Tag Archives: FPnibs.com

Replacement gold JoWo nibs (for just about everything)

Jo Who?  There are few nib manufacturers left in the world, and even fewer who sustain the art of making a writing tip from gold.  A few famous Italian brands, a couple of well-known German ones, and three Japanese pen names make their own gold nibs, and there are a few highly-bespoke goldsmiths like Romillo, but apart from these notable exceptions almost all the other gold nibs you’ll find on sale these days are made in Germany, by Bock or JoWo.  Distinguishing between the two is a matter of personal taste, but opinions can be quite firmly held; if you’ve ever witnessed camera obsessives arguing the relative merits of Nikon and Canon and noted the ‘immovable object vs. unstoppable force’ trap such conversations tend to fall into, you’re probably in about the right territory.  In truth, they are both excellent suppliers of gold nibbage, and since you’ve already seen what Bock can offer on United Inkdom (in Kaweco’s Sport and Elite, and the Diplomat Aero), it seems only fair to give JoWo a chance to show what they can do too.

So off we go to Heidelberg, ja?  Well, indirectly.  That’s where they’re made, but they don’t participate in retail sales, so JoWo is not about to take calls from Joe Public; someone has to put in a bulk order.  Plenty of pen makers do just that (JoWo is the favoured nib supplier for John Twiss, for instance), and when Pablo ordered a batch for his hand-produced Gimena pens he realised he had more on his hands than he could really make use of right away, so Esther set up the FPnibs.com retail site, turning that over-supply into a business opportunity.  This supports the artisan production which Pablo concentrates upon, while making all sorts of tasty upgrades available to the rest of us – with the amusing twist that the nibs come to you from southern Spain, roughly half-way between one of the Pillars of Hercules and the city that Jonah was aiming for when he had an unscheduled whale of a time.  You can’t say we don’t give you legendary reviews, now.SchradeTactical with #6 Ruthenium-plated

OK, whet my appetite.  It’s near Jerez, too, so you can pick up a nice Fino along with your Fine, if that’s your poison.  But steering gently back to the fountain pen world, what first got many scribblers’ attention was the discovery that the standard #5 gold nib fitted the TWSBI 580.  As TWSBI have, quite understandably, concluded that the various customs regimes standing in the way rather preclude them from offering an official gold nib upgrade, this should be (and is) a source of considerable excitement.  The good news is that it works; fitting it to the TWSBI feed and collar is moderately fiddly, but unlikely to be beyond the reasonably experienced nib-twiddling enthusiast.  Scribble’s 580AL, fitted with a rhodium-plated example, is doing heavy duty producing the never-ending Too Many Purples ink project, where the natural flex of the JoWo is winning a pleasantly embarrassing number of admiring glances.JoWo #5 rhodium-plated for 580

Hmm, not bad.  What about the smaller TWSBIs?  Well oddly enough the Mini and the Eco use a #5 nib too, just a slightly more narrow-shouldered version for aesthetic reasons – and FPnibs.com have found answers to that challenge too.  The Eco model only works as a friction-fit so this does require some care to upgrade, but a screw-in collar makes fitting to the Mini model very straightforward.Twsbi Mini with#5 JoWo rhodium-plated

Will it make me fall in love with my neglected Faber-Castell?  Probably!  If you liked the smoothness of the standard steel nibs but would prefer a bit more of the natural flex which seems to be the key distinguishing factor of JoWo gold nibs, a fix is available.  Pablo tested the fit on Scribble Monboddo’s long-suffering F-C Basic, (you can see the video here) but as almost all Faber-Castells use the same screw-in feed assembly the nib which came home has a more suitable vehicle, in the shape of the graceful wooden E-motion – and very juicy it is too.F-C Emotion with gold JoWoSize isn’t important, but… Yes, they sell the bigger #6 too, and it’s splendid.  Scribble has rather shamelessly abused a dark ruthenium-plated #6 by popping it into a Schrade Tactical for a while, and more recently promoted it to a more stately home in the Namisu Nova, but in both bodies it has surprised many borrowers with its soft nature.Namisu Nova with #6 Ruthenium-plated

So, go on then – can we get added flex?  Oh come on now, I didn’t expect the Spanish inquisition!  OK, OK, sorry, that was a very old joke.  But yes, of course you can get added flex, and on request Pablo will do it for you, shaving a little off the shoulders of a #6 to provide plenty of line variation.  Pablo’s own video demonstrating this marvel has it fitted to the Fosfor Bangalore, which we reviewed last week, and it now lives happily in a big Karas Kustoms INK.KK INK with Pablo's custom semi-flex

Where do we get these goodies? FPnibs.com, naturally.  In the interests of balance we should point out that Esther and Pablo helped out with a bit of a discount so that we could sample the full range, but honestly we’d recommend these anyway.  New life for old pens!


FPnibs.com profile

How does a dynamic nib-swapping duo based near Cadiz come to the attention of United Inkdom?  Well, they were based here in Blighty for a while, for starters – but they also provide an increasingly well-known source of rather splendid replacement nibs, while growing the specialist Gimena pen brand too.  We caught up with Esther and Pablo over the internet…

So, how did living in the Forest of Dean lead on to setting-up shop near Cadiz?

Well actually the Gimena pen project started when we were based in Spain, but as the Spanish economy got into trouble earlier this decade we relocated to Coleford in the Forest of Dean, when Pablo found a job as a cabinet maker there in 2011.  At first, that put a stop to the Gimena project, but via the Writing Equipment Society Pablo involved in a pen repairing course and made some good contacts along the way. That introduction to the vintage world soon led him to start repairing pens.

About a year later we returned to Marbella, Pablo brought his tools and lathes from Ronda where he’d stashed them so he could continue working on Gimena pens, and we developed the Ebenus and Amaranthus models.  We also kept going with pen repairs and started selling nibs then too.

In early 2015 we moved from Marbella to a new workshop in Jimena de la Frontera, near Cádiz; we were very lucky because it was a bargain in a great location that many Brit’s people know well. From that moment too we started working on both Gimena and FPnibs.com full time.

Esther & Pablo at the Bristol pen show
Esther and Pablo at the Bristol pen show

What got you both started in fountain pens?

In 2008 we had a shop in Ronda where we sold hand made wooden products that we made by ourselves. Someone who came to the shop talked to us about kit pens, so we started to make some, but many people asked for fountain pens and that was the beginning. Then we realised that pen collectors and users prefer non-kit pens, so Pablo started designing whole pens.

Tell us more about the Gimena brand; what inspired the choice of materials and what’s coming next?

As you now know, Pablo has loved wood since he was a child so there was no other material his pens could be made of! Then we thought that, as a hand made product, all the other parts should be of high grade and quality – there’s no sense to working for hours with bad materials, so bronze, silver and gold were selected. The Gimena project is very exciting to be part of; from the design to the finished pen it is a beautiful procedure that makes us very happy and proud. We still enjoy innovating, too, so there are new designs in the pipeline.

We would like to offer cheaper pens than the Gimena range, but maintaining the same quality and is a challenge.  Some customers have asked us to make oblique dip pens, and we have made some and we enjoyed making them so much we are planning to offer some other models too. Via FPnibs.com we have started offering dip pen nibs as well as pen holders as calligraphy is a world that we would like very much to get into.Gimena sample

How did you move into selling replacement nibs – and which is the most popular?

For the Gimena pens we needed nib units as that is the only part we do not make, so JoWo asked us for a minimum quantity order. That was very high so we ended up with a lot of nibs, more than we could sell with hand-made Gimena pens. That is why we thought we could sell some and get a little bit of money to help start the Gimena project. The size 6 is the king of the nibs – both solid gold and steel ones sell very well and the most ordered finished is two-tone. People tell us they perform perfectly!

Your gold replacement nibs for TWSBIs are becoming very popular – are there other types of pens you’ll be providing gold nibs to fit soon?

That was something we were asked continuously – does any of your nibs fit in a TWSBI model? There was some information on the net about pens that claimed to do so, but we preferred to try by ourselves and bought the 700, 580, Mini and Eco models, and once we tested each JoWo nib we could offered them sure that they will fit properly.  If you look at Pablo’s videos on YouTube you’ll see there are other pen makes we’re testing nibs for too.

So now the big question: what pens do you write with yourselves?

Esther uses an Onoto de la Rue with a purple ink, which is quite ‘dirty’ but a nice colour. Pablo normally uses a Gimena prototype in Ebony wood untreated, so he can test the longevity of this kind of pen. And we both have inked a Pilot 74 with a fude style nib and an unbranded jeweller’s vintage fountain pen with a very nice flex nib that sit on our desks, and we use those randomly.

If that’s whetted your appetite, it’s worth look at the Gimena pen site and, of course, the very handy replacements at FPnibs.  Next week, we’ll be reviewing one of the other rather special pens which Esther and Pablo also sell!