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Cold Wax range now available
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Main parts of a Dip Pen Nib.

shank and tines of a cito fein dip pen nibA typical Dip Pen Nib has four main parts: The Shank, also known as the base or heel - this is the section that goes into the pen/nib holder. The Tip - which is the point of the nib - this is divided by a split, the parts either side of the split are called Tines: The Vent or breather hole - the split runs from the tip to the vent.
The 'Elastic' is the name given to the response of the tines of the nib, this gives the 'bend-ability', 'springiness' or 'elasticity' of the tines as we use the nib. Often termed as 'high elastic', 'elastic' and 'low elastic' these terms refer to hand pressure.

Hand Pressure.

We all use different hand pressure when writing, this in turn affects the response of the nib tines to our hand. You may be wondering - is there any guide to our own hand pressure?

Perhaps the easiest way to check hand pressure is the following:- Using a HB pencil, write on a sheet of A4 plain, light weight paper (90 gm), fold the paper in half before writing. Place the folded paper on a table or hard surface and write a couple of sentences, in your normal writing style. Now check the reverse of the paper to see how much it has been 'impressed' by you and the pencil, also check the folded half to see if an impression has been made on it.

If the pressure has caused the paper to be impressed and an impression is showing on the folded half, this would indicate a fair amount of pressure - often expressed as a 'heavy hand'.

If on checking the reverse side of the written paper, the paper is slightly impressed but there is little impression showing on the folded half , this would indicate 'normal hand' pressure.

For a person with a 'light hand' pressure, there would be very little or no indication of the written paper being impressed.

Knowing your own hand pressure helps when choosing the 'elastic' of the nib. The 'manufactures' write up of the nib usually relates to a 'normal hand' pressure, if you are reading someone else's write up, it's best to know their hand pressure in order to evaluate it.

As a general guide.

Someone with a 'light hand' will often use nibs with 'high elastic'. These nib are delicate, responsive and easily damaged, it takes very little pressure to bend/open the tines. The nib action often feels 'soft' and 'too springy' for a 'normal hand'.

Someone with a 'heavy hand' will often prefer a stiffer nib with 'low elastic'. These nibs are robust and responsive, it takes more than normal hand pressure to bend/open the tines. The nib action often feels 'strong' and 'stiff' to a 'normal hand'.

For the 'normal hand' just the term 'elastic' if used, 'normal hand' pressure can bend/open the tines of these responsive nibs. They feel neither 'too soft or strong' and they neither 'too stiff or springy', but the 'elastic' of the nib often varies slightly with different makers.

I would suggest you try as many different nibs as possible, dip pen nibs are not usually expensive. Try for at least three different types - that allow you to comfortably express your lines.

Different tips.

The 'tip' of dip pen nibs for drawing tend to fall into two main categories - ones that have a 'needle point' (tip) and those with a more blunt point and usually have a rounded/ball nib tip.

This shows the underside of the Gillott 303 nib, a 'needle point tip'.
underside gillott 303 needle point

This shows the underside of the Brause Cito Fein, a 'rounded tip'.
 underside cito fein nib round tip

If you are looking to produce fine 'hair-like' lines, then a sharp 'needle point' tip is the best choice. Nibs with a 'rounded' tip will give fine lines but because of the larger area of the rounded tip, which supplies more ink to the paper, they will not give 'hair-like' lines.

The Gillott drawing nibs and their equivalent, are often the preferred nib for 'pen and ink' work. With these expressive nibs you can achieve from fine, hair-like lines to wide 'chunky' lines. For anyone new to using these 'needle point' nibs, the first problem is the 'scratchy' feel when in use and for that reason alone may people give up on them. This is a shame, because these nibs are well worth persevering with, especially if you want those 'fine ink lines'!

Like any new instrument you use, it can be strange and different at first. One way that may help you to ignore 'the scratchiness', is to think about what you are doing with the ink and not the nib you are using. That may sound a strange thing to say - but the more you think about the sound and feel of the nib, the less you think about the marks you are trying to make! The more you use the nib, the more it becomes a friend.

An Example of line thickness. drawing using a gillott 170 nib

I would consider myself to have a 'normal hand' - this close-up picture shows the 'elasticity' of the Joseph Gillott 170, from fine to wide lines.

 thick and thin lines using a gillott 170 nib




To give an idea of the scale, it is a very small part of this quick pen and ink sketch on the right, which measure approx. 3" x 2"

lines with gillott 303 nib
A few lines with the Joseph Gillott 303, showing the variable line width possibilities.

These Joseph Gillott nibs are also used for Copperplate and other writing styles and fit into the Joseph Gillott Drawing Pen Holder.

Dip pen nibs   Nib holders   Ink selection   Dip pen nib and holder sets  Vintage Dip pen nibs


Copyright Jacqui Blackman 2005    Page copy protected against web site content infringement by Copyscape


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