Friday, March 18, 2016

How to make an Oblique Calligraphy Pen

I recently took a calligraphy class with my girlfriend and we had a ton of fun!  Throughout the course we looked up various YouTube videos on penmanship and saw many calligraphers using oblique nib holders.  By the end of the calligraphy class I understood why; it is a lot more ergonomic.

Along the way I also found videos by the Yoke Pen Company explaining techniques and tricks behind making these deceptively simple devices.  This is how I was inspired to make my own, and I'll share what I learned with links to resources I found helpful.

In addition to their videos, check out the Yoke Pen Company.  They have many pens that are far more beautiful than a beginner like me can hope to achieve.

Ok, here's what I did...
Safety first!

I grabbed my tree trimmer and stalked the neighborhood for dead branches.  Carrying around a 10-foot pole with a 12-inch saw on the end is not the most subtle way to acquire raw materials, but no one seemed to notice, thankfully. There were lots of dead branches to choose from, so I cut a few that looked solid and dry.  Don't use green wood for making a pen, at least let it dry for a few weeks.  I don't know what variety of wood I used for this pen, but it's almost as soft as pine.  My girlfriend actually likes the feel of it being softer and lighter.  I'm sure you'll have access to something more exotic than decorative shrub trimmings.
The trees on my street look so much better
after I attacked them with my 10-foot saw weapon

Shape and wood finish
After cutting a 7-8 inch length, I used a woodcarving knife to create the general shape.  Then I sanded it to a 400 grit finish.  Finally I used Teak oil to finish the wood.  After the first use I realize I need to find a wood finish that better protects against ink stains than teak oil.

Hardware and installation
This is the tricky part where YouTube came in handy.  There are two main things left to do at this point in the process: make a nib flange and attach it securely to the pen shaft.  There are three videos that helped me.  I decided to use a 1/32" brass rod for the pin since it was easy to get on Amazon.

The hardest part is probably drilling the pin hole for securing the flange (you can see the brass pin sanded flush near the tip of the finished pen below).   I highly recommend using a drill press for this step as the 1/32" drill bit will snap with the slightest twitch when mounted in a hand drill.

Close-up of the flush pin-secured flange joint. 
It's ok, you can drool all over your monitor.

Definitely make sure you have the materials and tools as described in the videos above.  Here's a rough list of the absolute essentials (all should be available through Amazon).
  • 3mm/5mm Bail Pliers
  • Smooth jaw tin snips
  • Smooth jaw needle nose pliers
  • Back saw or very rigid coping saw
  • Drill press (or hand drill with a very steady hand)
  • 1/32" drill bit
  • 1/32" diameter brass rod
  • Calligraphy nib of your choice for sizing the flange
  • 0.01" thick brass sheet for the flange
  • Epoxy glue

Hope you found this helpful. 
I'd love to hear your thoughts and experiences in the comments!

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