Kaweco Special Dip Pen - Steel Leonardt 30 Pointed Nib
Section Width: 10mm
Pros: Nice sturdy nib holder, good flex, anodized aluminum body
Cons: Rusting issue (not specific to Kaweco's nib holder), frequent dipping depending on the ink you use, nibs wear out easily.
I am very new to dip pens in general, but I've been wanting to get my feet wet a little bit with them. A while back I'd gotten an inexpensive dip pen set from John Neal Books because it included the Mitchel Witch Pen, which I wanted to try using for ink "passes" on my ink reviews - my ink reviews are ever-evolving as I figure out what best represents the ink and what I want my reviews to look like. I really only bought the set for the Witch Pen, but I did mess around a bit with the dip nibs that it came with and my experience wasn't so great. Noob Lori was using fountain pen inks with the pens, and without a reservoir, they dried up VERY quickly, railroaded a lot and required constant dipping.
Kaweco launched their Dip Pen from their Special line, and I thought it was a perfect opportunity to give a review from the perspective of both a dip pen novice, as well as a pen addict who knows a thing or two about a good pen in general. I had a really good time reviewing the pen, and I do think that I'll continue to use it for specialty things such as lettering cards or art in the future.
The pen comes in come minimalistic packaging, which I can always get on board with. When I received the tube from Kaweco, my first thought was, "How did that nib not get bent in shipping?!" Of course Kaweco certainly thought of this because the base/cap of the tube actually grips the end of the pen as you slide it into the tube and it's tight enough to prevent the pen from slamming its nib into the back end of the tube. Pretty cool!
The nib holder itself is one of the best one's I've seen - it's black anodized aluminum with a faceted barrel. Most nib holder's I've come across are either wood or cheap plastic. This one is heavy and feels like it will last a lifetime. I don't find it slick or uncomfortable to use, though not having your traditional tapered and flared section design was something I had to get used to.
Of course I mentioned earlier that I'd tried out some dip pens before with fountain pen ink and that was a fairly unimpressive experience. I did my research online, and even checked out some dip pen pros like Azizah at Gourmet Pens (if you're not following her Instagram, you should be!). I found that most folks use one of these few inks for their dip pens, Speedball or India ink, calligraphy inks, or fountain pen inks with gum arabic in them. I went to my local hobby stores and I could not for the life of me find any gum arabic at either of them (probably would have had better luck at a food store), so I headed to the calligraphy aisle. I'd read online that inks labeled "calligraphy ink" are runnier than some of the speedball or higgins brand inks. My store carried both Higgins and Speedball brand and I read that acrylic inks are more viscous and don't railroad as much in flex pens (if you know more about these ink types, please enlighten me!), so I ended up choosing Speedball's Super Pigmented Acrylic ink.
I dipped the pen and played around with some flex writing and testing how long the ink would last with a single dip. My experience with the acrylic ink was much more pleasant than with fountain pen inks, and the single dip lasted for quite a while. The acrylic ink, especially when laid down thick from flexing, dries in almost a textured 3D form on the page. I can't imagine you'd have an issue doing washes over this ink.
So as I mentioned, I am a complete dip pen noob. I figured this out the hard way after I finished using the pen for the first time, took it into the bathroom and gave it a quick rinse under the sink. I dried it with a paper towel, sat the pen down and didn't touch it for a few days. The next time I pulled the pen out, I attempted to remove the nib, so that I could try out some other dip nibs in it, and I had a terrible time getting the nib out. I soon discovered that my very brief rinse under the sink water was enough to start a very rapid rusting process of the nib. I was a little shocked by this - I didn't realize how easily dip nibs rusted. I did a little more research online and found others who'd had a similar problem, and many folks said to just wipe your nib clean after use instead of using any sort of water - or at least make sure that you're drying it absolutely completely. Dip nibs are apparently not meant to last a lifetime and some people even mentioned that after a while, because there is no tipping, the tips would begin to wear out - which makes sense. I checked the inside of the Kaweco nib holder and saw a bit of rust in there too - I can't really tell if it was contact rust that was transferred from the rusted nib, or if the inside of the nib holder also rusted from the water contact. To further test the rusting issue, I did the same rinsing with the cheap plastic nib holder that I got from the John Neal Books dip nib set, and it rusted as well; so I feel comfortable stating that this is not specific to Kaweco's product. I would definitely advise you not to rinse yours unless you absolutely have to, and if you do make certain it's completely dry. Total noob move on my part!
Finally I wanted to try out various fountain pen inks with the dip pen, just to see how well the fared compared to the acrylic ink. I tested some of my current favorites, as well as the two newest Kaweco inks and surprisingly there was quite a variation in the amount of dips needed to complete my writing with each one. It certainly wasn't scientific, but I did try to keep the writing as consistent as possible and the amount of time & depth of the dips. On average, I was dipping multiple times for the very small writing sample, and found that some inks were so runny that they would blob ink down after a fresh dip. I was very pleased with how Rohrer & Klingner Scabiosa and Noodler's El Lawrence fared - Scabiosa held up for my entire sentence and I even did some extra flexes before the ink ran out. El Lawrence was on the higher viscosity side as well with just two dips. Most others were at least 4 or 5 dips. With the acrylic ink, I was able to write the entire upper half of the review (not the title - that was done with a folded nib), with some extreme flex, with only 6 dips. Pretty impressive!
In all, I really enjoyed venturing outside my normal fountain pen regimen and trying out Kaweco's Dip Pen. I have tried the Noodler's Ahab for flex, and this one was a lot more pleasant to use because railroading wasn't a factor with the right ink. I could see myself using this for holiday cards, design work, or just for fun. I do still want to try out some gum arabic mixed into fountain pen inks, so that I can have a wider color variety than most dip inks offer. Kaweco's nib holder is sturdy, well balanced and very enjoyable to use. It retails for around $36 at places like JetPens.com - I feel like that's a very fair price for an anodized aluminum nib holder. You can also swap out different dip nibs for a whole different writing experience. Have you tried any dip pens before? Let me know your experience!
Thanks for reading!