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A Portable Dip Pen Workstation



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As with many people these days, free time is quite rare. A couple of times a week, though, I have an hour or more to kill sitting at a table (usually in a coffee shop) while I wait for my son to finish an activity. I decided to make that time work for me and I have developed a portable workstation for my pointed pen writing. I don't say calligraphy because I focus more on an everyday hand, and use the portable materials mainly to write letters. You could easily adapt this to calligraphy practice by moving to a larger bag that would hold full-size practice sheets. I do practice, but just on the half-sheets (A5-like size) I carry with me.

 

I thought others might get some ideas and find some use out of what I've cobbled together for myself so I have take some pictures.

The bag I got from Target for around $25, the ink jars (Dinky Dips) and nib case I got from John Neal Books, though others carry them, and the rest from regular stores. I print my own stationery, but that's for another thread if anyone's interested. So, I'm not spending a lot of money on the setup, but it's become a regular thing now and I get two more hours of week of practice and use out of my pens.

 

 

So, start with the bag. It's just a little larger than an iPad, 15" x 13" x 3". Won't win any fashion shows, but it works quite well, and was cheap.

 

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Inside are two main compartments. In one I have a box in which I carry my paper goods, and in the other are the rest of my supplies. I can also carry my iPad in with the box.

 

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When I unpack, you'll see that most everything is contained in three boxes, and my iPad.

 

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Let's start with the ink. I have several kinds of ink in the large size Dinky Dip jars. These work great for straight as well as oblique holders, seal very well, and are sturdy and inexpensive. I can carry 8 different inks plus a couple of paper towels for cleaning nibs, and a lighter in case I get oils on the nib. I can flame it for half a second and it's fine. I can also fit an ink sample vial as well. I fit them all into a sealed container used for lunch boxes. I've never had this container leak, though one time I didn't screw the lid onto the walnut ink very well and it spilled out all inside the container. It's also easy to clean. I bring along a single Dinky Dip wooden base just because it makes it that much more sturdy on sometimes wobbly coffee shop tables. I carry the wooden base separately from the ink because it doesn't fit inside the container, but I pull it out, use the lid as an extra measure of safety in case someone bumps the table, and I'm in business!

 

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My nibs are contained in a neat little case I got form John Neal Books. It holds a lot of nibs and most regular holders. It's main limitation is that it's too small for most oblique holders and longer straight holders. I just slip those into the pen slots inside the bag. And as I was emptying the bag for the pictures I found a couple of other small boxes of nibs I had tucked away and forgotten about so I pulled them out as well.

 

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And lastly is the paper box. I have the box my iPad came in and it works perfectly. It's sturdy, holds a lot, fits in the bag, and was free with the iPad. (get the idea I'm not going to spend a lot of money on this stuff? Just means more money for nibs!) In it I have several different kinds of stationery including a pad of Triomphe note paper, envelopes, postcards, stamps, and usually a couple of letters I want to answer. Basically, everything I need for writing away for an hour or more.

 

fpn_1460517151__complete_unpack.jpg

 

 

As you can see, this modest sized bag holds quite a lot of materials allowing me to go anywhere with a flat surface and enjoy writing with my pens and ink. I hope this sparks some ideas for how to take your writing with you. You could easily adapt this to a larger bag with full-sized paper in a folder, or writing pads. The nibs and ink are the key items and they work quite well. I carry the ink turned on the side and except for that one mistake, I've not had any trouble with them. And even if one leaks, the sealed box keeps everything safe.

 

One last thing. Unpacking my bag and finding the extra nibs made me finally decide to find out just how many nibs I do have stored away in my portable workstation. I knew I had a lot, but finding the two other little boxes I decided to do a count.

 

The total was 129. Many of them duplicates, or even triplicates or quadruplicates of nibs I particularly like. Probably over 60 different types. Here's a picture merely for curiosity sake.

 

fpn_1460517167__allnibs.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

 

“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

"No one is exempt from talking nonsense; the mistake is to do it solemnly."

-Montaigne

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Can imagine it feels particularly great to unpack and start writing in a setting where other parents are looking into their half empty cup of coffee with a totaly empty gaze ;)

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Or their faces buried in a phone or tablet. The college students also give me a very strange look. :)

 

“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

"No one is exempt from talking nonsense; the mistake is to do it solemnly."

-Montaigne

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This is a useful and motivational tutorial in mobile tool organization, Andrew. Thank you. I've been wondering what to do with Apple product boxes, because they're lightweight and too nice to throw away.

 

Your utilization of these moments reminds me of a wonderful professor of Italian who organized his study of other languages into grammar and vocabulary cards that he kept in his pockets. He would pull out the cards whenever he was waiting on something else to happen. He was Slavic, but wrote textbooks in Italian, spoke English, Spanish, French, German, and other languages that I don't remember.

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Andrew, you're an inspiration. Wow! Thank you for your thorough report/tutorial.

I wonder how people dealt with portability in the past. I remember when I was a child every desk had an inkwell hole. People must have carried their inkwells with them, I'd guess, or maybe ink was available, as an integral part of a work station.

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There were portable inkwells, including button-hole inkwells that were small pieces of horn or antler that had a stopper on top that hung from the button hole of your jacket.

 

Often people who wrote a lot would have a traveling writing surface they carried with them in their luggage. It was usually a wooden box which would include a place for paper, well-stoppered ink wells, quills, knives and whatever else they needed. Some on here have restored these. They kind of gave me a first inspiration.

 

As for school desks, there were glass inkwells that fit into the hole. I have one sitting on my desk at the moment. Mine is from the 30's-40's and has a Bakelite top with a little cover that swivels over the hole. Someone in the class would be responsible for filling the inkwells on each desk.

 

“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

"No one is exempt from talking nonsense; the mistake is to do it solemnly."

-Montaigne

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How cool. I never thought of making a compact dip pen carry setup like that. Now I feel like going to a coffee shop and writing with a dip pen, and seeing what peoples reaction would be :) Like you I would be writing with an oblique holder. I gave up on straight holders once I got and tried my first oblique holder.

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