Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Dabbling in Dipping

Esterbrook 313

(Yes, I did a certain amount of smearing.)

I'm surprised by how much fun I've been having with these.  I'd come to think of dip pen nibs as incredibly scratchy things that caught the page at every opportunity, and wondered how on earth people used them routinely back in the day...but now I'm finding that while some (particularly the very fine and flexible sort) *are* fairly scratchy (particularly if used wrong), other points are smooth, and some (which I find myself preferring, actually) are somewhere in between: they "grip" the paper a bit more than your average fountain pen, making my handwriting a bit nicer, but don't snag.  And most nibs hold enough ink for a few sentences or even a paragraph.  

I'll stick with more standard writing instruments when I'm out and about or not in the mood, but dip pens are a lot of fun to use in a journal, when I have the luxury of taking my time, pausing now and then to dip and think.

Some Randomish Linkies: Sumi ink is traditionally used for brush calligraphy styles.  It typically comes in stick form and must be ground on an inkstone and water added to make ink for each use.  I find this very interesting!  The bottled liquid forms are newer and (I believe) somewhat scorned by serious brush calligraphists...but, in my opinion, far more convenient and more practical for pointed pen writing where one submerges the pen in the ink  (you *could* load the pen with a brush, but I'm not that ambitious).  The Moon Palace works great for my purposes.

I bought mine from John Neal Bookseller.  They have all *sorts* of goodies there.  Most are aimed at true calligraphers rather than those who want to play with dip pens for general writing, but still worth a look.  Speculator also recommended Paper Ink Arts as a source for many things pen and ink, and in my dip pen wanderings I see he's by no means the only one to point them out.  Their on-line catalog leaves something to be desired.  I hear their paper catalog is much better.  I plan to request it.

And one of these days I'm going to pick up some Winsor and Newton inks.

I also came across this very nice catalog of Esterbrook nibs with writing samples.  Fascinating!  It isn't all-inclusive, but a nice reference nonetheless.  I wish I could find a similar reference for other common brands, but no such luck so far.

Oh, and finally...though it may be a bit premature of me to make sweeping recommendations of eBay sellers, I had a very positive experience with this seller.   In addition to nibs, he sells beautiful rocker blotters, ink wells, and pen holders of all sorts.  There will probably be another purchase sooner or later.


Mike Speegle said...

Neat! Spec also sent me a packet of nibs some years back, and they were pure delight. I too was surprised by their ease of use once I was accustomed to the technique. Further, I too was surprised at how long the ink lasts per dip! Now if only I can develop the patience to actually use an eye-dropper to place ink on the nib...and never mind the fact that your handwriting put mine to horrible horrible shame.

What kind of stylus do you use?

Little Flower Petals said...

By stylus, do you mean the pen holder/handle thingie? I are ignorant.

If so, I have a few at this point: a basic black plastic Speedball holder (that's the one in the picture), a rather elegant black wood holder from Speculator, and a Koh-I-Noor with a cork grip. Being me, I've already accidentally dipped that one in deep enough to discolor the first quarter inch or so of cork. Oops.

Also, I guess I didn't mention the other nibs used in the pencast. The first was a "Bank" nib, then the Probate 313, then a wonderfully flexy little Blanzy 160 from Speculator. Still learning how to use that one, but it's very cool!

Strikethru said...

Your handwriting looks actually quite cool with this type of pen. Not to say it isnt cool otherwise. It just adds a certain something.

Mike Speegle said...

Truth be told, I'm not entirely sure WHAT it's called. Stylus just seems to be a catch-all term that applies. A pen-holder maybe?

I use a Koh-i-noor 127 with a cork grip as well! It too is splattered with ink, but it only makes me like it all the more.

Man, that Spec, what a guy.

speculator said...

I'm mighty grateeful to have friends like you and Mike!

With the Blanzy- and all pen&ink (or, dip-pen) writing- remember to try to keep something close to 45-degree angle with your paper. As you already know, this is nothing like ballpoint or even fountain pen writing.
And you're working with lateral and downstrokes only.

As for the nomenclature, pen points (or, pen nibs) are used in a pen holder (like your Koh-I-Noors with the cork grips).

Now, have a try at copperplate writing! Lots of flourishes in the technique! I once had a job making menus and invitations using those styles!

Little Flower Petals said...

Copperplate is so pretty! It strikes me as one of the most difficult forms of calligraphy, though...or am I jumping to conclusions? Getting the pen to flex evenly for those flourishes seems very tricky--more so than broad pen type hands. (Is that the term? Italic and such, I mean.)

But it'd give me another excuse to play with pens and ink. That's a bonus.

[æʃliː sowlis] said...

This is a useful post right now! I just purchased a glass dip pen and iron gall ink (I've fallen in love with the lovely shade of brown that it turns since starting a job preserving public records) and I don't really have an interest in pursuing calligraphy and many of the oldest records I've seen are actually in a fancy cursive and not calligraphy!

I do have some experience with sumi ink, as I took a calligraphy class at my school in Japan when I was an exchange student in high school. One of my favorite parts of the process is making ink from the ink stone. While it's somewhat time consuming, there are also interesting effects that you can do when you make the ink yourself. My favorite is to use a tiny bit of water and then overgrind the inkstick so that it becomes a dark thick paste, then add more water afterwards. If you've done this right then the brushstroke has a concentration of the ink, while the water bleeds out further with the ink lightly feathering out from the center. As a decorative touch it is quite cool.