Category Archives: Calligraphy hints & tips

Choosing Copperplate Nibs


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

Brause 66EF
Brause 361
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:

A History of Automatic Pens

Automatic-Pen-smA 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Pens after their manufacturer Mr FWG (Fred) Boxall who was certainly making the pens in the late 1920’s. They were originally made in brass but as this became expensive it was changed to the nickel silver still used today.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

This is as told to John Winstanley of Blots Pen & Ink Supplies by David Ford before his retirement.

Let’s Get The Next Generation Interested In Calligraphy

Let’s Get The Next Generation Interested In Calligraphy

Calligraphy (beautiful writing) is an ancient art, but sadly, one that is increasingly rare in the modern digital world. The next generation of children will be typing on smart phones and tablets long before learning to write, let alone using cursive writing or a fountain pen. Some schools in the USA have withdrawn cursive writing from their lesson plans and from 2016 schools in Finland they have abolished joined up handwriting altogether in favour of teaching typing skills. Whilst it may to be true that typing will be an increasingly useful skill in the modern world, it’s important that children still learn to write by hand.

Calligraphy can not only be a great hobby, but can provide career opportunities as well. It can provide a way into art industries, open up other creative avenues and unlock other potential talents.

With the bank holiday weekend approaching and the potential requirement for some ‘wet weather’ activities, we thought it would be good to give you a guide into how to encourage your children to try their hand at calligraphy.

Create a Workspace

Children can be easily distracted, a fact I’m sure I don’t need to point out to most parents! To keep their interest, it’s important to create an uncluttered work space with all your planned activities readily available at hand. Make sure all of the tools required are ready to go and neatly laid out. It might be worth having a variety of different pens/crayons available and not just calligraphy pens and ink, especially for younger children. Have some different types of paper available, from ‘rough’ note paper to nicer writing paper and some lined paper for practicing lettering. You could have some examples, or the alphabet, already written out for your children to copy.

Go through some examples

If you are a calligrapher yourself, show your child how you can write out their name, or favourite pet’s names. This is something close to them that they can connect with. You can look through some calligraphy books together, or to engage with their modern minds, watch some examples of calligraphy on YouTube using a tablet.

Create excitement with history

Calligraphy has a wonderful history, and you can take this opportunity to take your kids into the worlds of ancient China and Japan, the Egyptians and Medieval Britain. You could print out the Chinese lettering, or hieroglyphs which translate into your child’s name, and get them to replicate that.

Have fun!

One of the biggest struggles with children and calligraphy is how they hold the pen. In general, kids will hold a pen rather awkwardly and will lack the dexterity or deft touch required for advanced calligraphy. However, it’s important to remember that we’re not creating masterpieces here, we’re having fun whilst encouraging our children to learn some history, help their creative learning and hopefully set them on the path to a new hobby. If they want to practice lettering, great! If they would rather draw pictures of their friends or pets then that’s fine too. Let them be creative in their own way and you’ll be surprised at what they can achieve.

Frame their achievements and encourage future writing

When you’re finished for the day, ask your children which of their drawings or writings is their favourite. Make sure this piece gets pride of place on the fridge, mantelpiece or wherever it is you may keep your kid’s artwork. They will hopefully feel a sense of achievement and they’ll be itching to get the pens back out again! After your first session, tell them that you’ve got a very special gift for them; their very own notebook. Tell them that this notebook is for them to practice writing, doodling and drawing, and that you’ll go through what they’ve practiced next week, creating ‘nice’ versions of it on good paper.

The basic supplies you may find useful

Paper: While any writing paper will do and photocopy paper is adequate, we all like a nice pad to work on and children do like one they can mark as ‘MINE’ and their sibling doesn’t draw in! We recommend the Frisk A4 Layout Pad There are many other options available on that page.

Calligraphy Pen?  See our blog for Starting Calligraphy for an idea about starting calligraphy and working with just two pencils and a rubber band. You can use bits of card, lollypop sticks, felt, foam, balsa wood… cut crayons into a square ended pens. Kuretake coloured calligraphy pens, singles and sets of 4 or 8, are brilliant for experimenting with coloured letters and last extremely well.

Ink If you buy ink it’s best to look for the ‘washable’ versions as it makes bath time and laundry so much easier. Poster paints from the pound shop are great value – anything, so long as it makes a mark on the paper.

Whilst you’re online take a look around the rest of the Blot’s website as we have a fantastic range of Calligraphy pens, pads, paper and other craft materials.

Let us know how you got on by commenting at our Facebook page!

Starting Calligraphy with Blots Pen & Ink Supplies

Calligraphy means beautiful writing.  In our modern world we are very familiar with clear, sharp and stylish lettering most of which is produced by computers. Handwriting with a pen is a different story. For many of us the only writing we do will be a scribbled shopping list; a note for the milkman (what’s a milkman?) or a quick message in a birthday or Christmas card! For many of us our writing is not in the wildest imagination beautiful.
However, Calligraphy is not restricted only to those who are artistic; have studied and practiced for years and have mountains of expensive equipment. Most people who spent a morning with simple pens and paper could, with a little guidance, start to write beautiful letters.
Calligraphy letters are drawn to set proportions otherwise the letters appear tall and lanky, or short and dumpy. The proportions relate to the width of the nib. The height of the simple letters (a, e, o, x..) is four and a half or five nib widths. This is called the ‘x’ height.  Other letters have a stick or ascender which goes up (b, d, h..) or down descender (g, p, q..). The Round or Foundational letters are based on a circle; Italic letters are based on an oval.  A simple start can be made by putting two pencils together with a rubber band.PencilsTwo
The pen is held at a set angle on the paper and it is this angle that gives the letter its varying width as it is drawn. Round or Foundational letters are written with the pen at 30° and Italic letters at 45°

All rules in calligraphy are there to be broken. However a good rule is to first learn how to do them consistently and correctly before breaking the rules.
Animated Letters_sm
There are many different forms of letters and you will find many variations. Round Hand or Foundation are the letters that most people try first. A square cut calligraphy nib is designed to be pulled or slid across the paper. If it is pushed it will probably dig in and splatter ink on your page. Each letter is formed with separate strokes. The graphic above will give some idea of how some calligraphic letters are formed.Letters can be drawn using the two pencils, a broad square felt tip pen or a calligraphy pen. It is best to practice the simpler letters of the alphabet first. The emphasis is always on practice. Do not be discouraged if your initial attempts are very varied.

Draw lines on a sheet of paper. (Have plenty of paper available – photocopying paper is ideal). For Round Hand letters use an ‘x’ height of 4½ nib widths; and 4 nib widths each for the ascenders and descenders. Start by exploring the pen at different angles and see how the pen produces thick and thin lines. These variations are what characterises a calligraphic letter. Hold (and keep) the pen at 30° to the horizontal and draw a circle.   Try copying the letters below.Sampler A4 RndHd

Blotspens video on YouTube

I am amazed that my video which shows colour mixing with Pilot Parallel Pens and had some distinctly dodgy calligraphy has had 36,000 hits!! It was never intended to demonstrate calligraphy but just to give an idea of what colour mixing was about. Apparently it has earnt 9pence and they don’t pay out less than £10 so I don’t think I will be booking the cruise yet. I suppose that 36,000 as a percentage of the world online community isn’t great but there are lots of videos with much smaller figures. I just wish 36,000 people had bought a Parallel Pen from me!!! If you want to see it – 36,001 – just search for ‘blotspens’ on YouTube. No it’s not the Chocolate Charlie one; it’s the other one.