Foundational Hand

Foundation Hand is a good starting point for learning broad-edged nib calligraphy. You can start with a Calligraphy dip pen, a calligraphy fountain pen with a broad-edged nib or even a calligraphy felt tip pen. I suggest that you start with a reasonably sized nib such as a 3mm, 2.5mm or a 2mm, but no smaller as it is difficult to see your mistakes when you use a small size nib.

You will need to know the basic information about this calligraphy style to help you rule up a page of guidelines and some new words so that you understand a bit more to help you get the right results.

Foundational Hand letters are written with an x-height of 4 times the width of the nib, and an ascender and descender height of 3 times the width of the nib. This means that if your nib measures 3mm the x-height will be 12mm (4×3=12mm); the ascender and the descender will both be 9mm (3×3=9mm) and the pen angle needs to be 30 degrees up from the baseline.

The sheet is ruled up in sets of 4 lines, which enclose 3 spaces. The top line of the set is called the Ascender line, the 2nd line down is the Waistline, the 3rd is the Baseline and the 4th is the Descender line. And the 3 spaces are known as the Ascender space, the x-height space and the Descender space.

Ascender letters are those which extend up into the Ascender space – b, d, f, h, k, and l; the Descender letters are those which extend downwards into the Descender space – g, j, p, q, and y; and all the others are x-height letters which fit into the space between the Baseline and the Waistline, known as the x-height space – a, c, e, i, m, n, o, r, s, t, u, v, w, x, and z.

By the way, you might think that the letter ‘t’ is a tall letter, but it isn’t. It only just pops its head over the top of the waistline! Below is a sheet which I have ruled up for a pen with a 3mm nib and for Foundational Hand.

For detailed instructions on line ruling please go to my page ‘Important Beginners Skills’. And if you think that it is too much trouble to rule your own lines then go to Scribblers website and use their line generator

An example of a ruled sheet of practice paper

Once you have drawn up a set of lines across your page you can use your pen to make the basic pen strokes in the example below. The coloured arrows show you the DIRECTION your pen moves and you need to remember to hold the nib of the pen at the correct PEN ANGLE (30).

Practice making the basic strokes with your calligraphy pen

Now, if you go to the Calligraphy Class page you will find a set of exemplars for Foundational Hand. You can work your way through them and be ready to move on to a different calligraphy style when it’s available.

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