I'm a brand spankin' new beginner with flex nibs and calligraphy, and though my skills need polishing, I've taken to dip nibs like a fish to water. I’ve posted about the starter kit Husband gave me for Christmas, and though I still love the Gillott 404 nib that came with the kit, I was itching to try a few different nibs.
I had heard much ado in modern calligraphy circles about the Japanese flex nibs called G nibs, especially the Zebra G. However, Lindsey over at The Postman's Knock recommends the Nikko G nib. I also ordered a lesser known nib, the Tachikawa G, because I noticed that it had good reviews.
I also ordered several oblique and straight holders to try out with the various the G nibs. When my order arrived, I was absolutely THRILLED to discover that John Neal Bookseller includes instructions on how to use and adjust their oblique holders.
Oh, if only I had received instructions like this with my first oblique holder! Kudos to you, JNB, and much thanks.
Do you see that little purple dot on the holder? JNB also adjusts their oblique holders specifically for certain nibs. This is extremely helpful because I know that the holder I order will fit a particular nib with little to no adjustment necessary, which is extremely helpful for beginners like me.
For more info, you can see JNB's notes on what holders work with the Zebra G here. At each individual holder's product listing, JNB also links to a chart showing what nibs fit in each holder.
On to the nibs!
Nikko G vs Tachikawa G vs Zebra G
Though all three G nibs look very similar, I found that each performed differently in my hand. Below, the nibs are reviewed in the order that I tested them. Before I share my opinion of each nib, it's important to understand that...
Every aspect of modern calligraphy is extremely variable.
Each hand, holder, nib, ink, and paper (and sometimes even the weather) changes the result. For example, a nib that works for one person may not work for another. A nib that performs beautifully with one ink may fail with a different ink, while a different nib may prefer a totally different ink, even in the same hand with the same paper.
I tried my best to compare apples to apples. I used each G nib with exactly the same holder— a Speedball Deluxe Oblique Comfort Grip— and exactly the same ink and papers.
For this experiment, I used Ziller's Soot Black ink. I like to watercolor along with lettering, and this ink is nearly bulletproof. For beginners, I also recommend nonwaterproof Higgins Eternal.
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Swayed by its popularity, I tried out the Zebra G nib first and immediately fell in love with it. It requires a firmer hand than the nib I normally use, but the Zebra G slid across every paper I used it on. This smoothness helps to reduce the shaky quality that is apparent in a beginner's hand like mine.
The Zebra G nib is fairly stiff, and I found it harder to write small with this nib. It worked great for large text like in the samples above, but if I wanted to stay within the lines, I couldn't get the Zebra G to cooperate as easily as a finer nib might.
I loved the Zebra G nib so much that I used it exclusively for at least a month before I wore it completely out. Time to try out Lindsey's favorite, the Nikko G!
I wasn't immediately impressed with the Nikko G nib. The Nikko offered none of the smoothness that I had experienced with the Zebra G, but instead felt scratchy on all of the papers I tried it on.
The Nikko G was more flexible in my hand and didn't require as much pressure as the Zebra G, making it easier to write with for longer periods. Because of the Nikko's softer flexibility, I was also able to get slightly finer upstrokes with the Nikko G. I also had no trouble writing in a small font with this nib.
However, after using the Nikko G for several weeks, I was ready to move on. It performed well enough, but I couldn't get past the Nikko's scratchy quality.
I couldn't find a lot of information about the Tachikawa G nib, so I really didn't know what to expect. However, after a few days of using it, the Tachikawa G nib completely trumped my love for the Zebra G.
The Tachikawa G nib flows smoothly, flexes easily, and holds a HUGE amount of ink. In fact, the ink load took some getting use to. I kept dipping too soon, which resulted in ink blobs. (You may notice this in the samples above, especially the one in the bottom left.)
You can see the comparison of each nibs' ink load in the photo above. The Zebra G held the least amount of ink; I had to dip it twice just to finish the sample! Though the Nikko held a good load, the Tachikawa was the clear winner.
I also compared the strokes of the Zebra G to the Tachikawa G. Though both nibs made lovely, thick downstrokes, the Tachikawa (above left) produced extremely thin upstrokes, much thinner than the Zebra G (above right).
I quickly adapted to the increased ink load, and in my hand the Tachikawa G had a soft flexibility similar to the Nikko, yet it also possessed the smoothness of the Zebra. I had found my winner!
The Clear G Nib Winner
For me, the Tachikawa G nib was the clear winner. I love everything about it, and it now has a permanent place on my desk. However, since calligraphy is full of variables and nibs are super affordable, I think it is worthwhile to try all three nibs for yourself.
When John Neal Bookseller packed my order, they accidentally added in an extra oblique holder. I contacted JNB to see about returning it, and their fabulous customer support urged me to keep it.
So I decided to pay this freebie forward! I'm giving away the Speedball oblique holder along with one of each of the three G nibs so you can try them out for yourself!