Tuesday’s TPK blog post was about straight calligraphy pens. We examined a few different brands, talked about how to insert nibs, and established a couple of questions to ask yourself before buying a pen. While it’s true that you should always have a good straight calligraphy pen handy, I have to admit that I mostly use oblique calligraphy pens!
An Introduction to Oblique Calligraphy Pens
Oblique calligraphy pens set themselves apart from other pens because they feature a protruding flange that forces your nib to write at an angle that can be tough to achieve if you are using a straight holder. For example, take a look at the woodland wreath place card below. You can see that though my hand is angled to the left, which is natural if you are coming at a piece of writing as a right-handed person, my nib is angled to the right. That angle makes it easier to achieve nice, right-leaning Kaitlin Style calligraphy.
It may seem obvious that an oblique pen can be helpful to right-handed people, but what’s not so obvious is how it can help left-handed people. Now, there are some lefties out there who use right-handed oblique pens (for example, John DeCollibus), and some lefties who prefer straight pens, but many lefties will benefit from using a left-handed oblique pen. According to artisan oblique pen maker Rodger Mayeda: “To achieve the correct slant (with a straight calligraphy pen), most left-handed people will need to move the pen away from his or her body, or they can tuck their elbow in closer to their body. However, with a left-handed oblique pen, this repositioning isn’t necessary. [In general], a left-handed person will experience a more comfortable writing posture if they use a left-handed oblique.”
In short, all oblique calligraphy pens were developed with user comfort in mind. While you could achieve the same calligraphy results with a straight pen, using an oblique pen allows you to write slanted calligraphy without contorting your back/shoulders/arms into an unnatural position. That isn’t true for everyone — some people get along just fine without an oblique pen — but does apply to a lot of writers.
What to Look for in Oblique Calligraphy Pens
The Speedball oblique pen pictured below is one of the most popular on the market because it’s cost-effective and easily accessible. It can also be used by both left- and right-handed writers.
If the Speedball oblique is truly all that is available to you, then I’d begrudgingly recommend using it. However, there are a couple of issues with using this pen, which you can read more about in this blog post. To sum it up:
- The plastic flange has a very upright orientation. Because of this, your nib has to be positioned at a severe upright angle in relation to the paper. That can cause a lot of difficulty while writing because the nib will more than likely catch on your paper!
- The flange also causes nibs to protrude too far past the midline of the pen (to see what I mean, read the About Oblique Pen Holders post or see the photo below). This makes it more difficult to achieve that nice, right-leaning angle.
You don’t have to be super-picky about oblique calligraphy pens — honestly, the most important thing is that they have a brass or metal flange that tightly hugs your nib of choice. Unfortunately, that means that, unlike straight pens, you probably won’t be able to use one pen for all nibs (though, in some cases, oblique pens can be adjusted). If you’re on a budget, you might think about buying one oblique pen that is fitted for your favorite nib. To be honest, I have several oblique pens that are fitted for virtually every nib I own, yet I find myself using the Brause EF66 oblique pen for 98% of my projects that require using an oblique pen, like the Janet Style envelope below.
Another advantage of brass/metal flanges is their flexibility and ability to be adjusted. No two calligraphers are alike, so it’s good to be able to bend the flange forward, backward, up, and down to accommodate your personal preference!
Oblique Calligraphy Pen Recommendations
1. Rodger’s Pen Box
My very favorite oblique calligraphy pens are made by Rodger Mayeda, a New Mexico woodworker and calligrapher. Unfortunately, Rodger’s oblique pens are hard to come by as the market for them is very large and the actual number that can be produced is very small! (If you’re interested, you can learn about Rodger’s process here.)
I love Rodger’s pens because they have a finish that is smooth as butter, the grip is intuitive, and the flange is firm but adjustable. Rodger was an engineer before retiring, so he has tweaked (and tweaked, and tweaked) his design over the past couple of years to ensure an optimal user experience and minimal issues when writing. You can buy one of Rodger Mayeda’s pens on his Etsy shop, but you have to be quick: his shop is only open one day out of every month, and his stock generally sells out in less than 10 minutes! If you do manage to snag a pen, let him know what nib you want the pen to be fitted for; he’ll customize the flange for you!
2. Hand-Turned Wood Oblique Holders
While there’s nothing quite like a Rodger Mayeda original pen, the hand-turned wood oblique holders available on Paper & Ink Arts and John Neal Bookseller make a formidable substitute! In fact, I distribute these pens — fitted for Nikko G nibs — to students at my modern calligraphy workshops (on that note, I’ll have a tab on the website publicizing workshops in a couple of months; I’m working on lining some up for late summer/fall!).
Hand-turned wood oblique holders are an excellent option because they are flexible and comfortable, and they keep your nib at the proper angle. The only difference, really, that I’ve noticed between them and Rodger’s Pen Box pens is that the flange is a little more difficult to adjust, and it sits closer to the body of the pen. They are still an excellent choice, however, and absolutely deserve to be counted among your calligraphy supplies! Note, too, that if you buy them from John Neal Bookseller (Item #H115), you can choose which nib you would like the pen to be fitted for.
3. Ziller Oblique Holders
I hesitate to recommend Ziller holders because the plastic used to make them does have a tendency to crack. That said, if you are unable to purchase a wood oblique holder, Ziller pens should work just fine; and they are a much better alternative to a plastic-flanged Speedball oblique. They feature an adjustable brass flange, and will hold your nib at the proper angle.
The grip on the Ziller pen isn’t my favorite — it’s ridged rather than smooth — but I do think that it is a fine substitute for a wood pen. It’s also somewhat cost-effective, running around $13.00 per pen. You can find Ziller oblique calligraphy pens at Paper & Ink Arts.
I hope that this post was able to offer an understandable and helpful overview of oblique calligraphy pens for you! Of course, if you are left with questions after reading, I am happy to answer them in the comments. Thanks so much for taking the time to peruse this post, and have a fantastic weekend!