In this blog post, you will learn how to use a glass dip pen for writing.
Glass pens are not just tools of writing, but pieces of art. I’ve always marveled at the miracle that sand and fire can create- sort of like a twin flame relationship. Not only are they beautiful to look at and admire, but writing with them is relatively simple too.
History of the glass pen
If you do a quick Google search, you’ll notice discrepancies in their history.
Some sources state that they originated in Murano, Venice in the 1700s. This claim might have some truth to it since you are likely to come across a lot of references for Venetian Glass Pens. In fact, I found a few online shops that claimed to sell Venetian pens. Now, whether they were actually handcrafted in Venice or made in some factory in Vietnam is a mystery that I might not be capable of solving. Irrespective of where they are made, the fact remains that these are some of the most gorgeous pieces of writing instruments out there.
During my research into the history of glass pens, another source claimed England as their birthplace with 1803 being the year of origin. There wasn’t a lot of detail in this article, which leads me to believe this claim might be spurious.
How to write with a glass dip pen
If you look at a glass pen, you might be puzzled at how a piece of glass can help you pen words on paper. I’ll admit, I was curious when I first saw mine. Its a different story that curiosity got the better of me and I decided to purchase it on the spot, hoping to experiment when I got back to the hotel (I was traveling in Guangzhou, China at that time).
- What allows the pen to write?
Firstly ,look closely at the tip of the pen. You’ll notice small yet deep grooves (or veins) in the tip. These tips play a similar role to that of a nib in a pointed pen. These capillaries hold the ink as you write.
- What inks should I use?
In my experience of using glass pens, I’ve noticed that thinner inks like Old World Iron Gall, Walnut ink (I used David Smith’s) and other similar inks work best. Sumi ink, as I unfortunately found out, does not work the best. This might be attributed to the fact that the thickness of the grooves doesn’t allow a more viscous ink to flow well.
Moreover, sumi ink is one of the most corrosive inks in the market. This means that to maintain the longevity of your glass pen or a steel nib, you need to clean them every few minutes. Otherwise the sumi ink tends to hug the nib and become difficult to clean completely.
On the other, cleaning the thinner inks is a breeze! Simply dip in water when you’re done and you’re good to go.
- How should I write?
Simply dip the pen in ink. Pretty simple right? But hold on, there’s more.
I dip it only about halfway through the tip of the pen. After you dip the pen, rub it gently along the rib of your ink well to remove any excess ink. If you have excess ink on your pen, it’ll leave blobs as you write. I’m pretty sure you don’t want that.
Check to ensure that there’s just the right amount of ink on the tip. Too much, and it’ll leave messy globs. Too little and you won’t be able to write.
Then, using a light amount of pressure (as compared to the steel nib pens), make a few practice strokes on the paper. Vary the pressure to see what works best for you, but don’t over-stress it. This will lead to not only a broken pen, but a broken heart as well. I also tend to write at an angle, not vertically. However, try a few different variations and see what suits you best. Everyone has a different style of holding the pen as they write. Find yours.
How much do these cost?
Ok, this is a fun one. Glass pens vary anywhere between a few dollars to a few hundred dollars. I’ve seen them priced at $7, but I’ve also seen them at $300!
The price of the pen depends on the design. A relatively simple design is easier to make (see this), but a more complex design (like this one) takes more time and effort. Hence, it is more expensive. It also depends on the clarity and perfection of the pen. Cheaper pens might have bubbles in the glass.
Where can I buy them from?
You may buy them on Amazon as well as Etsy. Do a quick search for ‘glass pen’ and you will come across a wide variety of those. In today’s day and age, luckily, we don’t have to travel to Venice to find our favorite glass pen.
How should I care for them?
Like I mentioned earlier, clean your pen regularly as you write. I tend to dip it in water every 2-3 minutes and wipe it off with a cotton cloth.
Secondly, don’t apply excessive pressure as you write. You will break it. Start with a light pressure and slowly build up as you find your rhythm.
Lastly, store it safely. I keep mine in the box I bought it in. Although the box itself is flimsy (it is made of cardboard), but the padding inside keeps it safe from dust, scratches and inadvertent accidents.
I hope this tutorial helped you! If you found value in it (and the burning desire to go buy a glass pen for yourself), I’d appreciate if you could leave a short comment below. I’m always grateful for your support, and this small gesture would mean the world to me.
Also, if you’re just beginning your calligraphy journey, check out this post.
If you have any questions, email me at email@example.com or comment below.
Until next time!