Flex or the Stub, which came first? Well, I can’t say for sure. Point is, cutting the quill at an angle to meet the specific requirement for writing and even making a slit in the tip to spread the tines, was relatively easy. From then on, to the steel nibs that followed and later evolved to fit the fountain pens, not to mention the soft gold nibs and the later tipping, it becomes fuzzier. What really matters, to me at least, is that the flex nibs provide a kind of a fillip to creative, “springy” urges that is just as unmatched as the bold, stub nibs that provide one with the pleasure of solid lines that scream even when they whisper. I will avoid the chicken and egg dilemma then, and focus more on the pleasure. The goodness of the pudding (and the pen) after all, is in its taste (of writing)!
Both the Flex and the Stub, lends themselves to particular fonts and styles, but even that, I guess, is of little consequence, as by giving too much stress on the style often leads one up the garden path, where the actual pleasure of trying out (“playing”, if you so prefer) with these nibs is lost. Most of us are here to satiate our innate desires and not knowing the difference between a Copperplate and a Spencerian is something that we can be excused for, with due apologies to the serious lettering experts and calligraphers.
Flex nibs then, are ones that allows one to achieve linewidth variations, brought about by parting tines due to the application of different degrees of pressure during writing. Soft and flexible nibs are highly position sensitive, providing a less smooth writing experience when compared to hard or standard nibs. This is because of the spread in the tines which move independently and are more exposed, leading to their tendency to “catch” on the paper as they write. This feedback, “scratchiness” as it is popularly called, is actually a desired feature in a flex nib, as opposed to a blunt or even a standard nib, where it is obviously less valued.
Flex nibs are highly sought after, as they allow a unique writing experience, as no two writers can match the exact pressure that was applied to recreate a writing example, even when using the same nib. “The key is the pressure” said Harsh Gagwani of Click Pens whose Flex nib offerings are highly sought after. “The pressure should be applied only on the downstroke, to ensure that the tines spread evenly and that there is no rolling of the hand that wields the flex.” Harsh Gagwani also underscored the fact that writing with a flex nib is an art in itself, where many variables, apart from the nib, have to be considered for the best results. “The general rule is that the more the pressure, the slower the writing, the more the ink flow to the tip of the nib, the wider the line. But also, perhaps more importantly, the wetter the ink, the more absorbent the paper and the more humid the climate, the wetter will be the line!”
To use a flex nib pen for the first time, make sure that you clean the pen as the flex demands a higher flow of ink. This is absolutely necessary as very often there remains residual oil and dried inks (from testing) even in brand new pens. The next logical step is to fill it up with an ink that has a moderate to wet flow. Inks with sheen or those that are super saturated or shimmery should be avoided for obvious reasons. Suffice to say, the drier the ink the higher the chance of skipping or railroading. In the same breath, make sure that the pen is filled up to the fullest, as flex nibs are proven ink-guzzlers. Naturally the paper should be ink friendly to avoid feathering and bleed-through.
Now for the most important point – “the key to writing with a flex nib is the angle and the pace of writing”. As what we are trying to perfect is a subjective art, there cannot be one size that fits all and therefore I suggest that one holds the pen at a 45 degrees angle to the paper and find out the optimal angle that works out best. Make sure that the pressure is applied only on the downstrokes and that the writing is done at a leisurely gait – slow enough for the ink to flow steady and the nib to begin its dance on paper naturally. Always remember, flexing is about celebrating the twilight zone of writing – too less pressure and things will be as bright as day, while too much will snap the nib, making the darkness of night descend. The twilight analogy is apt, for timing is critical – it cannot be had at will at any time of day or night and one has to wait, for the feed to wet itself and the ink to flow. It cannot be forced either: a stingy, starved nib may well be its way of telling you to slow down and wait for the perfect moment.
I have been using my Click Falcon with a Click Flex nib not quite sometime now, and … loving it. The springiness is just right for me – wet enough to glide, but stopping just before becoming a wet noodle. As a matter of fact, coming from a steel nib, albeit with the alloy tipping, it is one hell of a pleasant surprise. What is even more appreciable is the way the ink flows unhindered.
Harsh Gagwani is justifiably tight lipped about the reasons behind Click’s flex offer being such a runaway performer as it is, “yes, we have taken some specific steps to ensure that the ink flow to the nib is just that shade more. Yes, we have been very choosy about the kind of steel that has been used to make the nib and have used our decades old experience in ensuring that our flex nibs perform the way that they do. But you will appreciate that being proprietary, I cannot divulge all the information to you”.
Point taken. As a matter of fact, Harsh Gagwani is so guarded that when I pointed out that I am using my Falcon as an eye-dropper filler to increase its ink holding capacity to match better with the Flex nib, and queried him about the perfect models to house the Click Flex nib units he side-stepped, “these are purely subjective matters. What is one man’s nectar of happiness is another man’s hemlock of despair” he said.
Flex or Blunt? Well, I use both. And if you ask me to cross my heart and say, I love my flex just that wet shade better. But then again, it may be because I have this sworn affinity to Click!
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