In my first Calligraphy posting (http://wp.me/p5yQuB-2), I found the Parallel Pen ink cartridges didn’t last very long. I went to buy some Higgins Calligraphy ink and tried it, but wasn’t satisfied with it, as it was too runny and the black was washed out compared to the original cartridge ink.
I also bought some Winsor & Newton Calligraphy ink in matt black, and it gave a much richer black, but also clogged the pen. 😦 Right around this same time Angie conjured up a project for my calligraphy, and suggested I make some tags for her baby shower gifts. She wanted gold ink on black paper tags.
The challenge was on! I figured out by now that any metallic gold ink would definitely clog a Parallel Pen, so I did some research and decided to buy an oblique pen holder and some nibs.
This would be my foray into dip pens, and I was excited. Undaunted by the bewildering array of nibs (and people fixated on them!) I jumped in head first and bought a couple Principal EF, Hunt 101, and Speedball calligraphy nibs (B and C series). I also purchased a bottle of Sennelier Gold ink, and a Speedball oblique holder. The Speedball holders are cheap, ubiquitous and definitely marketed toward the beginner.
I had never really seen a nib until that day in the store, and there’s something beautiful about them, from the shiny, coppery finishes to the precisely fabricated tips. I know the coppery color is from the heat treatment of the steel to achieve the correct hardness (not ‘stiffness’, as most people commonly call it, but I digress), and there’s a raw elegance to that.
I spent a lot of time tinkering with the nibs and the black inks I now owned, and figured out that a really light touch is what is required to keep the Principal EF nib from catching the paper. Oh, what a fine line I could draw though!
The gold ink was another story. It settled out very quickly–between dips of the pen in fact–so it required constant stirring, and I had trouble achieving varied line widths (shades?) with both the Principal EF and the Hunt 101. I found that if I let the ink settle and absorb a little of the water from the ink to thicken it, it worked better.
Since then I purchased a pack of Zebra G nibs, which I’m quite fond of. I had to take a Dremel and stone to the ends of the nibs to make them fit in the Speedball oblique holder (they’re too long) but I also have some more oblique holders currently on order.
More about nibs and beginner Copperplate practice in a future post.