Using Steel Pens: Part 1 – Basic Supplies

Never let it be said that The Steel Pen Blog is a source of theoretical or historical information only. I have been asked many times for basic information useful for those interested in using new or vintage steel pens for writing, calligraphy or drawing. I decided that it might be useful to put all of the advice I give, good, bad or ugly, into one place.

Regardless of your use of the pens, there are some basic things you will need to have and to do in order for you to be successful and avoid either the over-buying or frustration that leads so many to abandon these pens before they’ve really begun.

In this post I will introduce the basic supplies. I will then cover each of them in more detail in subsequent posts. I’ll gather these altogether under the category “Using Steel Pens” which will be found in the main navigation of the blog for easy reference.

Basic Supplies

  1. A steel pen. This seems obvious, but it’s not always as straightforward as it seems. There are many types, there are new ones and vintage pens, pointed or broad, that go into deciding what to get and where to begin. This is definitely a full post by itself.
  2. A holder. Steel pens need to be held in a holder. The two primary categories of holders are straight and oblique. Holders can be extremely basic, or extremely fancy, cheap or shockingly expensive and everything in between. I’ll cover holders in a separate post.
  3. Ink and ink pot. The experience of writing with steel pens is a combination of the pen, the ink, and the paper. Getting each right will make the difference between fun and failure. We’ll discuss inks in their own post.
  4. Paper. The right paper is critical. Cheap, or at least the wrong paper, can spell disaster for writing with these pens. Dip pens lay down a much fuller line of ink than even fountain pens so the paper needs to be able to handle a lot of ink. Steel pens are also often sharp and so will pick up fibers from paper, especially if the paper has trouble with a lot of liquid ink. That gorgeous hand-made paper from a monastery in Tibet made from mulberry fibers crushed by the monks during meditation and embedded with mountain flower blossoms, may look cool, but it is most likely not a good choice for writing with pointed steel pens.

 

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