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Is It Worth It To Change My Grip?


Liora
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I'm in my 40s and am an artist wanting to learn calligraphy. I'm particularly interested in Copperplate. A recurrent issue is that I have a weird pen grip -- index and middle finger on the pen and thumb high -- a lateral quadrupod, from what I've been able to discover online. While I'm sure there are calligraphers who have the same grip but have found a way to work with it, I'm wondering if it's worth the effort to relearn holding my pen. Having the weird grip is making it difficult to fully enjoy some pens like the Lamy Safari.

 

So has anyone completely changed their grip, and if so, how long did it take you to feel like you're as comfortable with the proper grip as your old one? My hand is currently feeling like a withered claw from practicing writing. It's only day one...

 

thanks,

 

Liora

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:W2FPN:

 

Hi,

 

I wasn't able to see the depiction of your grip.

 

Anyone who has seen my handwriting in my Ink Reviews will agree that I am not the least wisp of a calligrapher ...

 

Over the years I've acquired the ability to run most pens on their nibs' sweet spot by adjusting the way I grasp the pen: from a Parker Slimfold to the ergonomic challenge of the posted rotring 600. Though some of the metal barrel [Chinese oversize] pens are just naughty_word.

 

As for the flexi nibs : I've been writing with a brisk light hand for quite some time, so the mechanics required to maximise the potential of flex nibs remains a job of work, though I'm not too too sure if a modified grip is necessary, but it does seem likely. (Back to the calligrapher dojo.)

 

IMHO the nib's sweet spot is the fulcrum, so it is up to the person who holds the pen in their warm welcoming grasp to maximize the nib's potential and personality.

 

Let us dance :)

 

Bye,

S1

Edited by Sandy1

The only time you have too much fuel is when you're on fire.

 

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This is sort of funny - just two hours ago I told my wonderful daughter not to hold her pen that way, and she really had all her fingers in the exact same positions.

It looks like you are using a lot of muscle power to hold the pen in place by pressing against it in opposite directions, so that the pressure from different fingers cansel each other out which would obviously make your hand tired. If you write with your entire arm, you could still write calligraphy nicely (and great calligraphists throughout history have used all kinds of crazy grips and positions, just like Horowitz played the piano immensely great with stretched fingers and one of his little fingers completely bend) but it's really not very pleasant for your fingers.

I hold my pen differently depending on whether I'm using a flexy nib or, say, a Parker 75 (which has been made to be held in a particular way), and relearning the way you hold a pen does not take that long. The most pleasant way of relearning it would probably be to practice for five minutes every evening before you go to bed - just writhing big circles or straight lines.

You can hold the pen in a number of ways, but what I told my daughter this morning was to grab the pen at a safe distance from the nib with using the points of her fingers (or what is close to the point anyway), and to balance the pen on the third finger (not using more force than what the weight of the pen demands), to position the second finger so that the pen does not roll down, and then finally the first finger (thumb) to prevent the pen from being pushed up when she writes. When I write with flex, I roll the pen slightly (not rolling it while writing, of cause, but in relation to the position I just mentioned) so that my second finger is on top to enable me to push down a little.

No matter what grib you use it is an advantage to use as little force as possible.

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I'm not a calligrapher at all, but am also interested in, at least, improving my handwriting.

 

I discovered a few months ago that I had a weird grip, I used four fingers around the section. Not too weird but different from the preferred tripod grip. I decided to try to change it. I was surprised by how easy it was to do it. It took about two weeks until the tripod grip felt completely natural and I now don't even think about it.

 

The only recommendations I'd have is to use pens that have a non slippery grip and that the girth is comfortable to you so you don't get cramps.

 

Good luck!

 

Matias

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Going by the picture, it seems like a rather uncomfortable way to write a few pages. One of the great joys of using a fountain pen is the way it glides effortlessly over paper, using very little downforce as you go along. It may be a good idea to revise your grip, even if only to reduce stress on your wrist. I used to have a teacher who said something to the effect of writing is something you do with your whole arm and not just your fingers / wrist... All the best!

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I'm not a calligrapher at all, but am also interested in, at least, improving my handwriting.

 

I discovered a few months ago that I had a weird grip, I used four fingers around the section. Not too weird but different from the preferred tripod grip. I decided to try to change it. I was surprised by how easy it was to do it. It took about two weeks until the tripod grip felt completely natural and I now don't even think about it.

[clipped]

 

Matias

 

Thanks, Matias. This is what I was hoping to hear--that it might feel weird now, but the payoff later would be worth it. I have a Spencerian penmanship book and am using that plus a Rhodia dot pad to do drills. I'm hoping it'll be second nature soon. I also will be holding my brush different for painting, so it's going to affect more than just writing.

Liora

Edited by Liora
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:W2FPN:

 

Hi,

 

I wasn't able to see the depiction of your grip.

 

Anyone who has seen my handwriting in my Ink Reviews will agree that I am not the least wisp of a calligrapher ...

 

Over the years I've acquired the ability to run most pens on their nibs' sweet spot by adjusting the way I grasp the pen: from a Parker Slimfold to the ergonomic challenge of the posted rotring 600. Though some of the metal barrel [Chinese oversize] pens are just naughty_word.

 

As for the flexi nibs : I've been writing with a brisk light hand for quite some time, so the mechanics required to maximise the potential of flex nibs remains a job of work, though I'm not too too sure if a modified grip is necessary, but it does seem likely. (Back to the calligrapher dojo.)

 

IMHO the nib's sweet spot is the fulcrum, so it is up to the person who holds the pen in their warm welcoming grasp to maximize the nib's potential and personality.

 

Let us dance :)

 

Bye,

S1

 

Yes, my next pen to tackle is going to be a flex nib, so thanks for bringing that up. I'm hoping the time and effort I put in now to change my grip will be appreciated as I try new pens in the future. I have my eye on the Pilot vanishing point as a future purchase, and the clip is in such a position that this could become an issue again if I continue to hold with the lateral quadrupod.

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This is sort of funny - just two hours ago I told my wonderful daughter not to hold her pen that way, and she really had all her fingers in the exact same positions.

It looks like you are using a lot of muscle power to hold the pen in place by pressing against it in opposite directions, so that the pressure from different fingers cansel each other out which would obviously make your hand tired. If you write with your entire arm, you could still write calligraphy nicely (and great calligraphists throughout history have used all kinds of crazy grips and positions, just like Horowitz played the piano immensely great with stretched fingers and one of his little fingers completely bend) but it's really not very pleasant for your fingers.

I hold my pen differently depending on whether I'm using a flexy nib or, say, a Parker 75 (which has been made to be held in a particular way), and relearning the way you hold a pen does not take that long. The most pleasant way of relearning it would probably be to practice for five minutes every evening before you go to bed - just writhing big circles or straight lines.

You can hold the pen in a number of ways, but what I told my daughter this morning was to grab the pen at a safe distance from the nib with using the points of her fingers (or what is close to the point anyway), and to balance the pen on the third finger (not using more force than what the weight of the pen demands), to position the second finger so that the pen does not roll down, and then finally the first finger (thumb) to prevent the pen from being pushed up when she writes. When I write with flex, I roll the pen slightly (not rolling it while writing, of cause, but in relation to the position I just mentioned) so that my second finger is on top to enable me to push down a little.

No matter what grib you use it is an advantage to use as little force as possible.

 

The lateral quadrupod feels comfortable and low stress compared to the traditional grip, but I think that's just because I don't have experience with the tripod to compare it to. I've always done it that way, so I'm used to it. The pen presses lightly against my ring finger, which rests on the page. (wish the pic hadn't come out sideways...not sure why it did) The pressure I feel is on the tip of my middle finger which, to me, is preferable to having it resting against the side of my knuckle on the middle finger (traditional). I'm encouraged by the folks here saying they had other grips, and after a couple of weeks of practice, their new grip felt just as comfortable as the old one.

 

Thanks for your replies, Everyone.

 

Liora

Edited by Liora
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There are folks out there who believe that some particular arrangement of fingers is correct, and others are wrong. Unfortunately some of these people managed to influence the design of German school pens like the Safari. Rather than dictating a grip, I would make three observations about holding a pen.

1. Since your arm, not your fingers, should be moving the pen, any grip that leaves your hand muscles very relaxed and still keeps the nib's sweet spot just resting on the paper is fine. There is no one correct geometry, just lots of people who would like to tell you to do it their way. Especially avoid grips that inherently press down on the nib or require you to maintain muscle tension in your hand or fingers.

2. Exception to the above: when you are writing a script like copperplate that requires line variation from a flexible nib, you want to hold the pen in a way that allows you to change the vertical force on the nib with the fewest possible muscle movements. This suggests that for flex nibs, a grip with one finger on top of the section might be a good idea, but there are other ways.

3. In my limited experience, my preferred grip tends to change with the diameter of the section, the length of the nib, its flexibility, and even the weight and balance of the pen. I could probably enforce one grip all the time, but why? The point is to hold the pen still without tension and then to move your arm. And to enjoy the process!

ron

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I tried to hold a pen in that manner, and I end up with a very vertical pen, that I would not be able to do much if any flexing of the nib. And I sure don't want to use a pointed nib dip pen that vertical, as the tip would scratch and snag on the paper. I suggest you look around at the various Copperplate instructions, to see how they instruct to hold the pen and consider switch to another grip for your Copperplate.

 

For most of my writing, I use the standard tripod grip that works with the Lamy Safari.

For fancy writing with some flex (Spencerian and similar), I use an oblique dip pen holder. The holder angles the nib to the right, so that the nib is in alignment with the downstroke of the letter. This lets me use my standard grip, and not have to use a different grip.

 

As for changing your grip. It can be done, with dedication and time. For me, the big factor is training your muscles to handle writing with a new grip. Or building new muscle memory. And to do that requires repetition until the muscles can do their job without your brain having to tell it what to do. A few year ago, I changed from finger writing to arm writing (a much more difficult change). That took 3 months of daily 1 to 3 hour practicing, before I could write with my arm, without constant monitoring so that I would not regress back to finger writing. It took another several months before my arm writing, got up to what I consider decent. In the beginning of my arm writing, my writing was UGLY. So it was a long haul to train the muscles, but in the end I feel it was worth it. So it can be done, and I am way older than you.

 

As for flex nib, I suggest starting with a dip pen. A good dip pen will run circles around an EXPENSIVE flex nib fountain pen. And is soo much cheaper. $15 oblique dip pen holder + $1.50 nibs, and you are off and writing. I went the route of a dip pen, and am glad I did. Because I use an oblique dip pen holder, and that makes flex writing soooo much easier, for me. An oblique dip pen holder has NOT been duplicated with a fountain pen, as far as I know.

Edited by ac12

San Francisco Pen Show - August 28-30, 2020 - Redwood City, California

www.SFPenShow.com

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Recently I taught myself the traditional 'knuckles up' position which is prescribed in basically every Spencerian instruction book. It involves much more than just the way your fingers hold the pen, and it took me some time to get the hang of it, but now that I do I find it totally worth it.

~ Alexander

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ac12,

 

Thanks for your input. I'm not really sure whether I'm using my arms or my hands or both. I did find a better picture than mine -- see lateral quadrupod here: http://azopt.net/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/pencil-blog-1.jpg

 

I think the consensus is that it's an okay grip, some people have weird grips and still do calligraphy and lettering, but that it might benefit me in the long run to change to a more traditional grip. So that's what I've been doing for hours in the Spencerian workbooks. I'll try to maintain a practice of at least an hour per day. Hopefully, it'll be comfortable in a week or two.

 

thanks!

 

Liora

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Liora,

 

Use the grip that is best suited to you for the lettering style you want to write.

 

For Spencerian and similar, you need to switch to a traditional grip. This is in order to hold the nib at a low angle, relative to the paper, be able to flex the nib with control. You cannot flex the nib well with a grip that holds the pen near vertical. In fact on my oblique nib holder, the flange is bent to hold the nib even flatter to the paper.

 

For something like Italic, a near vertical pen probably would be OK, since you are not flexing an italic nib. Similarly for Palmer, you can write that with a near vertical pen.

 

So it is all about matching the grip to the requirements of the lettering style.

 

As for arm and hand writing, I use my arm, hand and fingers to write. The smaller finger muscles have much better fine motor control than the larger arm muscles. So I blend my writing; mostly with my arm, but some with hand and fingers, as best suited for the specific letters. Examples,

- The letter "f" is an arm letter, because of the long distance between the ascender and descender. I do not have that range of motion with just my fingers, so I have to move my arm.

- The letter "e" is/can be a finger letter, because it is all below the x-height. Tough I use both arm and finger motion for this letter.

 

One idea is to break your practice into 2 parts, morning and evening. So your muscles think they are practicing more often.

With a new hand, do the drills, to help get your muscles used to moving in the right way.

The trick that I used was to write a journal. This got me to writing more, because writing a journal was much more interesting than doing boring drills. So maybe 15 minutes of drills, to warm up the muscles, then as much writing as I could do.

Warning, once you really start writing a journal, it can become a habit. Today I don't feel right if I don't write at least 4 pages a day.

Edited by ac12

San Francisco Pen Show - August 28-30, 2020 - Redwood City, California

www.SFPenShow.com

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Liora,

 

Use the grip that is best suited to you for the lettering style you want to write.

 

For Spencerian and similar, you need to switch to a traditional grip... [snip]

 

This is very helpful. Would you say that Copperplate and Engrosser's Script also require a traditional grip?

 

Thanks so much for your helpful comments!

 

Liora

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This is very helpful. Would you say that Copperplate and Engrosser's Script also require a traditional grip?

 

Thanks so much for your helpful comments!

 

Liora

 

 

I don't do Copperplate nor Engrosser's, but just by looking at the lettering, with the changing width of the ink line, I would guess that it is written with a flex nib. So yes, a traditional grip. But let's wait for someone that does those hands.

 

BTW where in Calif are you? If you are in Northern Calif, the SF Pen Show is next month in Redwood City (SF Bay Area). Michael Sull will be teaching 2 Spencerian classes; beginning and advanced. I don't know how many seats are still open. www.sfpenshow.com

Edited by ac12

San Francisco Pen Show - August 28-30, 2020 - Redwood City, California

www.SFPenShow.com

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When I first got into fountain pens I quickly discovered that I was using the 'grip of death'. I switched to tripod and it only took a month or two to not only get used to it but to surpass my old quality of writing. And it made writing a lot more enjoyable because of the infinitely less fatigue and discomfort. Definitely worth it!

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I favor the 'forefinger up' method, which takes three minutes to learn. It is an automatically light grip, with out the 'Death Grip' & deadly Kung Fu thumb pinch, that can happen from classic tripod; which has the pen behind the big index knuckle. (Yours is somehow that, but not really.) You are really canting your nib...perhaps you are left eye dominate.

 

You will have to look 'Death Grip' & deadly Kung Fuup, after my computer died I've not been able to get back into photobucket and show you the 'forefinger up' method.

 

How ever from my calligraphy book, the pen is held before the big index knuckle and the nib canted @ 45 degrees. as long as the thumb is flat and the forefinger is not bent a lot, 'forefinger up' works there too.

 

First you have to get the thumb onto the pen barrel, IMO preferably flat. The flat thumb and thumb pad becomes a dam, and no pressure is used to shove the pen into the middle finger, causing it to hurt.

 

Yes, even classic, which I don't use, is better than what you have.

You should combine learning the new grip with learning to use your arm and shoulder instead of finger writing.

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.

RIP...200's once great nib, now a double ball.:crybaby::wallbash:

 

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

 

 

 

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...BTW where in Calif are you? If you are in Northern Calif, the SF Pen Show is next month in Redwood City (SF Bay Area). Michael Sull will be teaching 2 Spencerian classes; beginning and advanced. I don't know how many seats are still open. www.sfpenshow.com

 

I'm in southern California, just south of LA. I'll be keeping my eyes peeled for classes down this way.

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