In case you missed it, Kaweco has started offering a “Premium” nib unit for its pens with a screw-in nib, like the Brass and AL Sports. For about £35 you get a different nib imprint and a fancy metal tin with very pretty retro packaging, and some claims like this:
Those who focus on writing comfort and not on the material gold can now enjoy the unique writing pleasure of a gold nib with the Kaweco Premium Steel Nib. Apart from its beautiful, sun-shaped engraving, the larger iridium grain offers you perfect writing behaviour. Due to the hand-finished inner edge rounding, the nib glides smoothly and butter-softly over the paper. The manufacturing and the writing feel are comparable to the 14 kt. Gold nibs.
Bold claims. Do they stack up?
Let’s get down to it. In this review I’m putting a brand new, regular Kaweco Sport M nib, installed in a standard Sport, against a brand new Premium M nib, installed in a Kaweco Art Sport. I’m testing on the same paper, with the same ink, in the same position, at the same time.
I’m hoping that by comparing brand new nibs from the same vendor, we’re likely to get the truest and fairest comparison. Comparing instead say a five year old nib, especially one that’s been used, may reflect wear and different manufacturing/QC processes. So I went for brand new.
The Premium is still a steel nib, although it’s available in gold-plated variants and in the full range from EF to BB. That’s a very good start. And although I tested the M nib, the benefits of the Premium production process may be more beneficial on scratchy EF nibs or baby-bottomed BBs.
The nib imprint is, in my opinion, much more attractive than the normal Sport nib. It has a cool sunray effect. In the photos below, the Premium nib is always on the left.
The tipping is smoothly blended in to the nib, with a very rounded profile and high polish. It’s less bulbous than the standard and has a more elegant shape.
The slit is central, the two lobes of tipping are even, and they meet well. The marketing blurb claims a ‘larger iridium grain’, and in the shot below the tipping does look larger on the Premium.
I did a writing test side by side on Tomoe 68gsm lined paper, both using fresh cartridges of Kaweco Summer Purple.
Both nibs were smooth, with a steady flow. You can see from the flow of the shading that the nibs are almost identically wet. Neither had any softness or flexibility under pressure, and softness is one of the things I expect in a gold nib (to return to the claims at the start of this review). Both nibs wrote slightly wider on their downstrokes than their cross-strokes. Both wrote on their reverse sides, with the regular nib writing a rather nice fine line, actually, while the Premium was actually a little scratchy.
In normal grip, the Premium nib was totally silent and felt very smooth. The Regular nib was just a little audible and had a touch more tooth, but not in a problematic way.
Writing with the nibs almost horizontal on the page, the Premium nib was a little scratchy; the regular nib coped perfectly. Held vertical, both nibs wrote equally well. Writing fast, the regular nib had the edge in control, possibly because it’s not quite so smooth. Doing small printed letters, the regular nib wrote a slightly finer line that resulted in cleaner letter forms.
But you can see: I’m nitpicking. Both nibs wrote very well, straight out of the box. There’s hardly anything in it, and if I picked one or the other blind, to jot down some notes while on a call, I wouldn’t have been able to tell you which one it was just from the page feel or the resulting line. Sitting in a dead quiet room and concentrating hard, the Premium nib is quieter and smoother, but it’s an incremental improvement.
Can you predict the future?
This was both an easy and a hard review to write.
Easy, because the conclusion of my head to head boils down to this: if you can’t easily spot the difference between the two nibs, it’s probably not worth the extra cost to get the Premium version. And, as we’ve seen, I couldn’t.
Hard, because whenever I’m testing things side by side, I start to doubt my own methodology and judgement. Did I nudge the nib when screwing the unit in? Would the performance be different with someone else’s handwriting style? Etc.
But there is one important issue to discuss that makes this review hard to conclude. I have experienced myself over the years just how different Kaweco’s standard nibs can be, from one example to another.
Indeed, sat next to me right now I have another Kaweco Art Sport from the 2018 run, with its original unused medium nib, and I just tried it out. It writes a noticeably finer and toothier line than the 2021 M nibs I put head-to-head in this review. Is that because of sample variation, or changes in production over the past three years? I don’t know, but that’s beside the point — what it tells me as a buyer is that I can buy another Sport with an M nib tomorrow and I’ll have no confidence it’ll write the same as any of the three M nibs I have here.
Part of the value of the Premium nib, with its by-hand tuning and finishing, should be more predictable and consistent performance across the whole production run. This is exactly what we pen enthusiasts have been begging for from the likes of Visconti. We shouldn’t have to pay literally a Premium to assure it, but if that’s the only way, then I’ll take it. Ironically, I can’t test this claim of improved QC output without a much more scientific evaluation across a much larger number of nibs, and that’s beyond my patience. But I trust in the logic.
So the verdict.
Do I like the Premium nib? Yes, absolutely. It looks very pretty, and it writes really well.
Does it deliver the “unique writing pleasure of a gold nib” that it claims? That’s absolute nonsense, utter bollocks. It’s a firm steel nib. Move along, nothing to see here. If you want gold, you need to pay £190 and there’s no way round it.
Would I buy a Premium nib next time I pick up a Sport? Yes, probably: because I want my next Sport to write as well as this one — and that’s what a Premium QC experience should give you.
Both of the nibs reviewed in this post were supplied by Cult Pens. You can get your Kaweco fix right here.