There are a lot of great calligraphy pens on the market, and deciding on one can be a daunting undertaking! In today’s post, I’ll lay out some of my favorite straight pens, and hopefully help you to reach a decision about which is best for you! The straight pens in this post are all in a reasonable price range, widely available, and user-friendly.
I love using straight calligraphy pens for two things: creating illustrations and writing in calligraphy styles — like Amy Style and Beth Style — that don’t require a considerable right-leaning slant. For styles that do require a right slant, I generally turn to oblique pens, but we’ll talk about that in the next TPK blog post! In the meantime, if you are new to the world of calligraphy, I would absolutely recommend starting out with one of the pens outlined below.
Manuscript Calligraphy Pens
When I teach workshops, I provide Manuscript calligraphy pens to participants! I have to admit that this pen first caught my eye because of its beautiful simplicity; and the fact that it has a universal insert totally sold me. Speaking of which, let’s talk about why it’s important to buy a straight pen with a universal insert!
Do you see the four metal “petals” surrounded by a rim on the bottom of the pen? That’s called a universal insert, and it will accommodate a wide range of nibs. Since nibs come in all shapes and sizes, that versatility is important! It may seem logical to put a nib in the middle of a universal insert, but you actually need to put your nib in just below the split in the lip of the rim. I know that can be a little bit hard to understand without seeing it, so I made a video to demonstrate:
While Manuscript calligraphy pens don’t have a fancy ergonomic grip, they are a solid and very economical choice if you want to add beauty and function to your pen collection. I don’t think I’d write with one for several hours at a time, especially considering there are more grip-friendly pens on the market; but if you anticipate using it for an hour a day or so, you’ll really enjoy it!
Cork-Tipped Calligraphy Pens
Cork-tipped calligraphy pens come with a universal insert; this means that they can accommodate that same range of nibs that the Manuscript pens can accommodate. The difference is the grip!
If I am working on something for a long span of time (several hours), then I like to use a pen with a nice, substantial grip. Cork-tipped calligraphy pens have such a grip; you’ll be able to work with them for long periods of time more comfortably than you could with a Manuscript plastic pen. For that reason, I generally use cork-tipped pens if I’m calligraphing several envelopes in a single sitting, like the Amy Style piece pictured below.
While I have pictured the General’s cork-tipped pen above, there are several different brands of cork-tipped pens (for example: e+m and Koh-I-Noor). All of the cork-tipped pens on the market are very similar, so you shouldn’t feel pressure to choose one brand over another. Whatever cork-tipped pen that appeals to you will be fine!
Tachikawa T40 Calligraphy Pens
I discovered the Tachikawa T40 holder earlier this year and instantly fell in love with it for several reasons! First of all, it has a cushioned grip that — in my opinion — is even more comfortable than cork-tipped calligraphy pens. It also features a cap that you can put on the pen for easy transportation. In the photo below, you can see that the pen’s nib, a Nikko G, is completely protected because of the handy plastic cap!
The Tachikawa T40 holder distinguishes itself from other straight calligraphy pens because it features a plastic insert, as shown below:
The insert is touted as a benefit because it won’t rust. Honestly, though, you probably won’t experience rusting issues with metal inserts; the insert shouldn’t ever touch the water you use to clean your nib as you are writing. If no water is getting in the insert, then there’s no risk of rust. That said, the T40’s plastic insert is still pretty awesome because it can accommodate crow quill nibs! That is a feat that calligraphy pens with metal universal inserts don’t have the bragging rights to. You can read more about what you can do with crow quill nibs in this blog post, but basically, they are fantastic for drawing tiny details and/or writing letters!
The only downside to the Tachikawa T40 holder is it doesn’t readily accommodate all standard dip pen nibs like calligraphy pens that have a metal universal insert do. The T40 holder is great if you plan on using it with a Nikko G nib, Brause EF66, or Leonardt Principal (among other nibs), but nibs like the Brause Rose and Brause Steno actually fall out of it.
Despite the fact that it can’t accommodate all nibs, the Tachikawa T40 is the perfect calligraphy pen to invest in if you appreciate a cushiony grip, do a lot of traveling, or just want a nice, new pen to add to your collection!
Most craft stores offer Speedball straight calligraphy pens for sale, and I do want to say that Speedball pens aren’t a bad choice if you’re just starting out. After all, they can accommodate a Nikko G nib, which I consider to be the best beginner nib.
You should remember, however, that standard straight Speedball pens do not have a universal insert. While the Nikko G is a good fit, small nibs like the Brause EF66 will not fit in the plastic groove at the bottom of the pen. In short, the Speedball pen isn’t a bad choice — in fact, it’s extremely economical — but I would plan on using it only for the Nikko G and nibs that are similar in size to the Nikko G.
There are countless other pens available besides those that I have mentioned above, and all of them have their positives and negatives. Here are two things to consider when you’re trying to reach a buying decision:
- Does the pen have a universal insert? If yes, it can fit a variety of nibs that you can switch out at your leisure; if no, it will only accommodate a select shape/size of nibs.
- Does the pen have an ergonomic grip? If yes, you will be able to comfortably write with it for long periods of time.
You can have as many or as few straight pens as you want. As long as you have a straight pen with a universal insert, though, you actually only need one pen! You can insert nibs in and out of the pen to suit whatever project you are working on. Alternatively, you can collect several different straight pens and keep a different nib inserted in each. That way, the pen is ready to write whenever you are!
In this weekend’s blog post, we’ll talk about a couple of different oblique calligraphy pen options. We’ll also examine why some people — myself included — like to use oblique pens instead of straight pens in certain circumstances! In the meantime, if you have any questions about straight calligraphy pens, please don’t hesitate to comment. 🙂
Thanks so much for reading TPK, and enjoy the rest of your day!