01 February 2018

my own Frankenpen, finally

Just about every good idea I’ve had regarding sketching tools has been learned from someone else. That’s one of the great things about the online sketching community. My dear friend Kate (aka Cathy Johnson) has been the source for so many wonderful ideas! This is an old one of hers — I’ve been meaning to copy her for years but never got around to doing so. Her blog entries describing the process are here, part one and part two.

We both had one of these Hero M-86 Chinese bent-nib calligraphy pens that were elegant to look at but very awkward to use due to the weight and odd round shape. (I always thought the rounded pen looks like a wee Chinaman.) Kate discovered that the nib fits perfectly in a Noodler’s Creaper, a much lighter streamlined pen. So she called this new combination her Frankenpen.

There’s not much to occupy my brain while I rest and wait for this wicked cold to run its course. So I started thinking about fountain pens . . . and decided it was time for my own Frankenpen.


  1. Dear Vicky, I hope tomorrow you turn a corner on this cold. What do you like about the Noodler's pen? I use the Pilot Metropolitan's with extra fine nib and like how smooth they write.

    1. I’m slowly getting better, and Bill is spoiling me, trying to tempt me to eat and making sure I take medicine on time. I have never had a cold that was so voracious before — my face literally felt like it was screaming!

      I have an embarrassing number of fountain pens I’ve collected over the years. The most dependable for me have been Lamy Safari. XF nibs — they always start up for me without fuss, even if neglected a few weeks. My current favorite fountain pen is the tiny Kaweco Liliput — as dependable as my Lamys yet tiny enough to fit anywhere.

      Bill gave me this blue Noodler’s Creaper when they first came out; I had been wanting to try using a flex nib and the price is cheap. I love how easily you can go from a fine line to a thick, heavy one and back to fine — all without lifting the nib from the paper. But I’m not crazy about the filling mechanism and the pen sometimes doesn’t write until fussed with. Some say they have a bad odor but it never bothered me. It does help to flush the pen out before using the first time.

      The bent nib is fun to play with, leading to some erratic unexpected lines in ink drawings. Kate gave me the Hero M-86 years ago, but it was too heavy and awkward for me. But the nib fits perfectly in the Noodler’s Creaper. Very lightweight and easy to maneuver, which is a good thing with the bent nib. Line variations come from holding the pen at various angles. Not for everyday writing, but fun to play with.

    2. Vicky, have you ever tried filling a fountain pen with very diluted watercolor (nothing granulating) to write with? Many times I like to write with a matching color on the opposite page of something I painted. I have tried colored sharpies, but they turn the backside of the page yellow over time. I also know about the Tombow markers, but they could smear ifvthey became wet again later. I may try my Inktense pencils as they don't move once they are dry. But I would love to find a pen I could fill, write with, and then clean immediately. What are your thoughts?

    3. No, I’ve never thought to try a “watercolor ink” — I’ll have to think about trying it! So many of my colors are granulating, I’ll have to be careful in my choice.

      I have watered-down ink in 2 brush pens (Kuretake brush pens) that I sometimes use as shadows in ink sketches. I use distilled water to water down Lexington gray ink in my black brush pen and document brown ink in my red brush pen. Don’t use them nearly enough but they are fun to play with.

      Kate has used a dip pen or even a sharpened stick to use watercolor as you would ink, but I’ve never quite gotten the knack for it; I think my problem is getting the correct consistency of pigment-to-water. If you use a dip pen instead of a fountain pen, granulation probably doesn’t matter.

  2. Ahh! When you mentioned brush pens, it jogged my thoughts to trying a water brush. I bet that will work. Thanks so much!!!! Thanks do use a dip pen to sign my work, but that would be too difficult to write in cursive with for me as a left-hander.

    1. With a fine-point brush, that should work! I remember reading of urban sketchers who fill several waterbrushes with basic colors of watered-down pigments to add color quickly, on-the-spot.

      I think of “lefties” as special, like one of my step-brothers and my eldest son — I never thought of the difficulties you face in this right-handed world. I saw once that Lamy sold a fountain pen nib for left handed writers but I couldn’t understand how that would work when we still write from left to right.


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