Looking after your calligraphy nibs

I have a confession – I’m not the best when it comes to looking after my calligraphy nibs.

Because I use black ink most of the time, I tend to run the pen dry and pop it back in the tin after use.

Now and again it might get a rinse under the tap and a quick pat with some kitchen roll.

rusty nibsThis week I noticed some of my nibs were looking a little rusty.

(Calligraphers everywhere are now giving a knowing nod.)

One is from a set of Mitchell steel nibs that were given to me as a gift, so I’m desperately hoping I can repair the damage!

I took to Twitter and appealed to my fellow calligraphers for advice.

Suggestions ranged from using an ultrasonic cleaner, which sounds very Doctor Who, to gently rubbing with a very fine steel wool.

I’m busy experimenting with different inks and nibs at the moment, so I want to make sure their maintenance is up to scratch.

pen and nibsMy Cultural Spring workshop participants have also been asking about nib care.

Manuscript Pen Company, which has been supporting my workshops, offers the following care advice for dip nibs and reservoirs on its website.

  • Ensure your nib and reservoir are assembled correctly, with the reservoir about 2mm away from the tip of the pen nib;
  • Dip pen ink has more pigmentation than fountain pen ink and the nib and reservoir can get blocked if ink dries on them;
  • At the end of each session and at any time if ink is not flowing properly, wash nib and reservoir in lukewarm water until the ink is removed, then dry carefully with paper tissue and reassemble.

nibs tinOther calligraphers recommend priming dip nibs before first use, gently scrubbing with a soft toothbrush and washing up liquid to remove any manufacturer’s oil.

A quick rinse and dry while writing and keeping nibs in a container like the Leonardt tin (available from Manuscript) are other nuggets I’ve come across.

I’ll certainly be sticking to these instructions in future, although no nib is guaranteed to last forever!

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