♥ Becka Bravo • Locale: Bari Zaki Studio • Photography: Laura Escobar
So, you've been working through your Beginner's kit, or you're an experienced calligrapher who has been at it for a while now with a straight pen + you're looking at new tools to expand your practice. Yea! The expansive world of calligraphy supplies can be inspiring... and sometimes a little daunting. If you decide that an oblique pen is for you, investing in an upgraded holder would be your first step, as the plastic Speedball provided in most starter kits, in my humble opinion, can be quite limiting + what's the point in limiting yourself out of the gate? While you'll find that some professional calligraphers use this basic plastic holder, many want more control of their oblique pens, or more precisely, over the angle of their flangs. Oblique holders with adjustable metal flangs allow you to customize how your nib fits + is angled, providing you a more accurate + individualized use of the pen. We spend so much time going over the importance of pen/nib angle throughout the Beginner's course, it would be a shame to loose control over that simply because you want to "upgrade."
When your metal flanged holder comes from the factory, it is set to neutral (much like the plastic Speedball, which is, by nature, permanently set there). To properly adjust your oblique pen, insert your nib into the flang, which should be on the left side of the pen staff (if you are a righty - if you are a lefty, there are left-handed oblique holders + you will have to purchase one specifically). With the vent hole facing upward, the point of the nib should be in line with the long axis of the staff, as shown here.
Most oblique pen holders aren’t perfectly positioned right from the factory + will likely require adjusting. This can be done by gently bending the metal flang itself into correct position using your fingers or flang benders, which can be found through specialty art vendors, like Paper Ink Arts.
Just remember, once you begin writing, you will be holding your oblique pen EXACTLY THE SAME as your straight pen! Imagine the flang is not there + allow the pen to relate to your paper as though it were your basic straight holder - the flang does the work of slanting your nib for you, not your hand. So check in with yourself to make sure you are adopting the correct posturing before you start:
SIT STRAIGHT UP IN YOUR CHAIR - NO SLOUCHING!
TILT YOUR PAPER APPROXIMATELY 45° COUNTER-CLOCKWISE
YOUR ARM IS RESTING COMFORTABLY AT YOUR SIDE, ELBOW BENT TO 90°
THE STAFF OF YOUR PEN SHOULD BE PARALLEL TO THE SIDES OF YOUR PAPER
YOUR NIB SHOULD NOT BE ROLLING (AKA. MAKE SURE THE VENT HOLE IS FACING UP)
+ IT SHOULD BE AT A 45° TO THE PAPER.
So, will an oblique pen work for you? Well, let’s discuss why you would even want to use one. In my experience, once you understand the why behind these strange pens, it becomes much easier to wrap your head (+ hand) around them. It is the oblique pen holder that actually inspired the modern day Copperplate style + for good reason. The oblique calligraphy pen was originally developed for right-handed calligraphers to more easily achieve the proper 45° angle/slant that is indicative of formal calligraphy.
If you’re right-handed, you may notice that when you try to write with any sort of slant using a straight calligraphy pen, it becomes difficult to put even pressure on both tines. In general, your right tine will drag + cause a ragged edge on the right side of your downstrokes. You may even notice your nib snagging the paper. That’s where an oblique pen comes in handy. Because of its angled position, it ensures an even distribution of pressure through the tines + allows for cleaner angled lines.
Once you get the hang of these fun + funky holders, you'll realize fairly quickly there is a wide-ranging world of styles
from which to choose. Like most calligraphy supplies, what you choose is entirely your preference,
though you will find that some work better for certain purposes.
I have listed a few of my favorites below + included my why behind them.