Review – Speedball Elegant Writer Calligraphy Pens

It has been some time since I really practiced my calligraphy (and I only know how to do “gothic” because it’s the coolest-looking one). I really got into it for a moment a few years back, but for whatever reason I never really kept up. I write an alphabet or a quick note every now and then, but refilling fountain pens or cleaning up dip pens is such a hassle. Somewhere along the line, I picked up a set of Speedball Elegant Writer pens, which are more of a learning tool than anything else, but they do provide quick and easy access to calligraphy by removing the cleanup (and some of the drying-out problems). Does that make picking up a set worth it?

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The bodies of the pens are a very bland-looking, vaguely-pearlescent plastic cylinder that tapers out toward the cap. The top and bottom have little rings of black plastic and the cap has a cheap-feeling molded-in clip. Printed blockily on the side is all the information one would need to reorder or look the pen up. The grip section has a noticeably sharp step-down from where the cap covers it, and then a few more step-downs in front of the fingers leading to a small felt-tip nib (the size of which is marked on the side; my set contained two 2mm pens, a 2.5mm, and a 3mm).

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The nibs are a bit scratchy when writing, and lack that sharp edge you really want when calligraphing. They do a fine job for the material they’re made out of, but they certainly aren’t professional quality. It’s worth noting that the pen is super light, and posting the cap doesn’t affect the balance at all; whether or not that’s a problem depends on what kind of user you are (but it does make them feel cheap). The ink is black enough, but on closer inspection has noticeable shading. Most people won’t think anything of it, but again, it isn’t professional quality. On the page it behaves well, with minimal feathering and bleed-through even on copier paper, but it has no fortitude and easily washes down to a purple smear when exposed to water (I suspect no better results in the sun). It just isn’t meant to stick around for too long.

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Really, the worst thing I can say about these is that I think they’re over-priced. If you’re just learning letterforms or want to practice and remember them, these pens are more than adequate. They’re cheaply made with a non-permanent ink, but the tip is well-crafted and the plastic can actually absorb some shock. I keep them kicking around to keep my hand able to sculpt the correct letterforms (though they are just this side of larger than I prefer) and I’m not unhappy with them; they are entirely serviceable.

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Review – Manuscript Calligraphy Scroll 4 Nib

So this week I’ll be doing a quick review of the Scroll 4 calligraphy nib by the Manuscript Pen Company.

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The scroll nib concept is simple enough: it splits a regular italic nib with a second slit and a notch out of the middle, thus creating two lines when applied to the paper. The Manuscript scroll 4 has this simple design, with “No.4 Scroll England” stamped into it as well.

Writing is much easier than with a standard calligraphy fountain pen nib. The feed seems designed to keep up very well with all kinds of calligraphy nibs. Very little pressure is required to write and may even hinder performance at times. Each line is about a millimeter wide with one being slightly smaller than the other. To write with this nib, one must adjust their calligraphy a little bit but not very much, it is a very easy nib to use, though even with gentle use the small tines get misaligned every now and then, causing them to pop and either momentarily spit a small glob of ink or skip.

Overall this is a fairly nice nib that is well suited to its purpose of calligraphy, and while it doesn’t have many other (if any other) uses, it is still quite fun to play around with sometime, and this particular one doesn’t cost much.

Review – Sheaffer Calligraphy Maxi Kit Part 3 – Ink – Blue, Black, Purple, and Turquoise

Now onto the Sheaffer inks in the Sheaffer Calligraphy set, which I will do in batches as I get around to trying them out. I’ll be starting off with black, purple, blue, and turquoise.

Surprisingly Accurate Photo

Surprisingly Accurate Photo

First black, which is a plain black, really there is nothing special. It’s a cool black that is very dark, but is not as saturated as one would want a black to be most of the time. For calligraphy and drawing it is good for the most part (being non-waterproof) but I wouldn’t go painting a picture with it.

Second purple, a color that has no place in a calligraphy set (something that can be said about every color that isn’t black, in my opinion). The purple is a nice deep purple with lots of shading in wider lines, though the shading doesn’t offer a great amount of variation. I personally wouldn’t use this for calligraphy and would have a hard time finding a use for it. But it is very pleasant.

The blue, Sheaffer blue, like all pen maker blues is very simple: a dark blue without much shading that does well with writing and okay with calligraphy. It is a fairly standard blue, non-waterproof and it almost looks like a ballpoint pen. Like I said, though, it is a bit darker than some others, so you might want to look into it if you want a darker blue.

Finally turquoise, which again I don’t understand being in this set. It is a very bright, nice color. It has some shading (which I’m not too fond of) but overall is fairly bland. A nice sky or Caribbean sea color, but not one for calligraphy but for daily writing in my opinion. You wouldn’t want to color a turquoise rock with it either.

That’s it for this time, It may take a few weeks, but I’ll look at the rest of the colors sometime in the future.

Review – Sheaffer Maxi Kit Calligraphy Nibs

Now, for the second part of the Sheaffer Maxi Calligraphy Kit review. This one might be a bit short as I’m going to be looking at the three included nib sizes: Fine (1mm), Medium (1.5 mm), and Broad (2 mm).

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The nibs themselves are Italic, meaning that they are flattened and straight at the tip, thus producing a wide up-and-down stroke and a thin left-to-right stroke. They are true Italics, with no tipping material, and sharp edges that may cut into the paper if one isn’t careful, but they are a bit more rounded off than a dip pen Italic would be. Because there is no tipping material, the stainless steel of the nib is easier to wear away and damage from rough use. Although this doesn’t happen often as steel is still a very robust material, it is worth noting.

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Each nib has almost the same left-to-right width, but the up-and-down stroke width is equal to the size of the nib stated above (1mm,1.5 mm,2 mm). The fine nib can be used for regular cursive writing, but the medium and broad nibs should not be used for cursive writing as the size necessary would render writing impractical or illegible. Although the corners of the sharp nibs can cut into the paper, they aren’t quite sharp enough to make the sharpest of line turns. To most eyes, the angles appear spot on, especially when compared to the round corners of regular fountain pens, but when compared to a dip nib they are a bit lacking. Overall, the nibs a very functional and useful in a variety of situations (at least calligraphy situations). They provide enough variation to not be bored with inking up three pens, and even without a tipping material will last through quite some use.

Review – Sheaffer Maxi Kit Viewpoint Pen Body

I have talked a lot about specialty pens and the like. Now it’s time to talk about another one, this one specifically for calligraphy. In this several part review I’ll be talking about the Sheaffer Calligraphy Maxi-kit. In this first part I’ll talk about the included pens, the Sheaffer Viewpoint.

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The cap of the Viewpoint is a cylinder with a slanted top. This slant has Sheaffer written on it as well as the size of the nib meant to go with the pen (in this kit at least). The bottom of the cap has a chrome band with Sheaffer written on it. The clip is simple, but functional, having a small ball at the end, up near the top is also the white dot that signifies a lifetime Sheaffer warranty (possibly).

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The barrel of the pen is also a simple cylinder, except it has a rather large hole cut in two sides to create a viewing area for the cartridge or converter (get it). The barrel’s end is also rounded so it won’t stand up.

The (grip) section is made of dimpled rubber and is sufficiently grippy and un-intrusive. Just after the grip is a small piece of plastic (color matching the barrel) and then the nib directly. There is a rather steep step to nib from the section, making the nib look perhaps a bit small. The feed is well hidden and works fine for the purpose, but on some pens can be finicky.

Overall the Sheaffer Viewpoint body is a sturdy, and functional design, even if it’s not the most comfortable. Its real purpose is to get a nib to the paper and it does the job quite well. Though it is a bit weaker than previous Sheaffer models due to the hole.