Author Topic: The characteristics of different broad-edge dip pen nib brands?  (Read 216 times)

Offline Chessie

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I've been trying to find a nib that 'suits' me for dip-pen use and it's proving a bit of a conundrum.  I do most of my practice on 32 lbs HP Premium paper, but that won't reflect on eventual projects very much.  Has anyone done or seen a review of the various brands of nib?  I picked up the John Neal Books sampler and these are my impressions:

Speedball - it's sort of 'the default'.  Cheap, easy to use, but it feels cheap and requires more set-up than Tape or Brause.  I couldn't get my head around the Mitchell reservoir, though that's probably me being a tad thick.  If there's a set-up video somewhere for that, it might help.  Brause seems very stiff and aggressive.  Tape is lovely, but the slanted edge seems to take some mental adjustment every time I pick it up.

I cannot fathom the Tachikawa nibs.  A reservoir and pressure from the bottom?  Hrmph.

If anyone has any feelings or opinions on nib brands, some deeper examination from people who use them regularly would be very helpful. 
« Last Edit: March 19, 2023, 09:09:44 AM by Chessie »

Offline Erica McPhee

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Re: The characteristics of different broad-edge dip pen nib brands?
« Reply #1 on: March 19, 2023, 11:44:55 AM »
I prefer Tape but my broad pen - old school calligraphy friends - prefer Mitchell. It wears in nicely and has a smooth but crisp line.

Excellent video from Vivian showing how to prepare broad nibs and explains the Mitchell nib. She has other great broad pen videos as well.

Truly, Erica
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Offline Erica McPhee

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Re: The characteristics of different broad-edge dip pen nib brands?
« Reply #2 on: March 19, 2023, 11:45:30 AM »
Here she compares dip pen vs parallel.

Truly, Erica
Lettering/Design Artist, Homeopath, Photographer, Mom, Wife
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Offline K-2

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Re: The characteristics of different broad-edge dip pen nib brands?
« Reply #3 on: March 19, 2023, 06:40:54 PM »
Glad to have another broad edge aficionado on the Forum, @Chessie

Here's my 2 on broad edge nibs. Okay, I won't lie - I have a lot of feels about broad edge nibs, and I'm a teacher, and well... you asked.

Every broad edge nib (including fountain pen models) has some virtues and some drawbacks - I usually make the choice based on a variety of factors.  I use them all from time to time for different projects.  I'm going to focus on the ones you and @Erica McPhee mentioned, with a word about broad edge fountain pens too.

Speedballs are fine - they're good for beginners, because they hold a lot of ink and they're easy to start. But they don't make super crisp lines.  Also, the way the reservoirs are attached (and not practical to remove) makes them really hard to clean and dry thoroughly (which, er. I get it. I'm a little extra about cleaning & drying my nibs), so they tend to rust out faster.

Tachikawa (I assume you're talking about the C nibs) have chrome plating, so they stand up to sumi (and other highly lacquered and/or more corrosive inks) a lot better, but once that coating gets breached, it's all over. The under+over reservoirs really help you get some mileage with the very wide nibs (I don't really use the small ones), and you can feed different color inks into them to get some ombre blending. I know a lot of Manga artists that use them for lettering and for drawing, and when I use them, it's almost always for drawing, rather than for lettering. They can be hard to start.

Brause are oblique cut and pretty stiff - like Speedballs, they're good for beginners, the reservoirs help them hold a lot of ink, come off easy for cleaning, and they're pretty easy to start when they're new.

Hiro Tape Nibs (Leonardt) are not quite as stiff as Brause, but not nearly as flexy as Mitchell; also oblique cut. They're my first choice for beginners (except for lefties); they're easy to start without much nib prep. The reservoirs hold a lot of ink, meter out thinner inks well, and also come off easily for cleaning. They don't last long in certain types of sumi ink no matter how well you clean them though. I actually really like these for Italics (not so much for blackletter though).

Mitchell to me (and a lot of other broad edge calligraphers) are the gold standard - quite flexible and square cut (I prefer square cut), they feel and behave more like feather quills than any other metal nib on the market. Super sharp lines (and you can gently sharpen them as well), but a little hard to start. I hate the reservoirs and don't use them; they impair the flexiness, and make the starts even harder.

Mitchell Witch Pens! (which you didn't mention, but which I like a lot) - If you've never seen them, google it; it's easier than me trying to describe them. I'll wait. (https://www.paperinkarts.com/miwipe.html). Super flexy broad edge nibs. And with these, the railroading is a feature, not a bug! A little pressure, and you have a split nib. Hairlines from the corners. Big reservoir built in. My go-to for making fancy blackletter capitals, versals, etc.

Parallel (fountain pen) - fantastically fun to use! I have them in all the sizes and all the mods (except for the oblique cuts). You can mix the inks by touching the nibs together or touching the nib to a drop of ink. Great for ombre effects, for inks with shimmer and sheen and duo-tone properties. You can refill the empty cartridges with a blunt syringe or mod the nibs into an Opus 88 body. Easy to mod, easy to use, easy to clean. SO easy to clean that you can use practically any ink/paint in them. even bleed proof white. even gouache. even Dr Martin's shimmers, as long as you pull the nib unit out and clean them out right away. Yeah - they'll never make a line as sharp as a Mitchell, but they do so many cool and fun things, and when you're working at a large enough scale, those hairlines need to be proportional anyway. Yeah, they look & feel like toys - I don't care; I stan Pilot Parallels. Fite me.

But you know - I also like those Manuscript italic/broad edge calligraphy fountain pens, and the Sailor Compass HighAce Neo fountain pens. They don't make as crisp and elegant a line, but when I'm doing layout and I just want to know my word/line count and get things drawn out, I don't want to be dipping all the time. Also, you can put fountain pen ink into them!  We are living in a golden age for fountain pen ink, and the special features of contemporary fountain pen inks show off best in broad edge calligraphy.

--yours, K

Offline AnasaziWrites

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Re: The characteristics of different broad-edge dip pen nib brands?
« Reply #4 on: March 22, 2023, 11:35:21 AM »
@K-2
Any thoughts on the Gillott's?

Offline K-2

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Re: The characteristics of different broad-edge dip pen nib brands?
« Reply #5 on: March 22, 2023, 04:35:45 PM »
Cool vintage set, @AnasaziWrites - I've never used broad edge Gillott nibs before, only the pointed pens (which I really like).  I'm seeing that the #1.5 and #2 look to be oblique cut, which I'm not a huge fan of, except for modern italics.  I wonder how they compare with the Mitchells; they have a very similar shape to the Mitchells (except for the oblique cut); I wonder how the metal compares.  I'll have to look for some of those on the vintage market to try out!

Offline AnasaziWrites

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Re: The characteristics of different broad-edge dip pen nib brands?
« Reply #6 on: March 22, 2023, 05:34:05 PM »
Cool vintage set, @AnasaziWrites - I've never used broad edge Gillott nibs before, only the pointed pens (which I really like).  I'm seeing that the #1.5 and #2 look to be oblique cut, which I'm not a huge fan of, except for modern italics.  I wonder how they compare with the Mitchells; they have a very similar shape to the Mitchells (except for the oblique cut); I wonder how the metal compares.  I'll have to look for some of those on the vintage market to try out!
@K-2
I'll save you the trouble. They don't come up for sale very often, and I have two of these cards. I'll send you one.

Offline K-2

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Re: The characteristics of different broad-edge dip pen nib brands?
« Reply #7 on: March 22, 2023, 10:02:37 PM »
Oh my, @AnasaziWrites - what a generous gesture! I'll make you something with them! (will also post to the Forum, in the public interest)

In the meantime, here's a piece I just did with a Mitchell Witch Pen (4mm nib - they have numbers, but mine wore off) and Diamine's "Winter Miracle" ink (from the 2019 Inkvent set) - on kind of cheap, low-quality watercolor paper. I made it this past weekend for a colleague who wanted it as part of an elaborate prank on another colleague, so it's not super refined work. Yes, academics have strange senses of humor.  It gives a tiny hint of the split-nib effects you can pull out with it, and it's a good demo of the sharp line quality.

Offline Chessie

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Re: The characteristics of different broad-edge dip pen nib brands?
« Reply #8 on: March 26, 2023, 07:17:02 AM »
Out of curiosity, what do you use for guidelines when doing this? A light box?  Another piece of paper with the lines on behind the one you're writing on?  Just eyeballing it?  It looks too precise to just be eyeballed.

Offline K-2

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Re: The characteristics of different broad-edge dip pen nib brands?
« Reply #9 on: March 26, 2023, 02:11:35 PM »
Hi, @Chessie - Yes, guidelines! Whenever possible I use a light table with printed or drawn guidelines under the writing surface to avoid the potential for smudging when erasing guidelines. I have a whole stack of printed guidelines for various scripts, grids and spirals, but if it's a more complicated layout, I'll draw the layout with guidelines on tracing paper to use as the under-drawing.

Of course, you can't do that on a writing surface that is dark or opaque, so then I draw the guidelines with a chalk marker (like the kind for dressmaking) or non-photo blue pencil.

Here's a better look at the split nib effect you can get with a Mitchell Witch Pen (which I felt bad for hyping and then not showing) - Ink: Diamine Gold Star (2019 Inkvent) with a bit of gum arabic, on a scrap of watercolor paper. Not terribly well done, I'm afraid - I'm dealing with an elbow injury from shoveling snow (trying to heave it up to the top of the 5-ft snowbanks still lining the walks and the drive). But friends, the Northern Lights gave us such a show the other night, I don't regret the six months of solid winter we've had. Seriously, it started snowing in October this year - our @Erica McPhee expressed dismay about it during Inktober. I got in a drawing of our annual dog sled race with Aurora Borealis in the background for Inkvent. And still more snow to come this week.

Chessie - is it still snowy in your part of Wisconsin?

Offline Chessie

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Re: The characteristics of different broad-edge dip pen nib brands?
« Reply #10 on: March 26, 2023, 03:29:18 PM »
Hi, @Chessie - Yes, guidelines! Whenever possible I use a light table with printed or drawn guidelines under the writing surface to avoid the potential for smudging when erasing guidelines. I have a whole stack of printed guidelines for various scripts, grids and spirals, but if it's a more complicated layout, I'll draw the layout with guidelines on tracing paper to use as the under-drawing.

Of course, you can't do that on a writing surface that is dark or opaque, so then I draw the guidelines with a chalk marker (like the kind for dressmaking) or non-photo blue pencil.

Here's a better look at the split nib effect you can get with a Mitchell Witch Pen (which I felt bad for hyping and then not showing) - Ink: Diamine Gold Star (2019 Inkvent) with a bit of gum arabic, on a scrap of watercolor paper. Not terribly well done, I'm afraid - I'm dealing with an elbow injury from shoveling snow (trying to heave it up to the top of the 5-ft snowbanks still lining the walks and the drive). But friends, the Northern Lights gave us such a show the other night, I don't regret the six months of solid winter we've had. Seriously, it started snowing in October this year - our @Erica McPhee expressed dismay about it during Inktober. I got in a drawing of our annual dog sled race with Aurora Borealis in the background for Inkvent. And still more snow to come this week.

Chessie - is it still snowy in your part of Wisconsin?

Yes, unfortunately still quite snowy.  We had enough to knock out power for a few hours last night which almost never happens down here in Madison.  Still, it'll be over soon! 

Looking at the sample you sent me - I would never know you had an elbow injury.  I am so very novice that evaluating other people's writing is nigh impossible: it looks absolutely stunning and the particular ink is gorgeous. 

I've been gradually accumulating a collection of printed guidelines and was - for some reason - worried I was cheating somehow by using those and was going to stunt my development in some way.  They make everything much easier and more consistent.  It's good to hear that's the correct way to go about things. 

I've seen the 'split nib' appear in a few of my attempts to use the Mitchell nibs and it's a very cool effect.  Those nibs certainly feel tighter and more controllable.  It took me a bit to figure out precisely how to load and start them without a reservoir attached, but once I did the difference in the quality of serifs and lines is very noticeable.   @jeanwilson pointed out to me that I should have been doing all of this on some form of padded surface rather than the rock hard glass drafting table I've been using.  It turns out that causes ink flows to be a bit unpredictably aggressive.  I dumped a whole pen-full of ink on my page several times yesterday.  Not ideal, but that's why I'm here - learning from better calligraphers. 

SO!  Having dug out an old desk-sized mouse-pad I am going to give the Mitchell nibs another test today and see what they can do.  They're certainly easier to clean than Speedball or Tachikawa.  Thank you so much for sharing.  This forum has been incredibly friendly and useful.

Offline AnasaziWrites

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Re: The characteristics of different broad-edge dip pen nib brands?
« Reply #11 on: March 26, 2023, 04:33:07 PM »
@jeanwilson pointed out to me that I should have been doing all of this on some form of padded surface rather than the rock hard glass drafting table I've been using.  It turns out that causes ink flows to be a bit unpredictably aggressive.  I dumped a whole pen-full of ink on my page several times yesterday.  Not ideal, but that's why I'm here - learning from better calligraphers. 

SO!  Having dug out an old desk-sized mouse-pad I am going to give the Mitchell nibs another test today and see what they can do.  They're certainly easier to clean than Speedball or Tachikawa.  Thank you so much for sharing.  This forum has been incredibly friendly and useful.
@Chessie
In the event your mouse pad is too soft (mine certainly is), try 3-5 sheets of regular copy paper or 2-3 sheets of thicker 32 lb Laser paper. I use a single sheet of blotting paper, which allows light through when using a light pad (Artograph). There are opaque options also, like leather desk pads (Mike Ward makes a nice one--
https://mrmgward.com/
« Last Edit: March 26, 2023, 05:45:50 PM by AnasaziWrites »

Offline K-2

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Re: The characteristics of different broad-edge dip pen nib brands?
« Reply #12 on: March 26, 2023, 07:24:29 PM »
@Chessie - This is my favorite tool for using with the glass-topped light-table that I work on.  It is a translucent sh*tajiki printed with a 5mm grid: https://www.jetpens.com/Sun-Star-Grid-sh*tajiki-Writing-Board-A4/pd/13000. It cushions and provides guidelines all at the same time - but you have to use it with the light table to see the guidelines.

If you're getting railroading with the regular Mitchell nibs, you're probably pressing too hard - the split nib action is with the Witch pens, which are designed to split. If you over-flex the regular ones, they'll wear out faster - but they're not expensive, so it's not that big of a deal.
« Last Edit: March 26, 2023, 07:26:52 PM by K-2 »