Line variation refers to how much of a difference you can get in line thickness from a nib.
While the majority fountain pen nibs are not designed for calligraphy or ‘flexing’ some nibs still have a certain amount of expression to them.
This is because when you are writing and applying pressure to the pen on the page, it can force the tines of the nib slightly further apart, causing a wider line.
While this effect can be desirable, it should be noted that you should be very careful in how much pressure you put on your nibs, because if you press too hard the tines will be permanently bent and ruin the nib.
Experimenting with your nibs expression is something you should only do when you are already comfortable with your pen, and understand how it writes. Then, slowly try applying very little pressure on the down strokes of your writing to see if your nib has any expressiveness.
*note that line variation in standard fountain pen nibs will only be possible on the down stroke of your writing.
Some nibs, such as ‘stub nibs’ or ‘italic nibs’ get their line variation from having different shaped tips. Their variation comes from the direction of writing. Stub nibs tend to be more rectangular with rounded edges, giving line variation from side to side, and italic nibs are rectangular with a sharper edge, allowing for great variation between side to side and vertical writing strokes.
Words by: Ben Graham