that crazy about the Belomo ones, but they’re the most popular ones you’ll see on FPN because that’s what Richard Binder sells. They’re decent loupes, but the one that I actually like a lot better is one that Brian Gray of Edison Pens recommended to me, and I love it. It’s larger and easier to see than the Belomos, plus it has a built it light which helps a ton. I haven’t been able to find a wholesale source for these yet, so that’s why I don’t carry them. Unfortunately, no fountain pen supplier sells this kind of stuff, so I have to just go out into the world to try to find them, which is a pretty tough thing to do. I’m working on it though, I promise!

I’ve been experimenting with the inks on art materials. I wondered if you ever get enquiries from artists – re permanence and applications. If I can do anything for you in return, I’m happy to explain how far I’ve pushed the two inks I have – with surprising results – and how to make them permanent with acrylic paints and polymers. The BS in ARoses has stunning staining power.

I do have a fair number of artists who use fountain pen inks in their artwork, and I’m always interested to learn more. One that I correspond with on a regular basis is Jamie Grossman of Hudson Valley Sketches she’s done a lot with ink washing and UV-resistance testing.

Brian: Saw Tardiff’s videos on youtube and it seems the 3 Konrads I have can use a variety of nibs from other manufacurers. Will the Konrads take the inexpensive Knox nibs? Any others you know are compatible? Any special steps needed like heating, etc.?
Would like to try a conventional nib an experiment. Any tips (no pun intended) would be appreciated. Thanks!

The nids on the Konrad are #6 size nibs. Theoretically, they should fit the Knox nibs, Edisons, Monteverdes, and other nibs of similar size. The only complication might be the feed, as feeds designed for flex pens are slightly bending up towards the tip, and feeds for conventional nibs are slightly bending down. You may have to do a little experimentation, I would almost assume the feed would need to be heat set. Obviously anytime you’re mixing and matching brands you’re taking a risk that it won’t work right, but it might be worth trying out.

I just had a question for you regarding CF paper. I have a couple of
Waterman pens that skip horrendously on CF paper, but perfect on
almost all other paper types. I have other pens (lamy, bexley) that do
write without issue on CF paper however, so I believe this is an
isolated Waterman problem.

So my question to you is: do people report a lot of problems writing
on CF paper? and have you experienced this? My Watermans write soooo
smooth I think it is likely the shape of the tip leading to this, but
just want to see what you thought about multiple pen brands on CF
paper since this is more your forte than mine!

It’s not unusual for some pens to want to skip a little more on really slick and ink resistant paper like Clairefontaine. I’m a little surprised to hear that your Waterman pen is such a drastic difference than your other pens, and that the Clairefontaine seems to be such a difference than other papers with that specific brand. I suspect that it has a lot to do with the way the nibs are ground. There’s a symptom called ‘baby’s bottom’:

Baby’s Bottom – When the tip of a nib is too rounded where the two tines meet, not allowing proper capillary action for the ink to draw down to the paper. Though very smooth writing, nibs with this symptom will typically have skipping problems.

I suspect that you probably have a very moderate case of baby’s bottom going on, so that when you’re using it on more absorbent/fibrous papers the ink is being drawn through more easily, but the slicker and less absorbent Clairefontaine just happens to cross the threshold where the baby’s bottom starts to impede the ink flow. You can try using wetter flowing inks, keep these pens on the papers that work well with them, or have the nibs tuned/ground by a nibmiester to fix the baby’s bottom.

Is there some spunky reply for people who ask “How many pens do you need?” 

When someone asks me how many pens does one person need, I say, “I’ll let you know when I hit the number” ;) 

Thanks for taking the time to read my emails! I’d love to hear what you think in the comments. I’ll be compiling this coming week’s emails into next week’s Mailbox Monday post!