Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Review: RodgersPenBox Handmade Oblique & Straight Dip Nib Holders

Ah! A new thing to review! Rodger contacted me and kindly offered me a straight pen holder and an oblique holder as well if I was interested. Having never used an oblique holder before, I was thrilled by his offer and accepted! Not long after, two gorgeous holders arrived. I did tell Rodger I would review them, but he didn't ask me to share his Etsy shop or even mention it, but the pen holders are so lovely, and I could do no less, of course. He also offered a lot of follow up help on care and further information on dip pens and flange adjustment, etc. Anyway, long ramble aside: thank you Rodger! Do check out Rodger's shop.

Ok, but before I go on... a DISCLAIMER! I am NOT a professional and I am not a calligrapher (obviously). I'm just someone who enjoys scribbling and trying out new writing tools. All I can offer you is my opinion and my take on things, and tell you what I have learned and try to guide you that way. If you don't like it, sorry, but you're probably looking in the wrong place. If you want something more structured or real, I'm not going to be able to offer that. If you're just here to have fun and test the waters, then read on and have a good time. Cheers!
Review: Handmade Oblique & Straight Dip Nib Holders
Review: Handmade Oblique & Straight Dip Nib Holders
Body Material: Cocobolo
Length (straight): 6.10"
Length (oblique): 6.08" (not including flange)
Barrel Diameter (both): 0.48"
Section Diameter: 0.37"
Weight (straight): 12 g
Weight (oblique): 12 g
Price: Starts at $35.00USD
Where to buy: Etsy - RodgersPenBox

Review: Handmade Oblique & Straight Dip Nib Holders
Each nib holder is packaged inside a felt sleeve to protect the wood. They slide out easily so I don't use them for storage. Both pens are made of cocobolo wood: a very warm, rich coloured wood that seems to be a base of yellow-amber with darker swirls in it.
Review: Handmade Oblique & Straight Dip Nib Holders
They flare near the tip, thin out a little, then flare out again at the center of the bodies before tapering to a long and thin end. Aesthetically, both in terms of design and colour, they are gorgeous. I absolutely love them and they are without a doubt the most attractive dip pen holders I have.
Review: Handmade Oblique & Straight Dip Nib Holders
Review: Handmade Oblique & Straight Dip Nib Holders
Review: Handmade Oblique & Straight Dip Nib Holders
The straight holder works fabulously: no adjustment required there.The springs hold nibs tightly. They don't slide around while I'm writing or dipping - which can be very annoying when using really crappy nib holders that just won't grip the nib. What I love about these snug springs though is that I can put a lot of pressure on the nib to really flex it and draw out as much line variation from it as possible. With a loose or weak grip on the nib from a lesser holder, I can't comfortably put pressure on the nib like this. Straight holder is an immediate hit!
Review: Handmade Oblique & Straight Dip Nib Holders
The oblique holder was adjusted by Rodger for Nikko G nibs before he sent them for me, but as he informed me, it was adjusted for his grip. I found the flange a little loose still, although it held other nibs more snugly. No problem though, Rodger let me know I could adjust the flange myself (gently with some pliers).
Review: Handmade Oblique & Straight Dip Nib Holders
Flanges can be adjusted for different nibs. From what I understand, people who use different nibs have different oblique pens for them because if the flange is adjusted too many times, it will eventually harden and crack. If the flange is not pinned (like mine), it can be replaced. If it is pinned, it would have to be carefully repaired, though I suppose it may be easier just to replace it, unless it's a sentimental or valuable holder. These issues obviously do not exist with the straight holders. By request, Rodger will pin a flange at no extra charge, or he will include brass shim material should the flange become loose and you don't want it pinned. If none of this makes sense, get in touch with Rodger through his Etsy shop. He's very, very nice and very helpful, and was most patient with  me (despite my lack of knowledge on all things dip pen).
Review: Handmade Oblique & Straight Dip Nib Holders
I tightened up the flange a little and adjusted the angle ever so slightly, my nib sat more snugly, I could readjust my grip to one that was comfortable with the oblique holder, and ta-da! It felt just right. Errr... not sure I'm ready for flourishing yet... I really don't think I do the oblique holder justice, but should I ever learn how to flourish, at least I won't destroy the nib or paper on the upstroke.
Review: Handmade Oblique & Straight Dip Nib Holders
Straight holder writing sample.
Review: Handmade Oblique & Straight Dip Nib Holders
Oblique holder writing sample. (Please don't laugh. I'm learning, okay?)
These two holders have replaced all others that I use because they are the smoothest in hand, and I love the slightly thinned out grip area in between the flared pieces - this helps hold my fingers in place. It's just a small matter of comfort.


A question I often get is "what inks can I use?" - and it's a good question. Fountain pen ink tends to be thin so it's difficult to work with, and while it can be done with a bit of practice, it may be easier to start with calligraphy inks and/or acrylic inks. (Never, ever put calligraphy or acrylic inks in your fountain pens!) Alternately, you can always thicken your fountain pen ink. Here is a recipe from Mr. Bill Lilly, Master Penman.

1 1/2 oz. Pelikan (4001) ink - or any other fountain pen ink
1 heaping teaspoon of powdered gum Arabic
Stir in small amounts of ink and powder, mix until smooth (make sure you get the lumps out)

Work in small batches. Maybe don't use your precious, discontinued, very expensive inks. Liquid gum arabic works with watercolour paints. Easy peasy. This will likely change the colour of your ink very slightly though.

Review: Handmade Oblique & Straight Dip Nib Holders
These are beautiful handmade pieces in which you can select the wood they are made from. You can talk to the maker and be specific about what you are looking for, especially if you know what you want! (I clearly didn't.)
Review: Handmade Oblique & Straight Dip Nib Holders
Cons? That's really tough. The only thing I can really say is an oblique holder is not for the weak of heart: you have to be willing to use it and adjust it to your liking, or it's not going to fit your grip perfectly, and it won't feel just right. A straight holder is a pretty safe bet, although going for a handmade holder in exotic wood is not as inexpensive as picking up a Tachikawa for $5.00USD from your favourite online stationery shop. Is this really a con? Well, no... but it could be a deterrent.


Rodger suggests occasionally wiping down the bodies with a clean, soft, dry rag. If (when) I get ink on them, try to remove the ink with a moist rag or paper towel. Usually I just use my finger to smear the ink off. Over time, oils from your hands and hand lotions will remove the luster from the pens, but alas, they are tools and are meant to be used!


If you're looking for dip nib holders, and you can spare the extra cash (between a $5.00 and $30.00 holder), spoil yourself and get yourself a nice handmade one. Or two. Or three. If you're looking to get one as a gift for someone, then you definitely should get them a handmade one like this! It would be a unique, beautiful gift that your budding or practiced calligrapher would certainly enjoy. While practiced calligraphers will likely be very particular about the tools for their trade, they would probably still enjoy doodling on the side with a thoughtful gift that was made just for them! And if you have never used a dip nib holder before, seriously: get one and venture into this extremely fun world. It's the most affordable way to experience flex nibs. 

Thank you again to Rodger for his generosity, help, kindness, and patience with me as I explored these holders and learned more about the oblique holders. Please do visit his Etsy shop!

Review: Handmade Oblique & Straight Dip Nib Holders
These nib holders were sent as a gift. I was not asked to do a review nor was I asked to share Rodger's Etsy shop: I'm sharing these holders because I really enjoy them and Rodger has been most helpful and I think his shop should be shared! All opinions here are uninfluenced by monetary compensation. There are no affiliate links in this review. 


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