How to Start a New Calligraphy Nib

Why Your New Calligraphy Nib Isn’t Writing

(Even Though You’ve Dipped it Into Ink More than 80 Times)

It’s not you. And it’s not the nib.

Calligraphy nibs are made of metal. When metal is wet for an extended period of time, it rusts. To prevent this from happening before a new calligraphy nib makes it to you, manufacturers put a moisture-resistant coating on the nib. If you don’t remove it before you write, ink won’t coat the new calligraphy nib — or flow from it.

Get a close view of what a nib is and how it works with our article, “What is a Calligraphy Nib??”

How to Remove the Protective Coating

There are 2 camps that I see people fall into when it comes to getting a new calligraphy nib going:

  1. Clean the coating off with soap and water or saliva.
  2. Stab it into a potato.

I prefer to eat potatoes, so I’m in camp 1.

To remove the coating, just lather a drop of soap and gently work it into the nib, then rinse with water. If I’m using soap and water, I’ll repeat this process just in case.

You can also get some saliva on your fingertips and work that into the nib. Then, wipe it clean with a paper towel. Again, I repeat this process one more time, just in case I missed some (or a lot) of the coating.

I don’t know enough about The Potato Method to say much about it, but I think something about the starch helps to remove the coating from a new calligraphy nib. In my opinion, it’s a little rough on the nibs anyway, which brings me to my next topic.

A Note on Handling a New Calligraphy Nib

new pointed calligraphy nib

Really, the only time I touch the tines on a calligraphy nib is when I’m giving them their first cleaning. Otherwise, I try not to. Yes, even when I am removing a cat hair before I put the pen back to the page. Nibs are delicate and I ruin things sometimes.

So don’t squeeze a nib or pick it up by its tines (the writing end). This can bend or twist the tines together, ruining it forever. Instead, slide the nib toward you on the table so that the back of the nib (the end opposite the tines) hangs over the edge of the table slightly. Then you can pinch the back of the nib and pick it up.

Use care when inserting a calligraphy nib into a holder and clean the nib periodically as you write. This will make it easier to clean all ink off later.

Now, even though you take great care of them, nibs don’t last forever. The sharp points dull down, the tines eventually separate, accidents happen, and the tines get crossed anyway. Thank your old friend for its service, discard it in your own way, and start at the top with a fresh new nib.

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