Troubleshooting: How to Fix a Scratchy Nib

Why No Worky?

We’ve all been there. You pick up that pen you KNOW is a smooth writer and suddenly, BLAM! You can feel it, you can hear it…it’s scratchy. When a nib is scratchy, it's easy to tell that there's something wrong. Scratchy isn’t the same thing as feedback, so if you’re unsure what is normal and what isn’t check out our glossary of terms. 

Before you decide your pen is ruined, there are some things you can do first to try and diagnose and troubleshoot your pen. We've said it before, we'll say it again- the best thing to try first is to clean your pen. Most of the problems we encounter are fixed by making sure the pen is clean. You can then rule out some other things by trying one at a time, new ink, a new converter or cartridge, and a few different types of paper. 

One of the issues with self-troubleshooting is it could be anything in or on the pen, ink, or paper, and it could even be you ( we’ll get to that later). These suggestions are what we will ask if you reach out to us to have us help. Here are some common issues that occur with your pen, what causes them, and how to fix them.

Disclaimer: We have a process for helping you with your pen so if you got it from us, reach out before you attempt any manipulations as trying to fix something and breaking your pen is like telling your mother you broke the antique China and it was OK because there was a crack in it. We are not responsible for any damage you may do to your pen while trying to fix it. 

Why Is It Scratchy?

Misalignment on the tines/tipping:

If one tine is higher than the other, it will cause the low one to drag on the page. If you are holding your pen and it’s scratchy in one direction only, it’s likely a misalignment.

The photo below shows a misaligned nib. See how the left tine sits higher than the right tine? When properly viewing a nib through a loupe, like how Drew explains in this video, you will look across the writing surface to see the tine alignment. This nib would scratch going left to right.

misaligned nib

Nib and Feed off-center:

If the nib and feed are not symmetrical and the slit of the nib doesn’t follow the path of the feed, it will push one tine higher than the other and cause the scratchy writing.

In this photo you can see on the far left, that the nib is off to the right (feed goes to the left), the center image is the same but slightly less severe, and the far right shows a proper symmetrical alignment. The misalignment of the feed can effectively create the alignment issue we saw above.

 misaligned nib and feed


The angle you write at can put different pressure on the nib and move the tines out of place. 

This photo shows excessive rotation of the nib when writing. Some people do this because of their grip, and others don't even know they do it at all.

poor rotation in writing

Poor grind:

Maybe a new pen that you got and it’s just…off. The grind may have an imperfection even if the tines, nib, and feed are all in their proper alignment. These are hard to capture on camera but usually do present with a misalignment of some kind. Since a lot of pens are ground or finished by hand, this isn't uncommon. But it's nothing to stress over either. 

What Do You Do?

Use a loupe to try and diagnose the issue.

Here you can see the proper "angle of attack". Looking at a nib from the side, top, bottom, or head on can provide some information but this angle lets you see the spot that actually hits the page when you write.

using a loupe

Reset/realign the nib and feed.

Try removing and reinstalling them or moving the nib back into alignment, or manipulating the tines. Moving the nib and feedback into alignment can be done by pushing the nib. It’s not unusual for the feed to be out of alignment.

This photo shows the tines being moved to fix a nib alignment issue. Go slow, be gentle, and check often!

nib adjustment

Examine your writing angle 

Try to keep a near 45-degree angle and pay attention to any rotation you see. Below you'll see a nearly perfect angle and rotation (none). 

Replace the nib or have it professionally tuned.

Sometimes it’s not you, it really is the nib. If that’s the case, we have some great nibmeisters we can recommend, so reach out!

proper angle writing

Final Thoughts

Any issue with a new (or old) pen can arise from so many different sources, you need to rule them out one by one. While every pen should be perfect, even a $40,000 car can have a defect off the lot so keeping expectations in check is a must. Whether it's a pen you've had for years, or fresh out of the box, there are a few simple things you can do at home before asking for help.

All of these issues share a common thread which is a small error or small fix for a very frustrating problem. While this is not an exhaustive list, these tips may lead you to a quick fix but if they don't pan out just reach out to us for some assistance.

Unfortunately, not everyone is a nibmeister by trade so take a look at some of the videos we have. Your answer may lie in one of them!