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Dip Pens & India Ink For Everyday Writing

dip india ink

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21 replies to this topic

#1 tamills

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Posted 19 August 2019 - 03:30

Over the years I've collected several dozen dip pen nibs just because people would almost give them away just to be rid of them.

 

Recently I received a gift of Dr Martin India inks that I could use with dip pens.  Today I've been trying them out and I'm hooked. The nibs scratch in a pleasant way (not like a broken fountain pen nib).

 

Forgive my crude penmanship but here's a sample and the reason for my sudden interest:

 

uaSg94f.png

 

Dr. Martin Bombay Blue in an Esterbrook 442 pen, on Leuchterm 1917 paper.

 

The ink is dried, It does not bleed or even echo. The nibs by their nature are giving me a lot of variety in how the ink flows and presents itself. Sometimes the ink even looks pearlescent when dried.  Sometimes less ink is available, as in the word 'tactile'. In any case it is a lot of fun.  My questions:

 

1) Is there a Dip Pen Network? (google failed me here).

2) Is ebay the best place to find these nibs?

3) Dip pen holders all seem pretty basic.  Are there differences between them that I would notice?

4) My Esterbrook 442 nibs dropped a pretty wet line. Is that typical?  Or do I just need to learn better control?

5) My collection of Fountain Pen ink is surprisingly incapable in dip pens.  It as though the formulations for modern ink are such that they "expect" to be flowing through a feed unit.  Some of them just could not stick to the dip pens nibs (Kiowa Pecan, I'm talking about YOU).  Is this typical behavior and, if so, what inks do work best in dip pens?

 

Tx!



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#2 Honeybadgers

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Posted 19 August 2019 - 03:35

Apart from oblique and straight dip pen holders, all that's REALLY different is the materials.

 

Ebay's a solid place for vintage nibs, but for modern ones (they also carry some vintage stuff) I like paper and ink arts

 

https://www.paperinkarts.com/

 

Their selection is great as are the prices.

 

Most fountain pen inks work... tolerably. But not many work great. Nibs with reservoirs work better with FP ink

 

Are you cleaning the nibs before dipping? I torch mine with a lighter, others just wash them in alcohol or soapy water, but all dip nibs come with a thin coat of oil on them that must be cleaned off for proper ink adherence.


Edited by Honeybadgers, 19 August 2019 - 03:35.

Selling a boatload of restored, fairly rare, vintage Japanese gold nib pens, click here to see (more added as I finish restoring them)


#3 EpicDragon7

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Posted 19 August 2019 - 06:12

In my experience, you have to thoroughly clean off the oil on a new nib to get any ink to work.

As far as fountain pen inks, from my limited selection of inks, some work ok, others not at all. Noodlers black works ok, and my bottle of Rohrer & Klingner verdera says it will work for dip pens as well. Others like Private Reserve ebony Purple do not work at all for me. That being said, ink specifically formulated for dip pens tend to work best.

As far as holders,outside of straight vs oblique, main difference is in materials, and some are a bit fancier than others

#4 Bo Bo Olson

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Posted 19 August 2019 - 06:49

If you are left handed you don't need an oblique holder.

Many right handers like an oblique holder...........took me a few days of reading before I decided. ****

I have regular holders, a couple fancy ones and a couple oblique holders..............too bad I use it only when the moon is green.

Saw two red moons last year......none green.

 

 

****Don't ask me which obliques I got, I forgot, but they are not Speedball holders. The nibs I had were larger than them.....or for some reason or an other I didn't get Speedball holders.

I have Higgins; and Wayne&Newton (a whole 6 pack of unused colors :doh: :headsmack: ).

 

Other folks get by just fine with regular fountain pen inks.

Do look up posts by AAAndrew for historical dip pens.


German vintage '50-70 semi-flex stubs and those in oblique give the real thing in On Demand line variation. Modern Oblique is a waste of money for a shadow of line variation. Being too lazy to Hunt for affordable vintage oblique pens, lets you 'hunt' for line variation instead of having it.

www.nibs.com/blog/nibster-writes/nibs-germany & https://www.peter-bo...cts/nib-systems,

 

The cheapest lessons are from those who learned expensive lessons. Ignorance is best for learning expensive lessons.

 

 

 


#5 txomsy

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Posted 19 August 2019 - 09:28

You can try "The Flourish Forum" for people more interested in calligraphy than pens.



#6 sciumbasci

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Posted 19 August 2019 - 10:08

I must admit that I received a dip pen set as gift long ago, but never really got the hang of it - all the nibs seem scratchy and hard to use, plus the ink flies away everywhere!
Perhaps is my cheap Crelando set...

#7 txomsy

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Posted 19 August 2019 - 14:46

If FPs require a gentler hand than ballpoint pens, dip pens require a much more gentler hand than FPs. Takes some time getting use to.



#8 sidthecat

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Posted 19 August 2019 - 16:42

I’m glad I’m not the only one who’s succumbed to this particular sickness.
My thing has been 19th Century gold nibs, some of which have found homes in my fountain pens, but that’s a whole different nonsense.
I’ve also found that fountain pen inks don’t work with my larger nibs, but there’s a workaround: gum arabic can be added to your inks to thicken them. That way you can access the variety of colors in the fountain pen universe.

#9 tamills

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Posted 20 August 2019 - 01:41

I’m glad I’m not the only one who’s succumbed to this particular sickness.
My thing has been 19th Century gold nibs, some of which have found homes in my fountain pens, but that’s a whole different nonsense.
I’ve also found that fountain pen inks don’t work with my larger nibs, but there’s a workaround: gum arabic can be added to your inks to thicken them. That way you can access the variety of colors in the fountain pen universe.

 

That's cool!  I have so many FP inks, I'll have to try that.



#10 Bo Bo Olson

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Posted 20 August 2019 - 10:08

To clean a dip pen nib, either lick it, or touch a match to it (while holding it, so it won't get too hot).....one could clean it with an old toothbrush.


German vintage '50-70 semi-flex stubs and those in oblique give the real thing in On Demand line variation. Modern Oblique is a waste of money for a shadow of line variation. Being too lazy to Hunt for affordable vintage oblique pens, lets you 'hunt' for line variation instead of having it.

www.nibs.com/blog/nibster-writes/nibs-germany & https://www.peter-bo...cts/nib-systems,

 

The cheapest lessons are from those who learned expensive lessons. Ignorance is best for learning expensive lessons.

 

 

 


#11 txomsy

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Posted 20 August 2019 - 11:51

Sticking them in a potato is said to work wonders to clean them as well. I haven't tried it, though.



#12 Studio97

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Posted 20 August 2019 - 12:45

I have used dip nibs from the early 1900s into mid 1800s. Used India ink and black inks like Montblanc and Parker Quink. I am left handed and use a straight nib handle. My challenge has been to avoid smearing ink so I try to use absorbent paper to help the ink dry faster. I would use dip pens a lot more if I were right handed. Otherwise I use them for drawing on absorbent art paper.

#13 Wolverine1

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Posted 20 August 2019 - 13:15

Steve Engen, a fellow FPN member makes some really nice dip-pen holders that are really nice. He is at  www.dippens.net



#14 dkreider

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Posted 20 August 2019 - 15:28

I must admit that I received a dip pen set as gift long ago, but never really got the hang of it - all the nibs seem scratchy and hard to use, plus the ink flies away everywhere!
Perhaps is my cheap Crelando set...

That sounds to me like your writing angle against the page is a bit too steep for pointed nib calligraphy. The tip will catch on the paper, and when it breaks free, it sprays ink everywhere. 

This is a fantastic video, demonstrating what I mean:      https://youtu.be/kblK1XMU9GY?t=940

Best of luck!



#15 AAAndrew

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Posted 21 August 2019 - 20:46

I think I've heard something about these dip nib things.  :D

 

Welcome to the wonderful world of "how we all wrote for a hundred years!" 

 

Others have gives some good advice and encouragement, so some of this may be duplication, but I thought I'd tackle your list of questions. Obviously, these are my own opinions, some are shared and some are not, but there you are. 

 

1) Is there a Dip Pen Network? (google failed me here).
 
Alas, no. The Flourish Forum was suggested, and it's an amazing resource if you're interested in calligraphy of any type. A great group of folks there, but there's limited interest in history or every-day kind of writing. They do have great advice for inks, and paper, and of course, the beautiful calligraphy, as has already been mentioned. I look for the occasional dip pen topic here, or you are welcome to bring up any questions, comments or suggestions in this general forum, which is "Fountain and Dip Pens" after all. 
 
2) Is ebay the best place to find these nibs?
 
I find most of mine there, and there seems to be a good supply of general-purpose vintage nibs still available. Look around for a while to get an idea of what is there and what people charge. If you want to buy individual nibs, especially if you want to explore different types (and there were thousands of different types from many hundreds of brands), Pendemonium is a good place to pick up a variety. (no connection, just satisfied customer).  I've had much less success finding the nibs in antique stores. Every once in a while I'll run across a box, but some people have the idea that because the nibs may sell for $1-$2 each when sold individually, that they should then cost $144 for a gross box. Actually, a box of common pens (not the so-called "dream pens" so desired by the calligraphers) should sell for $20-$30 or so, plus or minus $10 depending on rarity or condition. Don't pay $80 for a box of Esterbrook 048 Falcons, even if it's sealed. They made hundreds of millions of them and many are still around. 
 
3) Dip pen holders all seem pretty basic.  Are there differences between them that I would notice?
 
Straight holders, which I'm assuming you're talking about, vary by material and holding method (the mechanism which holds the nib in the holder). The modern, manufactured ones are inexpensive and work for the majority of nibs. There are some vintage nibs which are a bit too wide for modern inserts. This is where vintage holders can really come into their own. Eagle made a good, school holder which I see all the time for sale. If you're going to buy vintage, unless it's an amazing material, don't buy it unless you can see the holding mechanism. You have to make sure it's not rusted. Some dipped their pens too deeply and got that steel insert wet, and it rusted. If so, the holder could be useless. Keep an eye out for some of the really fun holders like the celluloid, agate or glass holders. Some are expensive, but most are fairly moderate. 
 
4) My Esterbrook 442 nibs dropped a pretty wet line. Is that typical?  Or do I just need to learn better control?
 
Dip pens, in general, lay down a much wetter line than a fountain pen. That said, if the nib is not properly prepped, the ink will slide off much more quickly than you want. I have some suggestions on my site on how to prep a nib. (there are other suggestions for getting started there as well.) The 442 is a stub pen and will lay down a thicker line, but the wetness of the line is a factor of pen, ink and paper. (just like fountain pens)  I like to use 25% cotton laser jet paper for most of my writing. I will print out lined paper, practice sheets if I feel ambitious, or just go freestyle if I'm feeling adventurous. The Black & Red notebooks found in most office supply stores also has excellent paper for dip pens. The rest is up to the ink. (see my ink answer below)
 
5) My collection of Fountain Pen ink is surprisingly incapable in dip pens.  It as though the formulations for modern ink are such that they "expect" to be flowing through a feed unit.  Some of them just could not stick to the dip pens nibs (Kiowa Pecan, I'm talking about YOU).  Is this typical behavior and, if so, what inks do work best in dip pens?
 
As others have pointed out, some fountain pen ink works well with a dip pen, others don't. Some, counter-intuitively, work "drier" if you cut with water. Monteverde inks work quite well if you dilute 1:1 with water. Pelikan 4001 ink works quite well with dip pens straight out of the bottle, as will most iron gall inks. (super-saturated iron gall inks may need to be cut a bit as they can add a lot of lubricants which make it slide off the pen a bit too well)  
 
My favorite ink for practice and some letter writing is what is often called "walnut ink." I prefer the crystals because you can buy a bag of a few ounces of crystals for not much money and it will last you for months of regular writing. You can also dilute in water to the preferred depth of brown you want. I've used them for years now and use this ink whenever I give a demonstration or let others try writing. You can get these crystals from pen in ink arts, mentioned by another poster, or from John Neal Booksellers, who I tend to buy from because they're just a bit down the road from me. 
 
Here's an example of my every-day writing using walnut ink. (four years ago I didn't really know how to write cursive, but dip pens got me so motivated to re-learn, I now have a decent hand, though not a patch on the real calligraphers)
 
fpn_1557237114__2018_12_20_example_of_wr
 
 
 
If you start to get interested in the vintage nibs and where they came from, my site also has a fair amount of history on it as well. I'm only up to about 1880, and there is so much more to tell, but I've gotten a bit bogged down turning some of my early posts into actual articles published in The Pennant, the magazine for the Pen Collectors of America
 
Again, welcome to dip pens. It's an interesting world with so much variety to choose from. Each pen has its own "experience" and if you learn to have that light touch, also mentioned above, and use the right ink and paper, it can be so rewarding and just plain fun. 
 
Andrew


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#16 Honeybadgers

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Posted 22 August 2019 - 06:50

Sticking them in a potato is said to work wonders to clean them as well. I haven't tried it, though.

 

Why in god's name would someone waste a potato for that.

 

I'm sure tossing one in the oven on 475 for 3-5 hours would work too, but you'd still be a lunatic  :lol:

 

Dip nibs are fun but I really didn't appreciate them until I started making and soldering ink cages onto them. Dipping a ton when you're drawing just feels right, but dipping every 3rd word is obnoxious.

 

An ink cage gives you 3-5 entire sentences.


Edited by Honeybadgers, 22 August 2019 - 06:51.

Selling a boatload of restored, fairly rare, vintage Japanese gold nib pens, click here to see (more added as I finish restoring them)


#17 Lunoxmos

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Posted 22 August 2019 - 13:20

I see all this information about flames and potatoes to be to confronting to beginners.

The aim of these procedures is to remove the factory oils left on nibs as so to allow ink to cling to them better.

I have found that using washing up liquid works fine; put a drop on, give it a scrub, and then rinse it off with some water. With more stubborn nibs I use toothpaste as it is more abrasive.

Ebay is a great place to find dip pen nibs. A while back I got lucky and bought a box of 144 nibs for about $10. Theyll pop up every now and then as long as you are patient. You can of course just buy single dip pens if you are just wanting to try them out.

In regards to holders, I recommend sticking with straight pen holders, even for practical Spencerian or just writing in general, as they seem to offer the most amount of control. You will have to angle your page though, if you want a slight slant in your writing. I recommend it. Oblique holders for me at least appear more suited to more ornamental and artistic styles.

In regards to ink, iron gall seems to be the way to go for me if I want it to look older-than-old, and if I want a not-blobby looking page. They corrode your nibs but OHHHHH its amazing while they last. It also turns jet black if you use an ink with reasonably high levels of iron sulphate (I use Rohrer und Klingner Salix, and that dries ALMOST to a black, but with a blue tint to it), such as diamine registrars, ESSRI or an iron gall ink made for dip pens.

I use walnut ink myself, and I too recommend the ink crystals. Theyre great value for money, and they wont corrode your nibs in the same way iron gall does.

The only fountain pen ink I have used with dip pens is Noodlers Bulletproof Black, and I use it diluted as to create finer lines and to reduce the characteristic smeary blobs of dye left unabsorbed.

Just in general, the less saturated the ink, he finer the hairlines will be, if thats of any interest, so thats why (traditional-ish) iron gall does well as they are mostly a chemical solution with a small amount of dye.

#18 AAAndrew

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Posted 22 August 2019 - 14:56

 

 

The aim of these procedures is to remove the factory oils left on nibs as so to allow ink to cling to them better.

 

Newer nibs may use an oil, I'm not so sure about them. Vintage nibs were coated in a shellac or varnish coating to retard rust. This will sometimes come off with the gentler methods, and sometimes not. Traditionally, students used to suck on the nibs, but not having any idea of what was in the coatings, and some nibs, especially the silver-coated ones, can have lovely chemicals like mercury in the coating, I personally prefer not to stick them in my mouth anymore. 

 

For me, the quick and easy way is to use a lighter, but you have to know what you're doing and do the minimum necessary. I put the nib in a holder and wave the broader center of the nib over the flame for two seconds. I do not get the more delicate tip of the nib over the flame. You don't want to just hold it over a flame because all you want to do is heat up the nib enough to soften the shellac so you can then wipe it off with a tissue, paper towel or rag. Thin, delicate nibs need less time, thicker stiff nibs may need a bit more (three seconds tops). 

 

You don't need to remove the coating over the whole nib, just the underside (concave) side from the middle of the nib to the point. The rest of the nib will not play a role in ink delivery unless there's a reservoir on the top of the nib. 

 

The way the potato works is not by removing the coating, but by laying down a layer of starch that seems to help the nib regulate ink flow. The same with sucking on the nib, your saliva creates a coating that works well. 

 

If you like scrubbing your nibs, go for it. It's the gentlest, and as long as you dry your nibs well, probably the safest for the nib. Both the potato as well as the flame have a long history. As I write about in my blog post on prepping pens, I found an article from 1882 which mentions both. In this article, though, the potato is only talked about as a pen wiper, not for prep. After writing you stick your nib in the potato and it not only comes out clean, the starch leaves a useful coating. The gas jet through which they pass new pens is the actual prep. 



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#19 BaronWulfraed

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Posted 22 August 2019 - 16:50

The potato perplexes me -- doesn't it leave a damp STARCH coating on the nib?



#20 AAAndrew

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Posted 22 August 2019 - 17:10

potato.jpg?zoom=1.25&resize=546%2C431&ss

 

From 1882. And I've heard some professional calligraphers swear by their potato to touch up already-prepped nibs. As the starch dries it seems to leave a coating that is conducive to proper ink flow. 



“When the historians of education do equal and exact justice to all who have contributed toward educational progress, they will devote several pages to those revolutionists who invented steel pens and blackboards.” V.T. Thayer, 1928



Check out my Steel Pen Blog


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