Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Bowling Pin Holder

I worked on this pen holder yesterday.  I put a little bowling pin on top as I thought about the days of my youth when I went to the bowling alley for entertainment.

This holder took longer than expected my goal was to create a perfect surface. I used a piece of Lacewood with open grain and learned the technique to fill the grain with a natural appearance. The little bowling pin is birdseye maple. The pen is 9.25" long, very lightweight and is a normal diameter similar to pens sold at calligraphy web stores. I plan to eventually make oblique holders of the same quality.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014


I am having a blast lettering with  a bunch of different dip nib holders. This one was milled from a small piece of maple. A bit of an experiment to practice with a small 3.5" holder. Getting some real nice thicks and thins with the Speedball C4 nib.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

First Production Quality Dip Pen Holder

I finished work on the first single production quality sided straight nib holder this afternoon. This one is for personal use. The others in this multicolor series  will have a smaller diameter. Eventually pons of this quality will be available for purchase on a Esty site.

The woods in this pen are yellow heart, purple heart, rosa, wenge and maple. The decorative brush shape on top was milled from wenge.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

New Series of Pen Nolders

I had some time this afternoon to do preliminary work on wood blanks for my next series of double and single ended pen holders. I am using small pieces of Bubinga, Padauk, Sapelle Wenge, Pao Rosa, Lacewood, Yellow Heart, Purple Heart, Quilted Maple, Walnut and Mahogany. They were all small pieces purchased in the turner bins at Owl Hardwoods. The colors are not dyed and quite beautiful. 

They pens will glow when polished with many thin coats of urethane, buffed and waxed. I finally had success with my finishing application on a scrap piece of bridseye maple. Lot of practice with friction polish earlier but not totally pleased with the result of that particular method.

These will be some truly beautiful and practical pen holders when finished. I look forward to showing them  to fellow participants at the next 26 Seeds workshop.

Monday, June 16, 2014

10 Minute Quickies with a Custom Pen Holder

This year I began participating in Reggie Ezzell's 26 Seeds year long workshop. My primary goal has been to learn methods for lettering with dip nibs. Prior to this workshop I never had any success with attempts to letter with a dip nib pen.

In the process evaluating my hand grip while doing thousands upon thousands of vertical, horizontal and curved stroke on practice paper I reached the conclusion I needed a custom fit pen holder. I began to mill my own double sided nib holders on a mini wood lathe as I needed a pen with a thick diameter similar to the Design markers I have used for over 3 decades. I have tried almost every commercially made pen holder and they have all felt odd in my hand grip. Many have been too small of a diameter to manipulate the nib.

I am just now having some success with dip nibs as the holders fit perfectly in my hand. They offer a shape to allow ease for pressurized strokes and control of stroke placement at any angle.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Special K Moments™ Lettering

Back in March, 2013  I worked on a project to create lettering for  Special K Moments. This is a beautiful lettering style and it looks great on the package. As with many projects a lot of lettering in various styles was created during the design process. All sent to the amazing designers at Anthem who brought this lettering and package design to the consumer market.

These are some of the Moments variations created at the time.

Friday, March 7, 2014

A Technique to Vectorize Lettering

I am posting these images as reference to a How to Vectorize topic at the Flourish Forum which is an excellent source for hand lettering discussions and inspiration. The lettering sample is courtesy of Erica McPhee.

There are many ways to create lettering as vector art. This is one technique I use daily for both commercial and personal work.

Start with a preliminary sketch, scan the sketch and open the image file in Photoshop. Adjust to image size for use as a drawing template in Illustrator. I tend to work at  a 40" width for most lettering projects. The resolution is very low 72 or 75 dpi as the file will not be used for print reproduction.

Adjust the levels as the objective is to posterize the image as a bitmap tiff for import to Illustrator.

Posterize the image.

Save the file as a tiff image.

Save the file as a bitmap image to reduce the files size.

Open the image file in Illustrator

Create a template layer with the image and adjust the value to 10%.

Create a new layer for use as the vector path drawing layer.

Begin drawing vector lines. Try to keep the paths as smooth as possible.

Continue drawing path placement and adjusting beizer handles and follow the template image.

Select the path and adjust the overall weight to match the hairline quality of the lines you desire. With the size of this particular lettering I changed the stroke weight to 6 points with round end caps and corners. Round caps and corners will soften the endpoints of the paths instead of finishing the paths with sharp pointy ends.

With the paths selected go to the Illustrator Object pull down menu, select  sub menu Paths and then Outline Stroke. This will turn the path into an object which will be modified by adjusting the points along the path including the bezier handles.

Select points along the path, move and adjust to paths to follow the template image.

Continue adjusting paths of all the letters in your composition. This is not meant to be a fast process. Take your time as the goal is to produce beautiful smooth curves for each letter.  

After you adjust the paths of each letter view your work in non preview mode. This will allow you to see what needs to be fine tuned as the lettering composition continues. The letterforms will change as the vector drawing process continues.

Some paths may not match up to the template image. I tend to turn off the template image after the basic letterforms  are setup. I will move and adjust paths depending on how the letters relate to one another.  The most important aspect of this process is to enjoy what you are creating regardless of the time it may take to adjust all the lines, shapes, curves and bezier handles. 

I often use the Pathfinder filters to unite all the vector paths into one compound path. This technique allows for cleanup of any irregularities. 

This image shows an odd transition between the letters o and m of a lettering piece created in 2013. To get a smooth flow all the paths were selected and  the Compound Path Unite filter was applied. 

All the paths transformed to one compound path and the irregular line segment was adjusted to a smooth flowing stroke between letters.

Points on a path are often deleted or moved while lettering in vector format. It's all part of the process.

Another technique to adjust the thickness of an outlined path is to draw closed paths over the original outline. With this lower case p, a new shape was drawn over the original path to create a thick downstroke.

A second closed path was added to the p. The Pathfinder Unite filter was applied to transform the p to a compound path.

There are many different methods to create thick and thins with vector lettering. It's all a matter of practice to find what works best.