Glass dip pens, how well do they work?
September 22, 2017 6:52 AM   Subscribe

I am thinking of buying a glass dip pen but I have never seen one irl and have no idea how well they write. I have no experience with dip pens of any kind.

I was browsing a stationary store online when I saw glass pens like this and was fascinated.
glass dip pens

I have three questions:
1) Will it be hard to control and write smoothly?
2) Will it run out of ink really quickly and will the constant dipping get annoying? I will be writing at a desk so portability is not an issue.
3) I want to customize my ink shades. If I mix up some watercolor paints, will the capillary action still work and it is possible to write with that rather than bottled ink? Will the paint be too thick?

I know a metal nib will probably write better but I'm in love with the look and glass is easier to clean.

Thank you calligraphy gurus!
posted by whitelotus to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (9 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I’ve played with a couple of glass dip pens and fountain pen ink, not watercolor or other paint. I imagine those paints would just fine so long as they’re fairly liquid.

You have to dip fairly often, probably after every couple of sentences. The glass dip pen I have—which is just like the ones pictured—tends to lay down more ink when first dipped and gets lighter as you write. So if you’re looking for a more consistent amount of ink and line width, a metal dip pen may suit you better. I’m no expert, though, so others may be able to recommend techniques to make them more consistent.

They’re definitely fun for playing with a bunch of different inks in one session, as you can easily rinse the bib off and try another ink. I’ve also used them for playing with inks that have particulates, like Diamine’s shimmertastic inks, to avoid having to spend hours cleaning them out of a fountain pen.
posted by santry at 7:04 AM on September 22 [2 favorites]

I had that exact set and I found it very difficult to control the flow of the ink. I'm not a calligraphy aficionado, but I've written and drawn with regular metal-tipped fountain pens before with much better results. I always wondered if I was just "doing something wrong," but I was never able to get nice looking lines or letters. Also, the weight of the tip made them weird/uncomfortable to hold on my hand while writing.
posted by Temeraria at 7:06 AM on September 22

Don't press too hard or the tip will break, I learned this the hard way.

You do have to dip fairly often, but it's a fun way to write a note. Watercolor works, but shows up rather lightly and takes longer to dry. Give yourself LOTS of time for drying if you use watercolor instead of ink.
posted by TooFewShoes at 7:09 AM on September 22

Peter Draws - with a glass pen
might be useful as a real-life example of how one works.
posted by soplerfo at 11:45 AM on September 22

Was just coming in to recommend Peter Draws, he has a bunch of videos with his glass pen, including one where he makes his own ink.
posted by ananci at 11:47 AM on September 22 [1 favorite]

I had one of these years ago. I'm not a very neat person, I have terrible handwriting and sometimes run out of patience.... but I loved that glass pen! To answer your questions- 1) no 2) sort of, but it's lovely & meditative and I didn't find it annoying at all. The point is to create beautiful script with it, not write fast or a lot. I'm not wonderful with cursive, but the results were fantastic (I.e, much better than printed letters). I bought several colors of ink and dipped in each one alternating colors, the cursive words slowly change color as the ink mixes at the point. Fascinating, meditative and beautiful- perfect for poems or framing or a (short) letter. Try it! (But yes do take care of the tip- thats how my fun met its end too.
posted by iiniisfree at 12:04 PM on September 22 [2 favorites]

I loooove a glass dip pen for ink sampling. It saves me from having to ink up a fountain pen. It's also so easy to clean and you don't have to manage fiddly nibs from your Speedball dip pen set.

1. Not really. Since there's no flex to a glass tip it's basically like normal writing with a gel pen. Gel pens often have juicy starts like glass dip pens do.
2. Once you get used to how long a single dip lasts on a particular paper you'll find that you dip automatically. You can hide your dip in letter joins but there will be a visible variation in the amount of ink if you try to get as many words as possible out of a single dip.
3. You can apply watercolors to any type of dip pen using a brush if you don't want to mix up a deeper well of color for dipping, but all of my experience with this is with Finetec's mica watercolors. I haven't actually tried it with, say, my W&N professional colors.
posted by xyzzy at 2:32 PM on September 22 [1 favorite]

Thank you everyone, your answers have given me everything I needed to know. I just remembered that I had a G-pen from a manga drawing course I took years ago but it seems to have vanished into the ether. I might have thrown it away like I did my cheap fountain pen whose nib rusted.
posted by whitelotus at 8:55 PM on September 22

Update: I found my old Deleter pen holder and nibs while rummaging around for something else. To my amazement, the G-nib is still in good condition after so many years despite usage and lack of anti-rust packaging. The maru nib however is a rusted goner. Now I am trying to decide if I should buy new Deleter nibs or order a glass pen.

The Deleter nibs are definitely unpretty though and harder to clean! Ummm...
posted by whitelotus at 7:03 PM on September 25

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