New Calligraphy Kit? Putting the Nib (pen) into the Nib Holder

This is the second in a series of blog posts aimed to help the newly starting calligrapher.  I won’t cover every detail as it is easy to overwhelm people with all the details.  This is about how to get started and then improve from there.

Christmas time is often when people are gifted their first calligraphy kit(s).  They get a pen holder.


And some kind of Nib (the pen part).

Dip Pens - Cropped

Different kinds of pens also called nibs, used for dip pen calligraphy

In the first post we discussed cleaning the nib to get the packing oil off of it.  Now that you’ve done that, how to put the nib into the nib holder and do it correctly?  Some people may think this is too simple to cover.  It isn’t.  I know someone who had been doing calligraphy for a couple of years who did this incorrectly.  They’re calligraphy improved immensely after learning how to do this correctly.

First let us discuss and show the parts of nib and the nib holder

NIB.  Not all nibs look the same but the all have the same basic anatomy.  Some nibs have an imprint stamped on them telling you the manufacturer, type of nib and size.  This imprint is often on the shank of the nib and sometimes near the vent hole or shoulders of the nib.

Image result for Calligraphy anatomy of the nib

This picture is from wikipedia and is in the commons copyright.

The nibs we will be seeing in this blog post are:


This shows the underside of the nibs.

Nib holders are pretty simple.  There is a plastic or wooden shaft/stylus that on one end has a pen holder.  Move your mouse over the image to see the captions that identify each kind of nib holder.

The one on the left can be taken out and replaced.  Don’t do this unless the nib holder is rusted or otherwise damaged.  Nib or Pen inserts can be purchased fairly cheaply on the internet and sometimes in specialist hobby or calligraphy stores.

The pen insert itself outside of the pen looks like this:

Pen Insert - Flash

The gap allows the nib insert to fit into most nib holders. This gab allows it to push against the sides of the wall creating a tight fit.

And the nib insert has another grip that makes pulling it out more difficult.  This is important because when you pull your nib out of the holder the nib insert might otherwise come out with it.

Pen insert - Gripper

This part sticking out helps keep the nib holder in place.

The part of the nib holder we are most interested in however, is the spring.

Pen Insert - Springs

This spring pushes outward to hold the shank of the nib between the spring and the inside wall of the nib holder.

Do not insert your nib shank into the spring.  It doesn’t belong there.  This is a more common mistake than you might think.  Place the nib base curve against the inside wall of the nib holder.  Then gripping the nib shank above the shoulders of the nib gently push the shank of the nib into the pen holder.  To take the nib out simply reverse this action.  Yes, you will get ink on you fingers.  This is the sign of becoming a calligrapher.  If the pen holder does not have a spring like the Speedball pen holder does not, simply put the base of the nib at the curve and push the shank in as described above.  It works just fine.




The Speedball nib holder works very much the same way.  There simply isn’t a spring or insert to work with.

Speedball Pen Inserted20200105_13474320200105_134747Speedball Pen Inserted 0220200105_13482520200105_134829

You may find that your nib doesn’t want to slide into the nib holder.  This happens sometimes.  Simply move the shank of the nib to a different part of the nib holder and try again.  I have one nib holder than only lets the nib insert in one specific place.

And there you have it.  How to put the nib and the nib holder together so you can use your new calligraphy kit.

The next blog article will be about dipping your pen into the ink and get a good ink flow that won’t blob up.  *HINT* try to dip the nib only halfway down into the ink.  That helps a lot.

One response to “New Calligraphy Kit? Putting the Nib (pen) into the Nib Holder

  1. Pingback: New Calligraphy Kit? Dipping your nibs | scribescribbling·

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