If you love calligraphy and have been doing it for a while, I have no doubt that you have a huge collection of nibs. Depending on the type of project (envelopes to quotes to writing on marble tiles), most people have specific nibs they prefer to use. In today’s post I want to talk about some tips on taking care of your calligraphy nibs and when it’s time to replace them. These are tips that have worked for me and I hope you find them useful.
1. Always prep your new nibs before use. Check out my blog post here on how to prep your nibs.
2. When dipping the nib in ink, only dip to the vent hole and make sure no ink or water gets in the flange of the pen holder. If you accidentally get water or ink in the flange, immediately remove the nib from the holder and let both the nib and pen holder dry thoroughly.
3. After you are done with your calligraphy work for the day, clean the ink completely off the nib and dry the nib completely. Its important to make sure that ink does not dry and cake on the nib as this will affect the performance of the nib. Secondly, make sure the nib is completely dry before storing in a container as wet nibs can become rusty. I typically store my nibs in a nib tin but you can store them in so many things (used prescription bottles, small mason jars, mint tins, etc.).
4. Always remove your nib from the holder after you are done practicing and store the holder and nib separately. The primary reason why I do this is because if during my practice I got ink or a little water in the flange, the nib would get stuck in the flange if I did not remove it to allow the flange to dry. The flange can also get rusted if water gets in it and make it impossible to get the nib out of it. Depending on the type of pen holder, it can also crack (see picture below) if you get too much water and ink in the penholder.
5. Use different nibs for different types of ink. Iron gall inks (like walnut ink) are acidic and will wear the nib out much faster than using india ink or sumi ink. The particles in metallic inks, depending on the ink type, tend to stick to nibs and require that the nib be cleaned more often. I get the best results if I keep a separate nib just for metallic inks.
Now that we have talked about how to take care of calligraphy nibs, let’s talk about how to know when its time to retire a nib. Depending on the frequency of use, you can have nibs that last 6 months to some that last 2 years. The best way to tell if it’s time to retire a nib is to see how well the nib is writing. Is the ink flowing well from the nib? Are the thin upstrokes thin and continuous or are they skipping? Another suggestion I learned from a fellow calligrapher is to make a writing sample with your new nibs and then compare them to your older nibs!