Ink Cage Nibs
Ink cage nibs can make your calligraphy experience much easier! These attachments act like an ink reservoir for a pointed pen nib, allowing for lines and lines of writing without re-dipping. Using an ink cage nib requires different considerations than typical nibs, so we're here to give you some advice before you try one yourself.
Ink cage nibs are created by attaching a high-tension spring to the bottom of a standard pointed pen nib. This spring is durable, but can be damaged if proper care is not taken. Maintaining the integrity of the spring is important if you want your ink cage to last as long as possible. The first thing to consider is how to insert ink cage nibs into your penholder. Instead of firmly grasping the nib on the top and bottom, hold the sides of the nib to avoid pressing on the cage. Using pilers (with a soft grip, of course) can make this process easier. Additionally, look at the underside of your nib when inserting and stop when the cage is almost flush with the flange.
The spring attached to the bottom of each ink cage nib does add bulk that some users may not be used to. Calligraphers who prefer a very low angle when writing may have some trouble clearing their paper, especially when flexing their nib. Practicing a higher angle may be necessary; using a straight penholder rather than an oblique can also help.
When used properly, ink cage nibs will allow you to write 10-20 times longer than a typical nib. This makes a variety of calligraphy tasks easier, such as envelope addressing, copying longer poems and prose, illumination, flourishing, and any large commercial project or commission. The ink cage is also useful for practice because it removes the distraction of constantly re-dipping, allowing users to focus entirely on their writing. Ink blobs and drips do not happen often with ink cage nibs; if you're experiencing this, try dipping the nib into your ink until the cage is no more than half-submerged.
Ink cage nibs typically take ink just the same as a regular nib, with a few exceptions. Fountain pen inks and calligraphy inks work without any adjustments needed. India inks and sumi inks also do, but check the label on your bottle to make sure they don't contain shellac. Thick acrylic inks like Ziller, watercolors, and gouache work beautifully when thinned with distilled water.
Cleaning your ink cage nib properly is the most important step you can take to ensure long-lasting durability and quality performance. If you're using water-based inks, simply clean the nib by dipping it several times in a small jar of tap water. With other inks, add a very small amount of pen cleaner to your water (a 9:1 ratio of water to pen cleaner is best). Once your nib is ink-free, pat dry on a folded piece of paper towel by rolling it from side to side on both sides, taking extra care to be gentle on the cage side.
For best results, clean your nib more often then you would with a typical nib. Every other dip is recommended. A little ink residue or staining in the cage area will not affect the nib's performance. Do not scrub the ink cage, soak it in cleaning solution, use hot water to clean, or use ultrasonic cleaners.