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Preparing your nibs for dip calligraphy

Preparing your nibs for dip calligraphy

During manufacturing, nibs get sealed with a clear protective, generally in varnish or oil form. These protectants prevent nibs from rusting in storage. 

When you first go to use your nibs, you’ll need to prepare your nib and remove this protective layer, or ink will not flow through your nib.

Above: How what it looks like when a new nib is dipped in ink without having the protective coating removed.

Above: How what it looks like when a new nib is dipped in ink without having the protective coating removed.

You can see here that the ink doesn’t adhere evenly to the nib because of the water-repelling oil. Not preparing nibs properly will interrupt your writing and rhythm. Ink will blot and not apply evenly to your paper, making it frustrating to write properly.

This image is what a nib in ink should look like once the coating has been removed.

This image is what a nib in ink should look like once the coating has been removed.

Below are some creative ways to break in your new nibs. There are so many methods here you’ll surely have some of these options readily available to you.


Run the nib through a flame

This one’s my preferred method to use on my Nikko G nibs. Some calligraphers say when you burn nibs, it can damage them, which is why I only prep the Nikko G nib this way and this seems to work fine as it is made from chrome and is more durable than most other nibs. This method has the quickest prep time. I place my nib onto my holder and use a stove lighter to generate a small flame and quickly pass the nib back and forth once or twice—careful not to burn the nib! 

Warm water & detergent

I prep my other nibs with warm water and dish washing liquid. Scrub the the nib with a bit of the mixture using an old, soft toothbrush or Q-tip. Rinse then dry.

Toothpaste

Speaking of toothbrushes, toothpaste works also! Apply a small amount of toothpaste on to an old toothbrush or a Q-tip to clean your nib. Rinse and dry.

Boiling Water

Place your nibs into boiling water for 2-3 minutes only. Remove with a slotted spoon and let cool. Remember these are metal and this will make them very hot!

Ammonia

Okay, so not something you’re likely to have lying around at home. But if you can get your hands on some, mix a small amount, about a ratio of 1:7 with water and let your nibs soak for one minute. Rinse and dry.

Gum Arabic

If you have some on hand, wiping your nib with gum arabic will remove the factory oils, ready for you to use.

Eraser

Gently rub an eraser over it. A kneaded eraser works well here.

Saliva

Okay, gross, I know! Another way is to spit into a paper towel and rub your nib thoroughly. Do not put the nib in your mouth, there are slits that can get caught, ouch!

Nail Polish Remover (Acetone)

Grab some nail polish and a Q-tip to use the solution. Rinse and dry.

Stab a potato

Place your nib onto your holder and literally, stab a potato. You may damage the nib here so I’d recommend you push (rather than stab) the nib into a raw potato. Remove and use.


Tip: Don’t forget to prepare both topside and underside, cleaning several times to be safe!

I'm sure there are so many more—what methods do you use to clean your new nibs?

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