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  • Serena Kramer

Nib Prep 101: How to Get Started

Updated: Apr 7, 2023

Are you a newbie to calligraphy and having trouble getting ink to flow off your nib? Or, do you have trouble keeping ink to stay on your nib? You might just need a good nib prep! Preparing a fresh nib for pointed pen calligraphy involves a few simple steps.

Remove the protective coating by:

  • Washing it with soap and water.

  • Gently dry the nib. Be sure to dry the nib thoroughly with a soft cloth or paper towel. Be careful to not bend or damage the tines of the nib.

  • Check the tines for fibers. Be mindful to check the tines for cloth or paper fibers after drying the nib. The tiniest fibers stuck in a nib will drag ink across the paper.

Diagram of a Nikko G Pointed Pen Nib

Other nifty ways to remove the protective coating:

Stick your nib in a potato. Remove the coating by sticking your nib in a potato for about a minute. The acid in the potato eats away at the coating. Don't leave it in there too long, or the acid will destroy the new nib. Use Windex. Remove the coating by spraying a product like Windex — or a fountain pen cleaner— on the nib and wiping it away. Light a match....maybe. Historically, people lit a match and burned off the coating by quickly running the nib over the flame. Generally, I don't recommended this because if you don't do it properly, it could damage or warp your brand new nib. You don't want to damage yourself, either.

Lick it. Some people use their saliva to take the coating off. The enzymes in our saliva are thought to help remove the coating. Just make sure it's your own saliva and not someone else's. That's a pro tip I won't charge you for.

From Nib to Paper: Proper Nib Handling and Ink Use

  1. Attach the nib to your holder. Insert the base of the nib into the holder and make sure it is securely fastened.

  2. Dip the nib into clean, cool water. This helps to remove any residual oils or debris that may be on the nib. Gently dry the nib without bending the tines.

  3. Dip the nib in ink. Hold the nib in calligraphy ink for a few seconds, allowing the ink to flow into the nib. You do not need to get the entire nib wet. The ink should cover the nib just above the vent hole.

  4. Let the nib kiss the ink. Gently let the tip of the nib 'kiss' or touch the ink inside the jar to remove any excess ink. Excess ink will go back into your jar. You want the nib to be wet but not dripping.

  5. Warm up your nib. Start writing on a smooth paper surface, such as a Rhodia pad, using light pressure. This will help open the tines to further prepare the nib's flexibility and get the ink flowing smoothly.

  6. Rinse and Repeat. Remember to always clean your nib after each use to prevent the ink from drying and clogging the nib's vent hole and tines. You can use a soft cloth or paper towel to wipe the nib clean and remove any excess ink. As you write, you will need to re-dip the nib into the ink jar periodically to maintain a consistent flow of ink.

Calligraphy is an art form that is intimately connected with the tools used to create it, and the nib is a crucial element in achieving beautiful and expressive calligraphy.

Metal nibs have been around since ancient Egypt, but they were not widely used because they did not produce as good of quality as reed pens. Metallic nibs did not become widely available until the 18th century when they were mass-produced. And with that, the era of the calligraphy pen was born!


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