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Startup Tools Needed For Broad-Style Calligraphy (I Can't Tell Which Pen/nib To Buy)


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Okay okay, call me cheesy and a fanboy but I love the calligraphy style used in the props for the LOTR/Hobbit films, especially the style used by Bilbo/Frodo when writing in the journal.


See link for example: https://encrypted.google.com/search?q=the+red+book+of+westmarch&biw=1078&bih=321&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&sqi=2&ved=0CAcQ_AUoAmoVChMI7auD2sb-xwIVUQuSCh2ExwU9#imgrc=ta-lqAzu7dDwOM%3A


This has finally inspired me to learn how to write calligraphy, specifically in the style used in the films.


I have been to the three following sites for tips/info:










It seems that I will need a "broad" style nib/pen but I cannot for the life of me find anywhere that designates a nib as "broad". The pictures in the first link I posted above seem to indicate a really wide tip but nothing I see online for sale looks like that. Is that drawing just a really really close up shot and the pen/nib in real life is no where near that wide? Or am I just not looking in the right spots?


I'm sure that a beginner set would be best for me as I'm just starting out and will need lots of practice but I'm just not sure what kind of nib/pen to buy. I'd prefer to stay traditional (dip-style pen rather than pre-filled cartridge) if I can as that is more appealing to me.


What would you (as experts) recommend I get in order to accomplish the desired style of writing? Also, what is your recommended type/brand of ink?



Any help you can give is appreciated.

Edited by mitchewr
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I think the best way to get started would be to get a set of the Speedball C nibs and a holder; these are usually packaged together and available at craft and hobby stores. Look for a C-0 and C-4, for large and small letters.


Any drawing ink will work for learning. I favor Windsor and Newton, but Higgins is also good, and many fountain pen inks will work as well (I've been using ESSRI lately).


Your biggest expense might be an instruction book. I'll recommend "The Art of Calligraphy: A practical guide to the skills and techniques" by David Harris, but there are dozens of other books that are at least as good. I think you'll be looking for the Uncial or maybe the Insular Majuscule scripts.


Hope this helps.



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Broad or edged pen is the standard chisel-edged pen used for writing for over 2000 years. So any chisel-edged fountain pen will work well. For a beginner, would recommend the Pilot Parallel, 1.5 mm or 2.4 mm. Fountain pens are much easier to use than dip pens, less new things to learn. Although the Speedball set recommended above is an excellent way to start.


Learning calligraphy is not difficult but requires reading, study, and practice. Have fun,


From a person's actions, we may infer attitudes, beliefs, --- and values. We do not know these characteristics outright. The human dichotomies of trust and distrust, honor and duplicity, love and hate --- all depend on internal states we cannot directly experience. Isn't this what adds zest to our life?

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Rotring Art Pens are also very nice!

As a side node (nerd trivia incoming), I never understood why everyone uses the three dots written above the 'a' when emulating LotR writing (I know they used this in the movies...but it's not accurate)...in Elvish alphabets the three dots actually represented the letter 'a'; there are no vowels in the elvish writing that was invented by Tolkien; the system is somewhat similar to Arabic, you write the consonants, and when you have a vowel before a certain consonant, you mark the respective consonant with different marks (three dots for a, other marks for the rest of the vowels).

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Thanks for the replies!


Okay, so basically just any basic fountain style pen/nib.


I'll definitely start off with those speed loader things I think, so I can get the hang of it. When actually buy a real fountain pen/nib, should I look for a specific width? As Holtz stated above, the styling of the LotR is very close to Uncial, so is there a width that's ideal for that particular style?


Yeah I've never really knew what the three dots were for either...but at least it looks cool lol.

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  • 3 weeks later...

I've been gone for a while, so I'm somewhat late returning to this thread.


As for the ideal width: the height of the letters is usually adjusted to the width of the pen. Uncial is 4 or 5 pen widths high, so I would take the pen I liked best, and then measure it and draw the guidelines or guidesheet accordingly. My experience was that the larger pen was better to learn with but the smaller looked better. YMMV, do what works for you.



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  • 3 weeks later...

If you are interested in broad edge calligraphy, then a dip pen will give you the most crisp and satisfying results, but these tools do require a good amount of practice to use successfully.


If you do decide to use a fountain pen for broad edge calligraphy, then not just any fountain pen will work, you will want to use a pen with an italic nib (basic "calligraphy" fountain pens are a good choice as they tend to provide multiple nibs and are geared more towards calligraphy than italic cursive). Normal fountain pens have rounded nibs which will not produce the results that you are after.


A parallel pen is a good compromise between the crispness of dip pens and the ease of use of a fountain pen, Pilot Parallel pens are available for a relatively low price from Amazon.


On a side note, the type of script that you point to looks like a sort of unholy union of Half Uncial, Foundational, and Italic...

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  • 3 weeks later...

Ok, may be it is late but you might wanna check for which particular style you want to use; some use square cut nib (Speedball A series) these nibs are used at some angle & also called "slanted pen", other has tip cut at slight angle called as oblique cut nib (Speedball C series) called the "straight pen". I've heard that William Mitchell square nibs have better & softer feel. I suggest you to first go through "The Art of Calligraphy" by David Harris.

Edited by DiCHi93
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  • 1 month later...

If you choose to start with a fountain pen rather than a dip pen in the beginning I recommend using an Osmiroid brand pen. Although no longer in production plenty ard still about for sale and are relatively inexpensive. Osmiriod nibs are also readily available for Esterbrook pens.


An Osmiroid nib is a sharp italic style and gives a very crisp finish to your work, numerous nib sizes are available for the one pen.


I learnt with an Osmiroid and still use them over everything else I've tried when using a fountain pen.




"may our fingers remain ink stained"

Handwriting - one of life's pure pleasures

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  • 2 years later...

In Hebrew those little vowel indications are the “jots and tittles” of The Law.

I’m sure the Elves have a word for them, too.

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  • 4 weeks later...

+1 for the Pilot Parallel pens. Inexpensive, durable, and very fun to use, they tick boxes for a beginner pen as far as I’m concerned. You can also use a Pilot converter if you want, and choose your ink.


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+1 for the Pilot Parallel pens. Inexpensive, durable, and very fun to use, they tick boxes for a beginner pen as far as I’m concerned. You can also use a Pilot converter if you want, and choose your ink.


That's good to know. I keep looking at the Parallels, because they're cheap enough (around $10 US apiece in a local art store) but the cartridges were part of the reason I was hesitating.

OTOH, as someone previously suggested when this thread started, Speedball nibs and holders are pretty cheap. When I took calligraphy in college that's what we used.

One recommendation I have is that I was taught to fill the nibs with an eyedropper, rather than actually dipping the pen -- it's less messy. Obviously, if you're using something like a quill or a bamboo pen, that doesn't work, but it worked fine with the Speedball nibs because of the bit underneath that acted as a well/reserve) and I suspect that it might work with the Parallels as well. It might also work with those folded brass nibs I saw described in another thread a couple of days ago.

Ruth Morrisson aka inkstainedruth

"It's very nice, but frankly, when I signed that list for a P-51, what I had in mind was a fountain pen."

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Second the Osmiroid and Speed Ball nibs. Used the Osmiriod to write elven notes to my gf/ex-wife back in 90's

Here's the set I break out to do calligraphy.




I'm given to understand the plastic/vinyl ink converter hard to find these days.




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