Which nibs and holders are best for Copperplate?
Choosing a Copperplate Pen Holder
The rules of calligraphy are always broken by somebody (often with great success) but general guidance for beginners would be:-
Right-handed calligraphers – use an oblique pen holder as this helps to hold the pen at the correct angle for copperplate writing and also gives you a wide choice of nibs; or a straight penholder with the Mitchell Copperplate nib (though this choice restricts you to this single nib).
Left-handed use a straight penholder because your arm and hand are already at (or near) the correct angle.
Choosing Copperplate nibs
There is no ‘best nib’ for Copperplate or Spencerian writing. I normally advise beginners to buy a selection of nibs to try as the most suitable nib is a very personal choice. All the flexible nibs suitable for Copperplate vary in their size, flexibility and strength (pressure required). One person’s favourite nib might be unsuitable for someone else. One unbreakable rule is to be ruthless is discarding nibs that have begun to wear as they will never again produce the fine hairlines that distinguish this style of writing.
This is a selection of suitable nibs to buy for Copperplate
Gillott 170 Nib
Gillott 303 Nib
Gillott 404 Nib
Hunt 22B Nib
Hunt 56 Nib
Hunt 101 Nib
Leonardt Crown Nib
Leonardt Copperplate 2 – Point Nib DP111
Leonardt EF Principal Nib
Nikko G Nib
Zebra G Nib
All these nibs and holders can be found at: http://www.blotspens.co.uk/acatalog/copperplate-p1.html
A History of Automatic Pens
Automatic pens were originally called BOXALL Pens after their manufacturer Mr FWG (Fred) Boxall who was certainly making the pens in the late 1920’s. They were originally made in brass but as this became expensive it was changed to the nickel silver still used today. The name was changed in the mid 1950’s to Automatic Lettering Pens. At that time most show cards and posters for shops were lettered using a brush and the new pens were designed to replace the brush for large lettering and ‘automatically’ do thick lines.
The company was bought in the mid 1950’s by a Geral Dupont (no relation to Dupont pens) and at that time the pens were described as ‘the Wizards of Lettercraft’. The range was more extensive than the current 13 and included an edging pen, a shading pen and a block letter pen. The prices ranged from one shilling to one shilling and three pence! (a shilling became 5 new pence).
The last owner, Mr David Ford, a very amiable and likeable, gentleman, worked for the Parker Pen Company and he visited Mr Dupont who was by this time elderly. Most of the workshop was inhabited by pigeons and the machinery was covered (in polite terms) by guano! He made his own penholders on a lathe and dipped them into highly inflammable paint and hung them to dry, used petrol to degrease the pens AND smoked almost constantly! After a heart attack he sold the company to David Ford in the mid 1980’s but unfortunately died before he could hand over the manufacturing. The first ‘Ford’ Automatic pens were produced on a trial and error basis with many ending up in the recycling bin. The pens were manufactured in Sussex, on the south coast of England. All the tooling was updated (and the guano left on the garden !) but every pen was hand made, hand ground and hand finished. The penholder was updated to a single size ABS non slip plastic for easier grip, balance and weight, easier to keep clean and using fewer trees.
In the new millennium the manufacturing moved to C. Roberson & Co in London who continue to produce these quality pens.
The full range of Automatic Pens can be obtained by mail order from Blot’s Pen & Ink Supplies www.blotspens.co.uk
This is as told to John Winstanley of Blots Pen & Ink Supplies by David Ford before his retirement.
Blots have started making a range of wooden dinky dips. There are several designs to fit jars or buddy cups with a choice of caps. The Tiger Stripe Dinky Dip is particularly striking and is made from separate strips of hard and soft wood. It is available pre-drilled to fit screw top jars or push on caps.