Handwriting: The lost art.

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Pens and Pencils.”

The short response:  I write almost daily–not because I have to, but because I enjoy it.

I will freely admit that I’m a complete computer geek: I spend a lot of time on the computer at work and at home.  When a computer isn’t readily available there’s always my smartphone.  I’m all for note-taking apps like Onenote or Evernote, and use at least one of them daily as well.  With the exception of Post-it notes, I could easily get along without needing a handwriting instrument of any kind at my job as an engineer.

I write because I enjoy it.  It’s relaxing, and so pure.  There’s something soothing about watching letters and words form behind the tip of a pen, speeding along at maybe 20 words per minute or so.  I know what it was like in the pre-keyboard era.  Oftentimes when I’m all alone with pen and ink, I think about the monks in the old days, huddled over a flickering candle, transcribing old texts with quills.

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In my opinion, handwriting neatness and style has gotten progressively worse (just look at the flowing script in many letters and postcards written back at the turn of the twentieth century, for example).  I think about today’s kids, who don’t know a world without the Internet, email, and text messages, and can’t help but wonder if handwriting is going to be a lost art in the near future.

Tag this!

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.Gold ink

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.

Anyway after many hours and many failed attempts I finally managed to make 23 tags with a short thank-you on one side and the recipient’s name on the other.IMG_0685


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.