Reasons Why Your Calligraphy Dip Pen is not Working

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There can be a lot of reasons why your dip pen isn´t working quite right.

Does the Ink not flow correctly or do you have to dip your pen in the ink after every letter because the reservoir of the nib won’t hold the ink properly? Then you most likely have to either Prepare your nib if it is new or clean the nib if it worked before.

Is the ink running uncontrollably on your paper or is it bleeding?Do your lines not look sharp but fuzzy? Then your problem is most likely either the Ink or the paper.

Is your nib behaving strangely? Is it for example just spilling all the ink on the paper at once as soon as you touch the paper or is it not drawing at all? Then your nib is most likely either damaged, rusty or not correctly assembled.

Preparing a new nib

Is your nib is new and right of the bat it just won’t write correctly even though you have assembled it right?

Then you may have to clean it from protective oils. When a nib is manufactured it will be coated in an oil that is supposed to prevent the nib from rusting. But these oils also hinder the inc flow.

The inc will either not stay in the reservoir after dipping the nib or it will run off the nib to fast when writing.

To clean these oils off simply wipe them off with some rubbing alcohol. You can also pass them through a small flame, be careful not to hold it above the flame for too long as this will damage the nib.

After you cleaned the nib of the oil reassemble your pen and try to write again. If it still has the same problem then check if you are using the right ink and paper.

Cleaning the nib

If the Nib worked fine before and after some use it all of a sudden isn´t distributing the ink right anymore then you may have to clean the nib properly.

If there are traces of old ink on your nib the ink may not flow correctly. This can lead to uneven lines or splatters.

To clean your nib of old ink you can use some warm water and a soft toothbrush. Simply submerge the nib (disassemble the pen and only submerge the nib) in the water and very carefully rub the ink off with the toothbrush. Let the nibs dry completely before you use them again!

If the ink isn’t flowing correctly after cleaning the nib may be damaged or even rusty.

This is how you can disassemble the italic nib before cleaning.

Check the paper

When your ink is running or bleeding on the paper you are probably using the wrong paper.

You can easily check this by trying to draw some lines on different kind of papers. If no matter what paper you use the ink always flows badly in a similar way then either your nib has to be cleaned or prepared or you are using an ink that is too thin or thick.

Generally, a paper should be smooth and absorb ink fast and not bleed.

Good alternatives to calligraphy papers are aquarelle papers or heavier illustration paper. You can find more information in my paper guide for doing calligraphy.

This is aquarell paper I realy like to use.

Check your ink

If your ink is to thin it will either not stay in the reservoir of the nib after you dipped it in ink or it will flow off your nib to fast when writing.

If the ink is too think it will stick to your nib and not flow at all. So even though you dipped your pen in the ink it won’t draw any lines.

To make your ink thicker you can simply add some gum arabic, be careful not to overdo it though.

To thin inks just add some distilled water. You should always use a separate container when mixing inks just to be sure.

When you still have problems with ink flow then you may have to either prepare your nib, if it is new, or you may have to clean the nib.

Damaged nibs

If the nib is slightly bent or if the tip of a pointed nib is constantly split you may have used to much pressure.

You can sometimes very gently bend them back in place but most of the time the nib may be done for and you need a new one.

Another thing that may occur after a lot of use is that the lines aren’t as sharp anymore. This is due to wear down. In this case, you can try and sharpen the tip of the nib with a very fine sharpening stone.

But most of the time it is just easier to get a new one.

Rusty nibs

Nibs will rust eventually. You can’t really do anything about that other than care for your nibs while they are rust free and clean them after every use.

Once they are rusty however there isn´t really a lot you can do. There are some pen nib care products that are supposed to work here but I haven’t found the “magical cure” for rusted nibs yet.

One thing that apparently works quite good is ultrasonic cleaning but it is hard to get by and very expensive if you want to buy an ultrasonic cleaner.

So most of the time it is cheaper and easier to buy a new nib…

Not correctly assembled

This happens mostly to beginners. If you want to see how to assemble and use a Calligraphy pen correctly then check out my guide here.

You still can´t get you calligraphy pen to work? Then write me a commend explaining your problem and I will try to help you!

3 thoughts on “Reasons Why Your Calligraphy Dip Pen is not Working”

  1. I bought a Brause 66EF nib from Amazon and I cannot get it to write. I have used a potato, toothpaste and acetone, still won’t write. Interestingly it will write when I have the nib upside down, i.e. writing with the convex side. Any ideas please.

    • Hi David,
      I can´t really help you reliably without seeing the nib first hand but there are some things that might help you. First, look at the nib and make sure that there are no manufacturing residues like a metal flake on the nib. If you see one, especially near the tip of the nib, then carefully remove it by sanding it with some fine-grit sandpaper. And the second possible reason might be that your ink is too thin. So try different types of inks. I hope this helps!

    • Are you left-handed? That’s been my major obstacle. Nibs, and most ballpoints, are meant to be pulled. Southpaws push. If you are a lefty, try angling the nib so that it’s being drawn across the paper.


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