• How to Know When a Calligraphy Nib is Done

    Once you start using a calligraphy nib, how long can you reasonably expect it to last? The short answer is that there’s no way to know that exactly. The more detailed answer can be found in this blog post!

    How to Know When a Calligraphy Nib is Done | The Postman's Knock

    When you place an order for a calligraphy nib, it’s natural to wonder: “How long is this nib going to last?” While the question isn’t complicated, the answer is! In today’s post, we’ll talk about four signs that it’s time for a nib replacement. If any of the four signs below apply to your calligraphy nib, move on to a new one!

    1. The Nib’s Tines Have Split

    Split tines are the most obvious sign that a calligraphy nib has reached the end of its lifespan. You’ll know that your tines are split because when you observe the nib from the side, you can distinctly see two tines instead of one.

    How to Know When a Calligraphy Nib is Done | The Postman's Knock
    If the tines on your nib look like the split tines on the Brause EF66 nib pictured here, then the nib is kaput.

    There are two major causes of split tines: dropping your pen on the floor, and/or applying excessive pressure to the nib as you’re writing. You’ll find that it’s exceedingly difficult to write with a nib with split tines. Effectively, you should replace your nib ASAP if you notice this problem!

    2. The Calligraphy Nib is Scratchy and Uncomfortable to Use

    Let’s say that you’ve been using your calligraphy nib for a while and loving it. Then, one day, you notice that the nib just isn’t behaving like it used to. The tines snag on paper, and it’s difficult to achieve a nice upstroke. When you start to wonder how your skills have deteriorated so much, remember this blog post. It’s probably just time to replace the nib!

    Holding a Calligraphy Pen | The Postman's Knock
    If you didn’t have any problems with your nib before, but now it’s not fun to use, toss it.

    When you start to view calligraphy with your nib as more of a struggle than a relaxing retreat, change the nib. If you’re not completely sure that the problem is the nib versus user error, try changing out the nib anyway. I recommend keeping 2-3 extra nibs on hand so you can diagnose whether the nib is the problem, or if it’s something else.

    3. Hairline Upstrokes are Too Wide

    Stroke contrast is key when you’re creating dip pen calligraphy. When you write upstrokes, you want to be rewarded with a thin, delicate line. Every time you use a nib, however, the formerly sharp tip grinds down ever so slightly. After many sessions of use, you’ll find that the nib is incapable of producing the hairline strokes it could make before.

    Elegant White Calligraphy | The Postman's Knock
    The Brause EF66 nib is capable of creating thin upstrokes like the ones shown on this Flourish Formal envelope. When the nib stops easily making upstrokes like these, I know it’s time to replace it.

    Sometimes, you can’t tell by simply looking at a nib that the tip is worn. However, when you try to write, the nib makes thicker upstrokes than it did before. At that point, you’ll know that you need to replace it in order to write calligraphy with clear stroke contrast again!

    4. Ink Flow is Irregular

    Let’s say that you’ve successfully used your calligraphy nib for several projects. You eagerly start in on your next project only to discover that the ink flow is all wonky. The ink is pooling, and things just aren’t flowing smoothly.

    Calligraphy Frustration! | The Postman's Knock
    If you get frustrated, take comfort in knowing that everyone does! There will always be times in which a calligraphy project doesn’t go exactly as planned.

    Poor ink flow can be attributed to several other factors. However, if the nib was working fine before — especially with the same ink, then the issue is probably a nib that’s past its prime.


    A nib’s lifespan is all but impossible to predict because it depends on so many factors! Those factors include how often you use the nib, how much acidity is in your ink, and how heavy-handed you are while writing. The brand and flexibility of a nib also makes a huge difference!

    Calligraphy Nibs | The Postman's Knock
    Before you use a new nib, don’t forget to clean it off to prepare it for use! I like to use the potato method.

    While it’s difficult to say, “Your nib should last for precisely X months,” I can say this: keep extras on hand! Calligraphy nibs are so cheap precisely because they’re meant to be disposable. If you find a nib that you like, make sure that you have 2-3 more of the same nib in storage. And, of course, don’t forget to prepare your new nibs for use by cleaning them off.

    If you have any questions about calligraphy nibs, don’t hesitate to ask! Otherwise, enjoy the rest of your day, and happy, smooth writing.


    Lindsey's Signature | The Postman's Knock