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Comparing Common Nib Grinds

Posted in Fountain Pens

I’ve been on a major custom-ground nib kick for the past year or so. At the DC Pen Show, I picked up two cursive italic nibs from All in the Nib. Since then, I’ve picked up four more custom-ground nibs. In that intervening time, I’ve also had multiple discussions with people about nib grinds and the differences between them.

Those conversations taught me that many people aren’t aware of the differences in the way each grind writes. So, I decided to compare the different “common” nib grinds I have.

To try to minimize variables, all four nib grinds are from Damien of All in the Nib, they are all Jowo #6 nibs, and the four pens holding the nibs are filled with Colorverse inks. I realize it’s not the same as if all of them were filled with the same ink, but I don’t like having multiple pens filled with the same ink at the same time.

The four grinds I’m comparing today are, as I said, some of the more “common”: Stub, Architect, Cursive Italic, and Oblique. I’m also comparing the four to a nib with standard round tipping. As I’m discussing Damien’s grinds, I’m borrowing the descriptions and images on his website. Damien, I hope you don’t mind.


Diagram showing the shape of a stub grind

Stubs produce broader down strokes paired with fine cross strokes. Stubs are very rounded, smooth, and forgiving grind that work for a variety of writing styles.

Stub nibs are lovely for a bit of line variation. But the narrower the nib on which you have the grind, the less noticeable the difference. You can see below on my M stub that the line variation is minimal. If your writing will allow for a B or wider, I’d suggest you go with that for a stub.

Writing Sample

comparing writing with a stub nib to writing with a standard nib


Diagram showing the shape of an architect grind

Architect grinds produce fine down strokes with broader cross strokes. This is achieved by grinding the tipping to an angled edge that comes in contact with the paper. Because of this Architects are best ground to your specific writing angle. They are more sensitive to rotation and varying writing angles, so they may not be suited for everyone.

For those unfamiliar with them, architect nibs are like reverse stubs. Like a stub, the width of the nib determines how much line variation you’ll get to see. Unlike the stub, however, the angle at which you hold your pen matters. So, while you can pick up a standard stub and have no problem using it, if an architect is at the wrong angle for you, it won’t write well.

Writing Angle Examples

Writing Sample

comparing writing with an architect nib to writing with a standard nib

Cursive Italic

Diagram showing the shape of a stub grind

Cursive Italics produce broader down strokes with very fine cross strokes. Cursive Italics are crisper and may exhibit a bit of feedback. They are still suitable for everyday use, as compared with their partial namesake, the Italic.

And now we get to the really fun ones, in my opinion. As you can see in the writing sample below, even a F cursive italic will show line variation. That’s because the nib is ground so thin on the writing edge. The “crisper” the grind, the more line variation. However, it also means more feedback and more chance for the edge to catch on paper. The cursive italic is, for most nibmeisters, the midway between the stub and the italic (AKA sharp italic, crisp italic, etc.). In my opinion, cursive italic is a good way to lend some character to your writing without sacrificing ease and comfort.

comparing writing with a cursive italic nib to writing with a standard nib


Diagram showing the shape of a stub grind

Obliques are deliberately ground at an angle to accommodate for side writers or those who rotate their pens. Aside from the angle, Obliques typically have a Stub-like characteristic to the grind, but can be ground either rounder or crisper like that of a Cursive Italic.

Ah, the oblique, my favorite nib grind as of now. It lends the most character to my writing. Like the architect, obliques have to be customized. In this case, there are two factors:

  1. Direction: The left-foot oblique is more commonly for right-handed people and the right-foot oblique is for lefties. It’s a little confusing, but they’re named because they look like feet.
  2. Angle: Obliques need to be held differently. You actually turn your pen to follow the angle of the “foot.” By the same token, you need the angle of the “foot” to match the angle you’ll be holding your pen. If an oblique isn’t customized for you, it likely won’t work well.

Writing Angle Examples

Writing Sample

comparing writing with an oblique nib to writing with a standard nib

Closing Thoughts

There are, of course, other grinds. Notably needlepoint, cutlass, naginata togi, reverse grinds, etc. But the above four are, in my experience, the most common.

If you haven’t gotten a nib ground before, I highly suggest doing so. Start with a stub or cursive italic on a nib you can easily replace in case you decide it’s not for you — e.g. Jowo, Bock, Kaweco, Lamy. If you have a pen show near you, I highly advise pre-booking with on of the nibmeisters that are attending and getting the nib grind there. If you don’t, many nibmeisters accept commissions through the mail or have pre-ground nibs for sale.

Some nibmeisters I know of are:

I’m sorry to those i missed. This isn’t a comprehensive list by any means, just those I know off the top of my head who are currently working.

Thanks for reading this far, I hope my post proved helpful to you. Have you ever gotten a nib ground? If so, what’s your favorite grind? If not, is there a reason why? Let me know in the comments! I’d love to hear from you.

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