Manuscript handwriting and calligraphy pens

Once more I have been given the opportunity to review something for United Inkdom and this time we’re looking at budget hand lettering and calligraphy fountain pens from Manuscript.

I was curious about the Hand Lettering pen, if only because, truth be told, my handwriting is atrocious and there’s always a hope that ones writing could be improved without the necessary requirement of having to practice, practice, practice. Now you and I know that just isn’t going to happen, but hey, no harm in hoping, right?

Manuscript is a British company and are renowned for their calligraphy (and hand lettering) pens, which they’ve been making since 1856, so they know what they’re about. I’d check out their website for some fascinating history.

Here we’re looking at their Dodec range of hand lettering and italic calligraphy pens. Now, this is their budget/starter pens, and to be brutally honest, it shows.

These are plastic through and through…well, except the nib, obviously. I’ll give a run down of what I like and what I don’t like.

I like that they are light weight and though plastic, pretty sturdy, though don’t step on them, as they’re not that robust.

They’re comfortable in the hand and though not very long at 12cms uncapped, more than adequate for my hand and definitely for kids hands.

I also like the 12 sided facets, which means the pen won’t be rolling away off the table when you put it down.

The nibs are juicy and actually surprisingly smooth to write with, even the italics, which are squared and often have sharp corners that bite into the paper. They also come with a couple of cartridges to start you off.

The italic calligraphy set comes with a 0.85, 1.1 and 1.6 nibs, which I think gives a first time user experience of size and line variation. The hand lettering nib is their butterfly nib in fine and is pleasant with just a hint of scratchiness, which actually wore off the more I wrote with it.

Very little pressure is needed for the ink to appear on the page. No hard starts or rail roading. Always a plus for any fountain pen.

The caps are screw on, so no chance of accidentally pulling it off, as is the barrel. The clip, however, is a little flimsy for my liking and liable to snap off with very little pressure, so I’d be reluctant to use it.

Inserting the cartridge is straight forward, with simple instructions in the little booklet that comes with the pens.

There is a small step down from the barrel to the section, but happily the threads didn’t get in the way, though they are a bit sharp. The barrel tapers down to a rounded end with a tiny step down. Some sections are transparent, which enables you to see the ink in the feed, which is fun.

You cannot post the pen, but for me that isn’t an issue.

What I don’t like? First and foremost it’s the section. It has a raised pattern which digs into my finger, so long practice sessions were out.

Next big issue is actually getting the ink to flow to the nib. The handwriting pen was no trouble and started first time. Of the three italic nibs, only the 0.85 started first time.

The 1.1 and 1.6 italic nibs just refused point blank to write and so a considerable amount of time was spent fiddling with them. I had flushed the pens with warm water and a nano drop of washing up liquid before inking, so that wasn’t the problem. The feed needed some tweaking to align it with the nib and then some very gentle squeezing of the cartridge to get the ink to flow to the tip, but even then the drop of ink didn’t reach the tip. It was a deeply frustrating business and I can imagine for someone who has never used a fountain pen before they’d likely give up pretty quickly and ask for a refund.

However, once I did finally get them going, they were absolutely fine and never caused me a problem thereafter.

Value for money – oh yes, they are super VFM. The Hand Lettering pen can be purchased from anywhere between £2.50 all the way up to £6.68. The Italic calligraphy set can be bought from £5.99 to £6.79. The big highstreet stationers stock them and they’re easily found to buy from online retailers.

Recommendation – if I thought that they would write out of the packaging, I would definitely say they are worth trying out, particularly as a beginner’s introduction to fountain pens and calligraphy, especially with the bliss that touching pen to paper without any pressure whatsoever to write, (compared to your average ball point), brings would likely help reduce potential issues with RSI.

What are they good for? Beginners journey into fountain pens, handwriting and calligraphy and I think a great option for schools.

United Inkdom website: /

By jomatthews

Colour, that's what I love and I get my colour fix from fountain pens and because they provide practically every colour under the sun the possibilities for use are only down to the limits of your imagination.

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