About one of my crazy obsessions

It started around 2012. Although the pens I used at that time could produce really nice art, I wanted pens that could produce lines found in manga and comics. My Signo DX 0.38mm gel pens, Microns, Zig Calligraphy Marker, and Hero fude nibs could not do the job. OK, I did discover that manga artists used G-nib and other dip nibs. And I got those and they actually do the job perfectly. But at that time, I also wanted portability. I didn't want to carry a bottle of ink for dipping wherever I went. It felt clumsy. I wanted a pen that could function as a flexible dip pen BUT with an internal reservoir. Maybe I just had too much time then and I wanted something to hunt for - a distraction from work. In this video, I go through how my hunt lead me to the Namiki Falcon, modifying it, and eventually to vintage fountain pens. 

So do I think vintage flex pens match up to dip pens?

In terms of producing similar lines, I'd say 80-90%. Vintage flex does have a different feel from dip pens because fountain pens have a metal tipping at the end. The tipping keeps the pen nib from wearing out too fast. The tipping gives a smoother drawing experience. But for dip pens, there is no tipping, therefore, I can feel the sharpness of the nib on the paper. Skrtch! skrtch! I actually like the feel and sound of it. 

Dip pen nibs like the Hunt 101 and G-nib can usually spread very wide (maybe up to 2.5mm) and they are very flexible. Not all my vintage fountain gold nibs can spread as wide as that. Some are not as flexible but some can match the flexibility of dip pen nibs. You can see the difference in output between the Mabie Todd and the G-nib here. The G-nib has sharper lines and can spread wider. But do note that the Mabie Todd is more of a medium with a flex and the G-nib is more of an extra-fine with flex. It all depends on the vintage pen model and nib you manage to find. 

Do I still use them after more than 10 years later? 

Of late, I've not been using my vintage flex pens because I've been exploring dip pens and pencil more. And I've found ways to make my dipping ink bottle a lot smaller and more portable. So bring a dip pen and ink out is a lot easier. But while making this video, I've taken my vintage pens out and I'm actually quite delighted to be using them again! 

With fountain pens, I have to be more careful with them, unlike dip pens. And I have to make sure I use the right inks in them. (No indian ink). And non-waterproof inks for lever-fillers. Carbon Black for eyedroppers. Sometimes, I find that, even though they flex, I want even more line variation. So I pair the vintage pen with a brush to emphasise certain lines or to fill an area with black. Yes, I still enjoy my vintage flex pens and I'd still use them. They are like beautiful refined instruments. Like a lightsaber of old.

Which ones do I like best?

The one I'm presently enjoying is the Mabie Todd eyedropper with a flex nib. I bought it from eBay. But the nib was designed for a left-handed person. So I sent the pen to Greg Minuskin to regrind the nib to an extra fine. 

I have the John Holland pen as a spencerian needlepoint. That one is really sharp. I've not used that too often because I've been liking quicker drawing. With a needlepoint, I have a draw more carefully and slowly. It feels more fragile too.

For writing, I do like the Waterman's 52 with a #2 nib. It has a flex nib in fine size. It's smooth and flexible. It's also nice for quick drawing since the nib isn't too sharp. I got this pen from Greg. Only downside is that I avoid putting waterproof inks in it because it would degrade the rubber sac inside. Oh yes, another downside is that when the sac eventually falls apart (it will eventually), you'd need to remove the section from the pen which is often sealed tight. You'd need a hairdryer to melt the shellac and carefully twist pull it out. Then you can change the sac. There are sites that still sell vintage rubber sacs. It's not necessary to apply shellac after fitting the section back later. Well, that the troublesome thing about lever-fillers. Eyedroppers are way less troublesome!

I've stopped buying vintage pens for several years now because I seem to have the range I want -needlepoint flex to broad flex to stiff stubs. Be warned though, buying vintage pens can be quite an obsession. But I don't regret the obsession I had. Because with every fountain pen I bought, I had to try them out, and that made me draw more. More pens, more drawings!

If you are interesting to get your nibs modified or if you are interested in a vintage fountain pen, here is Greg's site. I've bought a few pens from him as well as gotten a few vintage and modern pens modified by him. I found his workmanship is good. His pens do get snapped up fast, so I've found it helpful to be decisive. Email him quick, pay him quick, and the pen will be yours. Note that there will be a shipping cost on top of the pen too. So be prepared to spend some money. But it will be fun too. I must mention that the anticipation of a pen on the way and then receiving it in the mail are delightful experiences in themselves!