02 February 2013

On Gold and Steel

This is, lately, a recurrent topic of discussion: how important is to have a gold nib? What are the differences in performance between those materials? These are my experiences, my conclusions, and also my doubts.

1. Nib flexibility is more a matter of its geometry than of the material it was made of. To illustrate this point, I am including two pictures. First, a Pilot’s steel nib from the 1950s with remarkable flexibility.

Second, a very rigid modern Sailor nib modified by nibmeister Yamada to make it flexible. Needless to say, Mr. Yamada did not change the composition of the nib but just its shape.

2. Now, in the case of two identically shaped nibs, the one made of 14 K gold is more flexible than that of steel. But higher gold content does not make the nib more flexible. In fact, higher gold content makes the material more prone to plastic deformation. Therefore, high grade gold nibs –21 K and up— must be very rigid to avoid deformations.

Nothing can I say about the flexibility of poorer, below the usual 14 K, gold alloys. Those, in any event, are rare in the pen industry.

On top, a 22 K gold nib by Platinum. On bottom, a 23 K nib by Sailor. Both are very rigid.

3. The raison d’être of gold nibs is, over any other consideration, its very high resistance to corrosion. But with modern inks and correct pen hygiene nib corrosion is a very minor risk despite what some ink producers might claim. Consequently, the wish, or the need, to implement a gold nib is mostly a matter of marketing over any practical justification.

4. Writing smoothness has nothing to do with the nib material. The contact point between pen and paper is the iridium point (no longer made of this metal), and the smoothness of that contact point lays on the tipping material and on the quality of the polishing.

5. Having said that, I also want to add a caveat. In my experience, gold nibs tend to run a tad wetter that their steel counterparts. The reason for this might be related to differences in the interactions of the ink with the different nib materials. More ink, then, means more lubrication on the tip and a smoother writing experience. But this factor is secondary to the quality of the polishing or to the characteristics of ink and paper, and it could easily be corrected with an adequate design of the feed.

6. Finally, we should never forget that the writing experience depends on the pen, on the ink, and on the paper. And on our way of writing.

Morison pocket pen, 18 K nib – Sailor Jentle Black

Bruno Taut
Yokohama, February 2013
etiquetas: soluciones técnicas, mercado, plumín, Sailor, Pilot, Platinum, Yamada

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Pretty sad, how this sailor nib has been destroyed...

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