Author Topic: Mitchell Nib Question  (Read 4007 times)

Offline Karl H.

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Mitchell Nib Question
« on: September 14, 2019, 01:56:05 PM »
Hi Everyone,

This has probably been done to death, but I'm coming from it at a different angle.  I'm having problems with ink flow with my Mitchells... what else is new?  I've done the usual things: scrubbing with a toothbrush and baking soda and/or toothpaste; dipped them in acetone (complete bath, not a 'tip-dip'), ultrasonic, even a lighter (briefly... don't want to alter the temper.)  I finally got out my loupe and took a close look at this troublemaker... and was surprised to see that the edge does not form a straight line, as with Speedball or Tachikawa and others; it's a very shallow inverted "V", with the apex at the slit.  The two corners of the tines touch the paper first, and I have to press down on the nib to get full contact with the paper, but then the slit opens up, and the ink 'retreats,' and no line on the paper.  I can get it started, and it writes well enough, if I start from a wet ink mark (such as inverting it and making a mark, then turning it back and making a stroke,)  but that's tedious and shouldn't be necessary.

Also, I need advice on the reservoirs... if I load the nib up and do manage to get a line, it pretty much just dumps the contents of the nib at once, resulting in a huge blot, then nothing afterwards.  By fussing with the amount of 'shake-off' or drag across the bottle lip, I can get maybe one decent letter before having to re-dip.

I'm beginning to think that these nibs aren't worth the trouble; I have no trouble whatever with my other broads, just these guys.

So, is that 'inverted-V' normal for these nibs, or do I have an aberration here?  And where/how exactly should the reservoir be set, or is that really a trial and error process influenced by the ink and paper being used.... are they just fussy in general, and it's a 'love-em-or-hate-em' proposition?  Or am I being dumb and completely overlooking something?

Thanks for your help!

Offline Katie Leavens

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Re: Mitchell Nib Question
« Reply #1 on: September 14, 2019, 11:03:40 PM »
My Mitchells are scratchier than others. Iíve honed the top side a bit wet on the back of a plate and that seems to help. Sounds like yours is particularly bad though, because my ink flows quite easily. So you may want to try with a new nib. It may be a dud.

As for the reservoir, they should be pretty close to the writing edge. Maybe a mm? If itís dumping on you it may be too close. I also find that it gets in the way of a crisp line on the smaller nibs (like maybe 4 and smaller).

Hope this helps. 

Offline jeanwilson

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Re: Mitchell Nib Question
« Reply #2 on: September 15, 2019, 07:42:56 AM »
Where you describe the edge as a shallow inverted v - that sounds like the reservoir is too tight -pinching the two sides together- and needs adjusting.
My two main teachers of broad edge always had pliers and we learned how to adjust the reservoir so that it would not squeeze the two sides together.
It has to be just tight enough to stay on - and no tighter than that.
To gauge how close to the tip to slide the reservoir - you want it back far enough so that you can't see it on the left and right shoulder of nib.
So, you slide it forward - to where you can see it - then slide it back until it just disappears.

Quite a few people find Mitchells to be friendly - but I can see how it could be difficult to figure out these little tricks without someone showing you in person.
Have you looked for videos on YouTube -
it's possible that someone has posted a video on the reservoir adjustment and positioning.

As always, you want to be sure you have friendly ink and paper.
But the problem you describe sounds like it is mostly the reservoir.
Some people prefer other broad edge nibs - Hiro Tapes are pretty beginner friendly.

Offline K-2

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Re: Mitchell Nib Question
« Reply #3 on: September 15, 2019, 02:19:15 PM »
I think Jean has it exactly right about the reservoir.  I use Mitchells almost exclusively for my broad edge work (which is most of my work), because of all the broad edge nibs, they feel most like tempered feather quills to write with (I think they were designed with that goal), with the pros and cons to match.  They are quite flexible, just like quills, but not so much with the reservoir attached.  For that reason, I almost never use the reservoirs and just dip more often, like a quill.  Even without the reservoir, they hold a decent amount of ink though, so if you can't get the reservoir to work, try it without.

I also think that every nib has its favorite ink, and in my experience, Moon Palace sumi works better with them than the Kuretake or Tachekawa brands.

Offline Karl H.

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Re: Mitchell Nib Question
« Reply #4 on: September 15, 2019, 09:50:59 PM »
Thanks everyone for your replies,

Hi Jean... mixed results with the reservoirs deforming the nib.  No reservoir, they're almost perfectly straight across.  Reservoir on, the "V" becomes much more pronounced, so you hit that one right on the head!  I noted that the mounting tabs on my reservoirs aren't parallel to the sides of the nib; they're closer together towards the front of the reservoir than towards the rear of the reservoir... they're 'twisted,' so that most of the sqeeze is happening at the front edge of the tab (closest to the business end of the nib), which is definitely squeezing the nib into that "V" shape.  I twisted them so they're parallel to the nib sides, and played with the degree of inward bend until they just held onto the nib, and were quite easy to slide back and forth (but still stayed where put.)  This did improve the nib performance greatly, but they're still difficult to get started... I have to wiggle the edge back and forth a tiny bit to establish ink flow, then they write pretty well... still fairly temperamental, though.  I think I'm going to give 'em a go without the reservoirs to see if they behave any better, as K-2 suggested.

This behavior has been with walnut, sumi, iron gall, and acrylic inks, so I don't think the ink is at issue.  I've been using laser copy paper, fairly heavy and quite smooth, for all of this.  It's what I use for all my practice and layout work across the board, and so far only the Mitchells have been troublesome.

I was under the impression that the Mitchells were made of bronze; the color is certainly close to that of bronze.  However, they're magnetic, so obviously they can't be bronze!  Is that brownish color a coating that must be completely removed, so the nib is silver?  I haven't done that; I've used toothpaste, baking soda, acetone, flame, and the color remains.

I'm going to go scour YouTube for anything on getting Mitchells to work now!

Offline Ergative

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Re: Mitchell Nib Question
« Reply #5 on: September 16, 2019, 03:35:58 AM »
1. I find that with Brause broad-edge nibs too I need to wiggle a little back and forth to get the flow started, and when I see people post exquisite videos of their own broad-edge work on instagram, they often do that too. A little starting-wiggle might just be par for the course.

2. For broad-edge work, I find that paper with just a little bit of tooth to it seems to worker better, so you might find better results if you have a slightly less smooth paper.
Clara

Offline jeanwilson

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Re: Mitchell Nib Question
« Reply #6 on: September 16, 2019, 08:23:31 AM »
I agree on trying a different paper. While people hesitate to use good paper for practice - you might try some nicer paper to see what happens. For what it's worth -- if you are getting much better results on nicer paper - you might want to use nice paper even for practice. Fill up every square inch and then turn it over and fill the other side. If you have any nice paper that was going to be a finished piece of art but you made a mistake. Save it and use all the blank space for practice. At a certain point, you need to put in some hours on nice paper so that you are familiar with it when you do get around to doing something important. It's like a dressmaker who spends 20 years working only with muslin - fearful of messing up on the good stuff- and then gets a job to make a silk dress. She'll probably struggle because she does not have any experience working on silk. You do need to get the feel of good papers.

That wiggle back and forth to get the ink flowing is something I took for granted because every style I learned (in the beginning) had a serif where you did slide the nib at the beginning to make the serif. Fifteen years into my journey, I was on the committee who agreed to letter all the name tags for one of the international conferences. The committee head sent us an exemplar that had serif-less foundational. There were 4 of us living in different cities doing the name tags. We started emailing back and forth about how hard it was to leave the serifs off. As luck would have it, Sheila Waters was scheduled to teach a workshop and I was the hostess. During our visit, I mentioned how the serif-less foundational was giving us fits. She explained that any time you put a broad edge nib to the paper, it -needs- to have a slide (like the wiggle) to get the ink flowing.

I agree that using a Mitchell without the reservoir can be a very satisfying experience. People tend to fuss if they have to dip too often. I say - get over it.  On top of that, I say, unless you are using a very thin ink, such as walnut ink, try loading your nib with a brush without getting anything on the top of the nib. I would never dip a Mitchell into gouache. Sure it works - but you get such a nice crisp line when all the fluid is on the underside of the nib. Yes it is fussy and takes time. But the results are so worth it. Why the rush? If you are in a hurry, use your computer.

Do you have an Arkansas stone? It is pretty easy to get a nice edge on Mitchells. One of the reasons I liked them was that I could sharpen them easily. If you want details - I can explain how I do it - with the disclaimer that there are probably other people who do it differently. I can't imagine that you really need to do much to the entire nib. Usually, a quick cleaning at the beginning is sufficient.



Offline Karl H.

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Re: Mitchell Nib Question
« Reply #7 on: September 19, 2019, 10:02:52 AM »
Thanks, everyone, for the continued support and suggestions.

Okay, having watched a fair amount of YouTube videos (I always thought of YouTube as a colossal time waster; I now stand corrected), I do see that most people using broad-edged nibs of any kind do indeed give a little scrub-wiggle to initiate ink flow, so I'll just accept that as a condition of using broad-edged nibs in general.  As has been said, "get over it."  Done.

Jean, I'm sure you're right about using good-quality paper; I allowed myself to get "stuck" on the paper we used in my classes; figured if it was good enough for the teacher, who was I to go and change things?  Can you recommend from personal experience a decent quality paper for practice?  There are so many to choose from, and of course they're all written up with glowing descriptions (nobody's gonna say 'ehhh, this paper's okay... there's better' or anything like that), so it makes choosing a good paper kind of a shot in the dark.  I do all my purchasing via internet, as it's quite a haul to anywhere that has brick-and-mortar art supply store.  John Neal is my primary go-to, followed by Paper & Ink Arts, and some others I've stumbled across.

I don't mind having to refill the nib... and I do use a brush and 'paint' the backside of the nib.  For me, calligraphy is almost a meditation; it's the time spent, not the results produced, or the volume of production.  I just plain enjoy doing it, and if it turns out really well, fine; if not, well, it's practice.  I'd rather produce a small volume of crisp, sharp, good-looking lettering than many pages of "meh" lettering.  I target shoot as well (pellet guns, using compressed air as a propellant), and there's lots of folks who like to step up to the firing line and just hose lead downrange as fast as they can pull the trigger... then complain about their crummy accuracy.  I take several seconds to squeeze off a single shot, and they ask why I can send a dozen pellets through one small hole.  Same outlook, different application.  It's just another discipline, and requires the same basic principles.

Yes, I have Japanese water stones, Arkansas stones, and diamond lapping plates (I sharpen chisels and our kitchen cutlery, a never ending job), so I'm able to put an edge on just about anything!  I'd appreciate learning your technique for getting a good, usable edge on a nib.  I've tried it with erratic results, so there's something I'm missing.

Offline jeanwilson

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Re: Mitchell Nib Question
« Reply #8 on: September 20, 2019, 08:35:03 AM »
Yes - lots of people are perfectly happy with copy paper. Teachers (including me) do not want to give the impression that you have to buy expensive paper. Surprisingly, the paper that I really enjoy with broad edge is Mead notebook paper. I'm not sure they sell much with the Mead name any more - it's the 5-Star brand of notebook paper. It's the most expensive of the notebook papers, but -to me- it feels so much better than copy paper. You have to find what feels right to you. If you try something different and it doesn't feel better - there is no reason to switch. But if you never try anything new - then you never find out if there is a tactile sensation that is better.

And then there is the ink. I like walnut ink on 5-Star notebook paper. My favorite ink for broad edge is grind your own with an ink stick. Sumi ink is OK. Gouache is nice - but not on notebook paper. I lost interest in Higgins Eternal very quickly - and while I know people like it - and I can use it if it's the only thing available - there are so many other inks that feel better.

Your comparison to target shooting and the meditative aspect to practice are both clues that you have a temperament that is well suited for calligraphy. When I teach, I'm always looking for ways to get students to find comparative activities - and apply other skills that might not seem related. Integrating all the different skills is so helpful. The aim thing -- that's exactly what we need to do with our nibs - we aim - and then try to hit the mark. As Sheila Waters has been saying for years - You can see the speed with which something is written. You have to start out slow and careful, but as your aim improves - the quality of individual strokes will also change. There is a finesse that comes with speed and precision. Or as Peter Thornton says, "Try to see where you are going." If you are only focused on the nib - your stroke will not have the same quality as if you focus on the target and your hand moves to that place.

Back to paper - I had access to an art supply store, so I often picked up things that were on sale. I bought a huge package of Strathmore bristol one time. It became a favorite just because I had so much that it did not feel like it was precious and needed to be rationed. You might want to try one of John Neal's paper sampler packs. Office Max Depot has a Southworth brand 100% cotton paper that I like with broad edge. I hesitate to recommend anything because what I like might not feel right to you. Generally - any fine art paper feels better to me - rather than the paper that is intended for copiers. It feels like it has some kind of gritty coating. I prefer a toothier paper for broad edge. A very popular paper that you should probably try is Arches Text Wove. I like all the Fabrianos.

Maybe other broad edge people will chime in on their favorite papers. Keep in mind - if you try a paper and don't really like it - you might discover a different tool some day that is a good fit. Brushes, ruling writers, markers, gel pens. It's fun to branch out with different tools. One of the Bugra papers was difficult with nibs because it had loose flecks - but it was dreamy with a ruling pen or brush. Rhodia is my favorite paper for pointed pen work. I do not recall if I ever tried it with broad edge. I'm guessing it wouldn't be ideal because it is so smooth.

I'm sure there are others who would have better tips for sharpening. What I recall being taught is: hold the nib at a 45-degree angle and draw it across the stone gently - right side up and upside down - to create a sharp edge that is beveled. You only draw it in one direction which is the opposite of jabbing it into the stone. I can't think how to describe that - it seems like there is only one logical direction. I'm pretty sure the instruction was to take a bit more off the bottom edge and just tidy up the top edge. WRONG!!! That is what I do and it seems to work.

After Karl pointed out a video of someone doing the opposite and after I looked back at notes from a workshop -- and after I just plain thought about it -- I realized the bevel goes on the top side and the sharper egds touches the paper.

Then one light stroke on each corner so the corners do not catch on the paper. Again -- if anyone wants to offer an entirely or even slightly different approach - please do. My method might have morphed into something that is now terrible advice. I see a lot of that in older people - we forget minor details - and end up with some odd habit that only works for us. EDIT :I'm so glad we have the option to edit our errors. At least I knew suspected that I had it backwards.

Off topic -- I bought a Chef's Choice Manual sharpener and it has been life changing - the ease of one or two swipes for a perfect edge every single day is dreamy.
« Last Edit: September 21, 2019, 10:54:01 AM by jeanwilson »

Offline K-2

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Re: Mitchell Nib Question
« Reply #9 on: September 20, 2019, 03:18:05 PM »
@jeanwilson & @Karl H I like practicing on 5-Star Mead notebook paper too!  In fact, it's what I start my paleography students off on, when they're just working on learning the letter forms, before we do layout, pricking, ruling, etc.

If I need to have practice or trial runs with particular guidelines and text block layouts, I print them onto 32# printer paper - which is pretty smooth, and heavier than regular 24# copy paper.  Someone once recommended it to me for pointed pen practice, but I use it for all sorts of practice.  It's cheap enough that I practice and experiment on it with wild abandon.

But I strongly second Jean's advice to get a sampler pack of paper.  You never know what you're going to like if you don't try new things!  I very recently discovered that I like writing on that Southmore brand "linen" and "parchment" style "resume paper" that they sell in the stationery section of Office Max (the kind for "announcements, invitations, awards" that you can feed through a printer).  One of my kids was using it for a school project and the leftovers ended up under my writing desk.  It's got a little bite to it, and if you want to use it for best and are afraid it might bleed with some crazy fountain pen ink you want to heap on it, just hit it with a little matte spray first.  Otherwise, it's not expensive, so I don't feel like I need to ration it.  And when somebody wanted me to make them a "Pirate Map" (I have a very niche business), the color and texture of the "parchment" style was perfect.  I actually use it for quite a few "mock-medieval" style projects.

It's really a matter of personal preference and the specific project you're doing.  I know a lot of people prefer a toothy paper for broad edge (as do I), but for some projects, I prefer ultra-smooth hot-pressed Arches watercolor paper - especially if I need to use one of those #5 or #6 Mitchells to write textura quadrata with an x-height of 3mm.  The texture of the paper can otherwise get in the way of the letter detail.

I don't sharpen my Mitchells very often - in fact, I almost never sharpen the wider nibs.  If I need a very precise pen, I cut a turkey or goose quill and paint the ink onto the underside.  There's nothing exactly like a real quill for a beautiful clean line, but a Mitchell comes pretty close.  I do sharpen the small ones - #3, 4, 5, 6 - to get better contrast detail.  Jean's method sounds about how I do it - although I'd say, I "sharpen" the bottom edge, and then swipe the top edge just to get the burr off.  Of course, I'm not young either.

I'll second the recommendation for the ink stick - it's the very best! The scribes who penned the Saint John's Bible used that method of applying ink to their quills.  You can apply shell gold like that too, and then burnish it.  I don't grind and apply with a brush except for with very special projects though, because I get interrupted a lot, and I hate scrubbing a crusty brush and dried-up ink-stone.

When I use Mitchells with sumi ink, I dip and then scrape the ink off the top against the inside rim of the ink well.  Sometimes I have a piece of damp sponge in a saucer to clean off the top of the nib after each dip too (especially with the tiny nibs).  But I also rinse and wipe them a lot too.  It kind of gives me the convenience of a dip, with something of the control of the brush application.

I also like using Rohrer & Klingner's "Auszeihtusche Sepia" -- it's a little darker than the walnut ink I mix from the crystals, and plays better with the gansai paints I tend to favor over gouache for color work.

Offline Karl H.

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Re: Mitchell Nib Question
« Reply #10 on: September 20, 2019, 09:25:17 PM »
Hi Jean,

First: thanks so much for taking the time to compose such a detailed reply at 8:30 in the morning!  In searching for Mead notebook paper, everything they dredge up is notebooks (I remember when search engines were a lot more discriminating in their returns... now you get everything remotely related, including the kitchen sink!).  I found this on MeadOnline:  https://www.meadonline.com/FiveStar/Products/Reinforced-Filler-Paper.aspx; it's the bottom one; 3-hole punched, unlined.  Is this the stuff?  Well, if it is, it doesn't much matter... it's listed in multiple places, and everyone's out of stock; prices from $5.50 to $38.00 for 100 sheets!  I think I'll take your suggestion to try a sample pack from John Neal!

I've tried Ziller acrylic (okay), Walnut ink (crystals... good on some paper, not on others), Sumi (love the smell, and have good results with it on most everything; I'll have to try the stick stuff!), Higgins (didn't like it; might have been the paper, or nib/s, but I didn't care for it), gouache (like that a lot!), and another favorite is Coloiro (used to be FineTec), irridescent watercolor cakes, where I learned to load nibs with a brush; lousy results otherwise).  There are a number of others I'd like to try; I just add a new one every now and then.  I'm LOADED with fountain pen inks, but they're not much good for dip nibs without a lot of fussing.)

The speed thing was actually first learned in the Dojo... sensei insisted that technique was everything, and was merciless in making us newbies go slowly and above all correctly.  He taught that speed is a by-product of precision and efficiency and practice.  Do it right, and the speed will come of it's own accord, in it's own time; it can't be forced (well, it can be, but it shows in the results, as you said Shiela Waters has been saying.)

Along the lines of Peter Thornton's "try to see where you are going," I just ran across a calligrapher who advocates that you look at your starting point, place the nib there, then look away from the nib at the spot where you want the stroke to end as a method of eliminating wavering on long strokes; he says it helps to produce much straighter lines.  I've already had much better results using this techinque, at least with straight strokes (particularly helpful with blackletter, for me; all those dense, parallel lines, the least little waver really stands out.

I did invitations for a small wedding one time, and she wanted traditional Copperplate.  The paper looked lovely, and had a nice texture to it.  However, when transitioning from a shade to a hairline, the nib would invariably snag fibers from the paper and start making a real mess.  I ruined the first couple of envelopes (at least I had the foresight to have her get more than needed) until I figured out that I'd simply have to stop after each shade and check the nib, and usually give it a wipe before proceeding.  It was a tedious job that I was very glad to see the last of!  From then on I made sure to have some input on papers used.

Haven't actually tried using a ruling pen for anything other than drafting-type uses.  I sometimes make spiral guidelines sized to a specific nib, and I use some old Keuffel & Esser drafting instruments for this... a compass and a ruling pen.  I collect old drafting instrument sets because my Dad was a draftsman for General Electric well before the CAD revolution; never thought to actually be using them, but they're coming in handy!

So my take-away from this, with regard to paper, is that smooth is not ideal for broad-edged nibwork, and is better for pointed-nib?
As a general rule-of-thumb; there's always exceptions to just about everything.

I am NOT contradicting you, but a site I went to had me sharpening the nib like I'd sharpen a chisel; bevel facing up, sharp cutting edge touching the paper, as you said, at about a 45 degree angle.  After creating the flat facet, like you said, he'd do one quick stroke along that just-established 'cutting edge' to knock off the extreme sharpness, and hit the corners with a single stroke to prevent snags on sideways strokes.  Edge that touches the paper always trailing on the stone or sandpaper (I like to use extremely fine-grit wet-and-dry sandpaper glued to a 1/2" thick glass plate for all but my finest sharpening; it doesn't dish out like a true stone can, and never requires dressing, just change the paper.)  Like place the nib on the sandpaper as if you were going to write, then pull the nib back towards you, dragging it across the sandpaper.  I bought a Lamy 1.1 italic fountain pen, and it was quite a disappointment; the broads were okay, but the transverse strokes weren't much thinner than the broads were.  Looking at the tip with a loupe, I saw that the nib was set up just the opposite to the setup recommended by that site: the bevel was down on the paper, so the 'cutting edge' wasn't really even touching the paper at all.  I re-ground it as the guy on that site recommended, and now it produces nice razor-thin transverse lines, about an eighth as thick as a broad; lots of contrast.  It IS a little scratchy, but I imagine a little work on some extremely fine mylar diamond abrasive sheets will polish it down nicely (a side benefit from my fountain pen collecting.)  I'm far from good at it; I understand the concepts, but the physical execution leaves something to be desired.  Practice, practice, practice is what's needed.  Chisels I can do blindfolded; nibs are hard, precisely because they are so small and difficult to see.  It's far too easy to produce a rounded surface than a flat one.

And trust me: I fully understand about the finer details proving elusive to recall!  It's bad enough at 66; I can just imagine where I'll be in my 70's or even 80's.... hope they've got me off the streets by then!

In the kitchen, I use a diamond mesh for rough work, a ceramic rod (like a chef's steel) to smooth it, then a strop to really polish the edge.  It will practically fall through a tomato!  Once the bevels have been established, all that's needed to touch it up is a couple of strokes on the ceramic and a quick strop, and it's back to razor sharp (unless the wife has been cutting things on a plate again, in which case the edge is rolled and has to be re-established with the diamond mesh... which is why I have a couple of knives that are "hands-off" to anyone but me; I keep hers sharp, but not super-sharp, as she's really hard on cutting edges!)

Hey K-2!

I use fairly heavy-weight laser printer paper; I'm forever pinch-sliding it with thumb and forefinger because I think I've got two or more sheets... but it's just the one sheet.  And it's quite smooth, great for pointed-pen, and decent enough for most broad nibs, with my Mitchell's being the exception. 

I saw a guy on YouTube who does remarkable script very similar to copperplate using, of all things, a Bic Kristal ballpoint pen!  He says the secret is the paper; it's a laid-paper that produces the best results, doesn't really matter what maker.  I've tried it, with erratic results: a few letters or words emerging from a whole bunch of not-so-pretty stuff.  Definitely requires a feel for alternating pressure with the pen, much more so than with a dip-nib; a much harder push for the shades, and pen all but off of the paper for the hairlines, which are dismayingly easy to break with the slightest deviation of lift.  It's attractive enough that I'm going to keep at it, though.  It sounds like that Southmore 'linen' paper might also work well for his style.  I do have some stuff that looks exactly like aged parchment (looks almost tea-stained in places, and light tan in others, in a fine mottled pattern, and is fairly heavily textured as well, like it got really wet then dried.)  It's not standard sized, about 8 x 10, and is really fussy about what ink it'll take; hates Walnut, likes Sumi, practically sheds fountain pen ink.  Ziller's acrylics work fairly well, and I've yet to try gouache with it.

I've noticed that about smaller broad nibs... seems the smaller they get, the less contrast you get between the thicks and thins, with no crisp transition.  Sharpening does help with that, but they never look like the larger nibs do.

Okay, the ink stick and one of those scrubby dishes to use it on are definitely on my next JNB order!  I stumbled across the dip-then-wipe technique not too long ago; it works almost as well as using a brush; messier, though.  Need to keep rinsing the sponge or changing the rag/paper towel, almost more work that it's worth, for me anyway.  It is another approach, though.

I appreciate the tip on Rohrer & Klingner's "Auszeihtusche Sepia"... aren't R&K fountain pen ink makers?  Or do they do other stuff as well?  And gansai paints... can't say I've ever heard of 'em.  I'll have to look them up.   Why do you favor them over gouache?  I've used gouache, though not a lot, and I like it well enough, but I'm always looking for something easier/better!

Thanks again for all the input, ideas, and experience.  Gotta love this place!



Offline K-2

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Re: Mitchell Nib Question
« Reply #11 on: September 20, 2019, 10:41:51 PM »
@Karl H. Gansai are Japanese watercolors, but the pigment particulates are smaller than gouache and larger than Western style transparent watercolors.  JetPens (where I get a lot of art supplies) has a basic explainer on the differences between watercolor, gansai, gouache, and poster color: https://www.jetpens.com/blog/the-difference-between-watercolor-gouache-and-poster-color-paints/pt/963

They come in little pans like watercolors, so you just paint them on a nib straight from the pan.  They're a lot like those Finetecs that way.  They make them in metallic colors too, but I prefer the Finetecs for metallics.  Gansai are opaque and I prefer them to gouache because they dry with a glossy finish.  I think the particle size of the pigments must be similar to sumi ink - it's formulated to paint on washi paper, just like sumi.

That R&K Auszeihtusche Sepia is billed as a type of India ink for drawing (the make it in 3 colors; and they make a lot of other drawing inks); I don't find that it needs any gum arabic for broad edge - it's not great for pointed pen though.  It is NOT for fountain pens (and don't get it confused with the regular R&K fountain pen Sepia).  Of the R&K fountain pen inks, I find the iron gall inks pretty friendly to broad edge calligraphy, and surprisingly good for pointed pen with a drop of gum arabic in a dinky dip - but then, I don't mind fussing with the inks that give me excellent shading, sheen and shimmer options (witness my irrational devotion to the utterly frustrating J.Herbin Emeraude de Chivor in this thread: https://theflourishforum.com/forum/index.php?topic=6692.15.  EdC, why can't I quit you?)

As for those tiny Mitchells.  Once they're sharpened, I get very nice crisp contrast with them on that ultra-smooth hot press watercolor paper - as long as the tiny writing is a scaled down version of the normal sized, just as precise.  It's one of the times I prefer a very smooth paper for broad edge.

(Fellow knife sharpener! I sharpen all my knives when I need to chill out.  I like them sharp enough to cleanly slice a leaf of basil floating in a pan of water.  Of course, then my across the street neighbor lady almost cut her thumb off with one of them - I tried to warn her it was much sharper than she was used to)

* Oh, and hey, I use those 5-Star Mead pads WITH THE LINES (I keep some college ruled and wide ruled pads around).  because, you know, mostly for practice, I'm going to use guidelines anyway.

--yours, K

Offline jeanwilson

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Re: Mitchell Nib Question
« Reply #12 on: September 21, 2019, 09:24:36 AM »
Hi Karl;

The unlined Mead paper says *printer ready* which is a red flag to me that it's printer paper.
The lined paper should be the right stuff.

I buy 5-Star notebooks from office supply stores and remove the spirals.
Because the lines are blue, I can ignore the ones I am not using - If I want additional lines, I add them in pencil.
$38 for 100 sheets does not make sense - unless that includes shipping to some very out of the way location.

Don't fret over being addicted to ink. You can't change your nature. As Raphael Boguslav noted, he was born with ink in his veins. It's a pretty harmless addiction. Hopefully you are using your art supplies and not just hoarding. The situations that perplex me are the people who can afford ink, nibs, paper, gadgets, books, etc - but they never get around to practicing. As well as --- the people who practice for years -- and never get around to doing a finished piece. This is where the good paper comes in. Sure - we all need to practice the letterforms - but at a certain point, it's nice to practice actual pieces on nice paper. I still have a few things I did in my very first workshop with Peter Thornton. They are not spectacular - but they are a nice reference point.

Several years later he was in town for another workshop and we had an extra session for 3 old-timers. We held it at my studio. We were working in pencil. In the middle of the afternoon - I pulled out some real parchment/vellum. Peter said, "You're not going to use that for practice are you?" As we both knew - work done in workshops is not usually *keeper* quality. I said - "Oh, I have a feeling I'll do something magical - and I'll want it on the good stuff." And - it is a favorite piece. My studio was a full 2 bedroom duplex where he stayed for the night. When I arrived the next morning, he had lettered an original work of art on the wall, straight across from my desk. Very cool gift. Sadly, I was not able to save it when we sold the duplex. But, I have a picture of it. So, the point is this - use some good stuff. Practice making actual artwork even when you know your letterforms need some work. You have to build the skills at composing broadsides and you might as well work on those skills at the same time.

Something to add to the -look where you are going -
When you have a long stroke to make - you can make it in the air a couple times - with the nib not touching the paper - but close. Go back and forth - then when you hit the paper - you're already in the groove. I guess like practice swings in golf?

Paper with loose fibers - if you are not opposed to workable spray fixative - it can help.

Couple more tips -
Keep track of the right and wrong side of paper. When you cut large sheets down, put a pencil X in the corner (I always put the X on the front, but you could put it on the back. Sometimes the two sides behave differently.
If you are really organized - Keep a folder with samples of your papers and a log of all the different inks etc you have tried.
Whenever I run across a sample sheet where I wrote the nib and ink that I was using in various combinations - I realize it would have been smart to be more methodical about keeping track of all the various papers and having a test page for each one.

It would not surprise me to have the whole sharpening thing backwards/upsidedown. EDIT:  Yes, I did have it upside down. You want the sharp edge touching the paper and the bevel on the top

Often times people find something that works for them that is counter to the norm.  When I flourish an h - i leave off the first stroke and just make the second stroke. Then I turn the paper upsidedown and pull the ascender like a y-tail. I've had people tell me that it looks crazy to do that--- so you probably need to experiment and figure out what works best for you. You clearly know way more about sharpening than I do. All I know is that I only pull 3 or 4 times -- it seems like it takes very little to clean up the edge.
Crocus cloth - I believe that is something else that can be useful.

Somewhere I have my Peter Thornton pencil sketch on his process for cutting quills -- and I know the last step shows the bevel - so - whichever direction it goes might be a clue as to the which direction to sharpen a Mitchell.  EDIT: Yes -- I found the notes and yes the bevel goes on the top.

I think you can get the same relative thicks and thins with a broad edge if you have the right paper and ink combination. And I have also gotten the hang of getting thicks and thins out of gel pens and ballpoints. It's my favorite way to address envelopes because my nib and ink rates are too high for most people. It takes a while to get into the groove - but - as with most things, the hours spent on jobs honed the skill. Warning: when you have to press really hard -- you can mess up your thumb and elbow. I have to be careful. A few weeks ago, I was in a bind and had to do a rush job -- and it took a full week for my thumb to return to normal. Some of the toothier expensive envelopes are really nice for getting thicks and thins with a gel pen. I can get thicks and thins with Pigma's, too - but I have to plan on ruining the tip after 50 envelopes. One you damage a thumb or an elbow - it remembers - and will relapse faster if you are not careful.

Scrubby dish - fun new word for my alt-vocabulary list (ink stone)
Smallerize - someone asked me if I could -reduce- the size of some artwork - "Can you smallerize this?"
Callig - "Can you callig this for me, I'm sorry, I don't know the word."  Which verbs do you you use? Inscribe? Letter? To calligraph sounds awkward.
Although -- this popped up:
https://english.stackexchange.com/questions/256808/is-there-a-verb-that-means-to-write-in-calligraphy

K-2 -- Yes -- there are two knives in my kitchen that nobody else is allowed to touch.
Do you know about the Kiwi Thailand brand sushi knives - amazingly nice and $8 - off the rack at any Asian grocery store.
Got mine in a class - the sushi chef assured us that it was more than adequate for everyday vegetable chopping
and I love it. It works like a bench scraper, too - which makes it super convenient.

« Last Edit: September 21, 2019, 10:42:47 AM by jeanwilson »

Offline jeanwilson

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Re: Mitchell Nib Question
« Reply #13 on: September 21, 2019, 10:45:25 AM »
I'm going back and editing the two posts that have the wrong info on the bevel when you sharpen broad edge nibs.

Lucky for me, I was listening to Nora Ephron's book, I Remember Nothing, on my morning walk -- and laughing out loud. And then picturing the ink hanging onto the underside - it was obvious that the sharp edge should be on the paper. Duh. Glad we got that straightened out.

Offline K-2

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Re: Mitchell Nib Question
« Reply #14 on: September 21, 2019, 01:46:06 PM »
Thanks for that addendum @jeanwilson!

It's funny though -- When I cut my quills, I definitely bevel the underside as a natural consequence of the scoop cut that forms the nib and determines the width.  I also shape the top of it a bit to tidy it up, but most of the cutting comes from underneath.  So that's how I sharpen my Mitchells too, because nobody ever told me otherwise.  I hadn't realized that was so unorthodox.  (I'm old enough to know that if it's been working for me for the number of decades I've been doing it that way, I don't need to call it "wrong" - but maybe I'll try it the other way when I prep a new tiny nib)

At any rate, whichever way you do it, it still ends up sharp -- like the difference between a santoku knife (like your sushi knife, which is only sharpened on one side) and a French chef's knife (sharpened on both).  I have a sushi knife from Aritsugu in Kyoto (forging knives since the 16th century - before then, they made swords) They stamped my name into the blade.  My children lightly bicker about who gets to inherit it when I die.

I should note that I work on a tilted writing desk, so that changes the relative angle of the nib - and probably the bevel on the underside makes more sense that way, as the desk falls away from it at a steeper angle.  Manuscript evidence attests that medieval scribes always wrote on a slanted surface, and indeed, I find it difficult to use a quill on a flat surface.