One piece of calligraphy equipment that may be overlooked but is definitely an essential part of the calligrapher’s utensils is the calligraphy pen holder. Holders can be made of wood or plastic with the very rare and very exquisite Venetian glass an option too and are often combined with metal fittings.
When choosing a calligraphy pen holder you need to take a couple of things into consideration: the mechanism that holds the nib in place and the barrel of the stylus. Some brands of nibs are a different size to others and so will only fit the specific manufacturer’s holders. The weight and girth of the pen barrel will affect how easily the pen can be gripped. Some plastic shafts can be very smooth and become slippery after being used for any length of time which causes tension in the hand as the grip tightens.
Some calligraphers prefer to get a pen holder with a cork wrapping or a grooved rubber grip at the point where the fingers grip the barrel. It’s all up to the individual calligrapher and you won’t know how you feel about a particular pen barrel until you have felt it in your hand. Some calligraphers prefer to feel a heavy instrument while others would rather it to be light to enable them to feel the nib more keenly.
When you buy a calligraphy set, a calligraphy pen holder will be included with it. You don’t necessarily have to use the one that comes with the set. Most times you can buy one separately and use the nibs that came with the set. As mentioned earlier, some pen holders are specific to their manufacturers own nibs. Pelikan nibs, for example can only be used with their own holder because of the complex nature of the connection which involves small metal tongues and hooks that link into one another.
It’s a good idea to have a test drive with any pen holder you’re considering buying. It should feel comfortable from the first moment because, if it’s not comfortable to hold before you start writing it’s going to be extremely uncomfortable later.
If there is a gripping device on the barrel of the pen you need to make sure that it fits tightly without any movement. A wobbly pen holder will not be conducive to making crisp straight strokes. Next, check that the nib sits straight in alignment with the holder. Any misalignment will prove to be very distracting.
Calligraphy pen holders are not necessarily particularly high priced items. Fitted with a high-quality nib, the plainest looking holder will be just as effective as an expensive, fancy as all get out one.