Dip pen

A dip pen (also sometimes called a "nib pen") usually consists of a metal, fountain pen-like, nib mounted on a handle or holder, often made of wood. Other materials can be used for the holder, including bone, metal and plastic, while some pens are made entirely of glass. Most dip pens have no ink reservoir, however, and so must be repeatedly recharged with ink while drawing or writing. (However, there are simple, tiny tubular reservoirs that illustrators sometimes clip onto dip pens; these allow drawing for several minutes without recharging the nib.) Recharging can be done by dipping into an inkwell; however, most illustrators and cartoonists (who are the main current users of such pens) are more likely to charge the pen with an eyedropper, which gives them more control. Thus, "dip pens" are often not actually dipped! This may be why many illustrators call them "nib pens."

The dip pen has certain advantages over a fountain pen. It can use waterproof pigmented (particle-and-binder-based) inks, such as so-called "India ink" or acrylic inks, which would destroy a fountain pen by clogging it up. There are also a wide range of readily exchangeable nibs available so different types of lines and effects can be created. The nibs and handles are far cheaper than most fountain pens, and allow color changes much more easily.

Dip pens were generally used prior to the development of fountain pens, and are now mainly used in illustration, calligraphy, comics, and manga.

History of the dip pen:
The Jewellery Quarter and surrounding area of Birmingham, England was home to many of the first dip pen manufacturers.

In Newhall Street John Mitchell pioneered mass production of steel pens; prior to that the quill pen was the most common form of writing instrument. His brother William Mitchell later set up his own pen making business in St Paul's square. The Mitchell family is credited as being the first manufacturers to use machines to cut pen nibs, which greatly speeded up the process.

Baker and Finnemore operated in James Street, near St Paul's Square. C Brandauer & Co Ltd., founded as Ash & Petit, traded at 70 Navigation Street. Joseph Gillott & Sons Ltd. made pen nibs in Bread Street, now Cornwall Street. Hinks Wells & Co. traded in Buckingham Street, Geo W Hughes traded in St Paul's Square, Leonardt & Catwinkle traded in George Street and Charlotte Street, and M Myers & Son. were based at 8 Newhall Street.

By the 1850s, Birmingham existed as a world centre for steel pen and steel nib manufacture, more than half the steel nib pens manufactured in the world were Birmingham-made. Thousands of skilled craftsmen and women were employed in the industry. Many new manufacturing techniques were perfected in Birmingham, enabling the city's factories to mass produce their pens cheaply and efficiently. These were sold worldwide to many who previously could not afford to write, and encouraged the development of education and literacy.

Richard Esterbrook manufactured quill pens in Cornwall. In the 19th century, he saw a gap in the American market for steel nib pens. Esterbrook approached five craftsmen who worked for John Mitchell in Navigation Street with a view to setting up business in Camden, New Jersey, USA. Esterbrook later went on to become one of the largest steel pen manufacturers in the world.

One improved version of the dip pen, known as the original "ball point," was the addition of a curved point (instead of a sharp point) which allows the user to have slightly more control on upward and sideways strokes. This feature, however, produces a thicker line rather than the razor-sharp line produced by a sharp point.