It’s a little-known fact that new calligraphy nibs come with the manufacturer’s oils still on them. The use of oil is necessary to ensure that nibs store well as they are waiting to be sold. That’s good news for us writers: no one wants to receive an old, brittle nib! At the same time, though, new calligraphy nibs can be difficult to use because of the oil that coats them. In this blog post, we’ll explore four gentle ways to remove oil from nibs and prepare them for use!
About Manufacturer’s Oils on New Calligraphy Nibs
For some reason, it is not widely publicized that you may need to clean new calligraphy nibs prior to use. That’s a shame because many people receive nibs that they assume are faulty because the nibs don’t write well. While other factors may be at play, more often than not the issue is the manufacturer’s oils.
As you know, oil doesn’t mix well with many other liquids, and calligraphy ink is no exception! If you try to use an uncleaned new calligraphy nib to write with, you’ll experience mixed results. More often than not, ink will blob up in odd spots on your nib, which will cause irregular ink flow.
While all new calligraphy nibs come with oil on them, some have more than others. The more oil on the nib, the worse it writes! In the photo below, you can see a comparison of four different Nikko G nibs straight out of the box. Results of writing an Amy Style “hello” varied from good (the top nib), fine (the second nib), and not so great (the bottom two nibs).
With the bottom two nibs, especially, I noticed ink flow problems. I was able to write, but the ink ran out very quickly because it wanted to stay blobbed up on the nib! If you can relate to that experience, you will want to try one of the four nib preparation techniques outlined below. They’ll work on any calligraphy nib, and all of the techniques utilize materials that are readily available!
1. Use a Potato to Prepare New Calligraphy Nibs
Sticking your new nibs in a potato for a few minutes will work wonders to get the oils off! Start by picking up a potato at the grocery store; I used a Russet potato, but I’m sure that any variety is fine.
Push your nib halfway into the potato, exerting firm but gentle pressure.
Let the nib sit for fifteen minutes. Try not to exceed fifteen minutes, or the nib may start to rust.
Wipe the nib off, and you’re all set to go!
The potato method is an excellent way to make sure your nibs are clean! It’s hands-off, cheap, super-effective, and can allow you to prepare several nibs at a time with minimal effort.
2. Use Dish Detergent to Prepare Calligraphy Nibs
Many dish detergents exist to combat grease, so they’re great for getting oil off of new calligraphy nibs! For this method, you’ll need a de-greasing dish detergent, a soft toothbrush, and water.
First, you’ll dip the toothbrush in water to moisten it.
Next, squeeze a little bit of detergent on the brush.
Scrub the nib for about thirty seconds. Make sure you give plenty of attention to both the top and the underside of the nib!
Once you’re finished scrubbing, drop the nib in water and let it sit for a few seconds to get the soap off.
Fish the nib out of the water, then dry it off!
As I’ll explain here shortly, the dish detergent method actually wasn’t the most effective method I tried, but it gets the job done!
3. Use Toothpaste to Prepare New Calligraphy Nibs
For whatever reason, toothpaste seems to be more effective than dish detergent when it comes to removing manufacturer’s oils. Maybe it’s just the brand I used (Crest Complete), but toothpaste did a great job of getting the nib squeaky clean! As with the dish detergent method, you’ll want to start with a soft toothbrush and water in addition to the toothpaste.
Begin by moistening the toothbrush in the water.
Then, squeeze a very small amount of toothpaste onto the toothbrush.
Give the calligraphy nib a good scrubbing; 30 seconds is also ideal for this method.
Once you have scrubbed the nib with the toothpaste, drop it in water to get the toothpaste off.
As with the dish detergent method, you’ll want to fish the nib out of the water after a few seconds and wipe it off. Try writing now — you’ll be delighted at how nicely the ink flows off the nib!
4. Use Acetone to Prepare New Calligraphy Nibs
If you don’t have access to any of the materials outlined in the three nib preparation methods above, you can use acetone. It’s not the most effective or reliable method to prepare a nib, but it does help!
Begin by pouring a small amount of acetone into a container (such as a lid). Saturate one end of a cotton swab with the chemical.
Use the wet end of the cotton swab to wipe off the top and underside of the nib. Try not to let any tiny cotton swab fibers get caught in the tines!
Once you’re finished wiping off the nib with the cotton swab, the nib is ready to write with! There’s no need to dry it; acetone evaporates very quickly.
Nib Preparation Results and Conclusions
I was new to trying out a couple of the nib preparation methods detailed in this post, and I was surprised at the results! You can see in the photo below that the potato and the toothpaste seem to clean nibs most effectively. The detergent did a fine job, and the acetone, while helpful, wasn’t as effective as the other methods.
To be fair, the “potato” nib had a decent ink flow capability pre-preparation, but I did notice that it wrote smoother post-preparation. The “toothpaste” nib seemed to fare the best; it wrote very smoothly, and ink didn’t cling to the nib at all! Dish detergent worked fine, though I did notice that there was some ink that didn’t quite want to leave the nib. And acetone … well, you can see that the calligraphed “hello” on the right is an improvement over the one on the left. That said, I think another preparation method would have worked better!
No matter what nib preparation method you choose to use, remember to be gentle: you don’t want to bend any tines as you are cleaning! Remember, too, to regularly wipe off your nibs with water as you are writing. That will keep ink from accumulating on them and prolong nib life. When you’re finished for the day, dry your nibs off completely and store them in a container or in their respective holders as shown below.
I hope that this post was beneficial to you! If you have any questions or alternative nib preparation methods, please don’t hesitate to contribute them in the Comments section below. 🙂 Thank you for reading TPK, and have a fantastic weekend!