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Brause Calligraphy and Writing Set

3/25/12
I have been accumulating a backlog of interesting ink samples, and I don't have enough fountain pens to try them all out or write up reviews and such. My mother has a really nice glass pen, but those are running in the $18-20 range, and I thought that a good alternative would be this Bandzug writing nib set from Goulet Pens. It was only $12 and it includes 6 assorted nibs and a wooden nib-holder. I've always wanted a dip pen. They're the ideal thing for a guy who can't settle on just one ink.

It's not. Or, at least, it's not yet. I couldn't quite wait to try out a new nib, so I inked one and tried it fresh out of the packaging. It didn't work at all well, but I wasn't too surprised. The instructions that come with the set advise washing or soaking in some mildly soapy water to get rid of the machine oils and such that are going to be on the new nibs. (Why they can't do that for me before I buy them, I don't know.) I washed, rinsed, soaked them for a while as per the instructions. "Hooray!" I thought, "Now I can use my new nibs!"

Nope. They are pretty terrible. The fine blue one is crazy scratchy and alternately blotchy and dry. It holds about half a word's worth of ink. Worthless. I tried some of the broader ones, and they are only slightly less terrible. They seem to hold about one word's worth of ink (if your words are short), but they go dry even when there is obviously still ink on the nib. I must be doing something wrong, but I can't figure out what.

The other problem is the wooden holder that comes with the set. It is already stained (from reaching into the ink sample bottles), and the little metal tines that are supposed to hold the nib have sort of pushed back into the holder. It'll still kind of hold a nib, but I am not impressed at all.

I'm going to send an email to the Goulets to see if perhaps there's some secret to using this set that I don't know about so far, but I'm holding out little hope.

(I should reiterate that I'm sure this isn't their fault. They're great and their customer service has been impeccable.)
(3/25/2012)


I corresponded with Brian after he commented here, and they offered to take the product back even though I had clearly used it. Class acts at Goulet Pens. Class acts.  As Brian says in the comments, the secret to using the set is to use inks that a suitable for it. I don't have any calligraphy inks, so it's just not for me.
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Brian Goulet said...

Michael, I'm not crazy surprised to hear of this, honestly. The nib set is actually intended for thicker calligraphy ink, using regular fountain pen ink isn't going to perform the same as it would with shellac-based calligraphy ink, drawing ink, or india ink. In order to use it with success with normal water-based fountain pen ink, it's best to use the Bandzug nibs that have the metal reservoir on them, or to actually slide off the metal reservoir from the Bandzug nibs and put them on one of the other three nibs (the Phannenfeder is the closest to a 'normal' fountain pen nib).

Of course if you're just completely unhappy with the set, we're happy to take it back. We'll talk more over email.

yctbta said...

This is exactly the answer I've been looking for. Last year I bought the Blue Pumpkin, a Bandzug, and a nib holder from Flax in San Francisco, and was incredibly disappointed when the ink wouldn't flow. The Blue Pumpkin was scratchier than sandpaper and the Bandzug simply wouldn't flow no matter what I tried. Eventually I decided that I must have gotten defective nibs when I couldn't find a solution online. I'd been browsing nibs again to give them another shot when I found your blog. If only I had known all I needed was thicker ink. I seriously regret putting down that bottle of J. Herbin at the last minute and getting instead a bottle of Higgins ink, which was labeled as calligraphy ink but the fine print reads that it's for fountain pens. I won't be making that mistake again.

olla said...

Hi there:) I use the same Brause nibs and love them, even though I am still a beginner. I guess the right ink is the answer. My calligraphy teacher highly recommends using Talens Ecoline. Technically it's watercolor not ink, but it works like charm with Brause nibs. Ecoline comes in many colours, of which 416,422,700 and 706 are my favourite ones. Hope that helps.
As far as the stained holder is concerned, call me nuts but I really like it, as well as my inevitably inky fingers:)

Mike Matteson said...

I'm glad that some people are getting some use out of that set. It really seems like a nice selection of nibs. It just didn't work for me at all since I'm really interested in FP inks and not calligraphy. One of these days I might get into calligraphy, but it's not my bag right now.

Unknown said...

Hello Michael, I just searched Bandzug and came across here. This set seems very awesome!! :)

Anonymous said...

This was actually painful to read, everything wrong that you could possibly do you are doing.

Firstly, the coating on the nib is not "machine oil", its something like WD40, to prevent rust from developing. Sometimes these nibs are in storage for years before being sold, the coating prevents them from rusting thats why they don't "remove it for you". In humid places like Malaysia and India nibs can rust within weeks.

Secondly, you don't dip the nib holder in the ink, you don't dip any wood ever in ink...ever, you only dip the nib deep enough until the "vent"(the hole in the nib). ink should never touch the nib holder, not only will it stain but it will also rust the metal parts that hold the nib and the dry ink will cause problems removing and adding inks.

Thirdly, you are supposed to shake off the excess ink after dipping before putting the nib to paper, if you don't the ink will simply flow all over the paper.

Fourthly, unlike what Mr. Goulet suggests, fountain pen ink can be more than used with dip pens. In fact, some fountain pen inks are among the best kind of ink you can use. The only reason not to use them is fountain pen inks are often not waterproof and you want your calligraphy to have a sort of permanence to it. Inks that are too wet and not viscous like Kon Peki will not work well, inks that are drier or are viscous like pretty much any Sailor ink, will work perfectly. I in fact much prefer Sailor ink to Winsor and Newton Calligraphy ink as you can draw exceedingly fine hairlines with it.

fifth, you use less pressure with a fountain pen than a Gel pen right? You use even less pressure with a dip pen, you want to hold the pen so light that anyone could easily snatch the pen off your hand. If you really get into flourishing this is the only way to hold the pen, besides most of the flexible nibs demand a very light touch in order to manage their flex anyways. You also have to consider a flex nib costs 2 dollars as opposed to a 200$ fountain pen. And even then, sometimes fountain pens are manufactured scratchy out of the box, some QA things just can't be controlled so why would you expect every 2$ dip nib you purchase to work perfectly. Not to mention, the kind of nibs you have are meant for pointed pen calligraphy not normal handwriting, "smoothness" is simply not a feature they are advertised as having.

sixth, all of these are the most basic things the most simplest of google searches would have revealed to you.

Mike Matteson said...

I get it, anonymous. I've learned a lot about dip pens over the last 8 years. I still don't care for them, but I have learned a good bit. (I wasn't actually dipping the holder into the ink. It's just that there is often a little bit of ink on the side of the sample vial, and that was staining the wood.)