I love a good fine nib, I really do.
Several reasons spring to mind: most importantly, you can write smaller, more legibly — great when scribbling on printouts, for example. They also tend to perform better on inferior paper, because they lay down less link. Which also means they last longer on a single fill. But to me what’s most compelling perhaps is that it takes real skill to make a fine nib that doesn’t feel like you’re dragging a needle across the page.
Which is why I have so many finer-nibbed pens in my collection. Yet the diversity of what manufacturers call “fine” is astounding: from the huge firehouse of the Pelikan M1000, to the much more petite and drier lines of Pilots and other Eastern brands like TWSBI.
What this means is that you can’t be sure what you’re getting just from the designation, and of course then you have to throw in the individual variation between nibs, and the effects of ink and paper. In other words, it’s a crapshoot.
However. There’s absolutely zero ambiguity about these two nibs. I mean, anything called “Extra Extra Fine” or “Ultra Extra Fine” is pretty unequivocal, right?
The XXF here is fitted to my Kaweco Al Sport and loaded with Noodler’s Tiananmen, writing on Rhodia.
It was ground for me by Pablo at FPnibs.com, which I’ve talked about here previously. He used a Kaweco EF as a base. Including the source nib and shipping, it cost me about 20 quid.
And, as you can see, it is very, very fine. A little scratchy — it rewards a light touch — but honestly it’s very usable indeed.
For comparison, this UEF is a factory model on the Platinum 3776, which I have in the translucent Bourgogne red.
Here it’s loaded with Organics Studio Arsenic Grey, which is a new ink for me, and it’s giving me some hard starts here, even when protected under the Slip ‘n’ Seal cap. I say that because I’ve used this UEF extensively and it’s never given me any problems with other inks.
And I can say hand on heart that it’s smooth and capable even when scribbling fast. You don’t have to baby it or save it for special occasions. Which you may be tempted to do: there are precious few pens available from the factory even in conventional EF nowadays, so to have a UEF available from Platinum for about 70 quid is pretty sensational.
So, two great options for needle-lovers in Europe. Pablo will also grind TWSBI nibs, so for example an XXF Eco could be yours for 50 quid or so. He even does an XXXF, if you’re feeling adventurous. And I have to say, this low-cost, modular approach to nib grinding appeals to me much more than buying a 300 quid pen and sending it off to a nibmeister for irreversible alteration. That seems risky.
If you want to stick with OEM, Sailor still offers a UEF-equivalent called the Saibi-Togi, but it’s considerably more expensive (and by some accounts higher maintenance). If you’re happy to have a nib that’s slightly wider, of course you can buy a perfectly standard EF from Sailor, Pilot or Platinum, and be satisfied.