The Nakaya elastic nib FAQ.

Elastic nibs were around before Nakaya had them. Many steel dip pen nibs came with shoulder cutouts or slits. Esterbrook even had a double elastic (cutouts AND slits!) on offer.
Esterbrook Falcon 048, Double Elastic, Natural Slant

Esterbrook Falcon 048, Double Elastic, Natural Slant

MacNiven and Cameron released their last Waverly pen in the 1950s, an eyedropper meant to remove the hassle of disintegrating rubber sacs in tropical countries. (Julie gave me hers to auction when I did Pens for Aid two years ago.) This had a leaf-shaped nib with tiny cutouts.
MacNiven and Cameron Waverly

MacNiven and Cameron Waverly

The modern successor to the elastic nib of old is the Japanese G nib. Originally meant for manga, G nibs have a following amongst calligraphers for having reliable line variation. Zebra G, Tachikawa G, and Nikko G all employ similar shoulder cutouts.
Zebra G nibs

Zebra G nibs

Nakaya is the only modern pen brand with a range of elastic nibs. Pilot’s FA (falcon) nib has shoulder cutouts too, but the result is a semi-flexible nib, not an elastic one. The long tines and straight base have something to do with it. The metal is thinner too, which explains why the nib is so plain (added engraving can weaken the metal).
Pilot FA nib

Pilot FA nib

The differences matter: Zebra G, Pilot FA, Nakaya elastic broad

The differences matter: Zebra G, Pilot FA, Nakaya elastic broad

 I’ve been lucky to have tried most of Nakaya’s elastic nibs, from super extra fine to music, and own several. Each one has its own personality. These are what people wonder about the most.
Are Nakaya’s elastic nibs supposed to be flexible?
In fountain pen language, “flexible” means “capable of noticeable line variation.” (I would add “and springing back without hurting itself.”) Nakaya’s elastic nibs have shoulder cutouts to help mimic the feel of a brush. This makes a lot of sense when you realize that Nakaya is a Japanese brand, and Japanese characters are traditionally written with a brush. Brush pens and elastic nibs have the same intent – bring the unique responsiveness of a brush into an age that demands convenience (and would confiscate yatates at the airport). So are elastic nibs capable of noticeable line variation? Nope. Only a little. They are semi-flexible at best. The metal sheet the nib is made of is a standard thickness, so when you add pressure, the nib bends where the cutouts are, but the tines don’t spread. A fine elastic nib could probably manage an F to M.
Two-tone elastic nib
What do elastic nibs feel like?
They feel like writing with a pointed metal brush. In my experience, writing with an elastic nib is less tiring. There’s a springiness and bounce while writing that’s pleasant, and makes me enjoy long note-taking sessions. Elastic nibs also make drawing and doodling more fun.
This is the oldest elastic nib I have. The nib design is still the Mount Fuji/Platinum one instead of scrolls.

This is the oldest elastic nib I have. The nib design is still the Mount Fuji/Platinum one instead of scrolls.

What’s the difference between Nakaya’s soft fine and an elastic nib?
Nakaya’s soft fine nib is pretty much Platinum’s soft fine. It’s semi-flexible – the tines spread a little bit, say from F to B, and adds expressiveness to everyday writing. The “softness” of the nib comes from the metal itself and not from cutouts. There’s a faint springiness, but no bounce.
Nakaya's nib design has subtly changed over the years. Note the difference in globe placement ;)

Nakaya’s nib design has subtly changed over the years. Note the difference in globe placement 😉

Can you have an elastic flexible nib?
I expect you could, but it wouldn’t last very long. Flexing a nib stresses the metal. Flexing it a lot, with enthusiasm, stresses the metal at the same points, over time.
What about thinning the metal in addition to shoulder cutouts?
This is the point where I hug you and say, “Life is short, do what you love.”
———-
One thing I noticed while taking photos for this post: Nakaya elastic nib cutouts are done after the nib has been formed. Every single one is different, like snowflakes. Each elastic nib is handmade.
Three elastic nibs, three different (manually done!) cutouts

Three elastic nibs, three different (manually done!) cutouts

Videos make explanations clearer, so I made you one.
  • Gerald Taylor

    I really enjoyed this Leigh. Very interesting and the video was so beautiful. Not gonna lie–I watched it twice. 🙂

  • Don

    Fascinating, thanks.

  • Christine Jorja Dougan

    Love you video’s Leigh

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  • Ken

    Mesmerizing

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  • Arron Umberger

    I’m totally new to all of this and I’m so happy I found your site. I comprehended more from watching that video than I did in the last couple hours of searching online. One question I have is this: What is a good 1st fountain pen? I like the look given by the flexible and soft-fine nibs, but not sure if those are good to start out with. I would use this mainly for writing as I can barely draw a stick figure. And again, I’m completely new to this and have only picked up a fountain pen once in my life – several (15 or so) years ago.

  • Gumo

    I have been looking at Nakaya for a while now, I’ve heard that the Elastic is very nice to write with, but at the same time I do like a some of variation in the writing. I was wondering if it is advisable to have a Flexible-Fine with an Elastic cut to the nib (that is, of course, if they do allow such a combination)? I normally don’t apply much pressure when I write, but I have no experience with Nakaya whatsoever, your opinion would be greatly appreciated!

  • acute

    That video is beautiful, as ever. Thank you.

  • San Jay

    Hi, curious to know which soft fine would u recommend a pilot 74 soft fine or a platinum 3776 soft fine, thank You

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