OK, so I’ve made a decision to start calligraphy blog and have worked my way through setting up a front page – at least I hope I have. We’ll see. Now i need to start on putting in some content. Where to begin?
“Begin at the beginning,” the King said, very gravely, “and go on till you come to the end: then stop.” Lewis Carroll, in Alice in Wonderland
It is easy to become confused about what equipment you need when you first start to learn calligraphy. How do you know which pen and nib is the right one to buy, where to find it, how to use it, how to maintain and clean it. Your equipment is an investment and from the beginning the right equipment will help you achieve the best results. First we'll have a look at calligraphy nibs, pen holders and inks.
Calligraphy nibs come in 2 basic forms: broad-edged nibs and pointed nibs. For whichever type of calligraphy you want to learn you will need the correct nib. Calligraphy which is based on historic written forms such as Gothic or Italic, uses a broad-edged nib and calligraphy which is based on the ornate 18th-19th century writing style, known as Copperplate, uses a flexible, pointed nib.
In order to use either type of nib you will also need a pen holder. The nib is dipped into ink before writing - 'Dip Pens'. There are plenty of pen holders to chose from and plenty of different inks to try. Here is some useful info.
- Broad-edge Nibs
- Brause – made in Germany. They have a removable reservoir to hold ink which sits underneath and has to be removed for cleaning. They come in 9 width sizes from 0.5mm to 5.0mm are strong, easy to use and haven’t let me down yet.
- Speedball – made in USA. These nibs come in 6 sizes and have a different numbering system for sizing to the Brause, and are not metric sized. The reservoir sits on top of the nib and is NOT removable.
- Pointed Nibs
- Zebra G – Japanese nibs which is just flexible enough, good for beginners and hard to damage – although it is possible! Reasonable fine-lines and thick-lines.
- Nikko G – Japanese nibs which are slightly more rigid than the Zebra. Also good for beginners and hard to damage. OK fine-lines and thick-lines.
- Gillott 303 – UK made nibs. Very flexible and give a finer fine-line than the G nibs and a wider thick-line. Easy to break and heavy-handed beginners find them difficult to use.
- Pen Holders
- Straight pen holders are what you need for Broad-edged Nib calligraphy, like Gothic, Uncial and Italic.
- Oblique holders are for Pointed Pen Calligraphy, like Copperplate and Modern Calligraphy.
- Japanese Sumi ink which dries to a beautiful, rich black is good for both practise and finished black lettering.
- Other calligraphy inks such as Winsor and Newton or Calli bottled inks.
So there's some information to start you thinking. But if you find the whole idea of using a 'dip pen' a bit too much then there are plenty of calligraphy pens which work with an ink cartridge, like a fountain pen. They are not as versatile as dip pens but they will get you started. Two names to look for are Pilot Parallel Pens and Lamy Joy pens. Both of these pens come in different nib sizes. And lastly there are calligraphy felt tip pens. They won't give you nice crisp letters but they can be useful to have if you just want to pick up a pen and practise your letter shapes.