The Oblique nib is one of 3 nib grinds that I use regularly. The use of this nib has largely fallen out of favour with most writers nowadays, but was in fact extremely popular and prevalent during the fountain pen heydays, mostly in Europe. Most people describe this nib as a “solution” to correct for over rotating underwriters’ pen angle, but I do not necessarily agree with that sentiment. In this entry of “The Anatomy of”, I will discuss the cut and shape of this grind, the way it affects writing and angles, and why I love this grind.
I started writing, as most beginners do, with round nibs. My first was a Pilot Petite in F, but after a year of the Pilot Petite, I was ready to graduate to a full sized pen. I happened to stumble into a fountain pen shop during my summer internship, and they had a burgundy Montblanc 144 Tribute to Chopin in OM. I didn’t know what that meant, but it was the last one they had in stock and I needed something to motivate me through the summer, so I bought it.
Unboxing the pen and writing with it proved to be a huge challenge for me. I found that this pen didn’t write at all angles, but when it did, it gave my writing a distinctive characteristic that I couldn’t replicate with a round nib. The flat surface of tipping meant that there was a sweet spot and I couldn’t be liberal with my grip, but I could make these diamond shapes due to the flat sides and angling of the nib, lending it an italic calligraphic quality.
Let’s get into the nitty gritty of what this grind entails.
An Oblique nib is one that is ground to have the tipping cut at a slant. Most modern nibs are round, or at least spherical, so it’s fairly easy to tell an Oblique nib. Oblique nibs are often, but not always cut to be a broad edge nib; Sailor’s Lefty nib and Lamy’s Oblique nibs are some examples of non-broad edge styles.
So I mentioned that I don’t agree that this nib is for “correcting” over rotating underwriters, at least not modern Oblique nibs. However, to understand the Oblique nib, it is important to understand the history of nib grinds in general.
It seems to be that European nibs of old, regardless of nib point, were ground to somewhat flat angles. This is most easily seen in Montblanc and vintage Pelikan nibs, the former of which has kept the stubbish tradition of their grinds. This characteristic is especially pronounced in larger nib points, such as BB and 3Bs. What this means, on the other hand, is that these nibs are much less forgiving than modern nibs. As a result, writers who rotate their pens, their wrists, their elbows, their paper, or any combination of the above would have a more difficult time with non-Oblique nibs. As a result, Oblique nibs were rather common in European pens, with many interesting sizes, ranging from Oblique Fine to Oblique Triple Broad. Interestingly, nibs from the United States, in general, do not exhibit this stubbish nature, and Oblique nibs are correspondingly seen far less in pens of US origin.
US manufacturers had a more “blob-like” tipping style, which was suited for all angles but sacrificed line variation and character in return. Eventually, Japanese manufacturers copied pens from the UK and the US, along with their blob-like tipping, so Oblique nibs were rare in Japan (though they existed). European manufacturers, particularly post-war, also adopted the blob-like tipping, reducing their nib offering and improving their manufacturing efficiency. Eventually, Oblique nibs became specialty nibs no longer commonly used.
However, I still use my Oblique nibs as daily drivers. I do not rotate my pen, but I did rotate my paper for years and I do underwrite on purpose. Oblique holders are still extremely common in dip nib calligraphy, and similarly, Oblique nibs help me write in a calligraphic style.
That is why I like to grind my own Obliques into sharper Italics, as it can give me the maximum line variation and yields my writing into a simple calligraphic style with ease.
I find Oblique nibs particularly nice to write cursive with, which seems fitting for a nib grind of European origin. Just simply writing lends my handwriting a casual cursive italic style, while a little extra effort helps me branch out into other more formal italic, uncial, or blackletter styles.
As a nib grind, I believe that Oblique is a prefix to the width descriptor, unlike Stub or Italic, which I consider to be suffixes. That is to say, they are not mutually exclusive, and you can have a nib that is both Oblique and Italic.
Obliques are not for everyone. Some people may even find them difficult to use, but I personally love them, and there is always one in my rotation. Regardless of whether you rotate your pen, wrist, elbow, or paper, I highly suggest trying an Oblique nib to experience for yourself the difference and character that you can exhibit with one!
10 replies on “The Anatomy of an Oblique”
[…] The Anatomy of an Oblique – Tokyo Station Pens // via Pen Addict member newsletter // Although I don’t have very many, this is my favorite nib grind, and one is always inked. Currently, it’s my Pilot Vanishing Point. […]
oh! i have one in my VP too! I was a bit hesitant since I wasn’t sure how the clip placement would affect my grip. Turns out not at all!
Is the image a nib your modified? Oblique is my favorite nib, I have ground my own and have examples from several well known nib artists. They are all different – they look different, and write differently. I learned how to do my own carefully examining and copying ones that I liked to write with.
Yes, all the ones that say “by Tokyo Station Pens” are done by myself, and one of the images show an example by Masuyama. I do agree with you that each grinder does their grinds slightly differently, yielding interesting and varied outcomes!
Thank you for this very informative article and great pictures! Could you comment on using an oblique italic (with counter clockwise rotation and causing the slit to be aligned almost horizontally) vs. an architect (with slit aligned vertically)? Both end up with thin vertical strokes and thicker horizontal strokes, but I find the oblique italics nibs to be a bit smoother in general. My theory is that the cross section of the slit is different, but shouldn’t well tuned nibs eliminate that difference?
If you think about the shape of whats actually touching the paper, the contact surface is totally different. An Architect would be more similar to a Pilot Parallel in that sense. An oblique italic has 1 point of contact for the ink, the rest is all tipping doing the work
Hello. Thank you for sharing this knowledge. Really nice post!
While reading your post I liked the style of your calligraphy in the writing examples. I’m trying to learn cursive writing in a better way and would love to find a style similar to the one you have. The letters are small and yet, so much readable. The pointy letters are also pleasant to see.
I was wondering if you, maybe, would have some example (maybe a page or two) of writing with this style that I could use as a base? By any chance would you have a video where I could see the flow of you writing like this?
I believe you can see my email in the comment, if you don’t mind, I would be very thankful to you if you could share your experience with me.
Thank you! I am hoping to eventually expand the website with some writing instructionables. When i have the time!
I have had this idea for a grind in my head for over a decade now, maybe you’d find it an interesting experiment to try your hand at:
With a traditional oblique nib you get a result somewhere between an italic and an architect nib, but you have to rotate the nib to meet the paper if you don’t want most of the contact surface floating above it, simply because the heel of the nib will be at a higher elevation than the toe as you hold the pen up at an angle. If you grind an architect, you have to compensate for this elevation by making the heel end of the architect’s “plow edge” thicker than the toe end.
So… What if you were to rotate the architect grind 45° clockwise or counter-clockwise around the centre of the nib slit to create an oblique architect rather than an oblique italic? This should give you an oblique nib that does not require any rotation.
The only problems I could see are that the corners of the nib slit could be difficult to smooth because they’d be very pointy, and it may only work on specific shapes of tipping with enough meat on them in all directions. I’d be very interested to see what you think about this!
Have you tried to do a drawing of it?