In the last blog post I spoke about how to get started in calligraphy including basic supplies such as nibs. Nibs may not seem like a big deal but trust me they are! Those teeny bits of metal can make or break your calligraphy so choose wisely.
In this blog post we'll discuss the importance of nibs, where to find them, the nibs available and how to prepare and care for them.
Which nibs are best for me?
Pointed pen nibs vary in price, just because a nib is more expensive than others it does not necessarily mean it is the best nib for you. All nibs have different qualities and you have to find what works best for you. Buy a variety of nibs when you're starting out rather than a big order of the more expensive nibs. Because nibs are so well priced and a good variety are available in the UK, it's accessible to everyone and there is scope to experiment with different nibs.
In my previous post I recommended calligraphy suppliers to you, let's take a look at the nibs they offer and I'll give you a breakdown of the ones I have tried. Just remember this is my opinion, it doesn't necessarily reflect on how the nibs will work for you.
Where do I buy nibs from?
Go to my previous blog post ('Interested in Calligraphy? Start here') for my full list of recommended suppliers. My most used suppliers are:
Blots Pen and Ink Supplies: http://www.blotspens.co.uk
Paper and Ink Arts (USA): www.paperinkarts.com
What nibs should I buy?
As discussed earlier in this post, if you're a beginner you need to experiment to find the nibs that work best with you, your technique and writing style. However there's a massive choice of nibs out there so to get you started I'll take you through some of the nibs I have tried. Some of these nibs I haven't got on with, don't be put off by that, give them a try as you may find they work perfectly for you.
All prices sourced from Blots Pen and Ink Supplies, apart from Brause Steno which was sourced from Scribblers.
Nikko G - usually advised as one of the beginners nibs. It has a rounded tip so does not tend to catch much. I find it to be a little stiff at first although after working it in a little it can become lovely and flexible, giving thick downstrokes and thin hairlines. All of the G nibs are pricey but last a lot longer than other nibs. It's almost impossible for them to rust.
Price = £2.00 .
Zebra G - very similar to the Nikko G in the way it is made and how it looks. I find it to be a lot stiffer than the Nikko G and find it hard to get thick downstrokes and thin hairlines out of it. Again that may not be the case for you. Zebra G nibs are also available in titanium which lasts four times longer than the regular Zebra G.
Tachikawa G - Similar in appearance and quality to the Nikko G and Zebra G and a medium between those two nibs in terms of flexibility. Again as with the other two nibs they need working in first.
EF Principal Copperplate - although this is a very popular nib I wouldn't recommend it for beginners as it needs a lot of practice to get it right. Once you crack it, it's a lovely nib to write with. I have found it can catch so I don't tend to use it with professional work but that may just be me.
Leonardt Crown or Leonardt 41 - another favourite of mine. Very easy to write with, gives thick downstrokes. Does not catch (unless it's worn out, in that case, restock) so I use it a lot in professional work. Because of the angle of the nib tip it can give a unique finish, is easy to square of tops and bottoms and you can create some unique styles with it (see one of my pieces below). It's a very underrated nib in my opinion.
Price= 0.80 pence.
Leonardt Shorthand 40 - ah this is one of my absolute favourites. I find it's flexible but not too much so for a heavy handed galumph like me. The nib glides across the paper without catching and I can easily get thick downstrokes. It's coated in a lovely blue paint which unfortunately tends to get stripped off after a little use but that certainly doesn't affect results and use.
Price= 0.75 pence
Brause 66 ef - another favourite. As with the EF Principal Copperplate it's not for beginners. This nib gives me the best results but I have found it can catch and flick ink (see nib examples below) so when I use it for professional pieces I have to be extra careful. Well worth it though and so teeny tiny and cute!
Brause Rose - this nib is medium sized and very flexible. It can work with a light and heavy handed touch. Although I find with my heavy handedness that I have to be careful with the pressure applied as too much pressure can cause the downstrokes to become uneven. Could work as a beginner nib for light handed calligraphers.
Gillot 404 - another teeny nib. Lovely and flexible. I don't know why I don't use this nib more actually. Excuse me while I order some more...
Price= 0.73 pence.
Hunt 22B - I tried this when I first started calligraphy and did not get on with it so well. Blots Pens describe it as similar to the Gillot 303 but needing more pressure.
Brause Steno (also known as the blue pumpkin) - larger but similar in appearence to the Leonardt 40. Popular nib. I couldn't get the same thick downstrokes out of this one although it may just require working in more.
Just to help you that little bit further here's an written example of my favourite nibs, look closely at the differences between the downstrokes and hairlines and which nibs give the best result.
There are of course a much wider variety of nibs out there than the ones we have discussed, so enjoy looking and experimenting.
How to prepare nibs for writing.
When you buy your brand new shiny nibs you may find you have difficulty getting the ink to stick. This is because they are coated with lacquer in the factory to make them look nice and shiny. Unfortunately you will need to remove this coat of lacquer if you want to use your nib. If you want to leave it in all it's shiny glory and look upon it's prettiness then leave well alone. There are several ways you can remove the lacquer and these two methods are my favourites.
- Light a match and pass the tip of the nib through the flame for a second or two. You must make sure you pass all of the area you want your ink to stick you through the flame. If you're still having difficulty pass it through the flame for another second or two. You obviously need to be careful with this method because of the fire hazard and if you leave your nib in the flame too long it will burn to a crisp and be no use to you at all.
- Give it a quick, gentle scrub with a little toothpaste and an old toothbrush. Rinse afterwards. Bonus: your nib will smell minty fresh.
Others methods people use:
-Spit. Apparently back in the days when calligraphy was taught in schools some teachers recommended spi to remove lacquer.
-Washing up liquid to the same method as toothpaste.
How to care for your nibs.
To be fair on nibs, they are hardy little things and don't need much looking after compared to all the work they do.
The main care that your nibs will need is cleaning. Ink will build up on your pen, so every few sentences I give my nib a clean using baby wipes and every so often I'll also dry with kitchen towels. I find Johnsons baby wipes work best as they don't snag or dry out easily. Just wipe both sides of the nib from the tip to the end, be careful not to let it catch in the tip of the nib or in the tines. Then dry with a kitchen towel. When you're finished with that nib be sure to take it out of the pen holder and clean the very end. Otherwise the end of your nib can become very rusty and stick in the flange of your pen holder, then the inside of your flange becomes rusty and it's just a vicious circle. You can buy specific nib cleaning products such as Higgins Pen Cleaner for a deep clean. However, I have been told that window cleaner works just as well.
Cleaning nibs may not be the most thrilling of tasks but it is important to maintain the nibs efficiency. Dirty and rusty nibs tend to break, run down and catch easier, meaning you'll have to replace them more often.
If you only remember one thing remember that if you look after your nibs and your nibs will look after you.
I know it's a long post and I do hope I haven't waffled on too much, but hopefully all that waffling is helpful. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions.