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Thread: The wonderful world of old dip pens and caligraphy

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    Senior Member Laurie's Avatar
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    Default The wonderful world of old dip pens and caligraphy

    Jon Santos suggested I buy some dip pens before venturing into fountain pen flex nibs. How right he was. I have bought about 10 dip pens nibs, holders and caligraphy ink and have been exploring this part of penmanship.

    I cant thank Jon enough. His advice was spot on and has opened up a new world. I have a variety of dip pen nibs from very flexy to Italics and have been experimenting and enjoying the experience. Now I under what true flex nib means. Nothing like what I thought and exactly as Jon and others advised.

    One of my nibs is a Brause E 76 Rose EF which is just one of the most flexy nibs you can image. You just have to rest the nib on the paper and the tines just widen. So I cleaned the nib as suggested. Fitted to my holder and inked up with some caligraphy ink. Despair!!!!!Couldnt get the the nib to yield up the ink sitting in the nib. The tines would open and the ink would retract. Tried various cleaning methods of the nib and various papers and inks. No still no ink on paper. So I thought. Why is this nib so often recommend?

    I googled "trouble with getting ink to a Brause 76 Rose nib" And read a few and came across the following youtube video:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5rVo3jTBfhk

    Interestingly my google searches revealed a similar problem with this nib so I didnt feel that bad. Bad the oriental lady on this video showed a couple of methods of getting this nib to actually put ink on paper. Firstly you have to put a dot of ink on the paper and then put the nib on that dot and start writing. Voila. It worked and I was getting this much talked about nib to yield some of its abilities on paper. It gives the most fantastic flex nib experience one would need. A lot of people would not put up with its intricacies but I am willing to persevere and master it. The line variation is unbelievable and the tines just widen up so much.

    In the video the author also gives advice as to using a thicker ink which I will try. But if you have the time to fast forward the video and see some of this lady's caligraphy scrolling with this pen. I think it is so amazing and I just watched in aware at her penmanship. If only I could learn that and put that on a Xmas card or something.

    Enjoy the video
    “When once the itch of literature comes over a man, nothing can cure it but the scratching of a pen.

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  3. #2
    Senior Member naimitsu's Avatar
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    Default Re: The wonderful world of old dip pens and caligraphy

    Hi Laurie,

    Thanks for the share! I also started with dip nibs when it comes to flexible writing, but with William Mitchell nibs instead of Brause just due to my desire to limit initial investment. I will probably get a set of Brause in the near future, but I am in the process of looking into which set to invest in.

    Did the Brause nibs come with instructions on how to prep them? There is usually a coating on the nibs helps prevent corrosion during storage. The William Mitchell ones came with instructions to dip the tips in boiling water to remove the coating. The Other Half got nibs that suggested a scrub with a soft bristle brush using regular dish soap and water.

    I have heard other people heating off the coating with a lighter, though I am hesitant to try this as it is very easy to overheat the material with this method, and would quickly ruin the nib.

    If the nib comes with a reservoir/ink holder mechanism that attaches to the bottom on the nib, I have found that this has also helped with getting the ink to flow, assuming you have position the addition in the right spot. It took me quite a few mistries to get this right, so you may have to fiddle with it.

    Also, I have noticed that the angle with which I hold the holder (and subsequently the nib) also affects how well the ink flows. I have found that the dip nibs have a much smaller sweet-spot than the fountain pens, and it is very much unforgiving if your grip becomes misaligned! It has helped me correct my grip.

    On a whim, I got a bottle of Ziller dip ink and man, does it make a difference! I have had fewer drip issues with the ink since starting to use it. However, it is a mite harder to clean off of the nooks and crannies of the nib, but IMO, very much worth it!

    Enjoy dip nibbing!



    p.s. So you are aware, there are a number of Asians who take offense to the usage of the term "Oriental". I could not care less, but I don't want you inadvertently offending someone. I know it is a widely used term with no malicious intent, but as of late, there has been a huge push to not use it in reference to anyone of far eastern descent as many of them are technically no longer "from the east".

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  5. #3
    Senior Member Laurie's Avatar
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    Default Re: The wonderful world of old dip pens and caligraphy

    Hi Naimitsu.
    I take aboard all you say. My nibs are not purchased with a box and no instructions as to cleaning. I buy them on Australian Ebay from a local seller who is very knowledgeable about nibs so I email him and he tells me a lot of information such as cleaning off the protective coatings etc. I have tried a few differing methods including toothpaste and holding them over a candle with mixed results. So far I have found that just using 99.9 per isoprypol (alcohol) seems to work very well and the ink seems to adhere to the end of the nib after I have used it.
    The Brause 76 rose is a very touchy nib but my man tells me to persevere with it and wear it in. He said it will eventually start to sing. I dont want it to sing I want it to write. The method used by the lady on the video is working for me so maybe I will use that until it wears in. As you will see on the video the nib apparently doesnt have too much problem with the white ink. So the thickness of the ink is a major consideration. I have read where you should experiment all your nibs with different inks as they all react a bit differently. Hope you enjoyed the lady's caligraphy. I was in awe at the way should could do the flourishes so quickly and the inter connecting of the flourishes with other parts of her writing (e.g. the horizontal stroke on the T moves all through the words.

    I hope to build up a little collection of nibs. At the moment I have about 10 and three of them I really like. I also have a little collection of italics including a couple of obliques which again widen my experience and help me choose nibs for my fountain pen. I love using dip pens but the problems with continually dipping limit their use a bit. I have a Lamy Al Star which is fitted with a 1.5 italic and it writes beautifully. It is my pen of choice when I am writing a long letter or taking notes.
    Thanks for the advice about the word I used to describe this lady. I certainly didnt understand that word could cause offense. Just shows you how you have to be careful these days but it was quicker then saying she sounded like she was either Japanese, Chinese, Phillipino, tawainese, Thai, Malaysian, etc.
    Last edited by Laurie; June 25th, 2015 at 05:38 PM.
    “When once the itch of literature comes over a man, nothing can cure it but the scratching of a pen.

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    Senior Member sharmon202's Avatar
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    Default Re: The wonderful world of old dip pens and caligraphy

    Interesting logging of helpful hints, thanks so much everyone.
    Sandy
    We don't know what we don't know

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    Senior Member Laurie's Avatar
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    Default Re: The wonderful world of old dip pens and caligraphy

    Dip pen holder (1)resized.jpgPen holder (2) resized.jpg

    I have learnt that for some forms of calligraphy (e.g. modern copperplate) you need an oblique pen holder in order to have the tines touch the paper evenly. I have read that some of the standard oblique pen holders (e.g. speedball) have drawbacks in that you cant adjust them to fit different nibs and adjust the angle of the nib to the paper (i.e. not too steep which causes the tines to dig into the paper). There are a couple of people making these but, surprisingly, they are popular and production does not keep up with demand. Another problem is the cost when buying in Australia. The difference in the dollar rate and shipping make them a bit expensive.

    So I found a youtube tutorial on how to make your own. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bNuvi-fdutE

    I have been in contact with Christopher Yoke and he has found that his method of joining the oblique holder to the pen holder was flawed in that the wood of the pen holder got wet when dipping/cleaning and eventually the wood swelled and holder ruined. So he now fixes it permanently to the nib holder and used 2 pack glue to make it a permanent bond. He makes a few different obliques (for different size nibs) and has a few pen holders.

    As I said above the cost of these in Australia is a bit too much so I have decided to make one myself. I thought I would set out in this thread my progress in the event that there are a few others who may be interested. I realise this is a fountain pen site but it is very related and I am presently delving into the world of flexy dip nibs at the urging of Jon Szanto who I thank for his very wise advice.

    The tools required are fairly simple and ones most would have except for the bailing pliers. I have ordered a set online and have to order the appropriate size brass sheets. So it might be a few weeks until full production starts. In the meantime I had purchased a few nib holders to get started. The nib holders had a drilled hole at one end and a plastic insert which held the dip nib. I removed the plastic insert and then filled the cavity with a bit of wood putty. I then cut the slit to take the oblique nib holder at a slight angle (using a fine hobby saw). The angle allows the nib when fitted to sit a bit flatter to the paper about 40 degrees) which puts more of the nib sweet spot on the paper. Adjustments can be made with the brass oblique holder to suit the writers pen holding. Above are the photos of the holder so far.

    I hope some are interested ( I know Cyrptos will be) and I will follow up with my further steps in production. Hopefully my venture will be successful.

    BTW: I mentioned above I was surprised to find that production of this oblique pen holders cant keep up with demand. From my readings it appears calligraphy and fountain pens in general are having a resurgence. With dip nibs maybe it is just going back and revisiting some things you used as a child at school or maybe it is just the beautiful writing that can be achieved with a flexy nib. Not sure where one can use all this but I think birthday/xmas cards etc would be very impressive done in a style of calligraphy. Anyway I can certainly recommend to any young members to give these dip nibs a try as it is a cheap way to experience writing with a flexy nib.
    Last edited by Laurie; July 4th, 2015 at 04:48 PM.
    “When once the itch of literature comes over a man, nothing can cure it but the scratching of a pen.

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    Senior Member Cob's Avatar
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    Default Re: The wonderful world of old dip pens and caligraphy

    The other day, finally, I managed to get a dip pen to work - at least for the best part of a short sentence. Last year I bought several lots of old nibs and the whole thing was profoundly disappointing: a blob of ink, half a word and then fade-out.

    The other day I used Raduga Russian ink - it works, so gradually I am going to try to find time to develop a little if I can.

    I'm very pleased with these antique pen-holders I have just acquired; their poise and balance is most encouraging!

    Cob

    Dip Pens S.jpg
    Last edited by Cob; July 4th, 2015 at 06:31 PM.

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    Senior Member Laurie's Avatar
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    Default Re: The wonderful world of old dip pens and caligraphy

    Well I am sometimes amazed by some people's lateral thinking. Have a look at the pen holder made from a tooth brush at the end of this link

    http://calligraphymasters.com/diy-ca...ue-pen-holder/
    “When once the itch of literature comes over a man, nothing can cure it but the scratching of a pen.

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    Default Re: The wonderful world of old dip pens and caligraphy

    Quote Originally Posted by Cob View Post
    The other day, finally, I managed to get a dip pen to work - at least for the best part of a short sentence. Last year I bought several lots of old nibs and the whole thing was profoundly disappointing: a blob of ink, half a word and then fade-out.

    The other day I used Raduga Russian ink - it works, so gradually I am going to try to find time to develop a little if I can.

    I'm very pleased with these antique pen-holders I have just acquired; their poise and balance is most encouraging!

    Cob

    Dip Pens S.jpg

    The lower one is from the Todd pen listing, yes?

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    Senior Member Laurie's Avatar
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    Default Re: The wonderful world of old dip pens and caligraphy

    My .25mm thick brass sheet arrived this morning. It is 70/30 or 260 grade which gives it ductility and allows it to bend and be reshaped for adjustment. As Christopher Yoke says in his youtube instructions I cut it to 1/2 inch by 2 inch pieces and folded it over in half. Next will be following his procedure using a bailing plier (which I have ordered but not yet arrived). I will then make one for the various different size nibs I have and will set them up on the pen holders I showed above and then adjust them so that nib will sit with its point at the middle of the end of the holder and so that it lays flat on its sweet spot on the paper. Then I will buy some two part glue and permanently fix them to a pen holder and give a coat of varnish to water proof them.

    I was tossing up buying one of the more professional nib holders from PaperandInk or John Neill but the costs just becomes a bit prohibitive after taking into account shipping. This way I will have not have to worry about changing nibs and apart from that I enjoy acquiring another small skill.

    I am also toying with the idea of buying a bit of dowel and making a few of my own pen holders. I dont have, or know how to use a lathe, so I will just wittle down the dowel with a hobby knife and then sand it by hand to get a few curves. I am thinking of maybe staining and lacquering to give them a bit of beauty. Well that is my intention and I will wait and see how it turns out.

    Obliques resized.jpg
    “When once the itch of literature comes over a man, nothing can cure it but the scratching of a pen.

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    Senior Member Cob's Avatar
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    Default Re: The wonderful world of old dip pens and caligraphy

    Quote Originally Posted by Cryptos View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Cob View Post
    The other day, finally, I managed to get a dip pen to work - at least for the best part of a short sentence. Last year I bought several lots of old nibs and the whole thing was profoundly disappointing: a blob of ink, half a word and then fade-out.

    The other day I used Raduga Russian ink - it works, so gradually I am going to try to find time to develop a little if I can.

    I'm very pleased with these antique pen-holders I have just acquired; their poise and balance is most encouraging!

    Cob

    Dip Pens S.jpg

    The lower one is from the Todd pen listing, yes?
    All three in fact!

    Cob

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    Default Re: The wonderful world of old dip pens and caligraphy

    Well, I hope you really enjoy them.

    I am currently waiting on an oblique from the Master Penman himself. Haven't heard anything yet though.

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    Default Re: The wonderful world of old dip pens and caligraphy

    These are my other straight holders. Nothing vintage, but very beautiful I think. All four are from the hand of Steve Engen of Dippens.net (no affiliations yadda yadda).

    From the left to right:

    • Blackwood, Lignum Vitae and Zebrawood
    • Curly Koa and Spalted Signaturewood
    • Ironwood, Cherry burl and Asian Satinwood
    • Ironwood, Red Cedar and Mun Ebony



    Last edited by Empty_of_Clouds; July 9th, 2015 at 04:17 AM.

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    Senior Member Cob's Avatar
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    Default Re: The wonderful world of old dip pens and caligraphy

    Quote Originally Posted by Cryptos View Post
    These are my other straight holders. Nothing vintage, but very beautiful I think. All four are from the hand of Steve Engen of Dippens.net (no affiliations yadda yadda).

    From the left to right:

    • Blackwood, Lignum Vitae and Zebrawood
    • Curly Koa and Spalted Signaturewood
    • Ironwood, Cherry burl and Asian Satinwood
    • Ironwood, Red Cedar and Mun Ebony



    They are really lovely!

    Cob

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    Default Re: The wonderful world of old dip pens and caligraphy

    Thanks. Considering that these cost under $20 each... well, hard to go wrong really. And I think that perhaps it is safer for me to stick with modern inexpensive things.

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    Default Re: The wonderful world of old dip pens and caligraphy

    Nice pen holders. I've still only got very cheap holders, but it's shown that I like thin, simple ones (like the Blots wooden ones), not thick cork grips etc. I'm tempted now to look for nice vintage ones.

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    Senior Member Laurie's Avatar
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    Default Re: The wonderful world of old dip pens and caligraphy

    Well my bailing pliers arrived and I made some oblique nib holders from brass as per Chris Yoke's youtube. Turned out to be very easy and effective. Taking his personal advice and change of his procedure I used araldite to fix the oblique flange to the wooden pen and then sealed it with enamel paint.
    I was at one of those cheap shops and noticed a paint brush set which was $8 and contained about 8 brushes of varying sizes. I straight aware saw that I could just saw off the brush ferrule and use the rest as a pen holder. So the larger holders are these brushes. I cut the slit for the oblique at a slight angle to get the nib sitting squarely on the paper as advised and recommended by Dr. Vitolo in some of his articles. Below the pictures are some of my practice letters. I am learning modern copperplate and finding it very rewarding.



    Side view of oblique.jpgHandmade obliques.jpg
    “When once the itch of literature comes over a man, nothing can cure it but the scratching of a pen.

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    Senior Member Lady Onogaro's Avatar
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    Default Re: The wonderful world of old dip pens and caligraphy

    Those are looking good, Laurie! I am always impressed by people who have the patience to do this sort of thing.
    Lady Onogaro

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    Default Re: The wonderful world of old dip pens and caligraphy

    This is, I suspect, about the limits of my ability. I have no eye for line (among other deficiencies).


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    Senior Member Laurie's Avatar
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    Default Re: The wonderful world of old dip pens and caligraphy

    Hi Cryptos
    Dont be too harsh on yourself. I was the same but am finding that with daily exercises I am improving. Use the following link and you will find some lessons from Erica. Download the sheets and follow her video for each lesson and practice daily. I write about three lines of each lower case letter and then worked up to the upper case letters and looking back on my first attempts I found I have improved a lot (not saying I have reached any proficiency) but I think I will get to the degree of skill I am looking for. It is really important to practice the various strokes and master the amount of pressure on the down strokes and the hairline upstrokes. It is the these heavy strokes and hairline strokes that gives this writing its effect. Also get the slant right. About 55 degrees and drawing some guidelines makes it easier. I read an old article which says you have to turn the paper a lot so turn your page to 55 degrees and it makes it easier. . I also find that you can get the thicker and thin lines with a finer nib. I like the Nikko G as good starter nib because I can get those variations with pressure. Dont be afraid to press down and get the tines apart on the down strokes.
    As I say it is all in the practice but Ericas lessons are very good and here is the link: http://theflourishforum.com/forum/index.php?board=20.0
    “When once the itch of literature comes over a man, nothing can cure it but the scratching of a pen.

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    Default Re: The wonderful world of old dip pens and caligraphy

    I haven't done any practice drills yet, so maybe that will show me the possibilities. Just ordered Eleanor Winters' book on copperplate. Shipped from the UK to New Zealand for the princely sum of US $15 all up! I also need to actually read about what these scripts are because I thought copperplate, Spencerian, Engrosser's, and so on were all variations on the same script type. In other words, I don't know what I am doing. The things I did were attempts at copying a style that I had seen on the forum.

    Oh, I'm not harsh on myself, merely realistic. The fact that I may be totally crap at this sort of thing does not phase me either.

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