draughting tools
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:

writing pen nip 01
a metal nip of a dip pen, especially advertised for sketching. It is rather smooth, and the line width varies with even a slight pressure. Here I am showing you how the two halves come apart when pressing the nip against the paper

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 pen nip
ruling pen – a screw keeps the line width constant

Ruling pens were originally made not for writing but have been used in calligraphy for a while now.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
trying out different pens, mostly drawing lines
001 kleiner
close-up of my ruling pens (and I have of course those that come in the drafting boxes that I already showed you before) The ones on the left are a set which I bought on ebay as “unused” but the red dot on the tip is almost certainly the not cleaned off residue of a previous use. Whoever used them must have dipped them.
002 kleiner
This one is “cross-hinged” which means one part can swivel out for easier cleaning – much appreciated.

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?

Holding a ruling pen

While researching, I found a variety of interesting pages which I want to share in a link-list:

Wikipedia Article about pens

Handmade Ruling Pens

Worldbuilding with Maps

Videos of a ruling pens used in calligraphy:  butterfly shape,  swedish shape, “normal” shape

2 thoughts to “Ruling Pens and Technical Pens – Part I: Ruling Pens

  • Laura

    If you are interested in other styles of ruling pens or folding pens, check out stores that sell calligraphy supplies such as John Neal Booksellers in the US. http://www.johnnealbooks.com/prod_detail_list/13 In particular, the N22. Ruling Pen shown is really fun to use because it makes really wide lines and very fine lines, so quite a contrast is possible.

    • buechertiger

      Thanks for the link, Laura.

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