What is a glass dipping pen? Why should a fountain pen enthusiast have one? For better answers than I’m going to give you, check out Goulet’s video on the matter, but here’s my take on it.
A glass dipping pen is a VERY easily cleaned pen, we’re talking like 15 seconds here; it’s a pen you can use to “trial” ink colors without going through all the hassle of thoroughly cleaning a pen to load that new ink into first. But it’s also a beautiful piece of handmade glass art that looks lovely displayed among your other pens and inkwells! Frankly, it’s as much a conversation piece as it is a pen!
Glass dipping pens come in a variety of price ranges and many colors. I opted, first, for the one above, which to me looks like an icicle with a frozen flame in that clear tip (the tip in the model by J. Herbin is twisted, making it more functional and more beautiful).
Here’s how it works.
You dip the clear glass tip all the way to the top of the “veined” section; in the J. Herbin model that I recommend, those veins twist around and around the point, making them longer than other brands I have seen which allows you to go much longer between dips in ink (other brands have only straight lined veins running from tip to grip; since those veins are basically your ink reservoir and the length (made longer by twisting than by going in a straight line of course) determines how much ink the pen can use between dips, the twisted design is superior).
After dipping, you then gently drag the very tip of the point against the lip of your ink bottle, removing any ink droplet that has pooled there, and then you are ready to write as with any pen! Now, I have read that some found their glass pens not smooth enough upon receipt, but mine was smooth as could be and those who were not happy found remedy with a simple low grit sand paper!
When you begin writing, the line or so will be very deeply colored because a LOT of ink will be deposited by your first strokes; this dark area is not a good indicator the “true” color of the ink as it would appear when being used in a fountain pen; it’s neat to see but not helpful for ink testing so keep writing. The true color appears about half way through the writing that you get from one dip.
If you are writing for a reason other than an ink test, say a letter as most of my writings are, and want to keep going, you can greatly increase the amount of writing you can get from each dip by twisting the pen every few words (or sometimes after a full sentence)… basically the moment you notice the depth of color or width of your lines start to lighten or narrow, twist the pen and draw a TINY bit of your next letter… this it to check that you have twisted to to a spot where the color will back full bloom because a different, fuller,”vein” is giving it’s ink to the tip; if you don’t find a full vein immediately twist a bit more and try again….the name of the game is twist and write, twit and write… to really get the very last of the ink out of a dip I sometimes I find holding the pen straight up and down allows ink to flow to the tip getting me a few extra words before I have to dip again.
When you get the hang of it, with good ink, you’ll be able to get a full page out of four dips of ink with little color variation except for the very beginning and very end of each dip, perhaps even fewer dips if you become better at it than I am, who knows!
When you are done using it or ready to change to a different ink, wipe it down with twisting motions with a wet paper towel or wet rag; it should be crystal clear for you again in 15 to 30 seconds, depending on the ink you were using and how long you were using it…. even “waterproof” ink that was used for nearly an hour came off for me in less then a minute, with just a little extra effort!
I find this process of writing with a glass dipping pen quite pleasurable so whenever there is an ink I’d like to use for a letter that’s not in a pen yet, and I don’t feel like making a pen ready for my new ink (which is usually), I’ll just write the entire letter with the dipping pen. There’s something very satisfying to me about writing with something so beautiful. and I love how it feels in my hand.. invariably half of the letter I write ends up being about the pen I’m writing with!
I really do advise that anyone with enough bottles of ink that they can’t quite recall what each looks like on paper, or those that can’t commit to the inks they have in their pens from day to day make the small investment in a glass pen and get the superior The J. Herbin option; it is really the way to go, if you can. They range in price from $25-$30 for the full size handle (which is what you want, it’s very comfortable to hold). The best selection can be found on Gouletpens.com (the A site has a limited selection) here and note: the inks below the glass pens on Gouletpens.com all have an indentation on the top of the ink bottle in which the glass pens rests perfectly, they come with pen rests built in, how nice!
Now, since I have a concrete floor and low expectations for myself I did get a cheapy as well, as back-up, from the “A. site”, for the day I destroy my good glass pen with a poorly angled drop and don’t have the dough to replace it right away. I opted for, as a back up glass dip pen, the Viahart Stylo Glass Dip Pen which costs $13 and, while it works admirably well for the price, the amount of time between dips pales in comparison to the J. Herbin.