Basic Grinds Explained

(This page revised June 23, 2020)

The most commonly asked question that we receive is, "What is the difference between your various nib grinds?"

We work with nibs for eight to ten hours a day, and we often forget that what we take for granted can be confusing to others. The basic purpose for any grind is to produce a nib shape that suits your needs. It might be to bring line variation to your writing, or it might be to make the nib write a finer line, or it might even be to make the nib write better for the way you handle the pen.

Round Nib Tip

The standard "out of the box" round nib will produce approximately the same width line on the cross stroke as it does on the down stroke. If this is what you want, but your pen is producing a line that is too broad, reducing the tip size will yield the finer line that you want, from extra fine down to triple extra fine.

But what about the specialty grinds, what kind of variation and writing experience do they offer? The grinds that we do vary in their smoothness and in the amount and type of line variation they do. Here's the essential information about each of our grinds.

Stub Italic

This grind gives you the least amount of line variation of the four grinds, but it is the easiest to use. It is thicker, with more rounding to the edges. Stub italics generally make for bold writing.


This is a specialty grind that Linda developed initially for a client who has a hand tremor. The client wanted to continue to write with a fountain pen that produced line variation but needed a nib that was more forgiving than a cursive italic. In term of its line variation, the DailyItalic falls somewhere between a cursive italic and a stub italic. It has become a favorite among our clients because of its forgiving nature with rotation or under pressure. If a cursive italic is too toothy for you but you want more variation than a stub offers, then this is the grind to choose.

Cursive Italic

This is the grind that most people who want a lot of line variation ask for. Like a crisp italic, it produces a distinct size variation between the down and cross strokes, but there is slightly less variation than with the crisp italic, and its corners are not as precise. The smaller size of this grind can still feel toothy if you rotate and press heavily.

Architect Italic

A nib shape developed as an Arabic/Hebrew italic by Richard Binder and later discovered to exist on a single Sheaffer prototype pen from the 1960s; designed to create broad strokes in a generally sidewise direction (relative to the nib itself) and very thin strokes in a generally up-and-down direction. Note, however, that in general this nib is not useful for calligraphy in such styles.

Sharpened Italic

A variation of crisp italic nib developed by John Mottishaw, in which edges are sharply defined as on a crisp italic; a calligrapher’s nib. To reduce the likelihood that the nib will dig into the paper upon rapid changes from up/down to sidewise motion, the outside corners — but not the edges — are slightly rounded (not to the same degree as on a cursive italic) as shown above.

Crisp Italic

A properly ground crisp italic will produce the most line variation of all the italics. The edges of a crisp italic are flat and almost knifelike to produce precise lines and sharp corners. This is not a typical daily use grind. Rather than for writing, it is most commonly used for calligraphy or for careful printing. Under even moderate pressure or with any rotation while writing, this nib will feel very toothy.

For reference on stroke width please refere to our Stroke Width Chart.

The images in this article are © Used with permission.