It was the first time I ever picked up a pointed penholder…
…(a plastic Speedball holder, to be exact). I carefully secured the shiny new metal Nikko G nib into the flange and excitedly dipped the nib into my jet-black Higgins ink, only to see the ink ball up and roll right off the nib!
Have you been there?
Turns out, new nibs can be a total headache to use if you’re unfamiliar with the prepping process.
That’s why I created this post!
Here’s the deal.
Every manufacturer coats their nibs with a special finish to preserve them. This oil or wax keeps them fresh in storage and prevents rust while they’re on their way to you. Since inks are water-based, trying to write with a new nib looks a lot like little balls of ink rolling off the tip of your nib and blobbing onto the paper. Not pretty!
It’s our job as artists to know how to care for our nibs before we even put pen to paper!
I want you to write with confidence, creating beautiful calligraphy all the while knowing you’ve done everything you can to properly care for your tools.
In this guide, I’ll detail why new nibs need a little extra TLC, and how to prepare your new calligraphy nib so it writes “smooth as butta.”
To remove the top coating so that ink will adhere nicely to the nib, these are a few of my favorite tricks!
P.S., if you’re not sure which nibs to start off with, head over to THIS post for some help!
This is my favorite method for preparing nibs because it’s fairly easy and you can prep several nibs at once (hello, multi-tasking!).
- Find a starchy potato (all I had lying around the house today was a sweet potato, but I’m sure any potato works just fine).
- Gently but firmly stick your nib into the potato until it’s about halfway in.
- Let it sit about 10 minutes.
- Remove the nib, wipe it dry with a towel to prevent rust, and you’re good to go!
Quick and easy, but be careful to not burn your fingers!
- Find a lighter or match.
- Put the nib into the penholder for a better grip.
- Slowly run the nib through the flame about 3 times. (Don’t linger in the flame, but don’t rush either.) The fire will get the finish off right away!
This is a great method because you’ll likely always have the supplies on hand!
- Find an old toothbrush and some dish/hand soap or toothpaste.
- Wet your toothbrush in water.
- Place a small amount of toothpaste or soap on it.
- Scrub the nib gently for about 30 seconds.
- Rinse the nib in water, then dry it off with a cloth.
While this method is very effective, it is not my favorite because it will likely break down the skin on your fingers over time.
- Find a Q-Tip and some Acetone nail polish remover.
- Dip one end of the cotton swab into the acetone.
- Very gently rub the acetone on the nib. Be careful to not let the fibers of the cotton swap get stuck in the nib!
- No need to dry the nib off afterwards, as acetone evaporates very quickly!
I’ve also heard that dipping the nib (just to the eye) into water with ammonia or vinegar (or directly into Windex), will cut through the oil on the nib. I’ve never tried either of these methods, but if you do please let me know how it works!
A note about drying:
Make sure that whichever method you choose to try, you are GENTLE with your nib. If you are too rough, the tines will likely bend and you’ll have to toss your nib in the trash. It’s best to use a non-fibrous, tightly woven cotton cloth like an old dinner napkin. Paper towel fibers will likely stick in your nib. Always pull the nib away from you to wipe it off. After you dry your nibs off, store them away in an airtight box like this or an Altoid tin so they don’t rust and you’ll have them for many more uses!
I hope this guide was helpful for you regarding how to prepare your new calligraphy nib! Now you can get back to those calligraphy drills and show me what you’ve got!
Want to know my favorite calligraphy tools? Check them out here!