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Writing ala-Kenshin: noob notes on the flipped nib

Rurouni Kenshin’s live-action adventure faces its final chapter with poetically named The Beginning, which is already out on Netflix by the time you read this. Here, we’ll get to see what pushed titular the skinny red-haired assassin to ditch the normal katana and go for a reverse-edged sword.

And since the pen is often said to be mightier than the sword, what is the only writing tool that can be used with the wrong side up?

One thing that we learn first as fountain pen noobs is to write with the nib facing up. This is basic, and there have been numerous horror stories of non-FP users getting penthusiasts’ ire for grabbing a pen and heavily writing on the wrong side.

But, what if you want to channel that inner Kenshin Himura and purposely write with a flipped nib? Well…

Flipped nib writing is a thing

As demonstrated by Brian Goulet, a fountain pen still functions with the feed side up, which lays down less ink and a finer line. You’d usually do this if you’re writing on government forms (known to be always of iffy quality on this side of the planet) or any other paper that showed feathering upon the first touch.

But not all pens can still write well when flipped. So far, anything that is western F and above should be okay. But this experience is still relative.

Some nibs are made for flipping

Look no further than Sailor’s specialty nibs for a range of fountain pen tips that are meant to be used flipped. You have stacked or double-layered nibs like the Naginata Crosspoint with a juicy broad that writes fine reversed.  There are also curved ones like the Naginata Concord, with the width laid dependent on the angle you’re writing.

Sailor Nagahara Crosspoint is suitable for flipped nib writing

Then there’s also Parker 180 that has a nib that looks more like an arrow head. It comes in combinations of extra fine – medium and fine – broad.

But if you can’t find these pens (the Sailor ones are super pricey)…

You can always ask a nib meister

This is not always offered, but you can ask a meister to modify a nib that you already have. For example, I asked local meister John Lim to modify a Bexley broad into a hawk nib with a cursive italic grind years ago. Normal orientation features the CI, but the reverse can go from broad to really broad when I write with a low angle.

Before you start making inquiries with John, you can’t request this time-consuming mod at the moment. You may, however, inquire with JP Pentangeli who does reversible nib regrinds.

Another way is to look for nib meisters who make Nagahara-inspired stacked nibs. These are much harder to find since all of them are overseas, and the nibs themselves are expensive. But they are not as pricey as Sailor’s specialty nibs. I’m actually still waiting/hoping for mine.

This stacked nib brings back memories.

If you’re quite adventurous and have sacrificial nibs within reach, you can try grinding it yourself. But, this takes a lot of practice. Not recommended for noobs. The cursive italic grind is challenging to nail on its own.

I did this with a gifted Conklin with the old omniflex nib. The pen was nice, but the nib was notoriously bad. I was only after a noob CI grind, but I accidentally did something on the reverse pen that the flipped nib wrote better and finer than the normal side.

Noob notes

So, yes, reverse writing is actually a thing! But you can’t do it with all pens. Also, unless a nib is exactly meant for reverse writing, you can possibly ruin your pen if you have a heavy hand.

Other than that, feel free to do that. When the world allows pen meets again, be ready to try pens that lets you flip the nib.