Review: Speedball General Purpose 6-Nib Set No. 20

This is the General Purpose Set (No.20) by Speedball. This set is ideal for lithography, drawing fine lines and cross-hatching.

By the way, Speedball also sells other types of sets with dip nibs for different purposes (such as the Calligraphy set).

This set comes with 6 dip nibs and 2 pen holders. You will have to get your own ink as this set does not come with ink.

At first glance, the 2 pen holders appear identical. But they are not.

If you observe the top of each pen holder, you will notice the obvious difference between the 2 pen holders. (Unfortunately, there is nowhere else on the pen holders that allows you to distinguish between the two)

As you may see from the picture above, the top of the pen holder on the left is hollow whereas the one on the right has a visible, rounded groove within.

The pen holders are different so as to fit the differently shaped nibs (which I will discuss later).

The pen holder with the hollow top is called No.102 Crow Quill Pen Nib Holder , whereas the pen holder with the rounded groove within is called No.104 Pen Nib Holder.

At the back of the packaging, you can find an illustration on how to insert the nibs into the pen holder.

As for the 6 different, flexible point nibs, they are:

  • No.100
  • No.102
  • No.103
  • No.104
  • No.107
  • No.108

Before using the nibs, it's advisable to wipe each of them with wet tissue (to remove any chemical residue left from the manufacturing process) - this tends to help facilitate ink flow at the outset.

Front view, from left: Nibs No.100, No.103 and No.104

Back view, from left: Nibs No.100, No.103 and No.104

Nibs No.100, No.103 and No.104 have a silvery finish to their bodies, and are similar in the sense that they each have a hemispherical, curved contour around the bottom half of its body (to fit the No. 104 Pen Nib Holder).

On closer observation, you will find '100' and the words 'Hunt', 'Artist Pen', 'Round Pointed' and 'U.S.A' engraved on the No.100 nib.

On the No.103 nib, you should find '103' and the words 'Hunt' (mine was spelt as 'Hun', but I believe that's likely to be a manufacturing glitch), 'Mapping', 'Round Pointed' and 'U.S.A' engraved on it.

As for nib No.104, it is the smallest amongst all the 6 nibs, and you will find '104', and the words 'Hunt', 'Finest' and 'Drawing' engraved on its body.

It took me a bit of squinting in order to discern the words engraved on the nibs.

These 3 point nibs fit nicely into No. 104 Pen Nib Holder (the holder with groove at the top) - all you have to do is push the bottom of each nib with its contour edge into the groove of the pen holder.

Front view, from left: Nibs No.102, No.107 and No.108

Back view, from left: Nibs No.102, No.107 and No.108

Bottom view, from left: Nibs No.102, No.107 and No.108

Nibs No.102 and No.107 have a silvery finish to their bodies whereas nib No.108 (being the exception) has a reddish brown copper finish to it. These 3 nibs are similar in the sense that the lower half of its body is cylindrical in shape (to fit the No.102 Crow Quill Pen Nib Holder).

Nibs No.102, 107 and 108 all have the words 'Hunt' and 'U.S.A' engraved on its body.

While nibs No. 107 and 108 has '107' and '108' engraved on its body respectively, nib No.102 has 'No 102' engraved instead.

These 3 point nibs fit into No.102 Crow Quill Pen Nib Holder (the holder with a hollow top) - all you have to do is push the cylindrical bottom of each nib through the hole at the top of the pen holder.

For more detailed instructions, there is a foldable booklet within the packaging that provides tips on how to hold and move the pen, how to properly load the pen with ink as well as some cleaning & maintenance tips.

The instruction booklet also provides some helpful tips on drawing techniques such as 'stippling', 'cross-hatching' and 'contoured lines' (to name a few).

Below are some examples of the strokes drawn by the respective nibs on Bristol Paper:

Picture A

Picture B

Picture C

Nibs No.100, 103 and 108 have very flexible nibs - the more pressure you apply, the greater the tines of the respective nibs separate to allow more ink to flow through, hence resulting in thicker strokes with bolder color.

Nib No.104 is slightly less flexible, compared to the 3 nibs mentioned above.

And nibs No.102 and 107 are far less flexible - their tines don't seem to separate as much as the other nibs. Consequently, nibs No.102 and 107 can create very thin and fine lines

For each nib, you can create strokes of varying thickness (using the same nib) by adjusting either the pressure applied on the nib or the direction you hold the pen. Upstrokes tend to result in thinner, finer lines/strokes whereas down-strokes tend to result in thicker and bolder lines/strokes. (As you may see from the sample pictures A and B above, the 2nd column consists of upstrokes and the 4th column consists of down-strokes - the difference in thickness of the strokes are more apparent for the more flexible nibs.)

Picture D

And then I decided, for a change, to try writing some alphabets on Strathmore's Writing Paper instead of Bristol Paper.

As you may see from Picture D, I wrote the alphabets a to z for nibs No.100, 102 and 103. They look pretty alright...... writing experience was however not the smoothest - in fact it felt a bit scratchy with a few kinks here and there (that may be due in part, to the type of paper used - the texture of Strathmore's writing paper isn't as smooth as that of Bristol paper).

Picture E

It was a disaster trying to write alphabets with nib No.104 - the ink either couldn't flow out properly enough or sometimes it overflow and caused those huge unsightly blotches you can see from picture E.

I reckon these nibs aren't meant for writing the way you would with a ball point or fountain pen on writing paper.

For cleaning, I soaked the stained nibs in Dr. Ph. Martin's Bombay Pen Cleaner, which does a great job cleaning off the dried ink marks!


Overall, these are good quality pen nibs for lithography, drawing fine lines and cross-hatching. This Speedball Set No. 20 is relatively inexpensive, costing on average about US$ 8 - 16 at the time of writing (after doing a check on several online stores). I emphasize this - that this set should not be sold at too expensive a price because I noticed to my horror that Amazon is selling it for about US$70 plus at the time of writing. I guess this may be due to a limited supply (I understand that prices are jacked up sometimes when stock is low). I hope that by the time my readers read this, Amazon will be selling this Speedball set at market rate (I know how cost is almost always a factor to consider).

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This is the best description

This is the best description I have seen of these nibs - ever! I started over a year ago and developed a love affair with dip pens, although I knew nothing. I'll print your examples of the various nib samples for reference since I own most of these (and more!). Thank you.


The ink is Noodler's Bulletproof Black. You can use any ink since this is a dip pen. I recommend getting bottles that are shorter so that it's easier to reach the ink when the ink level is lower.

I recommend De Atramentis Archive, Platinum Carbon, Sailor KiwaGuro. All are waterproof ink when dry.

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