Thursday, 12 January 2017

A new dip pen

I've finished the first of my new, arthritis-friendly dip pens. It took a while, and the design evolved as I carved, but I've ended up with a pen that feels nice in the hand and is super comfortable to use.

I started with a bit of wood that I saved from the firewood pile. I used a drawknife to take off the bark and carve the rough outline. At that point I looked at the end and realised I had a lovely fishtail shape at one end if I wanted to use it, so the design changed a bit. The curve at the grip end and on the 'tail' were put in with a spokeshave and an Opinel pocket knife (rescued from a car boot for a euro, reground completely and now my favourite carving knife). I also drilled the hole for the nib holder with a 1/4" drill before carving any closer.

At this point I tried the pen and it was way too heavy. When I held it to write, it was pulling against me because it was top-heavy. I did a bit of thinking, and then decided to do two things;
  1. I sliced off half of the top part of the pen, from where it rests on the web between thumb and first finger all the way to the top,
  2. and then I drilled a hole in the middle and carved out a bit of the 'barrel' with my gouges to lighten the weight a little more.

A dip pen can dream...
I finished the pen by sanding to 400 grit, and then oiling with linseed oil. The inside part was stained darker by first painting on very strong tea, and letting it dry, then using vinegar in which rusted iron had been soaked to get a rich dark brown colour.

I've enjoyed using it. The balance is good, and the fat barrel lets my hand give it more support so that I don't have to grip hard with the fingers. The concave curve of the section together with a relatively fat girth at that point make it very secure in the hand, too.


The fat end of the section means I have to write with the pen rather more erect than I normally would - nearer 60 degrees than 45 degrees to the paper.

Dimensions: narrowest part of grip, 14mm: widest part of barrel, 28mm: length, 190mm.