Mystery Point/Counterpoint

It’s great when you have an indicator of what type of nib is on a vintage pen. Some Wahl examples had “flexible” stamped on them so it’s pretty clear what you’ve got. Sheaffer Snorkels had codes lightly etched on the base of their nibs corresponding to a certain point type. A feed may have numbers on it which could be decoded to give the same kind of information like on a Parker 75. If you’re really lucky you might have your hands on a pen that’s new old stock (never was sold) with a factory identification sticker or chalk mark relating the vitals about the type of line it will create.

Realistically the vast majority of vintage pens one can buy are bereft of any readable information. To know what kind of line that shiny gold thing at the end is going to put down you need to do a close inspection as well as use the pen. There’s no real standard about what makes a fine, medium, or bold point what they are. If you draw a very thin line with a fountain pen you say “fine point” and if it’s pretty thick you say “bold point.” Stub, italic, and music nibs can be seen to be what they are by usually by eye. Knowing when you come across a flexible nib is a combination of subjective considerations and experience. Many people mistakenly think a semi-flexible nib is full flex because they’ve just never used the latter.

Now that we know the confusion that can be had on the topic of nib grading and identification let us look at a prime example of “huh?” I have a Sheaffer Touchdown filling Tuckaway model which has a nib I can’t quite categorize. It was sold as a bold nib, but bold nibs usually have a pretty good spherical blob of tipping material on them. This one has a thin edge to it almost like a stub nib. So, is it a stub? Well, it has pretty rounded shoulders that make me question that. And to make matters a little more interesting it has some flex to it when used.

Closely inspecting the construction of the upper part of the nib in question (nib A) we see some more oddness. I’ve included a few images of both this nib and a contemporary medium-ish Sheaffer nib for comparison (nib B). As nib A approaches its point you can see that it becomes flattened which is shown well in the back and side view images below. Nib B maintains a lateral curvature in this same area before getting a little flatter closer to the tip. It’s this flatness that allows nib A to flex more than nib B which has stiffer tines due to that arch shape being carried through. Another difference is that the feed ends a bit lower on nib A so it won’t bump on the paper when the tines spread. Lastly, you can observe how wider tines give nib A the shovel like appearance at its end reminiscent of a stub nib.

Writing sample.

Writing sample.

So, I don’t know what this nib is really. I’ll call it a bold with some stub like qualities. Look at the images and writing sample and see if you can come up with the answer.

(Click on images below for full size)

  1. Raphael
    April 25, 2009, 9:31 am

    That’s a really cool Tucky
    I wonder what nib you have there
    It certainly is a mystery
    Maybe it’s a transition/combo nib?

  2. JennyO
    April 25, 2009, 8:27 pm

    Lovely nib! Interesting. Enjoy it! 🙂

  3. Kim
    April 27, 2009, 3:45 pm

    This is an education. I wouldn’t have known what to think at all if I came across that!

  4. TAO
    April 27, 2009, 4:04 pm

    Kim, I don’t know what to think either! I forgot to mention the seller of this pen had a large lot of Sheaffers from this era. He said it was from the estate of a Sheaffer employee who collected some of the pens himself. At first I wondered if heavy use could have rounded the corners of the tip but it doesn’t seem to have had a hard life since the overall condition is fantastic. Finding a catalog with nib styles from when this was made might shine some light on it. Until then I’m glad I have it.


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