Lately, I recognized on my wordpress-statistics that somebody from Mexico was hitting my page by entering the search phrase „how much more ink does m nib use compared to F“. Well, he or she obviously found my page and landed on it, but two things have crossed my mind regarding this: (a) be carefull what you search for when entering my webpage. And (b) the vistor had an interesting question, indeed. But I had no answer to offer for this question, though. Sad enough … I wanted to get deeper into this. But how?
Here, I don’t want to bore my venerated readers too much. For those who want to read the results, please just scroll down to the „Results“-section. All others may just continue …
How I tested ink usage
For me it had to be executed as simple as possible, but also as reliable as possible. And not too time consuming. Unfortunately, I have not an exact scale and no access to it, either.
The only quite accurate measure I have is an injection and a cannula to fill a converter with an exact amount of ink.
The following considerations I also took:
What is a correct/reliabe and most of all reproducible measuremant of ink usage?
Well, obviously not the amount of pages written with a given amount of ink. Because it is impossible to write the same content twice or even more often in exactly the same way (same letter sizes, same distances between the words).
Therefore, I just have drawn lines with a defined length. Afterwards I counted the lines and multplicated it with the respective (constant) length.
- In order to observe the biggest possible variation, I compared in this case a fine nib with an italic nib (1.1mm – since I have no broader ones).
- I drew lines by holding particularly the italic (stubbish) nib leading to the broadest possible line width.
- To make sure, everything is dependent only upon the nib size, I used a fountain pen capable of easy nib replacement (just the nib – not the feed). I found it in form of a Lamy Safari. Hence, I used exactly one exemplar and changed the nib, only. Well, we will see, that even this approach has its weaknesses, however.
- For completion: The very common Z50-nibs were used. These are compatible to the Z51 nibs. The former ones are blank steel, the latter ones are steel nibs covered with black color. The compatibility is extended to the lx-nibs (Z52) as well as to the gold-nibs (Z55, 56, 57) which are much softer by the way.
- I used the same ink (Lamy Green), coming from the same jar.
- I used the same paper type from the same note book, expecting not too much variations of the paper from one page to the next. It was an Oxford desk book 90g/m2.
- Since I used a relatively low amount 0,4ml of ink (due the fact I didn´t want to spent too much time with drawing stupid lines) I proceeded without any pause to prevent drying and or evaporation of the ink. If you have seen how quickly ink can vanish out of a cartridge or converter you will agree to this method.
Here the full procedure:
- Cleaned and dried a Lamy Safari equipped with an italic 1.1mm nib (out of a pool with several 1.1mm-italics).
- Taken an injection plus a cannula. Filled it with Lamy green ink (a not very wet ink). I took exactly 0.4ml (eye judgement from a 0.1ml-scaling – but I shot a photo to verify) and filled it into the converter. I also made sure no air bubbles were sucked up or persisted in the injection (this would reduce the amount of ink significantly at the given low quantity I used for this test). The ink was injected into the converter by pressing the piston slowly but exactly one time – I hope the amount of residual ink in the cannula has been the same for the attempts with the other nibs.
- Mounted the converter into the pen and turned the piston until the first ink drop was visible in the feed under the nib.
- Drawing lines, and lines, and ines … until no more lines where possible to bring to paper.
- Before proceeding with the next nib, again cleaned and dryed everything.
- Mounting another nib, and refilling the converter as described above (and comparing the filling level with the foto I shot – just to be sure).
- Repeating the test with a F nib (and again an italic 1.1mm-nib).
Well, this section can be short: with a fine nib from Lamy you can get twice as much lines on the paper as with the Lamy italic 1.1mm nib. Or in other words: the fine nib uses half the ink compared to an italic 1.1mm. In an ideal world …
But hold on! Obviously, a dryer nib, even though quite broad (also 1.1mm, that is), is capable to use as much ink as a wetter fine nib. How can that be? I would guess, since anything else in this test was in the same condition: one of the italic-nib was wetter than the other. The slit between the tines of the wetter nib was a bit broader than the dryer nib. Also possible, the contact surface between the rear side of the nib and feed was different. Generally spoken, the nib geometry was slightly different between both italic nibs.
What are the weeknesses of this test?
- It does not tell you much about the number of pages or words you can write more with a fine nib compared to broader nib. Because any finish of a word (or even non-connected character) increases the ink usage – that is what we notice as (and like so much) shading.
- We have to take into consideration the line variation of an italic nib: in a usual writing procedure the strokes are thinner and therefore less ink consuming in diagonal bottom left to top right direction than in direction orthogonal to this (for a right hander). For this test I only prepared the broadest possible strokes.
- It is the test of just three nibs.
- Possible innaccuracy due to low ink amount.
What one may can say is, in case of a comparable nib-wetness the ink usage of a nib with a width of 1.1mm is maximum twice as much as for a fine nib. In practice, in the real worls, that is, this difference will be much smaller due the the thinner lines an italic is capable of.
Also, in real world a fountian pen enthusiast might have two pens of the same type (say Platinum President in F and B), but will not see any difference in ink consumption since the fine nib is may be wetter than the B-nib.
All in all, I would say, everything is dependent upon the wetness of nib and feed. The nib width gives only a small (but also unreliable) hint upon how many words more can be written with a finer nib.