Calligraphy Nib Review: Leonardt 40

Calligraphy Nib Review: Leonardt 40 Blue Pumpkin via Happy Hands Project

It’s been a while since I’ve posted a nib review here on the Happy Hands blog. During the recent Modern Calligraphy workshop, I got asked several times how different the Leonardt 40 nib was from Nikko G. These 2 nibs are usually the ones included in my workshop kits. However, I always advise to use this blue nib only when they’re already used to the G nib. So how different are these 2 nibs, really?

MORE FLEXIBLE THAN THE NIKKO G NIB

The Leonardt 40 is also called Hiro 40, or Blue Pumpkin. Similar to the Brause Steno Blue Pumpkin in appearance, this is a large nib with an equally large ink reservoir. It’s very flexible, so the pressure needed to get a thick swell in a Nikko G is not necessary with the Leonardt 40. Because it’s softer, just a bit of pressure makes the tines open up—allowing the ink to flow and form thick swells.

The Nikko G is stiff and somewhat tough, but the Leonardt is soft and more flexible.

Calligraphy Nib Review: Leonardt 40 Blue Pumpkin via Happy Hands Project

Because it’s more flexible, putting a lot of pressure results in a very thick downstroke. This thickness cannot be achieved using a Nikko G nib. The only downside is that the upstrokes are not very thin, which is essential to Copperplate calligraphy.

THE BLUE PUMPKIN GIVES THICKER SWELLS

For those who love to write modern calligraphy and aim for super thick swells, then this is the nib for you.

Calligraphy Nib Review: Leonardt 40 Blue Pumpkin via Happy Hands Project

For beginners, it’s always best to start with the stiff Nikko G nib (or Tachikawa G, which comes from the same manufacturer). Once you’ve mastered the concept of the pointed pen (pressure on the downstrokes, release on the upstrokes), then you can proceed with using the Leonardt 40.

Calligraphy Nib Review: Leonardt 40 Blue Pumpkin via Happy Hands Project

I’ve also noticed that my ink lasts longer with the Nikko G. I get to write more letters with one dip of ink with the Nikko than the Leonardt. Again, this is due to the flexibility of the latter. Because it produces thick swells, the Leonardt 40 needs more ink. So I dip this nib more often in ink when I’m writing.

I’d say this nib is worth a try if you haven’t done so yet. Nibs behave very differently with every calligrapher, so a nib that works well for one may not do wonders for another. But the paper and ink used also play a part, so make sure all your tools work well together. All in all, this nib is still one of my favourites. Check out my other favourite nibs in this roundup.

So have you tried using the Leonardt Blue Pumpkin? Yay or nay?

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Review: Walnut Ink Crystals

Walnut Ink Calligraphy via Happy Hands Project

I’ve purchased my walnut ink crystals months ago when I went on an online shopping binge for calligraphy supplies. I finally had the time last weekend to open my jar and do a little test. I was surprised to see that the ‘crystals’ were not the coarse crystals I thought it would be. Confession: I imagined them to be big and coarse crystals, similar to bath salts. In reality, it’s coarse, dark, and in powder form – which actually makes sense as it has to be mixed with water to be able to use it as ink.

So what exactly are walnut ink crystals? It’s dry powder made from English peat moss (not walnuts!) that is mixed with water to use for calligraphy, painting and staining. Writing with it creates varied tones, from deep browns to light sepia.

Walnut Ink Calligraphy via Happy Hands Project

Making the ink itself is easy as pie for there is no perfect formula. I used about a teaspoon of the powder to half a cup of lukewarm water, which resulted in a deep brown tint. Mix more water to the mixture and you get a lighter colour. You may use tap water as well, but lukewarm water dissolves the crystals faster. Just have a small jar ready and put in your preferred amount of crystals, fill the jar with water, and mix till there are no solid crystals left. Use as you would use regular ink for calligraphy. A little goes a long way!

I was a bit wary about how thin the mixture turned out to be. In my experience, thin, watery inks are synonymous to feathering. But I proved myself wrong. Oh, how I loved writing with it! It was super smooth, and I adore how the hues vary the more I write. I had no problems with the ink flow at all. I swear I couldn’t stop writing with it! I used it on my Daler Rowney layout pad and have yet to try it on different types of paper, but so far, so good! You have to try it for yourself.

Walnut Ink Calligraphy via Happy Hands Project

The walnut ink crystals were purchased from Paper & Ink Arts, written on a Daler Rowney layout pad with a Nikko G nib.

These are a Few of my Favorite Nibs

Favourite Pointed Pen Nibs via Happy Hands Project

I remember when pointed pen calligraphy was all new to me. I follow the blogs of inspiring calligraphers and usually ask them what nib they used on a certain artwork. I will order the same nibs they used and excitedly prepare them before dipping in glorious black ink. ‘Aaaah’, I thought, ‘this will make my calligraphy as lovely as {name of amazing calligrapher here}.’

Well, I was wrong. First, the nibs that worked perfectly with one person doesn’t mean it would work perfectly with me as well. The Hunt 101 for example, has been an all-time favorite of many but it always snags the paper on my upstrokes. It always makes that gritty sound no matter how light my pressure is. Second, even if the nib does work smoothly, I still won’t be able write like Laura Hooper. Uh, maybe not ever, but you get the picture. I wanted to be able to do the flourishes and swirls right away when I didn’t know the basics yet. So I learned that it takes A LOT of practice before I get a certain style going. Those brilliant calligraphers out there were all right about that.

I have been getting several queries about the nibs that I’ve been using and I feel that I need to share my favorites. The list usually changes but currently, here are a few of my favorite nibs which I hope will write smoothly with you.

Favourite Pointed Pen Nibs via Happy Hands Project

 

The Brause EF66 has long been on my favorites list. It may be tiny, but don’t judge it by its size! It makes gorgeous thicks and thins! It may scratch your paper a little bit during upstrokes, though, but this usually happens when I use a slightly coarse sheet. I usually have this problem with white ink on black paper. Because the paper is not smooth, I have to hold my pen feather-light during those tough upward strokes (that I would avoid if I could). Ink may get stuck underneath the nib, too, so make sure you give it a good soak and brush when you’re done with it. Having said all these, the EF66 gives gorgeous results. I use it everytime there’s a snail mail to write. Lately, I’ve been using it for wall art, too.

Now this is the best nib for beginners, in my humble opinion. The Nikko G is a very long-lasting Japanese nib. I use this in doing drills which have been quite often lately, and I’d say this nib can take a beating and still give good results! It is quite stiff with a medium flex and works great even for the heavy-handed. I love its size and its sharp point. I don’t lose it like I do with the EF66 (like one moment I know it was supposed to be there, and another moment passes and it was gone?) and the sharp point promises a very fine hairline. Put more pressure on the downstrokes and you’ll have lovely swells.

The Leonardt Steno (previously called Hiro 40) is a huge nib as far as nibs go. It’s easy to handle and much like the Brause Steno Blue Pumpkin when it comes to weight and size. It comes in a pretty blue color and used to be the go-to nib of stenographers, thus the name ‘Steno’. This nib’s tip is quite pointed which makes hairlines quite thin, but it writes smoothly and rarely skips. It produces defined line variations and is quite soft (be careful with the flexing!) that’s why this one right here is one of my favorites if I need to write bigger letters.

There you go! I linked all three nibs to Paper & Ink Arts because that’s where I order most of my nibs from. International shipping is quick and they have almost everything I need (and so much more). If you’re in Singapore, you can also check out the friendly people at Straits Commercial Art Co. or Overjoyed (which has Brause nibs).