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learning to write with a flexible nib


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#1 mchristi

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Posted 08 December 2004 - 07:32

Well, having celebrated my acquisition of the Swan, I have a rather practical question. Does anyone have any tips for learning how to write with and control the nice flexible nib in a way that might put it's capabilities to good use?

You're help, tips, and comments are appreciated.

Mark C.

#2 corienb

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Posted 08 December 2004 - 11:09

Slant the paper in such a way that your downstrokes are straight ( as opposed to with jagged edges because one of the tines if "higher" than the other ) .. hmm..I suck at expaining this with a keyboard, this calls fo a short video.
let's see what I can do !

Good helpful yahoo group is ornamental penmenship.
very affordable books ( 5 usd ) are available at .. at...* anyone got a spare memory ?!* ..well, that online website that sells cheap books on Copperplate ,, Dover ! that's it, Dover publications :)
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#3 James Pickering

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Posted 08 December 2004 - 14:36

.......... Does anyone have any tips for learning how to write with and control the nice flexible nib in a way that might put it's capabilities to good use?

You're help, tips, and comments are appreciated.


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Hello, Mark:

Please forgive the repeat -- I posted the following exemplars in response to your posting in the Pictures section.

A flip answer to your question is that you write with this "Swan" #2 nib just as you would any other nib -- that is what everyone that I knew did (including me -- as I still do) when these pens were being used as everyday writing tools. But I am not being flip, Mark -- as I remember, the daily use fountain pens of the 1930s (at least in my circle of friends and family) were equipped with nibs similar to the "Swan" #2 (which I believe was by far Mabie Todd's most popular). Nobody knew they had a "flexible" nib in their pen and they didn't attempt to develop a technique of consciously producing pressure induced thick and thin strokes in their writing. Of course, everybody I was acquainted with used a relaxed pen hold and most used a delicate touch when writing -- a technique that seems to have become generally lost -- and the nuance of letter form line weight was incidental.

Calligraphers who rendered Copperplate handwriting in those days (there were a few) always used dedicated offset copperplate dip pens. I didn't know anyone who used "flexible" nib fountain pens for this purpose.

The general public (at least the members I knew) just used their fountain pens as they had their school dip pens -- some wrote with light paper contact (as I always have) and produced writing similar to that on the following exemplars. Some wrote with moderate pressure and produced writing with nicely "shaded" (as they say these days) writing. Some (like my uncle Jim Howarth) wrote with heavy pressure and produced noticeably (but erratically) "shaded" writing -- and lots of blots. Heavy pressure writers also ruined the nibs -- all that excessive tine spreading eventually took its toll -- fountain pens saw an enormous amount of daily use by businessmen in those days. I will assemble and post some contemporary exemplar clips of my family member fountain pen writing.

So where does that leave writing with your "Swan" #2 nib, Mark? Well, you can write normally -- as you would with any fountain pen -- but with a relaxed and light hold please -- or you can use it to produce deliberately"shaded" writing by developing a conscious "pressure on the nib" technique which maybe Antonios or Corien will outline.

Of course, if you are satisfied with the appearance of your present handwriting and are comfortable with its rendition -- please don't change anything!

I derive my greatest pleasure in using these nibs from the live feeling and tactile feedback that I experience when writing on fine paper (the subtle line variation is incidental). I believe that is what they were originally designed for. I cannot find any reference to writing pressure variance to produce "shaded" writing in the original Mabie Todd instructions that came with my 1938 "Swan" pen -- the only hint about possible problems is found in this passage from the information printed on the underside of the box lid: "Should this pen prove unsatisfactory, either in flow of ink or writing, it is probably due to the gold nib being unsuited to the hand."

Some knowlegeable or conscientious Stationary shop clerks may have queried purchasers about their writing habits and style and then have recommended specific nib conformations to suit them -- but no one did that at the Mabie Todd/Waterman agent in my home town (Lupton's of Burnley, England) that I know of and I don't remember any potential purchaser (family or friend) requesting any specific nib. In general, fountain pen nibs were "flexible" to some degree or another in those days.

James

These exemplars were written using Waterman black and brown ink on Clairefontaine lined pad paper.

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Edited by James Pickering, 12 December 2004 - 01:59.


#4 James Pickering

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Posted 08 December 2004 - 15:20

.......... Of course, everybody I was acquainted with used a relaxed pen hold and most used a delicate touch when writing -- a technique that seems to have become generally lost ..........


The following photos illustrate the pen hold and writing position I employ for all of my writing -- and the same that was utilized by my contemporaries when I was growing up.
Incidentally, I am using a circa 1920s Waterman fountain pen with a "flexible" nib in the second photo.

Of course, if you are satisfied with the appearance of your present handwriting and are comfortable with its rendition -- please don't change anything!

James

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Edited by James Pickering, 10 December 2004 - 16:53.


#5 James Pickering

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Posted 08 December 2004 - 17:07

Some (like my uncle Jim Howarth) wrote with heavy pressure and produced noticeably (but erratically) "shaded" writing -- and lots of blots. Heavy pressure writers also ruined the nibs -- all that excessive tine spreading eventually took its toll -- fountain pens saw an enormous amount of daily use by businessmen in those days.

One reason my Uncle Jim gave me his old Mabie Todd "Swan" fountain pen in 1938 was that he had just about ruined the #2 nib due to his heavy handed writing. I had the nib adjusted and it wrote nicely for me from then until the end of WW2 (when I lost it).

Of course, another reason was he needed an excuse to purchase a snazzy new Parker "Vacumatic" -- he bought one with a stiffer (less "flexible") nib.

#6 James Pickering

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Posted 08 December 2004 - 18:23

.......... developing a conscious "pressure on the nib" technique which maybe Antonios or Corien will outline.

Mark:

I invite you to study the postings relating to techniques for using flex nibs by Antonios in the Copperplate writing topic.

James

#7 hpp

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Posted 08 December 2004 - 23:06

Thank you so much, James, for the picture of your pen hold. About one week ago, I sent it to a Canadian who demonstrated the "proper pencil grip" with a horrible illustration, so rigid, so firm, so tense.

You are perfectly right: The relaxed pen hold is nearly lost, I can observe that in my everyday experience. This might be the reason why people prefer keyboards ...

Hans-Peter

#8 James Pickering

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Posted 09 December 2004 - 16:26

I think that the major problems people experience these days in writing with fountain pens (especially those fitted with "flexible" nibs) are mostly attributable to incorrect pen hold. The nibs were designed to be used with the hold I prescribe, as illustrated in the following old Mabie Todd "Swan" advertisement.

I have a feeling that there would not be as much need for re-profiling factory nibs if the prescribed pen hold was adopted (or, conversely, the tight, "claw" grip avoided). I do not recall anyone in my familiy or circle of friends having the nibs of their fountain pens "tweaked" when I was growing up -- they just purchased a pen, filled it with ink and started writing -- they always seemed to write just fine.

James

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Of course, if you are satisfied with the appearance of your present handwriting and are comfortable with its rendition -- please don't change anything!

Edited by James Pickering, 10 December 2004 - 16:46.


#9 James Pickering

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Posted 09 December 2004 - 17:40

Again, let me repeat:

I have always had great empathy for left-handed writers for handwriting is the province of right- handed writers in the western world. Following are some online references for left-handed writers with particular emphasis on pen hold:

Teaching Left-Handers to Write - Handedness Research Institute

Left Handness -- Gunnlaugur S.E. Briem

Left-Hand Writer's Notes from John Mottishaw's Nib Works

John Mottishaw's Left-Hand Writer's Page

Pen hold and hand position for writing left-handed

Varieties of left-handed writing

Of course, if you are satisfied with the appearance of your present handwriting and are comfortable with its rendition -- please don't change anything!

James

#10 James Pickering

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Posted 09 December 2004 - 18:57

Close-up of me writing using 1938 Mabie Todd "Swan" fountain pen with #2 nib and Waterman black ink on Rhodia lined pad paper.

James

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#11 James Pickering

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Posted 10 December 2004 - 06:17

Red & black italic handwriting using a variety of "flexible" nib fountain pens:

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#12 hpp

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Posted 10 December 2004 - 07:06

Here is the picture which demonstrates what I called the horrible pen hold above.

"The Proper Pencil Grip"

They said it was a technique recommended by teachers ...

#13 James Pickering

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Posted 10 December 2004 - 14:07

Here is the picture which demonstrates what I called the horrible pen hold above.

"The Proper Pencil Grip"

They said it was a technique recommended by teachers ...

First, let me extend you a warm greeting, Hans-Peter! I thank you very much for this -- and your previous -- posting relating to pen hold.

The illustration you point too does not, in my opinion, depict a relaxed pen hold at all. The "cocked up" first finger, in fact the overall aspect of the hand, projects a tight and tense grip to me.

James

#14 mchristi

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Posted 11 December 2004 - 05:28

I'd like to thank you all for this discussion so far, especially to James for his good and helpful comments and his very fine exemplars.

Mark C.

#15 texaspenman

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Posted 14 February 2011 - 06:50

Red & black italic handwriting using a variety of "flexible" nib fountain pens:

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Very Nice! ( A bit late, but still excellent work!)
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#16 elderberry

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Posted 14 February 2011 - 09:16

I'd like to take part in this thread because my attempts to write with a flex nib take forever and some upstrokes look like I am suffering from a very bad tremor. I naturally write without any pressure at all so this feels very awkward for me. I will of course practice on and see what improvements there may be, in the meantime some tips would be appreciated.

What I have been asking myself for quite a while now is: What is the right angle "nib against paper" (given you have a round nib tip) when writing? Is it like this:

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Because this feels really really awkward and scratchy especially on the upstrokes. Of course you could always do the upstrokes with minimum pressure (which I guess is intended anyway) but it would require a lot of training for me.

The angle that feels natural to me is to twist the pen like 30° to the left from showed position (looks a bit like on James Pickering's avatar). That way it will run smooth and without scratching. Of course you should never change a running system but I'm afraid this position will get me into trouble when using a flex nib.

Any advice would be welcome! :)
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