The Great Nib Test 2015

Yes, every test has to be Great. Why do you ask?

Inspired by an exchange I had over on Reddit about improvements I could make on my Copperplate, I thought it was high time to do a pointed nib test. The purpose of this was severalfold:

  1. To see if I could make those square cutoffs that are so important to making pretty Copperplate.
  2. To see how far I could take a loaded-up nib.
  3. To practice using my whole arm to pull the nib back, rather than just my hand.
  4. To give me something to entertain myself on a Sunday afternoon.

Each test was done on a small Rhodia pad, with walnut ink reconstituted from crystals, and each line came from a fully-loaded nib. The oblique penholder is from Unique Obliques. Terribly scientific, I know.

Let’s get to the results!

Nikko G
The Nikko G nib


Let’s start with the G nibs, very commonly recommended to beginners. This is probably because they are fairly stiff and so don’t respond as wildly to pressure as other nibs do. That way, if you haven’t yet developed a fine touch with your pen yet, you won’t have a hot mess on your hands.

The Nikko G is fine all around, really. It held on to ink all the way down, and the cutoffs at the ends were reasonable, although not spectacular.

2015-06-28 14.38.01 2015-06-28 14.38.08

They’re cheap and ubiquitous, and there’s really no reason to to have a bunch of them around. The same goes for…

2015-06-28 14.08.47
The Zebra G nib


Much like the Nikko, this gives a pretty even line all the way down (although it did start railroading at the 65mm mark), and holds up well to a heavy hand.

2015-06-28 14.41.49 2015-06-28 14.41.55

My tops and bottoms were kind of a mess, though. I’d like to blame the nib, but probably shouldn’t.

The Tachikawa G nib
The Tachikawa G nib


Of the three G nibs, I think I liked this one the best. It has a certain stiffness to it that felt good1, and it generally behaved itself. As far as the cutoffs go, the ends are a bit blobby:

2015-06-28 14.27.162015-06-28 14.27.22

I figure that with practice, though, I might get the hang of it.


The Mystery Tachikawa
The Mystery Tachikawa nib


I have no idea what particular flavor of Tachikawa this is, but much like its G cousin above, it was nice to use. Generally good control, except on the long lines, but that’s more my fault than the nib’s, I think. In terms of the cutoffs, it offered a little more control, except where it didn’t.

2015-06-28 14.33.31 2015-06-28 14.33.44


I wish I knew exactly which nib this was, but all I’ve got is the maker.

The Brause Cito-Fein nib
The Brause Cito-Fein nib


This was another that didn’t have a lot of give to it, which I’m finding that I like. Nice, steady lines make me happy. although as the curves up top show, you don’t get a whole lot of contrast between hairlines and those nice thick loops. As for tops and bottoms, well…

2015-06-28 14.50.06 2015-06-28 14.50.13

I could certainly do better. It’s interesting how the tops are pulling to the right. Need to watch that…

2015-06-28 14.07.20
The Hunt 101 nib


This is one of my two “squishy” nibs, as my brain has decided to label them. The Hunt and the Gillott are very pressure-sensitive, as you can probably see from the variety of line widths in the picture. And while it got all the way to 75mm without railroading, you can see that the same was not true when I spun the page around to do some curves. In those, the nib tines spread too far to hold the ink pretty quickly.

2015-06-28 14.54.13 2015-06-28 14.54.25

The tops in this case are better than the bottoms3, but again – that’s likely more me than the nib. I had an idea in my mind that these more flexible nibs should result in easier squaring-off, but that might not be true. Let’s look at…

The Gillott 303 nib
The Gillott 303 nib


As you can see, this one seemed to have the hardest time finishing a straight line. It creates very broad strokes, but runs out of ink faster than any of the other nibs I used. Much like the Hunt above, it’s quite sensitive to pressure and is probably better to save until you have a good grasp of how much pressure to use.

However, I suspect that it might be one of the better nibs for using with gouache. It might be the thinness of the walnut ink that leads to the railroading we see here. Perhaps it’s more suitable to a heavier medium where a firmer nib might have trouble. This is all speculation at this point.

2015-06-28 15.06.41 2015-06-28 15.06.46

Not bad. Not great, but not bad. It’ll do, nib. It’ll do.

The Brause 361 nib
The Brause 361 nib


We finish today with what might be my favorite of the bunch. In addition to looking like it ought to be on the end of a pixie’s spear, it bridges the gap between the stiffness of the G nibs and the softness of the Hunt and Gillott. While it doesn’t open them terribly far, the tines are easy to move, which makes those square cutoffs more achievable.

2015-06-28 15.10.03 2015-06-28 15.10.10

The ones up top, anyway. The bottom cutoffs are still a work in progress.

So, that’s it for our journey through Nibopolis today. The takeaway is that the G nibs are probably the safest ones to work with, unless you’re feeling flamboyant and patient, in which case try something with a little more give to it. I’ll try out new nibs in this style as I get them, but for now, thanks!

If you have any thoughts or experiences with these or other pointed-pen nibs, put ’em in the comments.


  1. That’s what he said!2
  2. Oh, god, I’m so sorry.
  3. NO.

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