Dip Pen: Making Nib Holders – Part 4 (Ergonomic Holder, Folded Nib, Ink Reservoir)

Previous post in this series : Dip Pen: Making Nib Holders – Part 3 (Straight & Oblique Nib Holder)

Surely, for those living in US and around Europe, the range and options online are plenty. Other than the regular straight and oblique holders, there are odd shaped ergonomic nib holders , folded pens, reed/bamboo pens, quill pens ruling pens/writers, steel brushes , felt brushes  and many many more. Since this series of posts started as a quest to make something locally/at home, I looked into the ergonomic options of straight and oblique nib holders, bamboo/reed pens and the folded nib options. Sorry! I currently discounted the quill pens, which are easily made at home, but  we will dependent on a very scarcely available commodity like good quills,  porcupine needles etc

Ergonomic Nib Holders :
I always wondered, If a customized grip on the holder, would improve calligraphy? Well! The answer is difficult… I would put it this way… Since the Ergonomic holder helps hold the  holder in a tradition writing stance, it surely  reduces fatigue, but improvement is writing, I have doubts 🙂 … If you already know to write well, then surely an ergonomic holder supplements your hand, better than a regular holder. Since these kind holders are odd shaped, they take a bigger piece of material. Since most of the holders I made are from antique ( nearly 60 year old) pieces of wood, I dint have a bigger piece of true wood to try making an Ergonomic holder … Here one again, Necessity become inventions mom and I tried creating a holder with coconut frond, as these were available in plenty…   The advantage with this fibrous wood is that it is easy to work with, especially considering the weird shape the Ergonomic holder takes.  Having  said that , It is much difficult to get a polished result. Overall it works well!
ergonomic_oblique_nib_holder _02

Bamboo/Reed Pens :
I must say, I m lucky enough to reside at a place where bamboo  is no very abundant but locally-n-easily available , especially the offshoots, that are good for making  a bamboo pen can be got free.  Also making a bamboo reed pen is probably the most easy in its kind.  The main advantage in the task of the making a reed/bamboo pen is that the tools required are minimal, or rather, you just need a good straight edged knife . Simply put , a reed pen must be literally child’s play to make. As i said in my  first post, I wont explain the process of making a reed/bamboo pen, as there are more than plenty “HOW TO DO IT”  blogs and videos on these topics.

bamboo_reed_calligraphy pen_with ink_reservoir_01

I would just like to add a note on partially correcting the ink holding capacity of a simple reed/bamboo nib. You could make a simple ink reservoir for your bamboo reed pen as below.

Also, bamboo can be used as a material to make a regular nib holder. Especially  the beautiful Buddha Belly vareity of bamboo. These holders are especially good for those, who like a very light weighted holder. I also create a version of bamboo holder weighed with a copper collar. I like these very much personally ] See the earlier post  Dip Pen: Making Nib Holders – Part 3 (Straight & Oblique Nib Holder) ]

Buddha Belly Bamboo dip pen holders

Buddha Belly Bamboo dip pen holders

Ink Reservoirs For Dip Pens:
 A, ink reservoir  could be an important addition to your straight pen holder to improve the ink  holding capacity of your dip pen, but finding one to buy online , could be nearly impossible, and shipping it  any third world country will burn a hole bigger than this tiny  but useful addition. Making one for your nib is surely pretty easy , assuming you have already procured your brass sheet to make the Oblique pen holder flange. The image below, is explanatory enough to guide you in creating your own  simple ink reservoir.

Making of a dip pen ink reservoir

Making of a dip pen ink reservoir

Folded Nib Calligraphy Pen:
I wondered why the folded nibs are talked about much, when it is a must have in the calligraphers arsenal of tools. There are several answers to this. From a simple economics point of view its just the a supply and demand situation. Surely , there are a very few calligraphers looking at using one. Well! from a FREAKONOMOICS angle :  The home version of a folded pen is an easy to make option, but people don’t have the time and importantly the patience to sit to create one. They already don’t have enough time to do any calligraphy, with their busy family and work schedules, let alone the tedious task of  converting a coke/pepsi can into a useful folded pen nib.  Since there is existing demand,  straight and oblique nibs are still produced commercially and hence affordably priced but a good brass folded nib is best hand made, hence scarce and rarely found or even talked about.
Folded_nib_calligraphy pen_01

Guess , I babbled too much about economics here, but it was necessary, to understand that a good folded nib is made to look like a lessor child, as  making a good one is hardly commercially viable. I understood this through experience on my quest to make one. I did make simple folded soda can folded pen, but yeah it wont be good enough to command any prime estate on your calligraphy permanently. Thus, I went about trying to create a brass folded nib with some decent holder. The task of cutting , folding , shaping and polishing a .5mm brass sheet, is surely not a task for the torpid kind . Ask those who have tried it already. It took me a decent three plus hours to make a folded brass nib. The task that takes most of the time is endless cycle of shaping, polishing and trying the accuracy of the ink flow.


Links to useful recourses : –

I have put together a few useful links to blogs, videos and online shops , that might help anyone on a similar quest :

A few of the Dip Pen Holder makers who have inspired me into this domain :-


I have discounted too many technical details of the creation process just to keep the post short. If you have any specific questions, please feel free to drop me a line , or message me on FB (https://www.facebook.com/kundernikhil)

#calligraphersindia #calligraphynibholders #obliquenibholder #dippenholder #foldedpens #bambooreedpens

Dip Pen: Making Nib Holders – Part 3 (Straight & Oblique Nib Holder)

Previous post in this series : Dip Pen: Making Nib Holders – Part 2 (Materials)

Straight or Oblique! I believe, anyone reading this post, surely does not need any explaining about the calligraphy nib holder vocabulary. But still, for a person on a quest to make a dip holder, let me just re-iterate. The basic difference between Straight or Oblique Nib holders, apart from the need for a body, is the  is that former one needs a Ferrule (aka : Calligraphy Nib Inserts) and the later one needs a Flange.  If you are making a holder, you will have a make an equivalent of a ferrule or  flange  OR  You could  even buy them ready, if you are living in those parts of  world when just about everything is available online.


Straight Nib Holder :    The straight pen holder is the simpler of the two forms. It just needs a  holder which will take an available calligraphy  nib  at one end.  If it was a quick, make-do straight dip pen holder , you seek , then surely there are tons of item around the house that could easily be worked into a ( viz: old tooth brush,  chopsticks , corn cob skewers, PVC tubes etc.) a straight nib holder.

In the beginning, before giving it all the possible thought, I was intimidated to begin making my own staring holder. I brooded , I  would need to buy some wood and then find a professional lathe machinist to turn into a curvy holder. I almost gave up, when I managed to  procure some sample pieces of a few varieties of wood, from a local saw mill. Part of problem solved, but the problem of getting it turned slender proved to be impossible locally. I went to lengths of making my own little lathe which dint help much. “Where there is a will, there is way” , I started shaping the holders with hand held tools, files, sand paper and then there was no looking back. It takes almost a day to sculpt a single piece. They are not perfect but I can proudly say that my holders are hand made sculptures.

Rose wood dip pen holders

Rose wood dip pen holders

I still haven’t found the ready made ferrules that the straight nib holders could do with. Instead, I have just made some bamboo pegs/plugs that secure the nibs, if need be. Works!

“Necessity is the Mother of Inventions”. The lack of ferrules also prompted me to try out a sleeve/collar kind of arrangement , where  the collar would provide sufficient grip for the nib to hold in its place. This works beautifully too. The accidental benefit that was achieved by this method is that, the use of copper collar makes the holder heavier at the writing end, as preferred by many. I like it!

straight dip pen holders with copper collar for easy removal of nib

straight dip pen holders with copper collar for easy removal of nib


Oblique Nib Holders : While charging ahead with the challenge of making the body for the nib holders, The simultaneous task was  to find the material to make the flange for the oblique holder. I did find a few online, but they were imports that needed paying an arm and leg. I managed to salvage some piece of tin form a lamp shade but it would break on bending a few times , not good enough to work it into a flange. I  did order  online, but they turned out be too flimsy to use. I decided to give PVC a try and it worked. My very first version of the Oblique Nib holder has a flange made from old piece of PCV tubing.


My first attempt at oblique holder , using some tin kind of material

My first attempt at oblique holder , using some tin kind of material

After asking around , finally I did manage to get hold of some decent gauge brass sheet, good enough to turn into flanges for oblique nib holder. Here , I must mention the youtube video that I referred  to  understand the structure of the flange. Its a must see video for those on a similar pursuit,  Yoke Pen Co. – Making an Oblique Flange  . According to this video though, one would need a 0.010 sheet of alloy  C260 Brass . Don’t know if the sheet I have , is of same spec, but it is similar for sure. My Vernier caliper says the sheet is 0.15mm thick  and it is flexible enough to ply it into a flange.  I’m happy for know. Oh yeah! silly requirements still left, I still haven’t found some tiny machine bolts to try and make Bullock Flanges (a version of the oblique holder flange, that can more generic, and can hold even a crow quill nib, re.  the fist picture in this post). This task is still pending , as I write.

The oblique nib holders, comes on various flavors as well. The variations are far to many, as  calligraphers form past and present have been trying to carve the perfect holder. Some examples are The Skeels Oblique Holder, The Gmeiner Contoured Penholder, The Spencerians  etc, the most common one being the Spencerian  .

My last post in this series , is going to about , my ergonomic holder, ink reservoir and the  coconut frond holder  🙂

Useful links :





Dip Pen: Making Nib Holders – Part 2 (Materials)

Link to Dip Pen: Making Nib Holders – Part 1 [2016/08/16]

In this part ,  I will talk about my experience with the Materials for the Body of the Dip Pen Holder.  Since my last post in this series, I have tried a few other materials. One is some very old piece of Rosewood, I had to literally beg to procure a small piece of and second one was just lying around everywhere around me, Coconut Fronds. Since starting an attempt to make dip pen holders, the majority of the time I spent have been researching available and DIY  materials to make the body of the holders.  This second part of the post surely demands  shedding some mystery on the materials used.

I can easily assume that you would have seen and probably used a  plastic(PVC/Acrylic) and Wooden dip pen holders. Apart from these two  doubtlessly the most common materials. There are  some nib holders , old and new that are made from precious metals like Gold and Silver.  Then are few more  bamboo, glass, other metals etc. Acrylic , itself is available in a few of its versions  vig, Lucite, Galalith , Acetate ,  casting compounds (Epoxy Resin, Alumilite etc. super casting kit,  and maybe more.  Wood on the other hand has tons of options Teak, Rosewood, Walnut, Oak   and much much more.

Failed Materials (Marble Powder , Terracotta Clay) :- Having tried wood, bamboo and even some recycled plastic, I gave some  materials like air dry clay, Powdered marble and even terracotta clay a try as a possible candidate for exotic looking dip pens.  They all had their own flaws and probably some flaws on my part in not understanding how to treat them to make them suitable for the job at hand.

I believe , I must give  Marble  Powder and Terracota  another try some day! for now I have decided to put  them to rest.

The successful home made material, Air Dry clay:-  This material came about as a perk of every chaning hobby. Having no clue that I could use it to make some dip pen holders , I had tried making some made Air Dry Clay  ( If you want the recipe, ping me!)  for entirely a different hobby. But  then,  it seemed a possible candidate for making pen holders as they are easy to work and pliable enough to  shape it into any form or shape. and does work . When completely dry ( which might take around a week or more , for the purpose of making holder) , it  works well for a nib holder . Also since it is like a blank canvas, you can blend it , colour it , shape it to your hearts content.  Since one of my interests has been Zentangling, I tried a few doodles on the holder too.

Oblique Dip Pen Holders made from home made air dry clay ... Lighter and slightly flexible

Oblique Dip Pen Holders made from home made air dry clay … Lighter and slightly flexible

The most rewarding material , WOOD :-  Beyond any doubt, Wood has to be The Numero Uno material for making nib holders. I have now  tried  Teak, Rosewood, Pine, Beech,  Mahogany  and a few local varieties.   The  richness of the grains of a good variety of wood, like teak and rosewood , indisputably makes the nib holder look stylish and upmarket. Also it is The Time Tested easily available material.  To begin , I used the ordinarily available batons of teak wood usually used by carpenters for borders and piping  from a local hardware shop ( I only have small one in my village, and he had ample stock of it) . It is available in long lengths ( of 12 feet or so) , but the cross section is around 8mm X 8mm , good enough to make slender  oblique holders, but not so good or rather thick enough to  drill a hole to fit any kind of nib in. Yeah! maybe a crow-quill nib.  Later, I found some proper  but very antique piece of some black wood and a few pieces of rosewood from the local saw mill.

Spanner in the Works :  Not having any local option to turn the wood into  dowels and holders  , I went to extant of building my own small lathe machine. Even spent more than couple of months trying versions of it.  I was partially successful, but the result was nowhere near enough continue down that path. The beauty of working with wood is that you don’t need anything much but a good file and a few sanding (emery/abrasive) paper  of a few different grits and your imagination.  If you  happen to have any rotary tools like Dremel , Minicraft or even a regular  angle grinder , it helps a lot. Also most handmade dip pen holders are not always round . If you wanted to make any sharp/square faces , Or even a ergonomic calligraphy pen , then Lathe is useless! You have to craft it using hand held tools only.

You would even try your own combinations of materials , like combining two/three different varieties of wood , Wood and Acrylic,  wood and Bamboo,  Wood with Metals etc. The possibilities are endless  and each one would come with its own endless merits and demerits too.

Finally,  currently the last material I tried  had been starring at me from every angle, Coconut Fronds .  Living in South India, Coconut fronds are in abundance. Similarly, I bet there will some local material  waiting to be made into nib holders right where you are. Look out for it! Let us know too!

Coconut Frond, Ergonomic nib holder

Coconut Frond, Ergonomic nib holder

Possibilities are endless …

In the next part , I will discuss about the  parts of the  nib holder , that makes it Straight Nib Holder  or an Oblique Nib Holder
#calligraphersindia #calligraphynibholders #obliquenibholder #dippenholder

Dip Pen: Making Nib Holders – Part 1

Making Dip pen holders! Even before I start to pen down some experience , Let me say by saying , “Making a Dip Pen Holder is not at all difficult as it seems. Yes! It does need interest, patience  and the diligence to gather the materials required!”. Also in this series of post, I  do not intend to discuss the process of making these pens in detail as there are tons of YT videos and blogs that already do that. My intention here merely is to inspire any calligraphers ( or even non calligraphers) out there to try their hands into this calligraphy art vertical, making a calligrapher nib holder.

I have come a long way from those days, particularly since past few months, since when I began a quest to make pen holders for myself. I’m still very far from the highly finished products turned on lathe machines by professional Dip Pen Holder makers, but I believe I have a reached a minor milestone in my quest , far enough to share my experience and be of little inspiration to those on the similar path.

I have always been charmed with Dip Pen Holders and the sheer variety of these, one can buy online ranging from just plain plastic/pvc ones to extra-ordinary, exotic hand made wood, glass, acrylic options. I have bought some cheap dip pen holders for a few years now, but I can remember buying by first decent Creatacolor wooden dip pen holder around five years back . Believe it or not , I still haven’t used it, thinking I must save it for occasional writing only, as I dint want to spoil it; just so stupid of me, but it has been an inspiration to create my own dip pen holders. Below are the few holders that I have managed to DIY  , In the past few months ( the amateur mobile pictures, does least justice to the work, but will give the readers a fair idea of the effort) . Story of making these holders will follow in later posts …

Straight and Oblique Dip Pen Holders made out of some very old Burma Teak

Straight and Oblique Dip Pen Holders made out of some very old Burma Teak


Straight and Oblique Dip Pen Holders made out of local teak wood

Straight and Oblique Dip Pen Holders made out of local teak wood

Dip pens made from machine turned wood

Dip pens made from machine turned wood

Straight Nib Holders with a copper sleeve : for easy removal of nib and make the writing end a bit heavier

Straight Nib Holders with a copper sleeve : for easy removal of nib and make the writing end a bit heavier

Oblique Dip Pen Holders made from home made air dry clay ... Lighter and slightly flexible

Oblique Dip Pen Holders made from home made air dry clay … Lighter and slightly flexible


In the next part , will  discuss about the  various materials that could be used to make custom nib holders.

#calligraphersindia #calligraphynibholders #obliquenibholder #dippenholder


Taking Care of the Calligraphy Pen Reservoir

The calligraphy pen is a simple tool that takes considerable application to master. Some pens come with little added extras which may also take some time getting used to.

Some calligraphy pens come with a detachable reservoir and some are permanently fixed. A calligraphy pen reservoir is a little piece of metal fitted to the calligraphy pen nib that increases the amount of ink it holds. You’ll find that it will give you a more even flow of ink. It will also reduce the frequency with which you will have to recharge your pen while working.

The calligraphy pen reservoir might be a detachable piece that can be removed for refilling or cleaning while other pens come with the reservoir permanently attached. Both have their pluses and minuses, but using them is just a matter of trial and error and becoming accustomed to the new tool.

Although a detachable reservoir gives you an easier pen to clean, you also have the responsibility of reassembling the pen carefully. Allowing the reservoir to protrude from the nib will reduce the quality of the ink flow and your work will suffer.

A top-mounted reservoir can prove to be a distraction for some people because it can obscure the vision to the writing edge. There are options available to over come this, such as the Mitchell Roundhand Series pens which have the reservoir permanently mounted to the holder sitting underneath the nib.

Care must also be taken when recharging the reservoir that is permanently attached to the pen. Turn your pen upside down and, either with a paintbrush that has been dipped in ink or with an eyedropper , add the ink to the widest part of the nib. This will allow the ink to fill the space between the nib and the reservoir. Make sure the upper side of the pen nib is ink-free.

Careful application of ink to the nib and reservoir will ensure you maintain a smooth, even flow when lettering and you reduce the risk of leaving large ink blots around your work surface – your lines will be consistently wide.

To clean the reservoir, slide it off and simply rinse it under running water. Soak the nib in a special solvent (such as Higgins Pen Cleaner) overnight and then take an old toothbrush to it to get it clean. Take the soaking nib the next morning and rinse it in cold running water before drying it thoroughly with a towel.

When buying a calligraphy pen with an attached reservoir make sure that you have a close look at the nib and reservoir settings to ensure that the tip of the reservoir hasn’t been bent away from the nib. The flange of the reservoir should sit lightly on top of the pen with little excess air space visible.

As with all important tools, the more care you take with maintenance of your pen, the longer it will remain in good working order

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