FP101: How To Write With A Stub Nib

One of best things about writing with a fountain pen is the wide range of nib size options. However, it can feel overwhelming trying to learn how all of the different nibs write. I created a Fountain Pen 101 video called Nib Sizes and Grinds to help explain all of the different options out there. But in this video, our Customer Care manager Drew and I dig deeper into stub nibs specifically. We talk about what makes a nib a stub, the differences between the various kinds of stub nibs, and how to properly write with one.

What is a stub nib?

  • A nib with tipping material that’s ground flat on the end
  • Produces a narrow line on the cross stroke, broad on the down stroke
  • Mimics calligraphy (without doing anything different!)
  • Different than flex nibs, which require pressure to change the line width

What is the difference between a stub, a cursive italic, a crisp italic and an oblique nib?

  • Stub – rounded edges, smooth but you sacrifice more line variation
  • Cursive Italic – slightly more rounded edges, smoother than crisp but still with good line variation
  • Crisp Italic (true italic) – very sharp edges, gives the cleanest definition of thin/broad strokes
  • Oblique – stub nib that’s ground at an angle (left or right) to compensate for specific hand angles, not widely available today, more of a vintage thing

How do you properly write with a stub nib?

  • Write more intentionally
  • You can write from just about any angle, as long as the nib stays flat on the paper at all times
  • Misalignment is felt worse than a normal nib

Different fountain pens with stub nibs

Specific brands and models available with stub nibs:

Writing with a stub nib takes practice. These nibs are unique, so don’t be surprised if you have to change up your writing angle when using one. And be sure to give yourself some time to learn how to write with them! 

What has your experience been writing with a stub nib? Let me know in the comments below.

Write on, 
Brian Goulet & Drew

2017-10-11T13:45:47+00:00 May 17th, 2016|Fountain Pen 101|55 Comments
  • I just got my first Lamy stub yesterday (1.1), and now I’m thinking of switching all my fountain pens to stubs.

    • Lydia At Goulet Pens

      Oh wow, Cecily! I guess you found your perfect nib size then! What other pens do you have?

      • I have 4 Lamys (2 Al-Stars, 2 Safaris), and a Kaweco Sport, and I’m anxiously awaiting the arrival of a TWSBI Vac Mini that I ordered from Goulet. It should be here any day now!

        • Lydia At Goulet Pens

          That’s an amazing collection! I have two safaris and I looooooooove them.

  • Andrea Kirkby

    I love using a stub. I have an Edison factory stub as well as a couple of nibmeistered stubs and cursive italics. A stub is pretty forgiving. Cursive italics have more bite.

    There’s room for both in my armoury. If I’m just scribblling, a stub makes my handwriting look better; I think any edged nib forces a bit of discipline on you and that makes your writing improve. But if I really want to concentrate on my handwriting, I’ll take out one of the cursive italic nibs. It’s a bit like the difference between practising aikido with a wooden sword, and taking out a real one – the real sword and the CI nib make a greater effect but both have dangerous edges,

    • Lydia At Goulet Pens

      That’s the perfect analogy with the sword, Andrea. I really like that! I think it perfectly explains the situation too.

  • RD

    Okay, I have to ask – what is the ink, where you wrote “Baby Bottom Smooth”? It’s gorgeous!

    • Lydia At Goulet Pens

      Hey, RD. That is the Lamy Dark Lilac ink, which is unfortunately out of stock but we are expecting more in the coming weeks!

  • jane pilecki

    Excellent video!!! The explanations are very good and clear, and the rapport between Brian and Drew is fun and sincere. As far as the JoWo nibs being some of the best stubs you have written with, I agree. Now when I buy an Edison pen, I only purchase a 1.1 mm stub!!! They are fabulous writers. Thanks for the great video!

    • Lydia At Goulet Pens

      Thanks, Jane! Drew and Brian are so much fun. You can definitely tell they’ve been friends for a long time (since the 1st grade). So glad you found the perfect Edison nib for you. That’s amazing when you find your favorites and you can stick with them.

  • Giovanni’s Roomba

    I have a very strong preference for extra-fine nibs because I like to write small and fast, but on a whim I bought a 1.1 stub for a Lamy Safari just for difference. Although I wouldn’t want to use it all the time, I do love writing cursive with it: it automatically forces you to slow down, and it makes even average handwriting look more graceful and considered. And of course it shows off shading ink much better than a fine nib ever could.

    • Lydia At Goulet Pens

      That sounds great, Giovanni’s Roomba. I may have to try the Lamy stub on one of my Safaris for the cursive as you mentioned. That sounds like fun 🙂

  • VickNish

    Thanks for this very clear explanation of stubs/italics. I think 50% of my pens are stub/italics and now I understand them a little better. And now I really want an Aurora crisp italic to add to my collection! Also, I was wondering how you would categorize Pilot Plumix/Prera and Kaweco calligraphy nibs?

    • Lydia At Goulet Pens

      That’s an interesting question! I will have to check on that and get back to you!

  • Ryan

    Thank you for this video! I didn’t previously know the difference between a stub and a italic. I thought they were just different names for the same pen! I’ve also had some babies bottom issues with my Visconti Opera. It’s good to know what the problem was ext. Just one question. What ink are you using in that video on the Blue Lamy Al-Star? It’s a very nice black!

    • Lydia At Goulet Pens

      Hi, Ryan. The ink in question is Noodler’s Heart of Darkness. It’s a great ink!

      • Tom Johnson

        Heart of Darkness is of my all time favorite black inks. I think I have it in 3 (maybe 4) pens right now.

  • Tom Johnson

    This is a great video, you two are dynamite on video together! Drew was my first Goulet hero when he solved a problem for me shortly after I discovered Goulet Pens in 2013. I started with 1.1 stub nibs, then stocked up on several 1.5 mm stub nibs (Goulet, Lamy, TWSBI) and just got a 1.9 mm Lamy nib last week, but have not used it yet. I have had the Parallel pens for quite a while, but they take much more attention to detail so I use them for special “occasions”. I regularly use F, M, and B nibs for writing, but love using the 1.5 mm stub nibs when I can write large enough and want the flair it gives my writing. They are so great with shading inks too. Even after using stubs for a couple of years, this video gave me a much greater understanding and appreciation for them. Well done guys! Thanks for the great information.

    • Lydia At Goulet Pens

      Thanks for checking the video out, Tom! I’m so glad that this video has proved to have interesting and relevant information for fountain pen users of all experience levels.

  • Henry

    What makes this video so good are the examples of how stub nibs fail and the ways to correct the problems.

    • Lydia At Goulet Pens

      Thanks, Henry! I hope you learned some good troubleshooting tips. I know I did!

  • Thudthwacker

    I have stub nibs on just about everything; my Neon Yellow Lamy Safari came with a 1.5mm stub, which was (for me) way too finicky about nib/paper angle. But I loved how it looked, so I ordered a 1.1mm stub. And that was the sweet spot for me — gave nice line variation, but wasn’t (that) picky about how the nib met the paper. So, now, pretty much everything I have is a stub — including the Sheaffer NoNonsense I found, which came in a craft store calligraphy set my wife got in the 90’s. It’s translucent green and has a fine italic (more properly called a stub, I think; maybe a cursive-italic) nib, and I love it unreservedly; it’s my everyday-carry pen, loaded up with Sheaffer Green (which is, o’course, a very nice teal, in much the way the fine italic is a very nice stub).

    • Lydia At Goulet Pens

      It must have been amazing to find that sweet spot with the Lamy stub nibs, Thudthwacker! And what a lucky break to get an awesome Sheaffer in your calligraphy set that ended up being a noteworthy pen in your collection. 🙂

  • Random Guy McGee

    Echoing the support for steel stubs. I have a VP stub and had a Homo Sapiens stub, and they both perform poorly in comparison to my Edison and Jowo stubs.

    Even after sending the Visconti to a nibmeister, it was a total pain to write consistently with, and ruined my grail pen experience for me (maybe I’ll get another HS down the line in EF, but I’m hesitant now).

    • Lydia At Goulet Pens

      Oh no! I’m sorry your grail pen experience was so terrible! The Homo Sapiens are such beautiful pens too. 🙁 I hope that you have great writing experiences with your other pens to make up for it though! Do you have a favorite stub nib among your collection?

  • bfg

    Is it harder for a lefty to write with a stub. I have a couple but when I use them the writing looks sort of “clunky” not smooth and flowing. Is this just me or a lefty problem?

    • I S

      In my experience, it’s a lefty problem – because of the way we have to push pens across the paper instead of pull, all our strokes are in the wrong direction and just don’t go the way the pens are built for. It frustrates me like crazy, because I’d actually wanted to get into flexible nib writing, but again, lefty…

      • Andrew

        Left handed people actually have a natural advantage with flexible nibs. If you are a left handed underwriter, you should actually have roughly the right angle against the writing line to do pointed calligraphy (i.e. writing with a flex nib). Right handed people use oblique holders for pointed calligraphy.

        As a left hander, you have to rotate the paper clockwise to the appropriate angle to stroke correctly with stubs.

        • I S

          Not for me – I’m an overwriter, and no matter WHAT angle I have the paper at, my writing looks better (more accurately flexed for the downstrokes instead of upstrokes) if I scrawl with my right hand, than if I try to write properly with my left hand. I don’t know – maybe I’m just doing the whole thing wrong, but it was HUGELY discouraging…

          • bfg

            I’m a straight writer. Aside from the need to be careful not to drag my hand through wet ink the angle just seems to be wrong for flex writing. Although I find that I can write decently with an Esterbrook flex nib. I suppose they are really semi-flex nibs and they just seem to have the right balance between firmness and flexibility for my hand. Really the best thing for me seems to be a Waverly type nib like the Sheaffer Valiant nibs. I also was able to get a Waverly nib on a Pilot 743. I suppose I could try playing with holding the paper at a different angle and also writing slower.

    • Lydia At Goulet Pens

      I was wondering the same thing, bfg. I am a lefty myself and I’ve been hesitant to branch out beyond my fine nibs because of my different writing style. I also think that the different ways that Lefties hold their pens can create a lot of variation in the writing experience. It sounds like our fellow lefties in the comments below speak to exactly that vast difference too.

  • Uniotter

    Great video, guys! I especially liked the way you used writing samples to illustrate what you were saying — made the points really clear, and gave us excellent visuals of how the various pens/nibs perform. I bought a second-hand Platinum 3776 several years ago and was disappointed with the way it wrote — I was expecting a much sharper difference in strokes and unless I was holding it straight up and down, it wrote just like a double-broad nib. What you said confirmed my experience, and it’s good to know I wasn’t doing anything wrong! Too bad I didn’t have this video to refer to before I purchased that pen. 🙂

    • Lydia At Goulet Pens

      Thanks, Uniotter. Wish we could have been around to help you with your Platinum purchase a few years back!

  • David

    What you call a “Left Oblique” is often termed a “Left Foot Oblique”. This is to remind you which type of oblique you have. A left foot oblique tilts just like the toes on your left foot do when you down at them. The same goes for what you term a “Right Oblique” – this is more often called a “Right Foot Oblique”.

    Solid gold stubs and italics are found less often than steel stub and italic nibs. Other than because the nibs are gold, and gold is more valuable than steel, this is because gold nibs must be tipped. Steel stubs and italics do not need to be tipped because steel is hard, and there is lots of material in contact with the paper. So untipped steel stubs and italics don’t wear out too fast. Gold stubs and italics are too soft to simply allow the gold to come into direct contact with the paper, they would wear out too fast. Therefore, gold stubs and italics require tipping with a hard material, and the tipping requires a lot of manual work to shape it properly.

    • Lydia At Goulet Pens

      Wow, David. Thank you for all the great insight and knowledge. I really like that way of understanding the oblique nibs. Very good visual. And now that you’ve explained that, the gold nib idea makes a whole lot more sense.

    • bfg

      Another thing that gets tricky about obliques is that a left oblique is traditionally for right handed people and a right oblique is for lefties, but there are some companies that made a left handed oblique for lefties.

  • farmkiti

    Great video; I didn’t previously understand the difference between stubs and italics. But I’ve used stubs almost since the beginning of my fountain pen obsession. Stubs are great; they make my normally loopy handwriting look almost elegant. Early on in my obsession, I found that I had problems with scratchy nibs when writing with a standard fine-point nib. It was difficult for me to tune a fountain pen when it had a little scratchiness. I found that stubs usually don’t have scratchy nibs, as long as they’re being used correctly. Somehow I instinctively knew how to use a stub, and now about half my fountain pens are stubs. I just love them! Now I totally understand how the slightly-rounded, square tip contributes to a pleasurable writing experience. Thanks for the video.

    • Lydia At Goulet Pens

      That’s great, farmkiti! It’s like you were destined to use stub nibs, it came so naturally to you and your writing style. Do you have an absolute favorite?

      • farmkiti

        I think my favorite stubs are my TWSBI mini fountain pens. I have two of them in the stub nibs, and I bought them pretty early on. So far, they are the best stub writers i have. It’s hard to choose because I love all my stubs! But those are my favorites. TWSBI has mastered the art of making an excellent fountain pen at a reasonable price. I just wish they would put out more bright, pretty colors! I have a couple of the clear minis and one Classic black mini. I would love to get more in various translucent colors. Teal, aqua, pink, red, etc. Think you can slip them the word? I bet a lot of people out there would like TWSBIs in more colors, too!

  • Neal Bland

    I’ve been looking into trying out some writing styles from back when people used a quill to write. These quills where cut like a stub, but could be rotated so that you are writing on the outside corner of the nib for getting fine lines when writing in the same direction that the nib would want to give you a fat line if you had it flat on the paper. This video makes it clear that most stub fountain pens are not great at this. Are there any out there that would tolerate this sort of use so I don’t have to walk around with a feather and bottle of ink in my pocket? Thanks!

    • Tom Johnson

      Neal, the Pilot Parallel pens can write on their corners to get a very fine line. Look at YouTube videos of writing with the Parallel pens.

    • Russell Louis

      I just tried doing this with the Pilot Plumix and like most calligraphy I had to draw the thick and thin lines normal and then ultra thin line by flipping the pen up side down. (do not add pressure will upside down).

  • Heather Tisdell

    I’ve had no issues with stubs! I just automatically knew how to write with one. No learning curve, skipping or anything. It just worked 💖💖💖 I have a twsbi mini with the 1.1 nib. Smooth as butter, wet and loaded with Sailor Yama-dori!💞💞💞💞

  • ec

    Love my TWSBI 1.1 stub! The little Plumix is stubbie, too!

    • Russell Louis

      I thought the Plumix was more of an italic (squared off edges) than the stub difinition (bulbous nib ground flat).

  • Sarah E. Cavanaugh

    I have a Lamy 1.1 nib and love it, because the Lamy helps me keep in the right position.

  • Dave Busse

    Really enjoyed the video. You two did a great job. Keep it up. When I met Brian at the Atlanta Pen show I told him that all I know about pens I learned from watching his videos. A great service, one of the reasons I keep coming back tot he site.

  • Greg Moore

    Thanks for the video and Info. I love the stub nibs I have 1.1 and 1.9mm. I also have an Oblique nib because I wanted to a different type of stub. Its ok but while I had zero learning curve for the stub nib, the oblique nib I had to practice with because its more finicky with angle and position. I wish more more pen makers provided a stub option since F, M, and B get boring after a while. Oh almost forgot, I have a Goulet stub nib in a Noodler’s Ahab and its fantastic.

  • Runnin_Ute

    My first stub was a Lamy 1.1 I installed on my Al Star, which had a fine on it. Later I added to my collection the following: A TWSBI 580 B ground to a stub, a 1.1 on my Eco and a OB on a Pelikan M200. That one took the most work to adjust to, as I don’t naturally rotate the pen when I write.

  • Alexander Freedman

    I bought the Lamy 1.5. Since it was in the middle, I thought it would be the safest bet haha. It took time for me to find the right angle but – boy – when you do, it’s smooth as butter.

  • Mike Smukula

    I was hoping that you would talk about Stipula’s, as I have a 1.1 Stub that is giving me fit’s

  • Veronica Smith

    What does cm mean

  • Good video. I watched it about a year ago and didn’t fully appreciate it since I had no stubs. Now with several pens with stub nibs and without a doubt if I could afford it I think I would put them on all of my pens. I think my favorite is the 1.5 for Lamy pens, of which I have more than makes logical sense for what amounts to the same pen.

    Presently i am being challenged by the Noodler’s music nibs. I want to like them I really do. So far it appears they do not have the same feelings towards me. I think if I can ever unlock the code to their affection it would be a beautiful writing experience both visually and mechanically. We have quite a ways to go. My main problem is they stary out writing all nice and pretty and good ink flow. Then they get tired and uncooperative eventually and simply refuse to write another character until I let them rest and then I can get another couple of words in and then they start censoring my every stoke. Most annoying is when thy descide that my writing should be all echoes and parallels. They are simply viscous and out to get me I am sure they have been possessed, perhaps by one of my grade school penmanship teachers. Yea, that’s it.

    Thank you for the video. I need to check to see what you have for my TWSBIs and my little darling EDC Kaweco liliput.

  • June Beck

    Awesome! Good job Drew and Brian!

  • Suzanne

    Thanks for this! I have been struggling a little bit with my Twsbi 1.1 stub and low and behold when I hold the pen more vertical problem solved!