If you’re just starting to learn calligraphy and you’re right-handed, then you may have heard that an oblique calligraphy pen can make life easier. That is completely true! The idea behind oblique pens is slant correction. An oblique calligraphy pen really helps you as a right-handed person to match your nib’s angle to the calligraphy slant that you want to achieve.
That said, it can be confusing to figure out which oblique pen to buy when you’re first starting out. If you’re anything like me, you probably defaulted to a $2.00-ish plastic-flanged oblique holder. (The word “flange” refers to the protruding part of the pen on the left.) In today’s blog post, I want to discuss five reasons to ditch that holder and pursue the brass-flanged holder of your dreams! Here are a few things to consider:
1. Pen Angle
The most common question I receive — both via email and in workshops — is “Why is my nib catching on the paper?”. Nine times out of ten, the issue is pen angle. If you’re holding the pen too upright, then the nib comes at the paper from an aggressively vertical angle and digs in to the paper fibers.
Now, the nice thing about brass-flanged oblique pens is they correct that vertical angle. While the pen is straight, the flange tilts the nib up, forcing you to come at the paper with a gentler angle. You can even adjust the flange with pliers to increase that angle, if need be!
In contrast, plastic oblique calligraphy pens have a flange that stays in line with the pen. That really doesn’t help as far as softening your angle goes. In fact, if you have trouble with nibs catching on the paper when you’re using regular straight calligraphy pens, you’ll probably experience the same issue with a plastic-flanged oblique.
2. Nib Position
When you insert a nib into an oblique calligraphy pen, the tip of the nib should touch an imaginary line running through the middle of the pen. In the photo below, you can see that the Nikko G nib has been pushed in far enough to accommodate that rule.
Unless your nib is very short, plastic-flanged oblique pens cannot fulfill this requirement. Most of the time, the nib extends well past the center line of the pen.
Thinking about nib position brings me to the third benefit of using a brass-flanged oblique pen: control when writing.
In the photo above, you can see that my fingers are quite close to the tip of the nib. The flange provides a comfortable place for me to rest my thumb. Having your fingers (and thumb) so close to everything ensures acute pressure control so you can achieve nice, thick downstrokes and thin upstrokes. In contrast, your fingers are forced to be quite far from the tip of the nib when you’re using a plastic-flanged oblique pen.
You don’t get quite as much nib control with a plastic-flanged oblique calligraphy pen. Sure, you can achieve some stroke contrast, but not as much as you can with a brass-flanged oblique calligraphy pen!
4. Adjustment Potential
Most brass-flanged oblique pens can easily be adjusted with pliers. If you find — for example — that the pen holds the nib at too severe of an angle, then you can play around to lessen the angle. The pen is more or less customizable! You can find out how to adjust your brass-flanged oblique pen by watching the videos in the How to Adjust an Oblique Pen Holder blog post.
As you can probably imagine, there’s no adjustment potential with a plastic-flanged oblique calligraphy pen. If you go near it with a pair of pliers, it will crack.
5. Comfort + Approachability
Writing comfort is the main reason that I encourage you to invest in a brass-flanged oblique calligraphy pen. If you try a brass-flanged oblique versus a plastic-flanged oblique, you’ll notice a night-and-day difference. All of a sudden, your fingers have a comfortable place to rest as they write. Furthermore, your posture will be better because you’re not trying to accommodate the quirks (upright angle, protruding nib) of the plastic-flanged oblique.
I will never forget a conversation I had with Tona of The Paper Seahorse after teaching a workshop there last year. She explained that she had taken a calligraphy workshop before, and had used a plastic-flanged oblique at that workshop. “Honestly, after that, I thought I just probably wasn’t cut out for calligraphy,” she explained. Then, she tried the brass-flanged oblique at my workshop, and she said the difference was unbelievable. “I actually feel like I can write calligraphy with this pen!” she exclaimed.
Listen, I know that most oblique calligraphy pens look intimidating. Just give yourself some time to learn how to use them, and your oblique pen will become your go-to tool! You can learn how to use an oblique pen in the Beginner’s Modern Calligraphy Online Course.
Where to Purchase Brass-Flanged Oblique Pens
If you’re sold on a brass-flanged oblique pen, I would recommend starting with a hand-turned wooden pen. They’re around $20.00, and worth every penny! These are the pens that I provide to participants in my beginner calligraphy workshops.
If you are not in a position to acquire a brass-flanged oblique pen, don’t worry. A brass flange isn’t essential for calligraphy success! Some people prefer using regular straight calligraphy pens, while others make the plastic flange work for them. The last thing I want to do is convince you not to continue to learn if you can’t obtain a pen. Sure, good calligraphy tools are important, but practice is more important!
Of course, if you have any questions, I am happy to answer! Input about your own experience is also very much appreciated. I hope that you enjoyed this post, and would like to thank you for reading TPK!