On Speedball Obliques
I am usually very quiet when it comes to calligraphy tools, as there is absolutely nothing wrong in experimenting with new tools such as pens, inks, paper. In general, I do not support one brand over another, and believe that all brands have their own merits.
However, an incident over the weekend changed my stance on this.
I received a Speedball oblique plastic holder over the weekend. This holder is a no-frills holder—made of plastic, this holder comes in only one colour with a detachable plastic flange. It is extremely cheap, and a quick search on the internet shows it being priced at S$4.90 (approx USD$3.45) in Singapore.
On one hand, I like how accessible this product is for beginners. On the other hand, using the pen was not as ideal as I had hoped it to be.
Firstly, the flange was closed on one end. This meant that longer nibs would stick out way too far in front, as opposed to the usual brass flanges which allow the nib to be adjusted such that it is in the optimal position.
Secondly, the angle of the flange was parallel to the axis of the holder. In a proper set up, the flange is bent slightly upwards so that the nib meets the paper at a lower angle, preventing snags when performing upward movements away from the penman.
So why do these two issues bother me that much? Well, the pen is mostly marketed as a "beginner's pen", and most beginners would (or should) start off with a G nib. The G nibs are fairly long, and stick out way past the axis of the pen, even when fully pushed into the flange. In addition, most beginners would not be able to hold the pen with their fingertips, instead gripping the pen near their knuckle with their fingers wrapped around the pen. This causes the nib to meet the paper at an almost vertical angle. It makes it difficult to open the tines of the G nibs, and upward strokes are a feat to accomplish. When using this "wrong" grip, I was not able to make up-strokes with a Hunt 101 as it kept snagging on the fibers of even Rhodia paper.
A poll of users who had started off with these pens used descriptive words such as "annoying, scratchy, and horrendous".
So I want to make it clear that there's really nothing wrong for Speedball to manufacture these products. They are extremely cheap and hence Speedball is doing a service to the community by making the holders accessible. However, why should beginners make their learning curves much steeper if they can afford the additional 10-20 dollars for a pen with a brass flange?
I guess what really bothers me is this: if you are paying a good 120 dollars for a calligraphy class, shouldn't you at least expect that the pen you get is of a decent quality even if it costs *gasp* 10 dollars more? [We have sourced such pens at S$15 (approx USD$10.5)]
On a more serious note, this is only my opinion... go use vegetables with nibs attached if you so wish. ;)
@YakiUjohn the chimera