Sunday, October 11, 2015

Product Review: Pilot Waverly Nib

10/7/15 Iroshizuku Tsuki-yo ink, 140 lb. Fabriano
Studio cold-press paper (sketched from photo)
Several months ago I reviewed the Pilot Posting nib – a nib that doesn’t get much ink in the fountain pen blogosphere and, in my opinion, is highly under-rated. I’ve been happily using the amazingly fine yet smooth nib ever since. Filled with my favorite Platinum Carbon Black waterproof ink, it’s my go-to pen when I’m planning to use watercolor and want an unobtrusive, fine line. Heck, it’s been my go-to pen whenever I want the finest line possible for anything (filling out government forms with teeny, tiny spaces, for example).

Shortly before I started traveling so much in August, I had picked up a small tablet of Fabriano Studio 140-pound cold-press paper to try. It was easy to see that its surface has a much courser texture than the Canson XL cold press I’m used to. Stitching up a couple of signatures of it, I took the paper with me to San Francisco. While I enjoyed the course texture the paper imparts to both watercolor and colored pencils, what I didn’t like at all was how it felt to draw on it with a fountain pen. Even my Pilot Posting nib, smooth on every other paper, felt scratchy and sometimes stumbled over the surface. (I even started worrying that the paper’s texture would eventually damage the nib.) After I filled the signatures I’d stitched, I decided I didn’t like Fabriano Studio cold press enough to keep using it. I like using my fountain pens too much to let them fight with the paper each time I sketch.

10/7/15 ink, Stillman & Birn Epsilon sketchbook (Pilot Custom Heritage 912
with Waverly nib)
Somewhere around that time, I started thinking about the Pilot Waverly (coded WA in Pilot product codes) nib – yet another in Pilot’s amazingly wide selection of standard nibs. As with the Posting nib, I had first heard about the Waverly a long time ago, but I didn’t pay any attention to it because it is designed for use on course, bumpy or uneven paper. Since I had no intention of sketching on such paper, it wasn’t of interest. But I couldn’t help wondering, why in the world are people using fountain pens to write on course, bumpy paper? (An aside: The Posting nib was designed to be used on cheap, thin newsprint without feathering. While the rest of us scream and shout for notebook manufacturers to use fountain-pen-friendly paper, the Japanese simply redesign their fountain pen nibs to accommodate the crappiest, most unfriendly papers imaginable!)

That’s when my light bulb turned on: That Fabriano Studio cold press I had tried certainly qualified for course and bumpy (at least from a fountain pen’s perspective). Hmmm. . . maybe I had a use for a Waverly nib after all. With the current favorable US dollar/yen exchange rate, I found a Pilot Custom Heritage 912 with a Waverly nib from the vendor Bunkidou (which, by the way, continually impresses me with its fast service and carefully wrapped packages) on Rakuten for the best price I’ve seen.

10/7/15 Iroshizuku Tsuki-yo ink, Stillman & Birn Epsilon
(sketched from photo)
I’ve been using the Waverly for only a couple of weeks, but it’s fast becoming a new favorite. Why? Because it’s even smoother than the Posting nib, and almost as fine. My initial test sketches were on Stillman & Birn Epsilon paper, which is so smooth and pleasant that any fountain pen would skate over its surface, so that was hardly a test. But then I pulled out the paper that was as course and bumpy as any I would use – the Fabriano Studio cold press – and the Waverly skated right over that, too!

For line-width sizing, I compared it with my Pilot/Namiki Falcon/Elabo soft extra-fine (the finest nib I own) and my Pilot Posting nib (arguably just as fine as the Falcon). As you can see, the Waverly is a bit broader than either of them, so I still might choose the Posting nib or Falcon to fill out miniscule government forms. But the Waverly is certainly fine enough for my sketching needs, even for the cross-hatching I did on the tree frogs or the fine hairs on the young cheetah (both sketches at bottom of page). Turned upside-down, it’s definitely as fine as the Falcon, but then it gets uncomfortably scratchy, so I wouldn’t want to use it that way.

Unlike the Posting nib, which is as hard as the proverbial nail, the Waverly has some flex – not as much as the Falcon, but just enough to act as a shock absorber, I guess, as it goes over all those bumps in the road.

Waverly nib - front view
Waverly nib - side view
Seen from the side, the Waverly nib has a very slight curve away from the paper – exactly the opposite of the Posting nib, which hooks toward the paper like a claw. Maybe the curve’s rounded surface gives it just enough additional contact with the paper to keep it gliding smoothly. (Surprisingly, those two apparently opposite shapes – one curved away from the paper, the other curved toward it – both make extremely smooth contact with the paper.) I don’t know enough about nib mechanics to understand how the Waverly’s curve affects performance, but I guess I won’t care – it’s one heck of a design that apparently fulfills its intended purpose.

My only complaint about the Waverly? The same thing I complained about with the Posting nib: It’s hard to find one on any other body but the Pilot Custom Heritage 912, so that’s what I got – yet another black one (my third now). I don’t have anything against the pen body, which is comfortable and attractive enough. But it means that if I carry any two of them together in my bag (let alone three!), I can’t tell them apart. For now, I’ve peeled off the WA sticker that was on the side of the pen and stuck it to the top of the cap so that I can identify it easily – but that’s an esthetically distasteful solution. I’ll work on a better one.

10/7/15 (Pilot Waverly nib)
In the meantime, I’m enjoying the Waverly – a lot. Of the pen manufacturers I’m familiar with, Sailor easily takes the prize for having a huge line of innovative specialty nibs – but most are designed for stylish Asian calligraphy (and variable-line geeks like me), not for “normal” writing. For that, I have to hand it to Pilot for offering a wide variety of nibs useful to common writers – even ones that favor crappy, bumpy paper – which also benefit fountain pen sketchers like me.

Another black Pilot Custom Heritage 912 pen body -- identical to the two
I already own.
10/10/15 Platinum Carbon ink, 140 lb. Fabriano Studio cold-press paper
(sketched from photo)
10/7/15 Tsuki-yo ink, 140 lb. Fabriano Studio cold-press paper
(sketched from photo)
10/10/15 Platinum Carbon Black ink, colored pencil, 140 lb. Fabriano hot-press paper
(sketched from photo)


  1. You are becoming such a pen expert! What brand of Platinum Carbon ink do you use? I've bought cartridges and they still bleed. I want something that doesn't move and dries quickly.

    1. Platinum is the brand name. The Platinum Black ink does bleed, but Platinum Carbon Black is the most waterproof ink I know of and also dries quickly. Here's a link to it on Goulet:

    2. Six years later - try De Atramentis Document Ink. No smearing at all!


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