Saturday, April 6, 2024

Dip Pens


I really like the line created by a dip pen.

My favourite of these four is the second from the right; my least favourite is the right-most one.

The one on the right is made from stainless steel I think, and it's quite stiff and unresponsive. The other three are made from very thin, springy carbon steel, and they'll give me a beautifully fluid and variable line.

They take a bit of getting used to for anyone used to drawing with, say, modern fibre-tipped pens or the like. The croquil nibs are very sharp, and will dig into the paper at the least excuse. If the tip catches, the springy steel releases very suddenly and can spatter ink a surprisingly long way. They require a very sensitive and delicate hand, and unlike a ball-point pen, they can't just be scrubbed around in any old direction.

I've had these pens for years, and I love them, but the nibs aren't immortal. They do wear out. And I know remarkably little about them as a class of tool, so if I have to replace them I'd really be flailing in the dark a bit.

I think the one on the left is a Speedball Hunt nib, but I couldn't swear to it. The second one to the right has 66 (or maybe 99, but I'm pretty sure it's 66) engraved on its barrel. What that means, I have no real idea.

Next day...

I had a go at making a holder for my favourite croquil nib from a fragment of oak. It works well and feels good in the hand, though I think I was a bit timid about thinning down the tail — that could go a little further.

The nib is held in place in its 6mm hole by a short oak plug. It's pretty firm. I bored the hole a bit too deep, which made getting the nib in the right place more troublesome than it needed to be; in future I'll measure the length of the nib's barrel before I bore the hole.

Buying a commercial version of this thing would be about ten bucks, which means that making my own isn't exactly fiscally viable if I was charging minimum wage for my own time. However, it is satisfying.

Horses For Courses

Output —
my hands aren't as steady as they once were

Right to left:
Hunt 101
Speedball 99
Speedball C-5
Speedball D-5

It goes without saying that different nibs give you very different results. The two croquil nibs (the 101 and 99) are very similar, with just a difference in average line weight. The C-5 provides much less line weight variation, though there is a little. And the D-5, with its disc-end, gives a very heavy and consistent line, varying only because the disc on the end of the nib is oval, not round. 

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