Why I Love Steel Nibs – The Pen Addict


Fountain pens are the most customizable writing instruments on the market. Styles and shapes are endless, and mix in a range of nib sizes and thousands of inks on top of that and there is infinite choice. I love choice, but it can be overwhelming for those just starting in this hobby. So, I want to elaborate on one topic that all beginner, and some experienced, fountain pen users can think about when making their next buying decision: Steel nibs are awesome.

Steel Nibs

The perception in the community is that gold nibs are the ultimate fountain pen writing experience. If by ultimate you mean most expensive, then yes they are amazing! And I’m not here to poo-poo gold nibs. I love them. I own four Nakayas and I wouldn’t think of having anything but a gold nib in any of them. But when choosing a fountain pen and nib combination that will give you a great writing experience, steel nibs are a fantastic option.

The first thing you should be aware of with steel nibs is that, in general, they are stiffer than their gold counterparts. Makes sense, right? Gold is a softer material, so that translates to a softer nib. Standard gold nibs have some bounce or springiness when writing. Steel nibs are firm without much give. This holds true for the full range of nib sizes too. Extra fine to broad all exhibit the same general behavior.

Karas Kustoms INK

My handwriting style is fast block printing, so firm nibs work well for me. Slow cursive writers may prefer the softness and flexibility of gold, but steel nibs, especially wider ones, are no issue. They are as smooth as you would expect from gold nibs and keep up the writing pace just fine.

While firm, clean lines are a big selling point for steel nibs, the reason why I love them the most is the price. Specifically, I can have more than one steel nib for the same pen with different nib grinds for different writing situations. All for less than the cost of an unmodified gold nib.

Kaweco Brass Wave Liliput

I have a handful of Kaweco pens I use for pocket carry, but only two nibs rotate through them: A stock EF and a cursvie italic nib done by Shawn Newton . I have several Franklin-Christoph pens that have gold nib options, but I have only purchased steel. I rotate between a Masuyama grind UEF nib, a cursive italic, and M stub nib. All steel, all easily swappable between my F-C pens (and other pens too). All for cheaper than a single gold nib unit would cost me. And they perform better for me and my writing style than gold does.


The list goes on and on. I do the same thing with my Edison Pens, choosing steel nibs with different grinds for the two Menlos I own, and several steel options for my other Edison pens. In fact, it was Brian Gray from Edison Pens who wrote “In Praise Of Steel Nibs” several years ago that got me thinking about this topic.

You should think about it too. I have nothing against gold nibs – I own dozens and they are fantastic. But I use my steel nibs the most. They fit my style of writing and provide a better experience overall. That I can mix and match them with ease is an added bonus.

Steel nibs have always been, and will continue to be, a great option for any level of fountain pen user. Do your homework and find the ones that work best for your style. You may be surprised at the results on the page.

Brad Dowdy writes at The Pen Addict, records The Pen Addict Podcast, and makes pen cases at Nock Co. You can also follow him on Twitter @dowdyism and on Instagram @penaddict.

6 Responses

  1. brandon 4 January 2016 / 1:14 AM

    @Limsg I was going to make almost the exact same comment. I’m not terribly shy about tuning gold nibs a little, but I have much less hesitation on really going to town on a steel nib to get it ground to the way I want it. As a result I have some steel nibs that fit me perfectly and that I end up preferring for day-to-day use, particularly in pens from places where I know I can easily order a replacement nib unit (e.g. Edison or Karas Kustoms).

  2. Limsg 3 January 2016 / 1:38 PM

    Couldn’t agree more. I like gold nibs and have some expensive soft and nail ones. But I won’t adjust them myself incase I damage them.
    For the steel, I usually have different sizes for the same pen and grind them, adjust them myself to the way I like it. Fun… All these for much much less.
    Moreover, it suits my writing or sketching style and speed.

  3. Mark 2 January 2016 / 10:26 PM

    I agree completely. I also have many gold nibs, and at first I felt guilty for still enjoying my steel nibs, thinking I should like the more expensive ones more. However, after some time, I came to enjoy both gold and steel nibs and recognize that I use them a little differently.

I would love to hear your thoughts!