In this post, I thought I’d introduce dip pens. They are most often associated with calligraphy, though correct, it is not the only application. I use dip pens primarily for drawing, rarely as my choice of writing instrument.
Dip pens are pens you dip in ink – they hold ink in the small yet deep grooves in their nib or there is an over-reservoir. As you write it is necessary to dip the nib every few words or sentences. So why would anyone still use these antiquated pens when we have pens that are so much more efficient? Welp, here are a few reasons:
- It’s super easy and quick to change ink colors – dip the nib in water, wipe on a tissue, and be ready for the next color.
- Some specialist nibs are only available for dip pens.
- They can use inks that can’t be used in fountain pens, including pigment inks and ink with shellac added for shine.
- Then there’s the nostalgia, some people just enjoy the experience.
They are often used in Calligraphy. Dip Pens have certain advantages over fountain pens – they can use waterproof and pigmented inks or even traditional iron gall ink which would corrode fountain pens.
Example of damage by ink done to a fountain pen nib. No, I cannot take responsibility for this damage.
Dip pens work best with thinner fountain pen inks because the thin grooves don’t allow the more viscous calligraphy ink to flow well. Plus thicker pen ink lies in the tip and dries, making it difficult to clean.
Types of Dip Pens
Most dip pens are a handle into which is inserted a nib, most are wooden, some are glass, and others metal. Then there are glass dipping pens – the entire pen is made of glass. They can be elegant and often art pieces unto themselves. Glass nibs are not new. I have several Spor glass nib pens made in Japan prior to the war. It is said, the first glass pens were created in the 17th century on Murano island in Venice, Italy.
Nibs for dip pens are available as vintage or new, this market primarily services the needs of calligraphers. New nibs are readily available in craft stores, Amazon, and specialty pen/stationery stores.
Nibs for dip pens come in a variety of types, manuscripts, drawings, and calligraphy. My preference is for vintage Esterbrook Drawlet pens.
Using a Dip Pen
Writing with a dip pen is odd, their nibs are often extraordinary shapes and patterns. It can be intimidating. I write and so most of my drawings with round nibs as they look and feel like a fountain pen.
As I am a bit accident-prone, I made use of a plastic storage box and converted it to hold pens, nibs, and ink. For storage and security while in use. I like to use ink samples, let’s face it, they are an accidental spill waiting to happen.
Homemade Handy-Dandy Dip Pen, Nib, and Ink “box”
I drilled holes into the lid large enough to hold an ink vial secure and using leftover pen sleeves, I was able to layer pens and nibs. No thrill and No spill.
- Yokesheka Stationary: Brief history of glass pens
- Jackson’s Art: Guide to Dip Pens and Drawing Ink (they also have an impressive selection of new nibs)
- Postmans Knock: Dip pens and Fountain pens are not as similar
- Papier Plume: Dipping Pens