When you're first starting out with pointed pen calligraphy and familiarizing yourself with various nibs, it can be discouraging to come across a defective nib. Just when you thought that you'd gotten the hang of those hairline upstrokes, along comes a nib that snags like a rake on crab grass, even if it's BRAND SPANKING NEW, and suddenly you're back to thinking that you're doing something wrong. This is more than a little frustrating, but before you beat yourself up, take note: your nib may be defective.
Now, a fine point nib, like my favorites Hunt 101, Hunt 22B, and Leonardt EF Principal, is highly likely to catch on upstrokes in the following situations: 1) too much pressure is applied, 2) the nib is rotated too much to the left or right, causing the tines to not rest evenly on the paper, 3) the nib isn't parallel to the line that is being drawn, or 4) your nib is dirty with dried ink. If none of those situations apply, take a good, very close look at your nib.
What should you look for? Your nib will not perform satisfactorily, or at all, if the tines are not perfectly parallel to each other. If one lays even a fraction of a hair higher than the other, you're going to see some snagging. Check out your nib from the side (you might need a magnifying glass to see less obvious defects). Is there a perfect, flat point from the side? Or is there some vertical separation? If the latter, you have a busted nib.
Sometimes you'll see some horizontal separation in the tines. Since your tines should only split on the downstroke, you're not going to have luck with a nib that is ALWAYS split. Again, even a small amount of separation can wreak havoc. It's tough to see without a really close look (this is the one perk of my severe near-sightedness- I can spot these things off the bat), so be sure to check it out in some good light.
Last, sometimes the nibs are bent, plain and simple. This is an obvious one, but sometimes not apparent until after you ink up and something doesn't feel quite right. If the tines are bent identically, you won't notice snagging, but you might notice weird lines or just an overall "off" sensation.
So, should you chuck these nibs, or what? If I can use them at all, I do, but ONLY for practice- never for professional output or for a paying client. I try to use them to my advantage. If a nib is snagging, I use it to practice a very light touch, since it's forced- there's no way am I getting anywhere if I have a heavy hand with that nib! I am also forced to slow down, which is something that gets away from us when haste takes over. Often, the snagging will cause the nib to jog around to the left or right as well, so I have to fight that and really focus on keeping that perfectly straight or perfectly curved line. It's a weird way to train myself, but I've grown to appreciate it.
After a good amount of time struggling with a defective nib- slowing down, using the lightest possible touch, and fighting to stay on track with the correct lines- I come back to a good nib. What an amazing feeling! There's a refreshed sense of ease and a sharpened skill. It's like driving for miles on a rough, windy road and then hopping on a smooth, straight, wide open highway. Bliss!
Ink on. xo, Bianca