Scribbling and Scratching

A few more words on the subject of the dip pen. I have come to the conclusion that a large part of my recent success is down to preparation of the nib. I had been putting a new nib in my mouth as a method of preparing it but I read that some of the coatings used were not conducive to good health if licked so I looked for another way of making the nib ready for use.

I read somewhere on the internet that one method was to pass the nib through a flame. I hunted through the house and found a cigarette lighter that had been kept since my husband stopped smoking ten years ago. I never throw anything away that might be useful which is why we live in incredible clutter.

Anyway, I immersed a nib in the gas flame. Burned my fingers the first time and held the nib with pliers after that! It was a resounding success! I then tried it with a nib that did not have any kind of reservoir: an Esterbrook Relief. On immersion it picked up a good supply of ink and delivered it to the page as evenly as one could wish. I’m delighted as this suggests that I can use most nibs.

At first I used a vintage ink, a very old Stephens in a glass bottle, which might have evaporated a little over the 90 or so years it has been around. That was quite messy and not really a success. I might take advice I have kindly been given and water it down. Waterman’s Absolute Brown was my next choice and that worked perfectly.

This blog is about fountain pens and I don’t intend to be a bore about the dip pen but I am enjoying learning something new. I may report from time to time about my progress in the hope that it may help others who take an interest in the dip pen but that will be all. It might be indicative of where my real interest lies that I’m drafting this article with a 1980s Platinum long-short rather than a dip pen.

9 thoughts on “Scribbling and Scratching

  1. Hi, Deb. No need to make excuses for these posts on steel nibs. It’s very useful knowledge for any fountain pen enthusiast. Thank you, and cheers.

  2. I tried your nib improvement idea using my wife’s candle lighting dofer and it worked a treat. I use fountain pens mainly but I also have a dip pen as a dip was the first pen I was given as a child. I could never manage to write without blots being a lefty and clumsy so as an elderly adult I thought I’d try again and finally I can write without the blots. The little things make us happy.

  3. Deb. I’m gonna inject a note of controversy here.
    Unlike argument that the ballpoint succeeded the fountain pen , and was the harbinger of the decline of the possibility of beautiful handwriting, the dip pen was replaced with the fountain pen, which not only duplicated the qualities and performance of the dipper, but improved it substantially in every respect.
    I love writing with dippers, and have quite a collection of them, but I also have many FPs that can duplicate and in some cases run rings around even the best dip pen.
    My point is, sometimes the next iteration in the development of a product is a huge improvement, allowing us to move on with deference and respect for what led to the current development.
    Hanging on to fountain pens for their ability to produce beautiful writing is not misplaced nostalgia….it just makes sense because what came after was a backward step , largely to allow convenience at the expense of handwriting.
    Again, I love dippers, but fountain pens do it so much better. 👍🏻

    1. I agree that the fountain pen was in every sense an improvement on what had gone before though some calligraphers frequently say that no fountain pen can equal some dip nibs for flexibility. Not my area so I can’t confirm that or deny it. Of course I don’t use dip pens from practicality but because their use has a certain charm and the different nib types produce interesting effects. The ballpoint was an improvement in business note-taking because it was so convenient – especially the Bic – but not in any other sense.

  4. I do find that with the heavier grade Khadi papers that I love to use that Dip Nib experiences are hit and miss. Khadi is fairly expensive. Ink spillage from the nib or spidery ink crawl is annoying. I found a roll of heavy lining wallpaper in which to simply cut to workable A4 size and experiment. Keen on dip nibs as much as you are. Fountain pens too. As someone suggested here. The ease of writing with them is really important. Writing in several patients’ notes when I was a nurse was very tiring. The fountain pen was vital. Beginning to build and profile catalogue of individual dip nibs with certain inks used and named so to identify those that truly are a combination dream to write with. Reservoirs are the answer in most cases for ink longevity aren’t they? But some nibs are so well designed, Esterbrook 314 relief, a Mitchell Flexible, Smoothline USA for example, that they glide all on their own. You used the word ‘scratching’. Really apt. That ambient sound is pretty therapeutic. Great read here. And thanks for the candle flame advice. Makes sense. I’ve used soap and water before. Cheers.

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