So I’ve had quite a busy week and these flex nibs posts have taken quite a lot of work to compile, so there’s no review this Sunday, instead sit back for the last of the flex nib primers.
So here we are at the third and final part of the series on flex nibs, and appropriately we’re finishing at the present day. With flex being an ever growing trend in the fountain pen community more and more modern manufacturers are trying to satisfy demand by producing flex nibs for their pens.
As mentioned before I don’t own every flex nib out there (sadly) so there are going to be some slight generalisations out there. However I think I’ve managed to find quite a representative sample of modern flex nibs in my collection, so without further ado I present:
The Noodler’s Nib Creaper: A Noodler’s flex pen has got to be one of the most common first flex pens, equipped with a steel flex nib with a long slit between the tines. This is definitely towards the more budget end of modern flex.
Pilot Falcon: For a long time this was the only real option for those looking for a modern gold flex nib, and indeed it continues to be an oft-suggested option for those looking for slightly more ‘premium’ modern flex.
Aurora Optima Anniversary Edition: This represents the more expensive kind of modern flex nib, the kind that is made in small batches by expert nib-meisters, these aren’t exactly easy to get hold of, but they represent the pinnacle of modern flex nibs.
Acquiring modern flex nibs is certainly an easier process than that for vintage, I think all of the above pens could probably be found at one of your favourite retailers without much digging. Of course the flip side to this is that it’s probably going to be harder to find a bargain, you might come across them second hand, but you’ll very much have to keep one eye on the second hand outlets to score a deal that way.
With modern flex nibs it’s considerably harder to make generalisations with regards to their writing characteristics, therefore I’m going to go through the three pens above in turn, stating if I feel that they represent a wider category. So Without Further hesitation, let’s begin.
The Noodler’s Nib Creaper: So I’d say this pen is a fair representation of what you’re likely to experience with Noodler’s flex nibs, as well as many other ‘cheap’ steel flex nib pens. In terms of flex these pens are generally defined by being quite hard to actually get line variation out of, it is there, and there can actually be quite a lot of it, but you’ll need to exert quite a lot of pressure to do so. They really are not soft nibs. That being said, once you’ve got the hang of these nibs you can actually do quite a lot with them. I’m constantly impressed by how much line variation it is possible to get out of my Nib Creaper, but I really do have to work for it. In the case of the Noodler’s pens they also have ebonite feeds, which means that they do a good job with keeping up with ink demands placed on them. This leads me on to the next point, which is that this bottom tier of modern flex nibs can often require considerable tinkering to get to work properly. Given their price point I don’t think that’s a killer, but if you don’t like the idea of having to fiddle with you pen then they may not be for you.
Pilot Falcon: I’d say the Falcon probably represents the Pilot soft nib offerings quite well, although really the Falcon is so often recommended that it’s almost in a category of its own. So what characterises these nibs? I’d say softness over line variation. These pens really don’t offer much in terms of how far the tines spread, but they are nice and soft. So you aren’t going to be able to get massive thick downstrokes, but they can add a very nice little bit of flair to your handwriting. To some that may sound like a disappointment, and I can see why, but I think if you have measured expectations these can be very nice nibs. Just expect it to be soft rather than super-super flexi. It’s also worth noting that these pens are often equipped with plastic feeds that aren’t designed for continued flex writing, they’ll cope with some flourishes, but you’ll get in starvation if you try extended flex writing.
Aurora Optima Anniversary Edition: At this point you’re getting into small batch pens that have been made by a handful of craftsman, so it gets a bit more difficult to generalise. That being said I do think the Aurora represents a new avenue of flex nibs, those made by manufacturers in response to the demand for a modern flex nib, I’d put pens like the Wahl Eversharp Decoband in this category, along with the other Aurora flex nibs. These nibs are usually expensive, beyond the reach of those who are just idly curious about trying flex. They also tend to involve a lot of handwork to make and are often only available in limited quantities. Having said all that I would say these are by far and away the best kind of modern flex nibs, they are soft, offer a reasonable (although not truly comparable to vintage) degree of tine spread. Most impressively they also feature very vintage like snapback, which is something many modern flex nibs lack. So these top-tier modern flex nibs are very good, but they are expensive and they do lack the full degree of line variation you might expect with a vintage nib.
So, to sum up. Modern flex nibs are an interesting creation, there’s a lot of variation, from softness to tine spread to how much you pay there is a lot of variation out there. Certainly there are some very good flex nibs being produced out there today, but good though they are, they aren’t vintage flex. That’s not anything against them, that’s really just to say if you want a vintage flex nib, buy a vintage flex nib. Perhaps the real art of the modern flex nib is actually managing your expectations, do this and you’ll discover some amazing nibs that write very nicely, but if you going in looking for vintage flex, well you’re likely to end up wishing that you’d just gone and spent the money on a vintage flex nib, which perhaps shouldn’t come as such a surprise.
The other parts of this series can be found here: