Monday, November 3, 2014

My Custom Pen Work on Pinterest

I have started pinning images of my calligraphy pen endeavor on Pinterest. I eventually plan to sell pens on my website in the near future.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

The Start of a Bubinga Pen

After a long long hours in front of the computer screen dealing with project deadlines I started a pen with a Bubinga front section. Nice change of pace to finish off the day. Bubinga is a very dense wood that requires a very sharp tool to shape it. If the tool is dull the wood easily burns up.
The colors from left to right are Purple Heart, Yellow Heart, Wenge, Birdseye Maple, Wenge and Bubinga. This one is going to be quite beautiful with a thin tapered end.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

More Newly Milled Pen Holders

I started a new series of holders last night from laminated blanks set up last week.  Nice break from the high pressure deadline world of commercial lettering. Anything goes with the pens and its fun to create mini functional fine art pieces.

With some of the pens in this series I decided to taper the back end to be as skinny as possible.  Very elegant and more traditional in design. After I finish milling a couple dozen pen holders dyes and transparent acrylics will be airbrushed to enhance the color. These will be gorgeous when finished.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

A Series of Oblique Holders

This is a series of oblique holders I worked on a couple months ago. Basically practice to learn the process of making a flange and develop a method for cutting  the wooden pen at an angle to install the flange. I made an adjustable bandsaw jig which allowed the blade to cut the pen body with various tilt angles. This was a learning process and some of the angles were too steep for the nib when contacting the paper surface. Those particular pens were tossed in the trash.

The flange I designed allows the nib to be rotated unlike some of the production oblique holders I have purchased in the past which position the nib at a fixed position. I experimented with double and single flange pens including oblique and straight nib inserts in the same pen. Eventually I will make some obliques with a variety of woods similar to the straight holders.

Monday, October 20, 2014

My Recent Collection of Pen Holders

My latest collection of pen holders milled in the past month. All different shapes and sizes. I just started  experimenting with dyes and transparent acrylics. The two pen holders on the right end of the photos are my first attempts with enhancing color. I have a long way to go with this newly discovered technique. I eventually plan to sell these pen holders.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

More Calligraphy Pens In the Works

I have not posted any lettering updates in a long time. All my free time for many months of this year has been spent making calligraphy pen holders of many shapes and sizes. It has taken a long time to learn and develop finishing techniques after the pens are turned on the lathe. To  deal with moisture prevention the drilled hole for the nib insert is sealed with epoxy and a brass tube. This will make the the nib insert easier to replace if it eventually rusts.

This photo is the first step in setting up the wood blanks. I am painting with various earth tones and textures of wood. Next step in the process is to apply an extremely strong glue and laminate all the pieces of each blank. When everything is clamped and placed in a wall rack I let the wood blanks cure for a few days.

I plan to airbrush dye and transparent acrylics into some of the wood segments to enhance colors of each pen. After adding color the turned blanks will get several coats of shellac followed by smooth sanding and finished with multiple thin clear coats.  The clear coat will be micro polished and buffed with wax. Each wooden blank on the workbench will eventually become a beautiful and functional calligraphy pen.

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.

Friday, February 28, 2014

First Composition for 26 Seeds: A Year to Grow

Yesterday I finished my first  project for Reggie Ezell's 26 Seeds: A Year to Grow workshop. There will be many to follow for this year long workshop. This composition included monoline proportion studies. The proportions were used to letter the word Calligraphy in Roman caps style.

Since attending the first workshop a month ago I have been practicing letter proportions drawn on grids. Every letter in this composition was drawn on a grid. Many sketches were scanned as alpha channel masks while painting with pixels in Photoshop. This composition is a rather large 25" x 10" Photoshop file @ 1200 dpi printed as a Giclée.

Even though I letter in digital format all the preliminary steps happen on the drawing board with a variety of writing instruments. My studio space is not suited for painting on large canvas so I prefer digital for painting. My goal with this workshop its to learn and combine traditional methods with digital techniques. The final art will be large format archive quality prints.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Back to the Basics

In order to improve as a lettering artist I have to study letterform proportions. Lettering workshops sponsored by the Chicago Calligraphy Collective are an excellent source for improving skills. I recently attended the first 26 Seeds: A Year To Grow workshop taught by Reggie Ezell.  All participants practiced pencil Monolines on grid paper.

For the past couple weeks this pencil on grid study has been lettered hundreds of times in order to develop a better eye for lettering proportions. I am getting to the point in which I can letter Monoline in decent proportion with a pencil at any size  minus the grid paper. 

Monday, January 27, 2014

My Lettering Slant Board

This past month I decided to make a slant board. I needed something for both  in studio use and easy transport to lettering workshops. My first mock up slant board was produced with milled MDF. The advantage of this setup was a base that could be flipped over to allow for either shallow or steep drawing board angles. Fine for use in my studio but too heavy for weekend workshop travel.  After a month of practice with the MDF assembly I had a good idea for a refined design.

The current slant board is made with a piece of Australian Lacewood. The top is Baltic Birch plywood with  strips of Lacewood added to enhance the appearance.