In early 2018, the OmniFlex nib was first introduced on brands like Conklin and Monteverde. This is a stainless steel #6 size nib with a distinct shape and design to allow for increased softness, flexibility in the tines, and variation in line width based on your writing pressure. After going through iterative changes for the first several years and looking to increase their supply and quality of these nibs, the parent company Yafa embarked on a lengthy process involving significant investment of time and resources to get their nibs manufactured by the German nib company JoWo. JoWo (pronounced Yo-Vo) makes nibs for many of the brands you likely enjoy, including our very own Goulet nibs, so this was very welcome news to us when we heard about it.
But of course, with the announcement of any nib change come a lot of questions about how they perform and what to expect, especially when these nibs are coming on pens as attainable/affordable as the Monteverde and Conklins, many of which are sub-$50-100. So we wanted to give you a little bit of a preview of that here with these videos and this blog post. While we haven’t had the nibs long enough to do extensive tests over time, we feel confident enough to be able to give you a pretty good impression of what to expect so you can feel good about whether or not a pen with the JoWo-made OmniFlex is right for you.
Overall, the shape of the nibs are similar to the previous version. They’re made of stainless steel and have the same general shape and appearance that they used to with the cut out wings to increase the softness of the steel as the tines flex. The breather hole is now round instead of heart-shaped, and it has JoWo’s signature ornamentation (aka squiggles) like you see on other JoWo-made nibs. The stamped branding “OMNIFLEX” now goes vertically down the nib, though the fit and finish on the JoWo nibs is better. Here’s the original and new version for comparison:
They have a distinctly different appearance than the non-flex nibs offered by Monteverde and Conklin, pictured before. The non-flex versions of both brands of nibs changed over to JoWo manufacturing in late-2019, and have enjoyed a more consistent reputation for writing performance as a result. We anticipate a similar response to the JoWo OmniFlex.
OmniFlex Writing Performance:
Alright, so this is where we have to tread lightly, as any nib with the word flex associated with it in any way immediately sends pen fans into a fantasy world where they will effortlessly produce a Spencerian or Copperplate script with no railroading or hard starting, with cupids playing harps flying about them feed them grapes. I’m sorry to say this isn’t the reality with flex of pretty much any kind (particularly with modern stainless steel nibs), so if you can get the dream sequence out of your head, you can enjoy a unique, practical nib within its limitations.
First, let’s explore how flex nibs work. As the ink flows down from the ink chamber through the feed and to the nib, it’s working by capillary action down a very thin channel that ends at the tip of the nib when it touches the paper. Properly tuned nibs will have a slit that tapers slightly from the breather hole to the tip to assist in this capillary action. When you’re flexing a nib, you’re pressing down on the nib, which bends the tines upwards and apart from each other, which essentially is a controlled deformation of the nib. If you do it within the physical boundaries of the metal’s reformation limits (known as “spring back”), the flow of ink will increase as you’re pressing these tines apart and then they will come back together where they originally were when you let up on that pressure.
Doing this produces a variation in your line width that gives a dynamic, calligraphic look to your writing that is hard to achieve in any other way. Traditional calligraphy achieves intense line variation in a similar way, though with slightly different tools. Calligraphers are often using oblique nib holders with disposable nibs made of spring steel (a softer, cheaper steel that does not last a fraction as long as stainless steel), and thicker calligraphy ink. It’s not uncommon for traditional calligraphers to stress flexible nibs to the point of springing them apart past the point of return, or even snapping the tines off from the weakening of the steel due to the intense pressure put on them. However, fountain pens aren’t designed with such an intense line variation in mind, and trying to produce this same dramatic writing is pretty much asking for trouble.
What you can realistically hope to achieve with a stainless steel flexible nib, and indeed from the JoWo OmniFlex nib specifically, is a line variation safely about double the width of the nib when unflexed. The OmniFlex is only available in one nib size and doesn’t specifically state the size, but we find it to write a line with (unflexed) comparable somewhere between a fine and medium in the JoWo-made Monteverde or Conklin nibs. We find it to be slightly broader than the previous version of the OmniFlex, which some of you may like, others, maybe not. It’ll be a matter of personal preference.
Because the old version of the nib started a little finer, the line width appears slightly more dramatic. That said, when flexing the previous version of the OmniFlex, many writers found that the ink flow would be challenged to keep up consistently (which is the case with just about any flex nib), and it would take a concerted amount of pressure to get it to flex this much.
The JoWo OmniFlex feels smoother, more consistent, and takes less pressure to flex, which is a delight for an everyday writing experience. With some moderate pressure, this is a nib that just about anyone can enjoy with dependable performance. THAT SAID, if you are looking to use this nib to try to push it to its limits and get the most dramatic line variation possible, you’re likely to spring the tines past the point where they’ll come back together as they were set from the factory. You want to be very conscientious of how hard you’re pushing this nib, because it has limitations (as we’ve tried to show you in this video).
Pens currently available with the JoWo OmniFlex nibs:
It’s been well over a year in the making to bring these nibs to market. Yafa has made a significant investment of time and money to make this happen to improve the availability and reliability of the OmniFlex on their pens, and they are opening it up to basically every model under the Monteverde and Conklin brands (and potentially future brands). JoWo is still working on delivering their initial order of nibs, and the first ones rolling out in Oct 2020 are the polished stainless steel (silver color). Next to arrive will be black and rose gold nibs, which have additional plating services required that will delay these nibs for an unknown period of time, hopefully not more than a matter of weeks or months…though with COVID being what it is, everything is subject to change.
They will also be offered as standalone nib units, so if you have an older Monteverde or Conklin pen, you are likely to be able to replace the nib unit with a JoWo OmniFlex if you’re so inclined, as the housing/threading has been intentionally kept consistent with the new nibs (the feeds are also the same, in case that matters to you).
Models you can expect to see available with the OmniFlex nibs include the following (as well as others perhaps not mentioned here):
- Conklin All American
- Conklin Coronet
- Conklin Crescent Filler
- Conklin Duragraph
- Conklin Endura
- Conklin Herringbone
- Monteverde Essenza
- Monteverde Innova
- Monteverde Invincia
- Monteverde Mountains of the World
- Monteverde Prima
- Monteverde Regatta Sport
- Monteverde Ritma
- Monteverde Rodeo Drive
- Monteverde Strata
You can view all our currently available JoWo Omniflex pen offerings here.
Final thoughts on old vs new OmniFlex nibs:
We’re incredibly excited for these new nibs, as it’s been a long time in the works and we expect the quality and consistency of JoWo to make these enjoyable for more pen fans than ever before. The new nibs are a slight compromise in terms of dramatic line variation from the old version, but kept within its boundaries, we find it to be a smoother, softer, more enjoyable experience overall. Flex writing isn’t necessarily for everyone, and it should be approached with an attitude of open-mindedness of writing technique and paper/ink selection, willingness to practice, and intentionality around how flex writing is performed. With that said, we think you’ll really enjoy this nib as an everyday performer that can give you some flare and dynamism to your personal writing style and we think it’s worth exploring if you’re into that.
For more information about OmniFlex and the pen offered with these nibs on it, be sure to visit GouletPens.com.
Brian Goulet and the Goulet Pens Team