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What’s the difference between a extra fine, fine, medium or broad nib – and which one will suit me best?

Conway Stewart fountain pens have long been recognised as some of the smoothest writing pens ever produced. But what lies behind this accolade and why do so many customers feel compelled to register their undying admiration of Conway Stewart 18 carat gold nibs?

          “Buttery-smooth!”  P.B. - Belgium 

                    “The nib is perfect straight out of the box!” M.S. - UK

                             “The nib is smooth and the flow perfect!” A.F. - USA

                                       “Beautiful!!!!!” J.M. - USA

No doubt over 100 years’ experience in producing high quality fountain pens has given Conway Stewart a distinct advantage in creating the perfect nib to transfer ink onto paper. But if you are thinking about buying a fountain pen, perhaps for the first time, your choice of nib – extra fine, fine, medium or broad – may need a little explanation and guidance.

After all, in an age when the vast majority of person-to-person communication is done online and ends with the recipient reading a message on a smartphone or laptop, always in the same font, you might think that using fountain pens and having the ability to write and send personal messages in your own handwriting, is obsolete.

Far from it!

“Now that handwriting is a choice, not a chore, and there is a premium on the unique rather than the infinitely reproducible, people are beginning to discover, or rediscover, the thrill of pen and ink.” - Daisy Goodwin, Sunday Times 02/11/2014 

The fact that you are reading this blog suggests that you already have some interest in fountain pens – or at least are thinking about acquiring one!

So, what choice of nib will suit you best? It’s one of the most frequently asked questions we receive from potential buyers of Conway Stewart fountain pens and the answer depends on several factors.  

Firstly, what is your writing style?

Are you a scribbler or are you more controlled in your writing?

Do you write with large flowing letters or with minute text and numbers?

One of the delights of owning a fountain pen is the individuality that can be expressed by choosing the type of nib that fits your personal writing style. Your personality will show through not only in the words you use, but also in the visual picture you create by putting ink on paper. Your choice of nib will help you match your personality and your writing style.

How do you hold a pen?

The most important aspect of holding a fountain pen is ensuring that the pen is at the correct angle to the paper. If the pen is held at too steep an angle, the ink will flow too quickly, causing smudging and bleeding. Conversely, if the pen is held at too shallow an angle, the ink will not flow freely, making writing more difficult. The ideal angle for holding a fountain pen is approximately 45 degrees to the paper, which allows the ink to flow smoothly and evenly.

Gripping the Pen Lightly

Another important aspect of holding a fountain pen is to grip it lightly. This allows the pen to move more freely, making writing easier and helping to prevent cramping or discomfort in the hand. It is important to hold the pen just firmly enough to prevent it from slipping, but not so tightly that it restricts movement.

Finding the Right Balance

The key to proper pen holding is finding the right balance between holding the pen at the correct angle and gripping it lightly. With a little practice, you will find that you can adjust the angle and grip of the pen to suit your writing style, helping you to create a smooth, comfortable and efficient writing experience.

Choosing the Right Pen 

Of course, the pen itself also plays a crucial role in the writing experience. The range of Conway Stewart fountain pens – in size and weight as well as the aesthetics of materials and colours – means you can acquire a high quality, classic writing instrument which not only suits the mechanics of your writing, but also offers a wide range of features, including a variety of nib sizes, colours and unique designs.

By choosing a Conway Stewart fountain pen that suits your writing style and preferences, you will be able to enjoy a truly outstanding writing experience. And the key to any successful writing partnership between you and your pen is always the nib!

For the vast majority of Conway Stewart fountain pens, you have a choice of four 18 carat gold nib options – Extra Fine, Fine, Medium or Broad.  Most newcomers to fountain pens opt for Medium. It’s the ‘safe bet’, particularly if the pen is being purchased as a gift for a friend or family member and, in any event, if a medium nib is not the preferred choice of the recipient, Conway Stewart will gladly exchange it for a extra fine, fine or broad nib.

If you are buying a pen for yourself – perhaps for the first time – then you may need some guidance. Hopefully, this article will help you decide which is the right nib for you!

Let’s start by looking at the nib options in a little more detail…

You have four main nib choices:

    An extra fine nib creates a line of ink that is 0.35mm – 0.45mm wide.

    A fine nib creates a line of ink that is 0.45mm – 0.55mm wide and is generally regarded as the preferred option if you have a relatively light touch, write quickly or deal with lots of numbers.

    A medium nib produces a line of ink that’s approximately 0.55mm – 0.65mm wide. It is by far the most popular nib, outselling Fine and Broad nibs by a significant factor.

    A broad nib produces approximately a line of ink that’s 0.75mm – 0.85mm wide and is perfect for those who are more leisurely in their writing or like to create an impact with bold, broad writing strokes. 

The thickness of your handwriting also depends on the pressure you exert on the pen, and what type of paper you are using. Over time and use, all nib types will adapt to your individual writing style which will make it feel much smoother - a great reason why it’s best not to let others use your fountain pen!

Buying a pen for someone else?

One very important fact to discover if you are buying a fountain pen for someone else is whether they write with their right or left hand. If they are right-handed then you can take the above information and apply it to your purchase.

However, if they normally hold a pen with their left hand you need to take great care! Left-handed writers use so many different writing styles – overwriting, underwriting, writing uphill, writing horizontally, writing downhill and many other options it is a difficult to guess what would suit them. We normally recommend to start with a standard Medium or Fine nib as the writing tip is an iridium tipped ball so writes in any direction very smoothly. However some left handers do prefer oblique nibs, which are ground to order, but this is quite specialised, and often the nib grinder wants to see how they write before he grinds the nib.

Conway Stewart custom nib options

In addition to the standard Conway Stewart extra fine, fine, medium and broad nibs, there is an option to customise any nib to your own specification for a small additional cost. With something as personal as handwriting, it’s not surprising that a number of alternative nib styles have been created and developed over the years.  Today, many Conway Stewart customers prefer to write with nibs which have been specially customised to give them their preferred line width and style in their writing.

Custom nibs are created from standard Conway Stewart 18ct gold nibs which have been ground to produce very specific calligraphy writing styles such as italic, oblique or stub. Grinding a nib to produce one of these styles is a very demanding task which is why Conway Stewart has joined forces with one of the UK’s most experienced nib mechanics to undertake the work to their customers’ exact specifications. You can see the writing styles produced by some of the custom nib options below. Note the differing line variations they create.

Whatever your preferred writing style, you can be sure that Conway Stewart have a nib, or can create one, to suit you perfectly!


Spiro Haralambopoulos

I’m trying to decide what nib to order with my Stewart Conway “Winston”. I currently write with a Parker 51 fountain pen with an “Extra Fine” nib which perfectly suits my quick small writing style. Should I expect the same in an extra fine Stewart Conway nib? Thank you, Spiro

Jon Peske

…forgot, Am glad to see can buy some nibs & just screw in…

Joseph Darmanin

Very interesting and informative .

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