How Calligraphy Pens Work - scribesandcrafts

How Calligraphy Pens Work

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While it is true that these days, most people use their computer for any kind of writing purpose, there are still people who enjoy using a good old pen on paper. For some, it is a thing of preference — for others a thing of pure pleasure.

From cheap ballpoints to expensive Parker pens, the market offers an array of different models and variations of pens that you can use on a regular basis or for special occasions. 

One skill that is deeply connected with writing is calligraphy. It has affected many cultures throughout the past millenniums, and it is still alive and well as an enjoyable hobby.

Although once calligraphy was very popular and being a calligraphist was a respectable profession, today, not as many people engage in it as before. Still, learning such a skill may prove to be of great value, and may turn out to be a relaxing activity that you will enjoy in your spare time.

The first step to becoming a good calligraphist is to get a good pen and figure out the mechanics of it. With that being said, let’s take a look at the different calligraphy pens, as well as how calligraphy pens work.

Choose Your Ideal Calligraphy Pen

Before we get into the mechanics of a calligraphy pen, it is important to know what the market has on offer for you to select from. Whether you engage in calligraphy as a hobby or it is your profession (artist, writer, etc.), investing in a proper pen is the critical first step.

There are four types of calligraphy pens with the main difference being the type of ink that is used. Choosing one depends solely on your preference and needs.

The most popular type is the felt tip pen. Quite common among beginners, it is easy to handle and the main benefit is that you don’t have to prepare ink before using it. On the other hand, this type of pen can be tricky to use because the ink runs out of the pen quite quickly and you have to be aware that the paper may get soaked if you aren’t careful.

If you are more experienced, a fountain pen may be the right buy for you. With changeable nibs and cartridges, people with more intricate needs will enjoy these.

Very similar to the fountain pen is the dip pen. Still, this one is not recommended for beginners as you will have to use an expensive ink and the structure of the pen itself is quite complicated, consisting of the nib, nib-holder, handle, and the reservoir.

Last but not least are brush pens which usually range anywhere from 6 to 20mm in width. While these may allow attractive results, you shouldn’t use one unless you are experienced and you know how to handle thick writing.

How Calligraphy Pens Work - mechanics -scribesandcrafts

The Mechanics of a Calligraphy Pen — How Calligraphy Pens Work

While the felt tip pen may be the most common calligraphy choice for beginners, the mechanics of the fountain pen is the most similar across all of the pen options. That is why we are going to discuss this type in order to give you a closer look at how all types of calligraphy pens, except the brush pen, work.

The easiest way of understanding it is to think of a water bottle — if you open the lid and turn the water bottle upside down, it will spill out in no more than a few seconds.

On the other hand, keeping the lid closed and poking just a few holes will still provide the same result, but the process itself will take more time. This is due to the fact that, while the water is exiting the bottle, the air is entering and preventing it from spilling out all at once.

What we can learn is that your best bet is to let just enough air in that will allow your pen to write without flooding the whole paper. The same moment the nib touches the paper, the ink goes through the slit (that is at the center) and pours down on to the paper.

This process not only depends on gravity because capillary action plays an important part as well. While the ink pours down, the air enters through the nib and fills the reservoir, replacing the vanished ink.


Writing with a calligraphy pen is quite spectacular — still, the mechanics of it are not nearly as simple as you may think. 

On the contrary, calligraphy pens such as a fountain pen use a combination of gravity and capillary action in order to work. 

Bearing this in mind, the next time you sit down to write with a calligraphy pen, pay respect to the complicated process that lies behind it.

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