Tips To Using A Cartridge Pen

I remember when I started learning calligraphy. I wondered whether I should learn using a pen that already had the ink inside it
or one you dip into ink. As far as I knew they were the same. They both made letters. Cartridge pens just seemed more convenient. So that’s where I began calligraphy using a cartridge pen.

If you’re like me, you’ll read about them, maybe feeling lost. Eventually, you’ll decide to jump in. You buy a cartridge pen to see what happens. Like me you make mistakes but eventually your adventure shows you what these pens offer. Or, you give up because of a few hassles perhaps giving up totally on calligraphy.

I don’t want anyone giving up. That’s why I decided to write this. To give you info and tips to using cartridge pens. Whether you’re new to calligraphy or have used them for a time you’ll find help with them here.

To make sure every one is on the same page here, a cartridge is the ink reservoir you swap out to refill the pen’s ink. Their advantage is they’re easy. When you’re out of ink you pop in a new cartridge and you’re good to go.

You can find cartridge pens and their inks easily at art stores or online. If you prefer – although a bit messy – you can buy ink in bottles and inject it into empty cartridges. But remember you need a cartridge and ink made specifically for your pen’s brand.

Inks come in black and a few colors depending on the manufacturer. Most are lightfast and some are waterproof. But you want to check the manufacturer’s website to know for sure.

Medieval calligraphy was generally written very small. When you letter a scroll that’s 8.5″ x 11″you probably want a nib that’s 0.75 mm to 1.0 mm. If you want smaller letters consider a nib 0.5 mm. Some scribes use a larger nib and adapt the proportions fitting the text to the page.

With any broad-nib calligraphy pen it’s important you hold it so the nib is flat on the paper. Ink flows due to capillary action as its two tines are pushed apart when you press the tip on your paper. If the nib is not pressed flat only one side touches and it doesn’t split properly. If the tines don’t spread ink doesn’t flow. Because of this broad-nibbed cartridge pens preferred in the SCA may be difficult to get ink going.

But like most things there are tricks to using them. In most cases, once you insert a cartridge and start writing you will get ink flow immediately. Occasionally, if you have a new nib or you haven’t used your pen for days you need a trick to start it flowing. Here are several you can try.

  • Double-check you have firmly pressed your ink cartridge into the nib’s rear-end seating completely and breaking the ink seal.
  • If you’re using a half-size cartridge be sure there’s an inverted spare cartridge in the pen’s barrel to brace the active one.
  • Hold the pen vertically while you tap the nib on scrap paper. This helps gravity pull down the ink to the point.
  • Check your writing angle and holding the pen flat to the paper draw it down in a straight line.
  • Unscrew the barrel and hold the pen vertically with the nib down
    over paper towels or scrap paper. Gently squeeze the cartridge. Then make a few strokes to get the ink moving.
  • Holding your pen at a normal writing angle press down hard in one spot until you see the tines split. Repeat this until you see ink coming down the tine’s gap.
  • Put the nib end in warm water. If you use running water be sure it’s a place the ink won’t cause harm. Have a paper towel handy to wipe off the nib when the ink starts flowing.

Those are a slew of tricks to try to get your cartridge pen started. If none of those work it is possible you have a faulty pen. Stuff happens.

Amazingly I make more mess on my fingers with cartridge pens than I do with dip pens. But that might just be me. If you get one learn from my flubs. Keep your fingers off of the nib.

Cartridge pens are worth your time especially if you’re just beginning. And they’re popular with others to the point of having a following.

At this point, you may be thinking this seems like a lot just to learn calligraphy. However, if you’re curious about art, a new hobby, or a potential addiction they’re worth taking time to understand. Write slowly with quality materials and forgive your mistakes. You too will find enjoyment in your calligraphy creations.

Related Prior Post:

Dip Pen v Cartridge Pen

Categories: Calligraphy

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