Archive for January 13th, 2009

Since I love the tools as much as the art, here are a few more pens and nibs from my “collection.”

Collection of Pens and Nibs

Collection of Pens and Nibs

From top to bottom:

Vintage pen holder – sometimes these old pen holders can be found at garage sales, second-hand stores and antique stores.  I’m always on the lookout for vintage wooden pen holders simply because I prefer using wooden holders rather than plastic.  Be aware that unlike vintage fountain pens that can be quite collectible and expense, old pen holders generally are not as valuable – never pay more than a dollar or two, preferably less than a dollar.

Automatic Pens – poster-sized pens available in 7 sizes from 1/16″ to 1″.  I purchased mine a long time ago when the holders were made of wood instead of plastic.  They produce crisp, sharp lines and are great for large lettering.

Mitchell Witch Pens – a pen with a rolled nib and built-in reservoir.  The rolled nib makes these pens excellent for lettering on rough paper such as cold-pressed or rough watercolor paper.  Available in 4 sizes: 1, 2, 2.5 and 3.

Specialty Pens

Automatic Pen and Mitchell Witch Pen

William Mitchell Pen Holder – I don’t know whether or not these are still available.  A pen holder with a built-in reservoir to use with the Mitchell pen nibs.  I never found this holder particularly useful as I just used the slip-on reservoirs with the nibs.

Mitchell Pen Nib – Mitchell “Round Hand” pen nib.  Beautiful, flexible nibs that are perfect for expressive, clean lettering.  Also available with a slant for left-handed calligraphers.

Brause Nib – the workhorse of calligraphy! This is a fairly stiff nib with an oblique cut (left-hand cut available).  This is a great nib for beginners, and an excellent nib for the more “formal” letter styles such as Gothic.

Heintze & Blanckertz “TO” Nib – I only have a few of these but they are a nice, semi-flexible nib.  I was only able to find one supplier at kalligraphie.com.

Hiro Tape Nib – another semi-flexible, oblique cut nib that might be easier for beginners to use than the more flexible Mitchell nibs.

William Mitchell Scroll Writer – available in 6 sizes, this “double” point nib produces double lines.  Never used it for any “serious” work, but it is fun.

William Mitchell 5-line Ruling Pen – another “just for fun” nib I believe was originally intended for ruling Music lines, but creates some interesting letters.

Speedball Steel Brush – constructed of steel-slat layers, this nib is excellent for large lettering with maximum flexibility.

Mitchell, Brause, TO, Tape, Scroll, 5-Line Nibs and Steel Brush

Mitchell, Brause, TO, Tape, Scroll, 5-Line Nibs and Steel Brush

Of course, you don’t have to buy all your calligraphy writing tools; you can also  make your own pens from feathers, reeds or metal:

Home Made pens

Home Made pens

Feather Quills – Cutting a feather quill is not only a skill but an art.  Large feathers (flight feathers) from a goose make the best pens for calligraphy because they are a lot bigger than feathers from chickens.  Feathers are often available from craft stores, but sometimes you can find your own where the geese “hang out.”

We have a lot of Canadian Geese around my area, and those strange people you might see picking through goose droppings during “molting” season are probably calligraphers looking for feathers.  Note: grabbing geese and yanking feathers out of them is frowned upon and might be illegal in some areas!

A good description of how to cut feather quills is at the Calligraphy Guild of Atlanta website.

Reed Pens – These are easier to find than feathers because they are used for drawing and are usually available at art supply or craft stores.  Since they are already “cut” for drawing, it is relatively easy to cut the tip for a broad nib, and with a little refining, it will be ready for calligraphy.

Note:  Uncured quills are available from John Neal Bookseller (look under Ruling Pens/Writing Tools section.)  Cured, cut quills are also available but are cut to a point and not cut for calligraphy.

Brass Pens – Pens you can make yourself with a little work and some welding.  I first came across this pen (bottom of picture) at a calligraphy workshop.  I made the center pen myself with the help of a friend who is much better at metal work and welding than I am – the pen at the top is one she made, complete with a lovely velvet carrying case.  They are very similar to the Automatic pens – just fold a piece of metal, cut some slats (to facilitate ink flow) and weld it onto a brass tube for a holder.

These actually work very well with the added bonus that one is not limited to the “standard” nib sizes in commercial pens.  Flexibility can also be customized by varying the length of the nib.

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