interview with Jose Munuera: Nib scientist

Here with a series of interviews dedicated to the role that pens play in the daily lives of collectors, enthusiasts and users. The core of the interviews is how and to what extent pens have improved or even changed our lives.

The interviews are conducted by Letizia Iacopini.

scarica la versione in italiano

At 32 years of age, with a PhD in materials science, Jose Munuera (@niblab) is an esteemed researcher who studies how materials behave, react and interact. His daily work develops within a laboratory between principles of physics, biology, engineering, experiments and projections.
But Jose has the soul of an artist and needs creativity and craftsmanship to compensate for his analytical mind. Artistic manual activities, such as painting, creating scale models, transforming everyday objects, play an important role in his life as much as his research work.
Intervening on nibs, modifying their structure and behavior was therefore a natural
consequence of Jose's dual personality, where science and art come together and move together.

When did you first come into contact with fountain pens?

I bought my first fountain pen at 20 when I started university. I just needed a writing tool and was drawn to a Waterman pen. It was nothing special, it had a steel nib and its writing quality was rather unremarkable. But it has never disappointed me. I have used it for 10 years and during all this time I have never felt the need to change it. It was reliable and did its job well.
When I started working I realized that I had to organize my time to leave room for my hobbies.
I needed a balance between my scientific and analytical work and my desire to create and express the less rational part of myself.
Spending my days inside a laboratory has made my need for creativity increasingly
So I started personalizing everyday objects. My kitchen is full of tools and utensils whose shape, function or design I have modified.
In recent years, journaling has also become very important to me and with it my interest in fountain pens.
The natural consequence of this interest of mine was obviously the customization of the fountain pens and nibs I used; my scientific knowledge on metals and familiarity with manual activities did the rest. The more I customized my pens and nibs, the more the desire to experiment and have an ever wider variety increased.
“So I found myself being a pen collector and nib scientist. I currently own over 400 pens and have customized them all.
None of them is exactly the same as when I bought it”.

What is the most important aspect of a fountain pen for you?

I'm an expert on materials, I study their performance, their internal structure and how they react to external forces, so the nib for me is the most interesting part of a fountain pen.
Working on nibs makes me feel at ease and when I get to the result I had set for myself, I feel satisfied and accomplished.
My approach to nib transformation is essentially scientific: I don't just make a nib perform better, I transform its structure and change the way it writes. This is why I like to call myself more of a nib “scientist” than a nib “master”. Sometimes I also make nibs from scratch; working with metals for me is stimulating, creative and fun, but I never leave anything to chance, because the approach is always scientific.

Is there anything you've done because of or thanks to fountain pens that you've never done before?

I'm a pretty solitary person and I don't like traveling very much. When I worked in Ireland I had to travel often to visit my family in Spain, but I never felt the urge to travel to other places on holiday or the desire to explore distant countries.
I'm quite comfortable with the places I live in and I'm not even very "social".
Despite this I decided to open an Instagram account to show off my nibs. Likewise, I started traveling to pen shows, which I had never done before. Pen shows are fantastic events where all The kinds of people meet. Some are formidable, others terrible, sometimes aggressive, sometimes very critical…
The pen community is many-faceted; it is a miniature representation of the real world to be experienced as a full immersion for a weekend. After that I need to retreat back into my "cave" and spend some time alone to regain my balance and filter all the input I have received.

How much time do you spend with pens and nibs every day?

I write every day for an hour or so, then I dedicate the time to creating nibs, which used to be a hobby but is becoming an increasingly demanding activity as I continue to receive requests for customized nibs.
Working with nibs makes me feel good and is a way to express myself. The time I spend alone working with nibs is also time I actually invest in understanding myself better.

What do you suggest to newbies?

My most sincere advice could be summarized in a sentence like this: “go slowly and discover what you love and what you really enjoy”.
Social media can be very insidious fuelling our FOMO and we can become victims of an obsession that we can hardly manage.
It takes time before we understand what we really like and clearly distinguish between the consumerist inputs of social media and our real and deep desires. “We all have to, at times, detach ourselves from the influence of the media and find a personal balance in which we feel comfortable. So this is what newbies should do before they start buying pens at random or in quantities”.

March 01, 2024 — Pepe Nero