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Ugh... Rusty nibs!

Anne Taylor, calligrapher extraordinaire from Adelaide and I were chatting about old nibs the other day. As a serial offender of using my Leonardt Principals until they have can-can legs like a showgirl, I asked if she wouldn't mind writing a few words about when it's time to change our your nib.

So, without further ado, I leave you to the fabulous Anne and her pearls of wisdom...

Recently at a workshop someone commented that a nib which they had didn't seem to be the same size as someone else's, even though they were marked the same.  When I investigated it, this 'smaller' nib was in fact so far worn down that it was a completely different size from what it had started out as! 

It was a 'favourite' nib and therefore had been used, and used, and used over quite a number of years, without the person realising how much metal had been worn away!! 

The 'difference' in size was down to love (but probably should have been noticed quite some time ago!).  We do get to 'love' working with an old favourite nib but it's best to check that what you think you are using is actually what you've got in your pen holder!!

Rusty nibs don't work as well as clean, non rusty nibs.  The rust you can see is due to the surface of the metal having been worn away - lets face it, calligraphy nibs are not made of 'heavy duty' metal and we cannot expect them to stay pristine. 


We all know that after using a nib it should be carefully washed, dried and put away, but we are probably all guilty of forgetting that bit of the day's work.  Leaving your nib coated in ink, whether it is Acrylic, Sumi or Iron Gall, is quite detrimental to the metal.  Both Sumi ink and Iron Gall can cause pitting and rusting.  

With all of Rusty old Leonardt nib used well past it's prime!these inks, and especially acrylic inks,   they will coat the nib  and clog up the fine channel which carries the ink through to the point or edge. 



For any nib with a detachable reservoir it is important that it is taken off when you clean it or ink will remain underneath.  

Pointed nibs do not last for ever.  The point will wear down, and probably unevenly unless you have a perfect alignment when you are writing.  Uneven pressure can cause stress lines to occur across the tines just under the points and with that the points loose their perfect alignment. 

A pointed nib with a twisted point won't give good results.  And with the very fine points like the Gillott 303 and the EF Principal the delicacy of the points wears away with use.  So if your fine lines are no longer as fine as you would like them to be, it's time for a new nib.

And lastly, it's a good idea to have only enough water in your water jar to cover the working part of the nib, and not to allow the nib and holder to stand waist-deep in the water jar.  Water gets in between the nib and the pen holder, stays there, and causes rusting of the nib.  But even worse, this water can drip onto your paper when you write and ruin a whole piece of work.

So if, like me, you are guilty of any of these small sins, you should check your nibs regularly and replace them as often as necessary.   This will ensure that they work perfectly when you need them to.  Keep a couple of spare favourite nibs in your desk drawer so that you can replace a damaged nib when you need to.   And don't forget to take the nibs out of the pen holders to wash and dry them, because they will almost certainly rust around the area which is inserted into the holder if you don't.


A huge thanks to Anne for this great post!

Sooo... who else is committing these crimes with us?

xo Danielle

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  • Robert Constantine on

    there is a solution to preventing your knib from rusting at the point where you insert it into the pen holders. You dip the part you put into the holder, in car engine oil before inserting the knib in. This means that the crack between the holder and the knib is filled with oil, and thus a water based ink cannot penetrate in. The water based ink is repelled by the oil. Vasoline, or any other grease that would repel water, like bicycle chain grease, would do the same job just as well. This is very important to me, working with Iron Gall ink as I do, as Iron Gall is very corrosive and must not get into the crack and settle there, or else you will never get the knib out, if it rusts in. When I change my car engine oil then, I save about 50 ml of the oil in a small jar, and dip the non-writing ends of my knibs into that each time, before I insert them into the pen holder.

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