I made these pens a while ago after a friend told me about some simple nibs she'd seen made out of coca-cola cans. I researched into it and saw lots of examples of simple, crude ink nibs and thought that it would be a great object for me to develop and take a bit further in my usual reclaimed tins (steel) materials. I couldn't find anyone else doing it the way I wanted to. It took a lot of experimenting, but I worked out how to form and shape these pens without damaging the surface of the coloured graphics. It takes a fair amount of time to create a neat drawing edge and to file and emery all the edges safe and smooth.
A sketch of an Ink Bottle that I've made using one of the pens.
At Crux Craft Fair last weekend (see previous post) I sold out of all my pens (I can pay some bills!). People tried out my demo-pen at my little paper and ink stand point-of-sale and many were intrigued, most found the pen tricky to get the hang of and some folk got the hang of using them straight away. Everyone loved the look of them....
....but the people who were absolute naturals at using the pen, those who very quickly worked out the different ways you can use them, those were most natural in their use of the pen, were..........very young children. I was astounded to watch children as young as 9 write and draw beautifully, despite no previous experience with calligraphy or dip pens. They had an instinctive way of altering their hold on the pen depending on what marks they wanted to create, whilst their parents watched on with as much amazement as I did. Several parents came back to buy pens for their children. Some could not afford to buy one of my pens or could not justify the money on a pen for a child, it was sad for me to see people loving the pens and walking away, so I explained to them how to make a simple version (coming below). You rock the nib to create a single line that fluctuates from wide to narrow and back again. You can drag if for super straight, narrow lines. You can turn the nib over and write very finely with it. You can angle it to create large expressive marks...it really is many nibs in one.
One problem I had at the fair, was the ink stopped flowing well through the nib after a while and I constantly had to clean it, though had not had this problem before. The lovely Celia explained to me (I was lucky that she had decided to visit the fair) that the brand of ink I was using was the problem. Liquitex is acrylic-based and has a tacky consistency that is not as ideal as some other brands for this type of use. Windsor & Newton inks, Dylon fabric dye powder mixed with water, or watercolour paints were Celia's recommendation for the pens. The basic design is called a "folded pen" and you can make one very simply;
Make a paper template by drawing one half of a nib on the fold of a paper folded in half, like this...
Cut out the paper templates and see how they look for size. Remember that the more curve you have, the less contact the nib makes on the paper, so a narrower line is achieved. Try for something of a straight edge that gradually curves more. Also its good to have a slightly curved point, don't leave it pointy sharp, the nib template on the right looks better than the one on the left. See the tab at the top which is for wrapping to the pen shaft with tape.
Now you need to cut open a fizzy drinks can. The metal is so soft you can do it with a pair of scissors, but be careful as the edges of the can will be super-sharp. Use your template to cut out the nib in the can metal. Cut out the can metal so you have a small sheet, fold it in half just like you did with the paper then cut out the nib. When it's cut out, wrap it around a pencil or stick or empty pen shaft, anything that's suitable. Below you can see a pencil inside a nib template (as if it were the can). Just use tape to attach the nib to your pen shaft.
Above you can see the narrow channel where the ink will flow from. You might need to adjust this gap by opening it up more, or pinching it closed more. Below I have marked "x" at the points where you might need to pinch the pen closed and hold in place with tape. You might want to smooth the edges of the nib with fine emery paper....an emery nail-board on the fine side, will do the trick.
You can orientate the pen as shown above on the left, or turn it over like this on the right. You can use both sides, but just experiment and have fun and be prepared to get inky fingers! Fill with a dropper at the top, or dip in a dish of ink. Don't put too much pressure on the nib, it is not as strong as my pens, as mine are made of steel.
I hope that you enjoy creating your own nibs too.