Nib Grind Showdown via The Nibsmith (Dan Smith)- Platinum #3776 Century Fountain Pens

Getting a custom nib grind is one of those steps that fountain pen people take that makes normal people question our sanity to the next level.

"You spent how much on that pen? And, now you're going to customize it?!..."

Yes. Yes we are.

So why get a custom nib grind in the first place? What is the big deal? In a way, it is kind of like adding further levels of customization or tuning to a car to change its performance. Frivolous? Maybe a little, but buying a $200-300 stick that puts ink on paper also lends itself to some practicality questions...

I speak in jest mostly during the intro, but I certainly don't want to make the decision to do a custom grind seem like a breeze. There are a lot of considerations to be had AND you did just spend real money on a pen that you want to enjoy for a long time.

The wrong grind can take a pen you love and turn into one you don't.

If you are new to fountain pens, nib grinding is when material from the tip of the nib is altered in shape by removing metal, and by adjusting angles and surfaces, all to achieve a particular way that the letters will appear on the page during writing.

The nibmeister who's work we'll be reviewing today is Dan Smith of The Nibsmith, someone that has been a fountain pen enthusiast serving our community for several years. Dan's work has made an appearance previously here on The Clicky Post when I reviewed the Pilot Vanishing Point he had done for me (still one of my favorite pens because of it). I love his work and I've entrusted several pens to his care.

In addition to his nib grinding and tuning services, Dan also has an online store where he sells a nice collection of popular fountain pens, nibs, and inks.

Dan approached me with an idea recently to do a more comprehensive review by comparing four different versions of the same pen to try and showcase some of the possibilities you can achieve with a nib grind. 

The pen chosen for the review is the popular Platinum #3776 Century, a staple in the community and a great first jump into "nicer", gold-nibbed fountain pens. Simultaneously it seemed like a good idea to look at a few color schemes of the #3776. Two for one!

The #3776 Century is a cartridge/converter style fountain pen which comes standard with a 14k gold nib. For right around the $160-220 range, these pens have a great reputation for being reliable and fantastic writers.

For today's "test", we went with all broad nibs with three of the four receiving work from Dan.

Special thanks to him for loaning the pens for the review!

Pen Specimens -

Our four barrel styles: Black Diamond, Chartres Blue, Nice Pur, and Shungyo
Our four nibs: Broad (no grind), Stub, Architect, and Cursive Italic

Also, to maintain consistency I filled them all with Pilot Blue-Black, an ink that has some considerable shading for being a bit of a "sleeper ink". And, it has great flow and consistency in my experience.

Black Diamond - Broad Nib (No Grind)

The Black Diamond edition is one of the more standard looking models, appearing to be your average black barrel with rhodium trim accents (all business). What isn't obvious is that the barrel and cap are actually made from a translucent acrylic which allows for a subtle demonstrator effect in the right lighting.

The broad nib lays down a dark, wet line and has a bit more of a glassy feel with little feedback (almost none though) on the Rhodia dotPad. The nib is definitely more on the springy side.

Being the standard broad nib, nothing fancy to report per se, but it is a wonderful writer that puts down a generous, consistent line.

I'll be referring to the Black Diamond pen in this test as our sort of "control" to hold up against the other pens to show the contrast.

Chartres Blue - Broad Nib with Stub Grind

For some reason I have a hard time writing the name Chartres Blue correctly (as seen in the writing sample)... maybe it is the two R's wrapped around a T which my brain isn't used to...

Nonetheless, this is a lovely pen. The blue is a rich, dark color and the barrel has a slight translucence (much like the Black Diamond) which creates a semi-demonstrator effect.

The blue isn't really one to turn heads, but it is elegant, conservative, and executed well against the rhodium trim.

Dan worked this pen into a broad stub nib which made the flow much more that the others. It is a gusher, but definitely fun to write with. 

A stub nib is designed to produce wider vertical strokes and narrow horizontal strokes, but with a softer edge. Think of it like a fun, wet, fountain pen paintbrush designed to give some subtle line variation, but put down a lot of ink. 

On the page there is some subtle "stub-ness", but of the three grinds I'll be discussing in the review, this one has the least effect in appearance on the page when compared to our Black Diamond control specimen. This isn't a criticism of Dan's work whatsoever, but just how a broad stub tends to be. If needed, he could make the effect stronger, but that may start drifting into other nib variations altogether.

I found the stub to be a really enjoyable and would definitely consider one in a normal nib size (not really the larger 1.1 or 1.5mm stubs) for an everyday writer due to it's subtlety. A broad like this might be a slight bit wet for taking meeting notes, but sure is fun.   

That being said, if someone is wanting a more dramatic effect (which we'll be discussing shortly), another type may be a better fit...

Nice Pur - Broad Nib with Architect Grind

The Nice Pur is a limited edition version of the #3776 that has a sandblasted matte (well, semi-matte) clear barrel with fluted lines around the barrel and cap, and is also garnished with rhodium trim.

I almost always write in all capital letters and tend to have a sort of drafting style to my writing. That being the case, the Architect grind has a special place in my handwriting heart as I feel it accentuates and adds more expression to the way my words hit the page.

The Architect nib is created by bringing the sides of the tip into a sharp "V" shape when looking down, but then also extending that shape downward and maintaining the sharp edge as you head towards the feed. 

The result that this type of nib produces are thin and narrow vertical lines, but wide horizontal lines. The contrast is most expressed in letters like "E" or "H" as you get perpendicular representations of both strokes in the same letter, but where it gets really fun are in letters like "B" or "Q" where you have some curves that take interesting, transitional line widths as you write. 

I'm bias, but the Architect is definitely my favorite of the group (but keep reading!), mostly due to the way I write though.

In comparison the the glassy broad in the Black Diamond or gushing soft edges of the stub, this particular Architect is a bit on the sharp side while writing. For the most contrast in the lines this is necessary so it maintains the crisp edges. But, when getting a custom nib grind, things can be adjusted for things to be as crisp (sharp edges) or smooth (nicer writing) as you'd like.

Shungyo - Broad Nib with Cursive Italic

The final review specimen is one of Platinums most recent limited editions, the red Shungyo fountain pen.

The Shungyo edition is part of Platinums seasons of Mt. Fuji series, and it is a beautiful pen. As with the others in the test, it is adorned with rhodium trim which contrasts against the ruby red barrel nicely. The barrel of the pen, similar to the Nice Pur, has a uniqure fluted line pattern that ads some visual texture.

It could just be me, but the Shungyo material feels a bit denser in the hand than the other pens in the set.

For this nib, Dan worked up a cursive italic grind which, like the stub, is designed to create wide vertical lines and narrow horizontal lines. The main difference from a stub is that an italic is ground to create sharper, crisper edges to show more variation with each stroke.

Dan's nib certainly delivers on this promise, and with a surprising amount of smoothness. I've used other italic nibs in the past that were a bit uncomfortable, but this one is smooth.

With my all caps writing, the cursive italic (seems like I shouldn't be able to use it!) does give my writing some awesome flair, but for someone that writes in more flowing lettering, these create a more calligraphic appearance (sure to impress your friends).

**Special Promo** - Wanted to make note of this that for a limited time Dan is offering a special promo on the Shungyo model. Through the month of October you can take 10% off the Shungyo advertise price by using the promo code CLICKY10 at checkout.

Closing Thoughts -

I feel like each of these nibs/pens could see their own more extensive review, but I hope this provided a good overview of what is possible and what to expect when working with a nibmeister like Dan.

If you have any additional thoughts or questions about today's topic, feel free to comment below! Or, if you have specific questions about nib grinding services in general, visit and connect with Dan directly.

One thing that Dan offers is a free grind at the time of purchase on any new pen bought through him which is really awesome. If you were thinking of picking up something new and getting work done, this is probably one of the best ways to do it, so definitely take a look at his selection.

Special thanks again to The Nibsmith!

The Pen Rollerball by Ajoto - Stainless Steel Model Review

A pen is a pen, right? Wrong. Although, if you are reading this blog, you already knew that…

Even within the realm of “nicer pens”, there is a spectrum of quality, design, and overall appeal that can vary to create different overall experiences for the end user.

Around 4 years ago (really that long?!), a small design company out of the UK launched their Kickstarter campaign for what they simply referred to as The Pen.

Even though I recall hearing about Ajoto at the time, I unfortunately did not get in on backing that initial run and The Pen drifted a bit into the back of my mind as others came across my desk and attention.

I’m not sure what sparked my recollection, but it prompted me to reach out to Brad Dowdy of The Pen Addict to see if he had one, him loaning me his for a few weeks, and then ultimately me buying my own… here we are.

Brad had initially loaned me his all brass version which was great (it converted me!), but I opted to purchase the stainless steel as the weight, color, and “smell-less” factor all appealed to me.

By description, The Pen is a sleek and minimal teardrop style pen with a flowing uniform shape and slight, bulbous contour as you approach the “grip” section.

The Pen is clipless, so it is designed for a pants pocket, bag, or folio type carry. Some folks are very picky about their pens having a clip, but I am not one of those people. Honestly, even when pens have a clip I tend to stow them in a leather sleeve and carry them in my pants pocket anyway.

I ordered my pen directly from Ajoto, and when sending me my pen they kindly included one of their red leather pen pouches (sold separately) to review with it.

The first experience with Ajoto is their very elaborate (and beautiful) packaging. Each product is encased in it’s own sealed, custom box or envelope that is covered in foil stamped letters and the Ajoto emblem pattern. To open each sealed box there is a perforated pull tab that allows access to the contents inside.

The Pen comes in a molded cork container that is encased in an aluminum (aluminium…) scabbard that slides off. Very fancy indeed.

Now, this level of presentation will seem excessive/unnecessary to the conservative packaging crowd for sure, so be warned. This, no doubt, adds to the overall cost of the Ajoto products (which we’ll discuss shortly), but it is so well executed. It felt like I was opening a custom gift someone had made for me and I could easily see their products being perfect as a present for a special person/occasion.

Speaking of “luxury”, I would put Ajoto into this category based on the overall brand and pricing model. Even though they don’t have the mass brand recognition of companies like Montblanc, the quality they strive for (and deliver) is what I feel makes them stand out.

As far as branding, the only evidence of the company is their Maker’s Mark logo that is engraved tastefully (almost enigmatically) near the top of the pen.

The Ajoto pen takes the extremely popular Schmidt P8126 cap-less refill (one included) that is extended with their own proprietary twist mechanism. In design, I really like the contrast between the smooth barrel and the fluted twist.

Extending the refill takes a good strong twist of the mechanism which moves slow in about one full resolution. The twist definitely has some tension which is created by a leather (yes, leather) o-ring, but also prevents the refill from inadvertently extending.

I don’t have a lot of fears around the o-ring ultimately breaking down and needing replacement, but time will tell. This pen is definitely built to last, but this is the only piece I could see being potentially problematic, but Ajoto says they are happy to send new ones out if this ever occurs.

One thing I love about this pen is the simplicity of all the parts and pieces which are all metal. The barrel is one solid piece of steel with no breaks, and the twist mechanism are a combination of brass and steel pieces connected together with a hex set screw.    

In the world of machined pens, pricing usually range from $50 and up, and Ajoto is on the upper end of the spectrum. But, their quality is impeccable, particularly on The Pen.

The stainless steel version which I bought retails at £180.00 (£150.00 when removing VAT for US buyers), roughly $240.00 US, which comparative to others in the machined pen market is high.

That being said, I find this pen to be an exquisite product that I know I will use and enjoy in my regular rotation AND was willing to spend my own money on to review. Although, I did get the opportunity to “try before you buy” with Brad’s pen which did help me pull the trigger, but I am extremely pleased with it.

I know for a lot of people in the community that this pen may be out of reach or there are people that can’t see themselves spending this kind of money on a non-fountain pen. Are there products that may seem comparable to the Ajoto pen? Certainly, but I personally consider The Pen to be of extremely high quality and the price is justifiable to me. 

The last 18 months or so has shown me that my daily use pens are usually rollerball or fineliners, so my enjoyment comes from finding high-quality or unique barrels to hold these refills. The Ajoto certainly fits.

Overall, the Ajoto pen is a pleasure to use and I find myself reaching for it almost daily. If these are of interest, definitely take a look at Ajoto's online store

Parker IM Premium Metal Chiseled 5th Mode - Pen Review

A few years back the Parker Ingenuity line came out and I've been meaning to try one since and Goldspot was kind enough to send me one of the Parker IM Premium pens in the shiny chrome metal chiseled edition for review. Special thanks to them!

What is the Ingenuity pen? The Ingenuity line uses a proprietary technology called the Parker 5th, a special refill that is a plastic tipped, marker style refill, kind of like a fineliner.

The pen comes packaged in a simple, but tasteful gold and black Parker box.

This particular model is an all-metal, completely chromed edition that has a series of decorative textured lines and squares across the barrel. With the barrel being all chrome it tends to be a bit of a fingerprint magnet, but looks great; classy.

The textures give it a very "Parker" look which usually resonates with me as an homage to the Art Deco styling that graced so many of their earlier models. Over the last couple of years it seems that Parker has sought to "modernize" and revise their brand by updating the aesthetics, but I feel this pen is a nice blend of both worlds. 

The pen is weighty, but not overly heavy and quite comfortable. The cap is attached to the barrel via a pressure "snap" system held inside, which also posts securely on the barrel. Surprisingly, posting doesn't make writing uncomfortable or create an overly unbalanced feel.

Also true to Parker branding is the arrow clip made from pressed steel that is also a polished chrome finish. The clip is quite sturdy, but with a good tug or snag I could see it bending out a bit.

The only part of the pen that isn't a polished chrome is the section which has a bit of a bead blasted finish to add texture and interest. I'm actually glad Parker opted to do this as polished sections tend to be overly slick which this is not.

The tip of the pen is probably the most interesting piece in the Ingenuity line as it has a faux appearance of being a fountain pen nib, split tines and all, but this is merely a metal shroud (referred to as the hood by Parker) that covers the refill as it protrudes from the grip and barrel. The underside of the "nib" is open to expose the textured tip of the refill that is also designed to look like a feed you'd find on a fountain pen. 

I'm sure this aesthetic choice has many people puzzled in the fountain pen community. Why would you make a pen look like a fountain pen, but not actually be a fountain pen?

Personally, I actually appreciate the design choice here and think I understand Parker's rationale. They aren't proposing that this IS a fountain pen, but they are merely paying tribute to history and the art of writing, and the style of a fountain pen in general. I think of it like companies making those old-timey Edison style bulbs, but with LEDs instead of filaments. Modern tech with vintage style and appeal.

As mentioned above, the Parker 5th refills are a porous, fibre tipped pen that write similar to a fineliner which provides some expressive handwriting possibilities.

In comparison to other fibre, felt, or plastic tipped pens, I find it to be a bit on the stiff side, similar to that of a Sakura Pigma Micron or Sharpie Pen. While a Papermate Flair and Schmidt fineliner are not soft like a brush pen, I feel they are softer while writing than the Parker 5th which is my personal preference. If you enjoy the Micron or Sharpie Pen, this may definitely be a way to class up your barrel for sure.

The refills for the pen aren't cheap running around $8 apiece, but for a more "upscale" refill this is comparable to the Montblanc fineliners that run about the same price.   

This particular pen normally retails at around $85, but Goldspot currently has them on sale for $49.95. They also have a variety of other Parker Ingenuity pens to choose from that can go all the way up to the $250 range depending on materials, but definitely keep this one in mind if wanting to pick one up for a great price.

Special thanks again to Goldspot for sponsoring the post!