Bamboo dip pens

The recent enthusiasm among some comics friends for using dip pens/nibs prompted me to dig out some old home-made ones. I wasn’t sure I still had them, but after rooting around in my old fishing tackle box (a must-have for the 1980s art student), I was pleased to find they were still there. I made them in an illustration module at art college. For any UWE Illustration class-of- 91 reading, I think we did this in Julian Fraser‘s class in the first year.

To make these we used bamboo cane cut-offs of varying widths; stanley knife for shaping the nib; aluminium drink can; and masking tape. For this thicker pen you need to add a rectangle of thin aluminium for the ink to pool behind, or you’ll end up with puddles. It can be bent into the right shape easily enough and taped in place with masking tape. I can’t remember if we used tin cutters or old scissors.You also need to cut a vertical slit in the nib.

This isn’t required for slimmer pieces of bamboo, perhaps because the ink’s meniscus is strong enough in a narrower space. Both of these pens are quite worn out but it’s nothing a bit of re-carving won’t sort out. One disadvantage is that, in finer pens, the nibs can split because of drawing with vegetation instead of steel!

I thought I’d see if they still worked, so spent an hour drawing bits of view from my studio window. The results are unsurprisingly haphazard but I quite like the limited control; it makes for more gestural lines and ‘happy accidents’. However, the accident on the roof of Jamia Mosque, Totterdown, was ‘unhappy’. I think this pen might be my preferred one for drawing trees from now on, but I won’t be ditching my usual Joseph Gillott nibs for panda food anytime soon.

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