This is the seventh part in a series in which I’m learning to use fountain pens. For all the previous installments, click here.
If you watch a flex nib in action, you’re going to be impressed. It’s not only that they’re commonly used by professional calligraphers, but, due to their softer tines, flex nibs are capable of large variations in both line width and shading. I’d been looking forward to trying one out for a while, even though I already have a calligraphy pen that I rarely use.
Unfortunately, outside of the vintage and high-end fountain pen markets, flex nibs can be hard to find. The popular brands, such as the Pilot Falcon, use gold as the primary nib material, putting them in the $150+ price range. For something less expensive, the only option I’ve found is from Noodler’s Ink, which produces several lines of flex nib pens that cost anywhere from $15 to $75.
So, not knowing if I’d actually enjoy this nib style, I went with something on the cheaper side: the Noodler’s Ahab with the”Bumblebee” barrel design, which cost me about $23. For ink, I went with Thornton’s Orange – a bright color to match the bright barrel – for an extra $9.
After inking up the pen, I experienced some initial frustration until I found this guide from Goulet Pens, and I realized that operating a flex nib demands a different touch. Typically, fountain pens glide across a piece of paper with very little (or no) need to apply force. Flex nibs, on the other hand, require pressure. The more the nib is pressed down, the more the tines will separate (i.e. “flex”) to allow for greater ink flow.
This line variability allows for some very artistic writing. However, it does take some practice to master. One guide at VintagePen.Net even asserts the importance of proper posture while writing with a flex nib. That may be overkill for a non-professional fountain pen user, but playing around with varying pressures and writing angles is still a lot of fun.
The Noodler’s Ahab – and flex nib fountain pens in general – are definitely not functional. By that I mean to say, you probably wouldn’t want to take notes with it. Flex nibs don’t seem to be very good with the block-style fonts like I typically use either. So, it would be rational to assume that I wouldn’t like this pen, but I do. This flex nib is such an enjoyable writing experience that I’ll find an excuse to use it… even if it’s only for signing holiday cards.
3 thoughts on “Nib Novice, Part 7: Noodler’s Ahab Flex Nib”
How great you find you like flex nibs. Thank you for this interesting article!
I might disagree with you in one point, and maybe in the future your mileage does change 😉 Practicing with flex nibs not only teaches you to control any pen better, but also develop a lighter hand and by doing so, you will notice that writing with an Ahab unflexed does make it a great pen for note taking.
Having had 5 Ahabs (I gave 4 away to friends who where just starting out their flex calligraphy journey) I have a love/hate relationship to these as they are ugly and smelly and too big, but in hand they feel great and the concept (pen body + feed + nib, all disassemblable) is awesome. The Ahab is a great step towards a vintage flex pen and now that I have some of these rare beauties I am very glad that I did my first steps (and mistakes) with such a sturdy and relatively cheap pen.
It might be the type of ink I’m using with it. Un-flexed the orange is too light for writing, to the point that it might make a good highlighter. Maybe I’ll try something darker. I do have a bottle of Noodler’s black I could try, which I imagine would work well in a Noodler’s pen.
Before checking out vintage ones, I may check out the more expensive ones that Noodler’s sells. Though, I imagine a vintage golf nib flex pen would be ideal…