When Esterbrook first announced Nib Wars, I wasn’t sure what to expect. It was described as a competition where, “the nibmeisters will participate in three rounds, each round tasking the competitor to execute a specific nib grind.” I didn’t know if it would be fascinating or boring. But, it sounded interesting enough that I registered to attend.
I was especially intrigued by Esterbrook’s description of nibmeisters: “the unsung heroes of the pen community, nibmeisters build their skill over years of training and persistence. Not unlike a Jedi, if you think about it.” I’ve definitely found that people new to the pen world either don’t know about, or are somewhat skeptical about, going to nibmeisters. And, while I 100% advocate learning to tune your own nibs, nibmeisters are fabulous for narrowing a nib or changing the shape of a nib (e.g. standard round to stub or architect).
When the event finally arrived, I was expecting very straightforward challenges. Along the lines of “cursive italic,” “needlepoint,” etc. However, that wasn’t the case. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
When we got to the room, it wasn’t particularly full. There were still a handful of seats left. But, as 9:15 approached and arrived, the room got progressively more crowded and warm. I was surprised at just how full it got. We were really packed in. It became almost uncomfortably warm until someone figured out that there were two A/C controls in the room.
The nibmeisters participating were Anabelle Sophie Hiller of Appelboom, Joshua Lax of J.J. Lax Pen Co, CY of Tokyo Station Pens, and Kirk Speer of Pen Realm. The judges were Cary Yeager (AKA FountainPenDay) of Kenro Industries, Azizah Asgarali of Gourmet Pens, and Barry Gabay, writer for Pen World. Katy Klassman and Katherine Palmisano were the fabulous hosts. Josh and Kat were the only two to wear Jedi robes, although Katy did have a Grogu plushie.
I won’t recap the entire event. If you want to watch it, Cary posted the entire livestream on Instagram. Suffice to say that it was a lot of fun.
With each round, the nibmeisters got to choose their desired nib width, and, in some rounds, the paper on which the judges would write with their nib. The challenges for each round were nebulous and open to interpretations, with prompts such as, “the perfect nib to write a love letter.” Each nibmeister had 12 minutes — except for round 2 which, for some reason, was only 10 minutes — to grind their chosen nib.
What I found most interesting during the event was the way the different nibmeisters worked. Each had their own unique style — you can see photos on Instagram. Jim started the naming with Josh’s technique. Unfortunately, we couldn’t come up with good food-themed names for everyone, although we tried. Anabelle’s technique was almost named The Steak for the way she was sitting straight-backed and looking like she was using utensils. But, since Kirk’s style didn’t lend itself to a food name, we settled on the names below.
Josh’s technique is The Taco, because he takes himself to the dremel, like you take yourself to a taco to avoid spillage.
CY’s technique is The Nacho, because he brings the dremel to himself, like you bring a nacho to your face.
Kirk’s technique is The Jeweler, because he peers at his nib through his magnifiers like one would at a diamond.
Anabelle’s technique is The Scientist because she gazes down her scope as though analyzing a specimine.
At the completion of the 12-minute grind time, the nibs were handed over to the judges one-by-one to try out. While the judges wrote, the nibmeister explained what they had done with the nib and the reasoning behind it. Then, the judges provided their feedback. After all four nibs had been tested, the judges provided their scores out of 10 on paddles. As one would expect with seasoned nibmeisters, there were no low scores. I believe the lowest was an 8.
Ultimately, while everyone did incredibly well, Josh was declared the winner and took home the prize for the inaugural nib wars.
As a fabulous bonus, after the event, all of the ground nibs were made available through a charity raffle. Show attendees could buy tickets at $5 each for a chance to win an Estie with one of the nibs. All proceeds from the raffle were promised to a Ukrainian relief charity, with donations matched by Kenro Industries.
At just $5 a ticket, it’s somewhat impressive $860 was raised. Kenro announced they will contribute the additional amount for a total donation of $2,000. As they’ve also announced “we’re already thinking of when we can do it again,” my suggestion for future events is to make tickets available immediately before and after the event while people are still actively thinking of the nibs. Perhaps even offering a mid-show break with ticket sales.
Thanks for reading to the end, I hope you enjoyed my post. Did you go to Nib Wars? Did you watch it on Instagram? What did you think of it? Let me know in the comments! I’d love to hear from you.
More To Come
I think I’m going to have three more DC Pen Show posts. You’ll be able to find them all on the 2022 DC Pen Show tag page. But, I suggest you subscribe to my blog or follow me on Instagram so you don’t miss any.