I have recently started to buy some technical drafting tools and experimented a little with different kinds of usage for them. I mentioned that I could show off my (many newly acquired) collection of pens, and to my delight, you seemed interested. While writing it, I realized that just showing you a picutre of my pens is not going to be very interesting, so I read up a little, and researched their interesting history:
You all know how the metallic nip of a traditional writing (dip) pen looks like: it has a slit that seperates it into two halves through which the ink flows. Nips vary in form and in how rigid they are. But even those that are very ridig vary the width of the line with the pressure on the paper, because pressing the nip down onto the paper forces the two parts apart, and the line will get thicker.
Draughtsmen are interested to keep their lines in technical drawing very much constant. The ruling pen does this beautifully. They have a screw fastening the two (comparably clumsy looking) two halves which come together in a tip. By fastening or loosening up the screw the line width can be altered and then stays constant. Ink is held only between the two brackets, there is no additional reservoir.
Ruling pens were originally made not for writing but have been used in calligraphy for a while now. To make a precise line, you drag the pen parallel to the two halves slowly along the paper. The ink is filled in with a brush between the two halves. You wouldn’t want to dip this pen, as ink on the outside of the nip would smear the line. When used in calligraphy, it apparently is often dipped and also used across for a broad line which often looks a tad ragged and tends to splatter ink.
I bought my ruling pens primarily as drafting tools just after buying a set of better compasses and technical pens (more about them in a minute). You can buy them for as few as a £2 but I also saw some for £30 and more. I stuck to the lower end of the price range, and bought a variety of sizes and shapes, which all do the job:
Ruling pens have nips of different shapes, especially when they are used for calligraphy. If I am not mistaken – and I am a bit confused about terminology, I must admit – these are all “swedish form” ruling pens of different size. But I have also seen them referred to as “normal form” whild swedish form would be similar to the one in the middle, with an almost diamond shaped nip.
Calligraphers use folded pens, which they also call ruling pens, and for them the shape of the nip is even more important since they will allow the line width the vary with direction of writing and tilt of the pen.
Technical pens have essentially made ruling pens obsolete for technical drawings, although I found some advocates online who value them over the technical pens for their ease to clean them. Well, by now also technical pens are essentially obsolete for professionel architecs and other technical draftsmen since almost all the drafting is done at the computer nowadays. – Which it seems frees them to be used by artists.
I’ll write more about technical pens in a next blogpost. I would be delighted if you could let me know about any experiences you made with ruling pens. Maybe you can link to some results too?
While researching, I found a variety of interesting pages which I want to share in a link-list: