Updated: Jan 20
A guide for maintaining your pointed pen calligraphy nibs.
Imagine you have ordered a brand new calligraphy nib. You are staring at it with all the enthusiasm & you couldn’t wait to start writing with this shiny little object. You take out your pen, adjust the nib & dip it into the ink… thinking about all the wonderful things you are going to put on the paper. You are too excited to begin your calligraphy journey & suddenly you realize that the ink is just not flowing… you dip it again twice & thrice… you even hold your nib in the ink bottle for few more seconds but no luck… this new nib is just not working well. Have you ordered wrong nibs? Do you need to order new nibs from some other manufacturer? Is the nib quality so bad? Oh No ! You actually forgot to prep your nib.
This happens with many beginners and if you are struggling with the same issue, I would be happy to show you some simple ways to prep your nibs. New nibs usually comes with a protective layer of oil to prevent them from rusting. This needs to be removed before you start writing. Otherwise the ink will resist & will not flow properly through your nib.
How to Prep Your Nibs
Below are some interesting ways to prepare your new nibs for writing.
1. Use a Raw Potato – Push your nib gently into a raw potato. Keep it for 10 - 12 mins. Remove, clean & use. Remember to push your nib gently otherwise you may damage the nib. Also, don’t leave the nib in a potato for a longer period otherwise it will rust.
2. Toothpaste – Apply a small amount of toothpaste on your old toothbrush & gently scrub both the sides of the nib for a minute or two. Rinse with water & dry completely before use.
3. Dish Washing Liquid or Detergent – Gently Scrub dish washing liquid on both the sides of the nib. Rinse, dry & you are ready to go. I have personally tried Pitambari Powder & even Dettol handwash. It’s super-fast & easy technique to prep your nibs.
4. Saliva – Put a little saliva onto the nib, rub it off with a paper towel & your nib is ready to use. Some people even put the nib into their mouth. I am not a huge fan of this method though.
5. Run your nib through the flame – Quickly pass your nib through the flame once or twice & you are done. Just make sure not to burn your nib or worst your fingers just to remove the coating of the nib. Put your nib onto the straight holder & then run it through the flame. Though it's effective, I usually stay away from this method.
After trying one of the methods you will realize that the colour of your nib has changed. Don’t worry, that’s the sign of a prep nib. When you remove the protective coat, sometimes the nib colour changes slightly.
How to Clean Your Nibs
Nibs should be cleaned after every use. I use regular tap water to clean my nibs. It’s recommended to take your nib out of the holder (calligraphy pen) & then clean it with water. If you try to clean it while the nib is still on your holder, there is a chance that the water might go inside the flange & that will damage your holder. So it’s better if you take the nib out before cleaning.
Ink gets dried on the nib & sometimes you need to rub through it to clean it properly. An old paint brush or tooth brush can be useful to remove such ink stains. I personally never used any cleaning solutions. Regular tap water works well all the time.
Cleaning your nib during your project is also very important. Otherwise you won’t get fine hairlines that you are aiming for. Many people tend to forget this step. No wonder a thick layer of dried ink gets all over your nib making it difficult to execute fine strokes properly. During the project, you can just swish your nib in a bowl of water, wipe it dry & start writing again. If by mistake you dip your holder in the water while swishing, immediately remove it & wipe it dry to get the moisture out of your holder. One simple way to avoid this issue is to use shallow bowls & take less water so that when you swish, only your nib will get dipped in the water & you will be saved from loads of irritation.
After cleaning the nib, make sure to dry it completely with a paper tissue or a soft cloth to help your nib last longer. If you are going to use a tissue, make sure it is soft & of excellent quality so that it will help clean your nib gently or else tissue fibres will get caught into the nib. It’s hard to remove them & it’s more irritating to see these tiny fibres showing up suddenly in your writing. You don’t want that right?
I always use old cotton cloth for my nibs to avoid such incidents.
How to Store Your Nibs
Store your nibs safely in airtight containers to save them from any damage or dust. Also nib should be completely dry before you store it to prevent them from rusting. Keeping your nib with moisture or keeping it coated with ink will harm the metal.
Most of the times I just leave my clean nib onto the holder. As I write almost every day, its easy access for me. All my other new & unprep nibs are stored well in the cutest little containers. I use a box with the compartments to keep different nibs separately or these mini glass jars to store my nibs. Store your nibs in such a way that tines won’t get damaged. Sometimes I keep a ball of cotton on the tip of the nib to save the tines from bending or breaking.When I am traveling, I love using our Cute Storage Tins. It has a safety cushion to save the nibs from damage & so it's extremely easy to carry nibs anywhere.
As I mentioned earlier while prepping the nib, we remove the protective layer & that’s the main reason of nibs getting rusty after use. So don’t prep your nibs if you are not going to use them. If you buy nibs in bulk, only prep few of them which you are going to use for your projects.
If your nibs are getting rusted a lot, also try changing your ink. I have seen that Sumi Ink tends to rust my nibs a lot. Now I have shifted to walnut ink for regular practice & my nibs are quite happy. After cleaning I also apply WD 40 spray to prevent nibs from rusting. Make sure you remove this spray before using the nib next time. Once the nib is rusted, I don’t try to remove the rust, I just start using a fresh new nib.
Remember that pointed pen nibs do not last forever. We cannot expect them to stay intact all the time. The nib life totally depends on which nib you use, how often you use it & how you use it. It’s just so hard to give any specific timeline for this. So always keep some spare nibs in stock instead of relying on just one or two.
I hope you find this article helpful & I really wish your nib lasts longer with these simple steps. Take good care of your nibs & they will take care of you !
Will cover more nib related queries in the upcoming blogs. Until then, Keep Writing !! Keep Inspiring !!