John Neal Bookseller

Instructions and helpful hints for using our calligraphic and bookbinding supplies.

Please check back here periodically, we will be adding to this page as frequently as practical.

Im addressing invitations, but these envelopes are hard to work with. Help!

For difficult envelopes: too thick to use a light table with guidelines inserted in the envelope

(You did put on your price list that lined envelopes, dark envelopes, metallic envelopes would cost more)

For lined white or light colored envelopes, you can draw guidelines with pencil and then erase with a white plastic eraser. Test to make sure that the erasing is not noticeable, that it is not affecting the envelope or your letters.

When you dont want to or cant use penciled guidelines:

–Disappearing ink pens for fabric can be used. The lines dont always disappear, so test out a sample first. Use the fine point for paper. The medium point for fabric.

–A soapstone pencil can be used for dark paper. Sharpen the pencil in a good hand pencil sharpener to a fine point. The lines can be brushed off after writing.

–A Phantom Liner (Reflections) is a good tool if you have one. They are no longer made. Some people like them a lot and use them often. Others bought them and found them useless, so you might ask around in your guild.

Click here to see an instructional PDF file on how to adjust your oblique holder.

I have the Ames Lettering Guide, but do not have a clue how to use it. Do you have instructions?

Here is an instructional video from YouTube:)

I have an antique penholder. It is very slim and would need a tiny nib. What nibs might work?

The Brause 66EF and the Brause 513 have the smallest bases (the part that fits into the holder). The arc is only 1/8 across from one end of the arc to the other. Hunt 103, 100; Gillott 290, 291; and Hiro 700 are approximately 3/8, measuring from one end of the arc to the other.

My Blackwell holder wont hold the smallest nibs tightly such as Brause 66EF or crowquills (tubular nibs). The screw does not keep them in place.

If the holder works fine for larger nibs such as the Gillott 304 or 404, then you most likely just need a longer screw. Initially these holders used a short screw that did not work well with these smallest of nibs. Holders now are supposed to come with a longer screw. So you may have an older holder or your newer one came with a too-short screw by mistake. Request a longer screw and we will mail one to you. There is no charge.

I have been using one of your excellent practice pads (P21, P01) and have some lettering that I would like to reproduce. How can I get rid of the light blue grid lines?

The low tech solution is to use a copier. Make a copy on the machine and see how much of the grid is visible. If the grid is visible, lighten the exposure a few percent and make another copy. Repeat until the grid is no longer visible.

The high tech solution uses Photoshop to remove the lines. See the entire procedure in this PDF file:

Is your bookbinding thread 100% Flax?

Our LINEN bookbinding thread is 100% Linen / 100% Flax. Linen and Flax are two words for the same item, thread or fabric made from the flax plant.

Because of this strength linen thread is used to sew signatures in bookbinding. It is often lightly waxed with Beeswax (S289).

The first number is the thickness of the thread. The higher the number, the thinner the thread. That is 12/3 is thicker than 18/3. The second number of strands that are twisted together to make the thread. 12/3 has three strands.

Linen thread is made from the fibers of the flax plant. Linen thread is sometimes referred to as Flax thread or Flaxen thread.

All of these answers refer tocalligraphy ink for dip pens.

What is the best calligraphy ink for beginners?

The best dip pen calligraphy ink for copperplate and broad-edged calligraphy for beginners is Higgins Eternal. It is non-waterproof and easy to clean out of your pen.

What is the best calligraphy ink for classes?

The best calligraphy ink for beginners copperplate and italic calligraphy classes is Higgins Eternal. It is inexpensive. It is non-waterproof and easy for students to clean out of their pens. It does not build up on their pens like Sumi Ink, so they do not have to clean their pen as often while they are practicing and they can concentrate on their letterforms.

What is the best ink for copperplate and Spencerian script?

Many professional calligraphers/penmen continue to use Higgins Eternal. Our three most popular inks for pointed pen alphabets are Moon Palace Sumi, McCaffreys Penmans Ink, and Higgins Eternal. Moon Palace Sumi is densely black and water-resistant and gives good hairlines. McCaffreys is a traditional gall ink and gives very fine hairlines and is available in a variety of colors.

What is the most popular ink for Spencerian?

What is the most popular ink for Copperplate?

What is the best gold ink for calligraphy?

Dr. Martins Iridescent Copperplate Gold is our most popular metallic gold ink for broad-edged calligraphy (Italic, blackletter, etc.) or copperplate/Spencerian script. It is an acrylic ink and dries waterproof.

I see so many calligraphy markers, how do I choose the one thats best for my project?

We have prepared this chart to make picking a marker easy. The chart is sorted by Product Number, Waterproof/Non-waterproof, lightfast/non-lightfast, nib size.

When and how do I refill my Copic Markers?

When you see streaking in your work, it is time to refill your marker.

1. Match the color number of your marker with the color number on the Copic Various Ink Cap (M73. Copic Marker Refill).

2. Always work over a protected surface or paper plate. Hold the marker in one hand, at a slightly tilted angle.

3. With the other hand gently dab 30-40 drops onto the nib surface. Allow each drop to be absorbed before adding the next. 30-40 drops will recharge your marker for a while. Wide markers have a built-in notch at the base of the nib that the ink dropper fits into for refilling.

4. Try not to overfill. Use a tissue to absorb the extra ink. Use rubbing alcohol to clean any ink spills or to wipe your marker clean. You can rinse dirty caps in alcohol and wipe the insides clean with a cotton swab.

How do I replace the cartridge in a Copic Multiliner SP?

First, make sure that you are working with the Multiliner SP. It has an aluminum barrel.

Next, be certain that you have the correct refill for your pen:

—Type A refills are only for the ultra fine line pens: .03 mm, .05 mm, and 0.1 mm.

—Type B refills are for all other Multiliner SP pens: 0.2 mm, 0.25 mm, 0.3 mm, 0.35 mm, 0.5 mm, 0.7 mm, or Brush nibs.

Then followthe instructions on this sheet to correctly replace the cartridge.

What is the best ink for Copperplate?

Betty Gilpin of Nashville likes Best Bottle Sumi (I43). She can use it straight out of the bottle without having to dilute it. She gets a better contrast between the thicks and thins than with other Sumi inks. With Best Bottle her thin strokes are fine and stay fine. (She finds that if the thin strokes start thickening up during a job it often means that the ink has dried on her pen and she needs to rinse it off.) She finds that Moon Palace (I70) builds up on the pen quicker and requires more pen rinsing. She uses a Gillott 303.

What holders do left-handers use for copperplate and Spencerian?

Most left-handed penmen (and penwomen) use a regular straight penholder for Copperplate and Spencerian. A few lefthanders use the oblique holder. Almost all right-handers use an oblique holder (a straight holder with either a metal flange or plastic structure attached to the end that holds the nib). A few right-handers use a straight holder.

How do I use Crystal Lacquer in my lettering?

Use theinstruction sheets for Crystal Lacquer.

How can I use Dr. Martins Spectralite Ink to finally get the gold or copper color that I need? All of the various inks and gouaches are different shades and I am having trouble finding the exact shade I need.

Because the entire line of Dr. Martins Spectralite are pigmented metallic colors, you can mix different shades in the line to produce a wider range of colors than is available in the bottle. Here are a couple of hints from Cyberscribes about using Spectralite:

I love Spectralite…the whole rainbow of them. Just have not been able to come up with the right copper color with them. –Nan,NYC

Try the 53K copper with either one drop of Brass or one drop of Gold… that will give you either slightly brighter copper, or slightly warmer copper. –Collene,Australia

Im confused about the metric weighting system of your papers. How do I find the weight Im looking for?

Use thePaper Comparison Chartto get a rough weight comparison between papers.

Can I use the spay fixative you offer on a watercolor painting and then write on top of the painting?

The spray fixative should fix the watercolor so that the ink does not mix with the watercolor or the watercolor with the ink. However, it isvery important that you do a test firstto make sure there will be no problems with the final project. It is best to spray the fixative using one or more light coats rather than one heavy one. You may find that acrylic inks work best on top of the fixative. ALWAYS use spray fixative in a well ventilated area.

What cartridges work in which fountain pens?

View thisphoto of our cartridgesfor a comparison.

Shaeffer Pens have a long cartridge. You should buy their cartridges for their pen.

Manuscript and Rotring use short cartridges. They are likely interchangeable.

Lamy Cartridges are longer than the Sheaffer cartridges and are shaped differently.

Online Pens use short cartridges. The Manuscript cartridges fit in the Online pen.

Pilot Parallel Pen cartridges have a unique size and shape.

How do I insert the cartridge into a long-staff Brause Calligraphy Pen?

1. Unscrew the barrel from the nib unit (counter-clockwise)

2. Insert the cartridge into the nib unit to piece the cartridge. Insert the pointed end, not the flat end but the end with the smaller cylindrical tip.

3. Press firmly and you will feel the cartridge being pierced. Screw the barrel onto the pen.

4. To get the ink to flow (if it does not automatically start as you try to write.)

a. If you have a very light hand, try adding slightly more pressure. If you already write with some pressure, do not add more pressure.

b. If that does not work, hold the pen vertically and give it a shake or two downwards and then try writing (if necessary, adding a little pressure only if you have a light touch.)

c. If that does not work, unscrew the barrel, hold the pen vertically and lightly squeeze the cartridge and then try writing (if necessary, adding a little pressure only if you have a light touch.)

The Brause Calligraphy Pen takes standard small European Cartridges. The Manuscript cartridges (FP91, FP91-30) and Pelikan cartridges (FP115) will work in this pen. (Speedball, Lamy, and Pilot cartridges will not work.) Brause does NOT make a converter (for using bottled ink) for this pen.

Pelikan 4001 is our recommendation for the best fountain pen ink. Herbin Ink is a fountain pen ink in a delightful array of colors. You can often match the ink color of the return address on wedding invitations with Herbin Ink.

Is there waterproof fountain pen ink?

Calli Ink is a pigmented, acrylic based waterproof fountain pen ink. You should rinse out your pen before filling it with Calli ink. Do not store Calli Ink in your pen if you do not use your pen frequently. We at John Neal, Bookseller do not recommend Calli Ink for expensive or vintage fountain pens. While Calli works very well in fountain pens, it dries waterproof and can potentially ruin a pen.

Is there pigmented fountain pen ink?

Winsor Newton Calligraphy Inks are non-waterproof, pigmented inks for fountain pens. (Only the blue capped bottles are for fountain pens. Use the metallic gold & silver and the matte black with the red cap for dip pen and brush only.) Calli Ink is a pigmented, acrylic based waterproof fountain pen ink. You should rinse out your pen before filling it with Calli ink. Do not store Calli Ink in your pen if you do not use your pen frequently. We at John Neal, Bookseller do not recommend Calli Ink for expensive or vintage fountain pens. While Calli works very well in fountain pens, it dries waterproof and can potentially ruin a pen.

Is there an archival ink for my fountain pen?

If the piece is going on the wall, you need a light-fast ink which generally means a pigmented ink. Pigmented black ink is lightfast. Most fountain pen inks such as Pelikan 4001 and Herbin are dye based inks and are not light-fast and are not suitable for work that is meant to last on display for decades.

What is your recommendation for a densely black fountain pen ink that has good coverage and is lightfast?

For lightfastness, you need pigmented ink. The pigmented fountain pen inks we carry are Winsor & Newton Calligraphy Ink (blue cap only) and Calli. If you need waterproof, Calli is the best (but dont store it in a pen that you dont use regularly). If non-waterproof is okay, then Winsor & Newton Calligraphy Ink. Do not put any ink in your fountain pen that does not say for fountain pen on the bottle. Inks for technical pens are not necessarily suitable for fountain pens.

Please see the article Gilding with Clear Film by Shelia Waters for help using Dura-lar (P57) and/or Acetate (P66) here:

How do I use gouache for calligraphy?

Denis Brown and John Stevens got me started on using black gouache instead of ink, and that is now my preference, rather than prepared inks. Just a small blob of gouache on a ceramic palette is usually enough to last me for a session of a couple hours, and I dont like to write for longer than that without a break anyway. Denis recommends W&N Ivory Black. I just keep a water jar on the drawing table and mix the water and gouache to the right consistency with a brush as I work, mixing the gouache and filling the pen with the same brush. I keep the brush in my left hand while I write with the right hand, and fill the pen again as needed – perhaps as frequently as every one or two of letters, depending on the size of the pen. If the gouache builds up on the nib, I rinse it off in the water jar and dry the nib quickly with a rag. However, when using a reservoir, I find that rinsing and drying alone isnt always enough, as I cant get at the top (or bottom, depending on which nib/ reservoir) surface of the nib with the reservoir in place, and gouache will still build up there – even after rinsing. I may occasionally need to run a piece of paper between the nib and the reservoir to clean out some of the gouache build-up. Ray Ritchie

I have a tube of gouache that has dried up. Can I still use it?

Occasionally I have a tube of gouache gets that way, so I split open the tube, break up the dry stuff and put it in a little jar. Label the jar with the color name. Then add water and some glycerin. Wait a few days and you have gouache again. Sometimes it needs a little gum Arabic (the binder in gouache) added after it has reconstituted. The glycerin slows down the drying in your pen and on the paper. Glycerin is the clear gel/liquid you find when you open a new tube of gouache. -Ginger Meidel

Winsor & Newton has discontinued some of their gouache colors and added some new colors. How can I find out which colors have changed, which have been discontinued, and which are new?

Consult the charts in this three-page pdf file:

Do you have a color chart for Winsor & Newton gouache?

Yes.Winsor & Newton Gouache Color Chart

Which Winsor & Newton white gouache do I need?

Permanent White is the strongest and most opaque white. Use it for writing in White or tints of white. (Winsor & Newton says their Permanent White has been modified so that it can be used for mixing other colors.)

Zinc White has always been recommended for color mixing. It has a lower tinting strength.

Which Winsor & Newton black gouache do I need?

All the blacks are a dense black for calligraphy. Ivory Black and Jet Black are generally recommended.

Ivory Black is less opaque with lower tinting strength and makes brown (warm) greys and sepia tones when mixed with white.

Jet Black is a rich, deep, opaque black which makes blue greys when mixed with white.

Lamp Black is a less opaque black of lower tinting strength, giving paler, blue (cool) greys when mixed with white.

What is the best way to prepare gum ammoniac?

See Jerry Tressers helpful hints of how to prepare and use gum ammoniac:

How do I insert a calligraphy nib into a penholder that has a metal ring and four prongs?

Insert the nib between one of the four metal prongs and the outer metal ring. If the nib is large such as a Mitchell, first try inserting the nib with one edge of the nib in the gap in the metal ring. Other nibs may not be picky as to placement along the ring. If the metal ring unit pulls out when you try to remove the nib, it is easy to re-insert the ring unit in the holder.

Do NOT insert the nib in the gap around the tips of the prongs.

See the following images as examples.

Back to topic indexHunt Pointed Pens

Do you have any information about Hunt pointed pen nibs?

Thischart of Hunt pointed pen nibsgives names, illustrations, and descriptions for all of the Hunt pointed nibs that we carry.

I would like an India ink that I can use in my fountain pen; what do you recommend?

Traditional India Ink has shellac as a binder and is NOT suitable for fountain pens. There are now black pigmented inks for fountain pens. Winsor & Newton Calligraphy Ink (Blue Cap, NOT the matte black with the red cap) is pigmented and works in Fountain Pens. Calli Ink is also designed for fountain pens. It works well. You should not store your pen with this ink as it dries waterproof and could ruin your pen. If you use your pen every day, there should be no problem. (Store your pen flat when not in use.) I dont recommend Calli for use in expensive, fancy fountain pens. Use it in your utilitarian models. These inks are designed for Calligraphy Fountain Pens. They might not work with fine tipped fountain pens and most likely wont work in regular fountain pens that regular (dye-based) ink does not flow out well.

How do I write on shiny surfaces? My ink sits on the surface and beads up.

For flat paper try writing with Sumi Ink. It is less likely to bead.

Where adhesion is a concern try writing with Acrylic inks such as FW Acrylic Artists Ink or Ziller Inks. Acrylic inks will adhere better to slick, non-absorbent surfaces better than other inks. They also bead less.

If the ink still beads up, add a wetting agent to your ink: (I dont have any direct experience with either of the two products that are still available. Test with a small amount of ink, not a large bottle.) These wetting agents should work. (Dish detergent may work in a pinch. You need VERY little! ) All decrease the surface tension causing the ink to flatten out.You may have problems getting thin thins when using a wetting agent.

Dr Martins Flex-o-paque (but is no longer available from the manufacturer)

Pounce is sometimes used to abrade the surface slightly. You get rid of the gloss and the ink acts more like ink. But you do change the appearance of the surface which may or may not be suitable.

First, lay the Instacoll. Because Instacoll is an acrylic base, it has a high surface tension which means it is somewhat slimy and flows much better from a brush than a pen.

After you have laid the Instacoll, let it dry approx ½ hour. Please note that how long the base should dry before you gild on it, varies depending on two factors: how thick you laid the base and how humid the room is. The loose rule of thumb is that you can lay the gold as soon as the base is tacky. It does not have to set up hard or dry completely. If you wait too long, the gold does not adhere.

Now you are ready to lay your patent gold leaf. Use your finger as a burnisher and put two layers of gold on the base.

Use a cotton ball or silk cloth to burnish the gold and then remove the excess.

Instacoll is also commonly used in architectural applications of leafing. When used for a large area the base must be reactivated in order for the leaf to adhere (because the base will dry completely before the leaf is adhered). Because our customers use it for small applications there is no need to reactivate the base. Therefore you should ignore the label directly on the bottle that states this is component 1 of 2.

These inks work very well with a dip pen: chisel-edged or pointed nib. The bottle will come with a light color solid on the bottom and a darker liquid. The color of the ink is between these two. You need to thoroughly mix the ink in the bottle before you use it. Try stirring, or stirring and shaking. If you shake, you will get bubbles. If the bubbles cause problems, let them dissipate and then just stir. To keep the iridescence from settling out while you are working, give the ink an occasional stir. The ink dries waterproof. To keep the ink from drying and building up on your nib, give the nib an occasional rinse and dry while you work. All metallic, pearlescent, iridescent inks require some more effort to use than the black ink you use all the time.

Dr Martins Iridescent Calligraphy Inks

What is a Kemper Fluid Writer or Kemper Tool (S772) used for?

I learned their name as kistka. Theyre traditionally used for making the wax designs on Ukranian eggs but in Carol DuBoschs on-going class I learned to write monoline with them using all sorts of fluids. They come in different sizes and theyre very fun!Alesia Zorn – Portland, OR

I like the kemper tool for dots and for writing also. You do have to thin your gouache a lot and some colors/brands are not ground finely enough and will not go through the pen. Do not throw away the piece that comes with it. Keep it close at hand and use it to clean out clogs and to get things started!Leslie Barnes, St Louis, MO

The Kemper pen tool is great for applying extended monoline strokes such as long straight rules, curving stems, vines and scrollwork. Use it to apply metallic gouache or fine suspensions of gold powder, color or even diluted Pro-White, when you want a steady uninterrupted flow of a single width, repeated dots or thin linear elements that are used in illumination. The little cup holds a lot of liquid and dispenses it evenly. The high quality brass is nicely finished so it writes across surfaces without catching fibers. Fun tool, easy to use, and easy to clean with the little wire tool it comes with.Ann Miller, San Mateo, CA

The Kemper tool is used for monoline lettering. There are two sizes — ink goes in the little cup and flows through the tip. The small wire device is for cleaning the hole in the tip. Sherri Keisel used them in her classes on contemporary decorated letters. Ive never liked or used them much for lettering. But I found a great use for my Kemper tool when I was gilding a bunch of rocks for Reggie classmates. The Kemper writer is terrific for applying thin lines of PVA to gild on. I also used a brush for larger areas but nothing beat the kemper when I wanted thin lines.LeeAnne Mallonee, ME

After some experimentation, Im finding mine works superbly well for rubrication. If you ever need to make lots of small uniform dots, like in the Lindisfarne Gospels, a Kemper tool does the trick!Wanda A, OR

The Kemper Fluid Writer is great for Contemporary Decorated Caps done in gold (although pointed pens are better!)Karen Ter Haar, Tasmania, Australia

What are the terms and conditions for use of your Linda Schneider stamps? I would like to know the copyright conditions: how it can be used, whether it can be stamped on products that will themselves be further sold or not, and related uses?

This is from the manufacturer of the stamps:

Copyright Information / For purpose of resale

We welcome artists who would like to use our images in their own hand-stamped creations and wish to sell these items. Therefore, we give permission to use any of Linda Schneiders designs for the purpose of resale. When using the approved stamps for items that will be sold, we give you permission if the following criteria are met:

1) Each item must be hand stamped. Mechanical reproductions are not acceptable.

2) The back of the card must contain typed, stamped, or hand-written copyright information. Please refer to the label index on the side of the image you are using for the correct copyright information. It is not necessary to include the copyright date. But be sure to include the copyright information for each stamp you are using. This information needs to be listed only once for each artist, no matter how many images are used by that artist. For instance, if you use three images that are copyright LINDA SCHNEIDER, you need to only list the copyright information © Linda Schneider one time on the back of the item.

How do I replace the lamp in my Logan Light Pad?

Locate six small Phillips screws in the back of the housing. Remove the screws and set aside.

Locate six tabs along the edge of the rear of the housing to remove the outer, front frame. Using a small, blunt object, push the tabs toward the center of the housing to release them.

The front frame can now be removed. The bulbs are located under silver tape along two of the edges of the housing. Gently pry up the silver tape that covers the bulbs.

Locate a grey cap on each end of the bulb. This is the end of the bulb. Remove the grey caps from the housing.

Locate two white plugs, one for each bulb. Gently pry the bulbs plug from the plug on the board. The bulb can now be removed.

Install the new bulb and reassemble the housing.

I would like to see a picture of the nibs available in the Manuscript Cartridge Pen sets.

We have apdf filewhich shows the available nibs.

Im having trouble getting my Manuscript fountain pen to write. What do I do?

1. If are used to writing with a Pilot Parallel Pen, you should not expect a similar flow from the Manuscript Pen in the larger sizes.

2. The back of the box of the Deluxe Set has a diagram showing how to load the pen. You use two cartridges with the flat sides next to each other. Push the writing cartridge into the nib unit (no need to puncture the cartridge). Put the other cartridge in the barrel with the small end down in the barrel.

3. Screw the nib unit and the barrel together to puncture the writing cartridge.

4. Hold the pen fully vertical with the nib down. Give it a couple of shakes to help gravity get the ink into the nib.

5. Start writing. You will need to apply a SLIGHT pressure. You may need to start writing back and forth with a thin stroke.

The ink in my Manuscript Fountain Pen does not flow well. What do I do?

1. Most of the time the problem is that the ink has dried in the nib, blocking or partially blocking the ink flow. Take a moist cloth or paper towel and wipe the top surface of the pen nib. If that does not clear the blockage, you can try soaking the nib section of the pen in a weak ammonia solution (blue colored window cleaner has ammonia in it), or you could try using an ultrasonic cleaner.

2. Make sure you have the entire edge of the pen on the paper.

3. Try the pen on a different paper and/or with a cushion of extra sheets under the writing paper.

4. If you are using bottle ink, make sure the bottle says it is for FOUNTAIN pens. Some inks which work fine in technical penswill clogyour fountain pen. If waterproof ink has dried in your pen, it might be saved with an ultrasonic cleaner.

5. Pigment-based fountain pen inks (Calli & Winsor Newton Calligraphy (Blue Cap)) may cause more flow problems than dye-based inks such as the cartridges that came with the pen and Pelikan 4001.

6. If your pen writes well for some of the page but skips only in certain areas of the paper, you may need to use a protective sheet under your writing hand. Oils or moisture from your hand can cause problems. Usually oil will cause skipping; moisture will cause bleeding. A sheet of plain paper should work fine to protect your writing surface.


Ive tried Winsor & Newton, Daler-Rowney, Schminke, Pebeo and the Masquepen. They each have their pluses and minuses. The Daler-Rowney is thick and has a slightly yellowish tint to it, so it sometimes leaves a trace of that on the paper when you remove it. The Masquepen is bluish, you can see it easily on the paper, and it removes clean. The Pebeo has a nice viscosity for writing. Some applications are better done with a specific brand.

I like to use the Pebeo brand when I want to write with masking fluid because it just seems to flow better. I like to use Mitchell nibs without the reservoir, but any nib that does