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3 Things You Need To Know About Calligraphy Penholders

You know Harry Potter, right? Everyone does! Pureblood or muggles, their most important weapon is a wand, chosen carefully at the very beginning. Well, like wizards, calligraphers also have a sort of magic wand called penholders.

Penholders are the weapon of choice and should fit the writer’s hand perfectly to ensure not just comfort but proper execution of strokes. Having said that, let’s give it a more focus and highlight 3 essential things about this wonderful tool.

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01 | Types of Penholders

Straight - this penholder is similar to an ordinary ballpoint pen, where the nib goes at the end part of the holder. This type of holder is commonly used in doing flourishing, writing without angle or inking drawing.

Oblique - this penholder has a metal flange at the tip that holds the nib in place. This type of penholder helps the writer achieve a certain slant angle as require in a calligraphy script style. For example, Copperplate / Engrosser’s script style is known to be written in the 52-55 degree angle. And an oblique penholder assists the calligrapher to follow the 52-55 slant, with the flange holding the nib in place, and make a smooth line of thick strokes, avoiding the ragged effect.

Carrot - no not the vegetable, silly! Carrot penholder is a variation of the oblique penholder. The grip is wider and perfect for writer’s with a broader hand or those who quickly experience writing fatigue.

Ergonomic - another variation of the oblique penholder. And this is my favourite as I find it more comfortable to use. As the name implies, ergonomic penholders are made to fit more snuggly in one’s hand. It is made in a shape that is close to the natural curve of our hand. Some maker can do a custom ergonomic penholder, following the measurements of your hand, writing style, or how you naturally hold the pen.

L-R: Straight, Oblique, Carrot, Ergonomic Penholders

L-R: Straight, Oblique, Carrot, Ergonomic Penholders

02 | Types of Flanges

A flange is a small piece of metal, attached at the end of the oblique holder, intended to hold the nib. Now let’s talk about 2 types of flange:

Regular / Fixed - this flange is created or designed to hold a specific nib type or sizes, for example, just for G nibs. Some regular-typed flange can only fit small type nibs like Hunt 56 or Brause Rose.

Bullock - this is the so-called “universal” flange as it can hold nibs in different sizes. It can be adjusted using a small screwdriver to tighten or widen the slots. I prefer this over the regular flange for this very reason.

L-R: Fixed Flange, Bullock Flange

L-R: Fixed Flange, Bullock Flange

03 | Flange Angle

One of the common frustrations of beginners is that the nib continuously snags paper while writing. This is either the holder is being held incorrectly (too upright), or in the case of the oblique penholder, the flange angle is not right.

Flange angle is critical as it ensures that the nib is positioned correctly at a right angle so that it is parallel on the paper and will slide smoothly. And with the right amount of pressure, the nib can make thick and thin line variations without catching paper fibres.

For further reading about oblique penholder, I strongly recommend Dr. Joseph Vitolo’s article Demystifying the Oblique Penholder.


I hope this blog help you understand calligraphy penholder a bit more. :) If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask in the comments!