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Hourglass Or Straight Nib Holder?


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#1 andybiotic

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Posted 11 April 2012 - 21:23

Hi guys

I want to get a new oblique nib holder. I've only been using a straight one and and never tried a hourglass shaped handle. I understand that it all comes down to personal preferences but I want to see, in general, what most of you experts prefer.Hourglass shaped handle or straight handle? Do they make any difference in your control of the nib?

Another question is thick or thin? Do you actually get more control with thicker handles? I have a normal sized one and a thinner one, I find the thinner one a bit hard to hold, and thus harder to control... How do you choose, the thicker the better or the thinner the merrier?

Cheers

Edited by andybiotic, 11 April 2012 - 22:11.

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#2 DanF

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Posted 12 April 2012 - 07:56

I have a straight Buddy Blackwell holder, which is too thin for comfort. I have made a couple of hourglass types, and this most recent one is my favorite, fits my hand very well and is quite comfortable to write with. I find the fairly pronounced swell to add to the sense of comfort as well.

Posted Image

I sized the "dent" in the hourglass to just a hair larger than my favorite fountain pen section. I have small hands, but prefer a beefy pen. With small sections, I get cramps. I'd suggest you look for one of a similar size to your most comfortable fountain pen.

Dan
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#3 fuchsiaprincess

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Posted 12 April 2012 - 09:54

My favourite is the Century 5/8 - hourglass and thicker. I find that I can write longer (without fatigue) and have better control.

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#4 Ken Fraser

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Posted 12 April 2012 - 10:27

These three penholders and almost identical and feel very similar.

From top to bottom they are -

Speedball Oblique Holder : Oblique Peerless Holder : Century Oblique Holder (standard size)

As they are very similar in size, why not try the Speedball first and see how you like it? It's a fraction of the price of the other two and, frankly, does much the same job.

I'm happy with all of these. I have thicker and thinner holders, but I've found that they make little difference, for me. Certainly, you won't go far wrong with any of the above three.

The Speedball flange isn't adjustable, but it's been carefully set for the average, ideal nib position.

Ken

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Edited by caliken, 12 April 2012 - 10:29.

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#5 andybiotic

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Posted 12 April 2012 - 10:45

I have a straight Buddy Blackwell holder, which is too thin for comfort. I have made a couple of hourglass types, and this most recent one is my favorite, fits my hand very well and is quite comfortable to write with. I find the fairly pronounced swell to add to the sense of comfort as well. I sized the "dent" in the hourglass to just a hair larger than my favorite fountain pen section. I have small hands, but prefer a beefy pen. With small sections, I get cramps. I'd suggest you look for one of a similar size to your most comfortable fountain pen. Dan


That is beautiful, Dan. Wish I payed more attention in woodwork classes back in school! You can sell these! :thumbup: Put me down for one if you decided to in the future! :roflmho:

My favourite is the Century 5/8 - hourglass and thicker. I find that I can write longer (without fatigue) and have better control.


I was interested in one of those for a bit for time already, those decorations on the handle is beautiful. My only fear with those century ones is also on the handle, seemed a bit too long and too much to offset the balance. Good to hear that they are good!

These three penholders and almost identical and feel very similar.From top to bottom they are -Speedball Oblique Holder : Oblique Peerless Holder : Century Oblique Holder (standard size)As they are very similar in size, why not try the Speedball first and see how you like it? It's a fraction of the price of the other two and, frankly, does much the same job.I'm happy with all of these. I have thicker and thinner holders, but I've found that they make little difference, for me. Certainly, you won't go far wrong with any of the above three.The Speedball flange isn't adjustable, but it's been carefully set for the average, ideal nib position.KenPosted Image


Thanks for your suggestions, Ken. Of the three, I like the peerless the best. If I recalled correctly, didn't you also have a wooden hourglass adjustable oblique holder from PIA? Is that one similar to the speedball ones in terms of thickness?

Edited by andybiotic, 12 April 2012 - 11:20.

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#6 Ken Fraser

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Posted 12 April 2012 - 11:11

Of the three, I like the peerless the best. If I recalled correctly, didn't you also have a wooden hourglass adjustable oblique holder from PIA? Is that one similar to the speedball ones in terms of thickness?


Yes, they are very similar in thickness.

The Peerless holders are cushioned and don't slip in the hand, no matter how light the touch.

Ken

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#7 Ken Fraser

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Posted 12 April 2012 - 11:14

I have made a couple of hourglass types, and this most recent one is my favorite, fits my hand very well and is quite comfortable to write with. I find the fairly pronounced swell to add to the sense of comfort as well.
Posted Image

That's a beautiful holder, Dan.

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#8 Mickey

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Posted 12 April 2012 - 17:10

I have four holders:

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They are, left to right: a Michael Sull holder, PIA Hourglass Adjustable, Blackwell (original straight model), Blackwell (economy model, hourglass holder)

My favorite is the Michael Sull holder. It is (very) light and well balanced, the grip is a tiny bit over-sized, and the simple, traditional flange is easy to adjust once one gets the hang of it (and a good pair of pliers). My next favorite is the original model Blackwell. I use the Sull holder exactly as you see it. I put a single layer of sponge tape on the grip of all the others. This is not just to build up the grip (my hands are large) but to add a little texture to the grip area, which provides a secure grip for me with minimum pressure. (The Sull holder, though nicely finished, is not glassy smooth. Enough of the wood texture comes through the finish to provide a similar feel.)

I don't think straight vs hourglass matters as long as the grip diameter is sufficient for your fingers, and this can be easily adjusted with a few pennies worth of tape.

Edited by Mickey, 12 April 2012 - 17:11.

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#9 andybiotic

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Posted 12 April 2012 - 18:51

I have four holders:


I don't think straight vs hourglass matters as long as the grip diameter is sufficient for your fingers, and this can be easily adjusted with a few pennies worth of tape.


Thanks for that, Mickey. Maybe I should start with a normal sized one and then try building it up and see if thicker is better for me... It clearly can't go the other way! :hmm1:

Btw since you have both type of adjustable flange, which do you think is easier to use or secure the nib tighter? :hmm1:

wow I just found out that the Blackwell (economy model, hourglass holder) is actually relatively quite expensive, most of the money is paying for the flange! :gaah:
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#10 Mickey

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Posted 12 April 2012 - 19:59


I have four holders:

I don't think straight vs hourglass matters as long as the grip diameter is sufficient for your fingers, and this can be easily adjusted with a few pennies worth of tape.

Btw since you have both type of adjustable flange, which do you think is easier to use or secure the nib tighter? :hmm1: :gaah:


Actually, these are three different types of flange. The PIA is actually three coaxial flanges, allowing the use of standard sized (Gillott 303 and larger), small (e.g., Brause EF66), and mapping nibs and crow quills in a single holder. It is slightly finicky to make the initial fine-tuning of rake (the angle at which the nib addresses the page), because of the multiple layers of brass, but it can be done and, once done, left alone. The factory adjustment would probably fit most people. My hand size dictated a minor tweak. I normally use this holder for Gillott 303 and Hunt 99 nibs.

The Blackwell flange doesn't really allow a direct rake adjustment, but the 'factory' angle is pretty close to perfect. I use this holder for the larger standard nibs, like the G nibs and the Brause Steno nib.

The Sull is really for standard sized nibs, but could probably be bent to accept other sizes. Mine came set up for a 'G' nib (various Japanese makers). I adjusted it to accept nibs of the Hunt 101, Esterbrook 358, Gillott 404 size, and with only a tiny tweak (pinch of the pliers), it will hold Gillott 303, Hunt 99, and similar.

You don't want the nib to be held very tight, - it's too easy to distort tine alignment, making a perfectly good nib write scratchy - just tightly enough that the nib does not shift side to side or slide back and forth. All three styles have their up and down sides.

Blackwell: It's easy to over-tighten, consequently curling the nib enough to cause scratchiness. Of course, if the nib feels scratchy, the first thing to do (after cleaning the nib) is to loosen the flange and re-tighten it a bit more gently. (I use my thumb nail, rather than a screwdriver.)

PIA: It's a little tough to clean out, and optimizing the three flanges to fit perfectly your favorite nib in each of the three nib size-classes is difficult. That said, the only flange you will likely need to adjust with any frequency is the outside flange (which fits the most popular nibs), and that is pretty easily accomplished with a small screw driver.

Sull: This is the easiest to adjust (with a pair of jeweler's pliers), but it also needs the largest number of minor maintenance adjustments. The brass is pretty flexible (and a bit springy) and normal use will necessitate an occasional tune up. No biggy. (When the nib falls out into the ink pot, it's time do a minor re-crimp.) Properly adjusted, I think this simple, old style flange holds the nib the most gently of all and is the easiest to fit to one's hand. (This is also the style of flange found in many other good holders, like the Century and Zanerian.)

Edited by Mickey, 12 April 2012 - 20:01.

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#11 smk

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Posted 12 April 2012 - 21:12

I have been studying the effect of the design of the grip on performance for some time. What I have found is that the design is more or less irrelevant as long as the relative position of your thumb, forefinger and middle fingers are kept the same.

The fourth touch point is where the stem of the holder touches the area on or around the first knuckle. I have found myself to be able to us wildly different holders in this respect as long as the 'primary' three touch points are fairly standard.

As for the primary touch points (thumb and 2 fingers) - I found that a gently sloping profile provides better feel of how the holder is moving. It gives me more feedback rather than better control.

Here are some designs I have used:

Posted Image

No. 1: This is the Hunt oblique holder. A bit slim but allows for better 'forefinger on top' grip than the modern tripod grip. The plastic flange puts the nib a tad too steeply on the page in my opinion, but we're talking grips here :-)

No. 2: The Century oblique. I think this is the 'standard' holder as far as the grip goes. I don't like the slight weight towards the top but you hardly feel it when writing.

NOTE: The following 4 are my own designs and the results of various experiments.

No. 3: This is currently my favorite holder. The grip looks a bit thin but in fact is designed for finger placement identical to the Century oblique. As you notice the part that would touch the base of the forefinger is quite wide compared to the classic holder shape. Surprisingly this is not at all noticeable when writing with it. I must have somehow compensated for this in the angle of the flange.

No. 4: This is a modification of No. 3 to see if the flange angle makes much difference. I also made the grip a little thicker. You'll notice the slight difference in the tip and the curvature in the wood where the thumb would go. It feels quite a bit more substantial even though the thumb and the forefinger are less than 2mm wider apart than No. 3. The thing that makes the holder feel substantial is the distance between the top two (i.e. thumb and forefinger) and the middle finger under the holder. The difference there is also about 2mm or thereabouts but since it opens the grip radially (vs. circumferentially when you add distance between the thumb and forefinger) it makes a bigger difference.

This realization allowed me to carve No. 6 where there is a much larger distance between the thumb and the forefinger but the middle finger is as close as the No. 3 holder, thereby giving a pleasant feel and not at all 'oversized' - strange eh!

No. 5: This is a fairly standard design with only a slightly triangular profile. It places the thumb and forefinger quite close but the middle finger a 'standard' feel away and allows for easy switching between the modern and traditional tripod grips. Also, the heft in the middle ensure the center of gravity is such that the weight at the top is not felt.

No. 6: This was an experiment in a design that uses two strips; one to support the thumb and the other for the fore and middle fingers. The knowledge of how the gap between the top two fingers and the bottom finger works allowed for a grip area that looks outlandish but is surprisingly normal in feel. The curvature of the leaves was designed so the smooth and gently curving part touches the base of the forefinger.

Here are a couple of pictures of the grips:

The grip for No. 3:
Posted Image

The grip for No. 4:
Posted Image

The grip for No. 6:
Posted Image

I'm sorry for the long post but as this is an area of interest for me and I felt I could add something to the conversation with what I have found. Isn't it great to have a place where such things are discussed? Most people would look strangely at me if I brought any of this up.

I hope this helps.

Salman

Edited by smk, 12 April 2012 - 21:17.

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#12 andybiotic

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Posted 12 April 2012 - 21:16

Thanks a lot for the explanation, Mickey. You have just made the decision quite a bit harder!

I still consider myself a beginner and I haven't try out all the nibs yet (favorite so far is the 303 and the spencerian no.1, but really want to try the G nibs), so a screw adjust flange may be more appropriate...I guess?! And it seems like the blackwell one is the easiest of the three as long as you don't over tight it... the only thing stopping me is the shape of it and that I don't think I like holding onto the brass bit as I write...

One day I will try them all but I only have enough extra money for one now... :crybaby: still deciding!! :gaah:

Edited by andybiotic, 12 April 2012 - 21:17.

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#13 Mickey

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Posted 12 April 2012 - 21:26

Touching the brass doesn't bother me, at all, nor does the shape. YMMV, but I doubt by much.

But I believe that since my life began

The most I've had is just a talent to abuse.

Hey ho, if love were all.

 

With apologies to Noel Coward


#14 andybiotic

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Posted 12 April 2012 - 21:33

I'm sorry for the long post but as this is an area of interest for me and I felt I could add something to the conversation with what I have found. Isn't it great to have a place where such things are discussed? Most people would look strangely at me if I brought any of this up.

I hope this helps.

Salman


Not at all, the longer the merrier! Thanks a lot, Salman! I love it how everyone posts pictures of their oblique holder collection!

Salman, you are an amazing craftsmen and a REALLY picky "nib holder" holder! :roflmho: Looks like you like thicker ones though!

You are lucky you can make so many of them and experiment on different parameters. I have to guess which holder may be the best for me from all the great suggestions and opinions here... and have to stick with commercially available ones!

I love the overall shape of no.5, it looks like a dagger! :thumbup:
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#15 smk

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Posted 12 April 2012 - 22:02

Thank you Andy.

I work best with moderately sized or slightly thinner grips. I don't think I'm picky at all, give me any holder and I'll have fun writing with it ... but as long as I'm carving one, might as well understand the variables :-)

I believe the Century oblique is a great standard holder, its just right for all but those who prefer thicker grips (they have the Century 5/8ths for them.) A more affordable alternative is to purchase a plastic holder with an adjustable flange e.g. H96. Oblique Plastic Penholder on John Neal bookseller's site.

You are going to end up with a few holders over time anyway and even if these aren't perfect, they'll have their uses so the money on them won't be wasted.

Regards,
Salman

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#16 DanF

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Posted 13 April 2012 - 07:26

For those interested in numbers - Since it's been said that most of the commercially available holders are sized similarly, this will give you an idea of what to expect.

The Speedball black plastic holder measures about 3/8" ( .380" or 9.65mm) at the narrowest part of the grip area, and .473" or 12.01mm at the widest part of the swell.

Measurements of the one I made are .407" or 10.34mm, and .573" or 14.55mm respectively.

I have been enjoying watching Salmon's creations emerge in the pen turning forum, lovely specimens!

Dan

Edited by DanF, 13 April 2012 - 07:27.

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#17 Ken Fraser

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Posted 13 April 2012 - 07:34

No. 3: This is currently my favorite holder. The grip looks a bit thin but in fact is designed for finger placement identical to the Century oblique. As you notice the part that would touch the base of the forefinger is quite wide compared to the classic holder shape. Surprisingly this is not at all noticeable when writing with it. I must have somehow compensated for this in the angle of the flange.

No. 4: This is a modification of No. 3 to see if the flange angle makes much difference. I also made the grip a little thicker. You'll notice the slight difference in the tip and the curvature in the wood where the thumb would go. It feels quite a bit more substantial even though the thumb and the forefinger are less than 2mm wider apart than No. 3. The thing that makes the holder feel substantial is the distance between the top two (i.e. thumb and forefinger) and the middle finger under the holder. The difference there is also about 2mm or thereabouts but since it opens the grip radially (vs. circumferentially when you add distance between the thumb and forefinger) it makes a bigger difference.

This realization allowed me to carve No. 6 where there is a much larger distance between the thumb and the forefinger but the middle finger is as close as the No. 3 holder, thereby giving a pleasant feel and not at all 'oversized' - strange eh!

No. 5: This is a fairly standard design with only a slightly triangular profile. It places the thumb and forefinger quite close but the middle finger a 'standard' feel away and allows for easy switching between the modern and traditional tripod grips. Also, the heft in the middle ensure the center of gravity is such that the weight at the top is not felt.

No. 6: This was an experiment in a design that uses two strips; one to support the thumb and the other for the fore and middle fingers. The knowledge of how the gap between the top two fingers and the bottom finger works allowed for a grip area that looks outlandish but is surprisingly normal in feel. The curvature of the leaves was designed so the smooth and gently curving part touches the base of the forefinger.

Beautiful work, Salman. You are a true artist!

Ken

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#18 andybiotic

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Posted 13 April 2012 - 07:50

For those interested in numbers - Since it's been said that most of the commercially available holders are sized similarly, this will give you an idea of what to expect.

The Speedball black plastic holder measures about 3/8" ( .380" or 9.65mm) at the narrowest part of the grip area, and .473" or 12.01mm at the widest part of the swell.

Measurements of the one I made are .407" or 10.34mm, and .573" or 14.55mm respectively.

I have been enjoying watching Salmon's creations emerge in the pen turning forum, lovely specimens!

Dan



Thanks Dan, really helpful! May I ask how thick (in numbers) is the Buddy Blackwell holder you have?

Cheers
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#19 DanF

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Posted 13 April 2012 - 08:29

Andy--- The Buddy Blackwell is 3/8 inch thick all along it's length, until it tapers at the the last inch and a half or so. It's the wooden model, not the plastic. I think it cost about $40.00 or so. The flange is well made, and a good design, but it's just too skinny for me. I've been wondering if I could cut off the handle and create another handle for it that the brass head could slip into. It would be tight, just 1/64" clearance on either side at the narrowest part. I sent you a PM too.

Dan
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#20 Mickey

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Posted 13 April 2012 - 14:57

Andy--- The Buddy Blackwell is 3/8 inch thick all along it's length, until it tapers at the the last inch and a half or so. It's the wooden model, not the plastic. I think it cost about $40.00 or so. The flange is well made, and a good design, but it's just too skinny for me. I've been wondering if I could cut off the handle and create another handle for it that the brass head could slip into. It would be tight, just 1/64" clearance on either side at the narrowest part. I sent you a PM too.

Dan


Or you could do what I do and what many of the great penman of this and the previous era did to their holders, build up the grip with a little tape. (Note, I exclude myself from the list of great penman, past AND present.)

http://www.zanerian....adaraszObl.html

One principle difference between a holder and a golf club, is that one can put the build-up tape under the club's grip, where it doesn't show. (I have seen golfers, even among the pros, who put tape on the outside of their putter grips, not just for size but for feel. There's no reason not to play a particular model of club simply because the stock grips are too small. I put two layers under the left hand, 4 under the right.) Since there's no cap that needs to fit over the end of your holder, there's no reason (other than cosmetic) not to go this route. (I always liked leather grips on my putters. Maybe I'll try that on my Blackwell. A spiral wrapped strip of Pittards leather cut from an old golf glove would be just about perfect to build up the grip about a 1/16 inch.)

BTW, that 3/8 inch you measured is almost the same as the smallest diameter of most hourglass holders, so it's not really all that skinny. The straight shaft does, depending on how you think about it, allow one more gripping latitude along the length of the shaft, so that with snag prone nibs, one can flatten the angle of attack simply by gripping a bit further back, rather than bending the flange. If one changes nib models frequently, this might be a valid justification for having the straight shaft. N.b., the other PIA Adjustable holder (not the one in my photo) also has a straight shaft.

Edited by Mickey, 13 April 2012 - 14:59.

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The most I've had is just a talent to abuse.

Hey ho, if love were all.

 

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#21 andybiotic

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Posted 13 April 2012 - 15:25

Or you could do what I do and what many of the great penman of this and the previous era did to their holders, build up the grip with a little tape. (Note, I exclude myself from the list of great penman, past AND present.)

BTW, that 3/8 inch you measured is almost the same as the smallest diameter of most hourglass holders, so it's not really all that skinny. The straight shaft does, depending on how you think about it, allow one more gripping latitude along the length of the shaft, so that with snag prone nibs, one can flatten the angle of attack simply by gripping a bit further back, rather than bending the flange. If one changes nib models frequently, this might be a valid justification for having the straight shaft. N.b., the other PIA Adjustable holder (not the one in my photo) also has a straight shaft.



I think that is the way I am going to go with, if it is too thin, add tape. And I can cover the brass bit (for the blackwell) with tapes too if I decided that I don't like it!

That is a good point, Dan. The advantage of a straight holder is that you can move up and down the shaft to change the nib angle without changing the width of your grip.

I am after an easily adjustable flange since I am a beginner with these oblique holders and I want to try out a whole heaps of different nibs (recently acquired some "The Tank Pen no.5, haven't even heard of them!). It seems that the blackwell is the easiest one and is meeting many of my requirements, I am gradually moving towards it... :hmm1:

Edited by andybiotic, 13 April 2012 - 15:28.

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#22 amberleadavis

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Posted 18 April 2012 - 20:19

Hey, I just saw this you tube video and thought of you.


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#23 smk

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Posted 20 April 2012 - 09:12

Beautiful work, Salman. You are a true artist!

Ken


Thanks Ken. Your appreciation means a lot to me.

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#24 tdzb36

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Posted 20 April 2012 - 13:55

I have been studying the effect of the design of the grip on performance for some time. What I have found is that the design is more or less irrelevant as long as the relative position of your thumb, forefinger and middle fingers are kept the same.

The fourth touch point is where the stem of the holder touches the area on or around the first knuckle. I have found myself to be able to us wildly different holders in this respect as long as the 'primary' three touch points are fairly standard.

As for the primary touch points (thumb and 2 fingers) - I found that a gently sloping profile provides better feel of how the holder is moving. It gives me more feedback rather than better control.

Here are some designs I have used:

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No. 1: This is the Hunt oblique holder. A bit slim but allows for better 'forefinger on top' grip than the modern tripod grip. The plastic flange puts the nib a tad too steeply on the page in my opinion, but we're talking grips here :-)

No. 2: The Century oblique. I think this is the 'standard' holder as far as the grip goes. I don't like the slight weight towards the top but you hardly feel it when writing.

NOTE: The following 4 are my own designs and the results of various experiments.

No. 3: This is currently my favorite holder. The grip looks a bit thin but in fact is designed for finger placement identical to the Century oblique. As you notice the part that would touch the base of the forefinger is quite wide compared to the classic holder shape. Surprisingly this is not at all noticeable when writing with it. I must have somehow compensated for this in the angle of the flange.

No. 4: This is a modification of No. 3 to see if the flange angle makes much difference. I also made the grip a little thicker. You'll notice the slight difference in the tip and the curvature in the wood where the thumb would go. It feels quite a bit more substantial even though the thumb and the forefinger are less than 2mm wider apart than No. 3. The thing that makes the holder feel substantial is the distance between the top two (i.e. thumb and forefinger) and the middle finger under the holder. The difference there is also about 2mm or thereabouts but since it opens the grip radially (vs. circumferentially when you add distance between the thumb and forefinger) it makes a bigger difference.

This realization allowed me to carve No. 6 where there is a much larger distance between the thumb and the forefinger but the middle finger is as close as the No. 3 holder, thereby giving a pleasant feel and not at all 'oversized' - strange eh!

No. 5: This is a fairly standard design with only a slightly triangular profile. It places the thumb and forefinger quite close but the middle finger a 'standard' feel away and allows for easy switching between the modern and traditional tripod grips. Also, the heft in the middle ensure the center of gravity is such that the weight at the top is not felt.

No. 6: This was an experiment in a design that uses two strips; one to support the thumb and the other for the fore and middle fingers. The knowledge of how the gap between the top two fingers and the bottom finger works allowed for a grip area that looks outlandish but is surprisingly normal in feel. The curvature of the leaves was designed so the smooth and gently curving part touches the base of the forefinger.

Here are a couple of pictures of the grips:

The grip for No. 3:
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The grip for No. 4:
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The grip for No. 6:
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I'm sorry for the long post but as this is an area of interest for me and I felt I could add something to the conversation with what I have found. Isn't it great to have a place where such things are discussed? Most people would look strangely at me if I brought any of this up.

I hope this helps.

Salman


The No6 holder is great?I like it so mush.... :thumbup:

#25 smk

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Posted 20 April 2012 - 18:06

The No6 holder is great?I like it so mush.... :thumbup:


Thanks. Here's a link to the post where I showed it: Yet Another Oblique Holder

Andy - sorry for hijacking your thread :embarrassed_smile:

S.

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