Rusty nibs! How the internet tells you to care for calligraphy nibs, and what I actually do!

I had an email from Sarah the other day – she’d been to one of my calligraphy workshops and kept her nib – but within a few months it had begun to rust. She asked me for advice: is there a best way to keep calligraphy nibs, to prevent rusting?

Now I go through nibs pretty fast – usually three or four Nikko Gs in a week. (They’re my fave nib of the moment, and suitable for almost everything I write!) But I do have a few little collections of older nibs, which have on occasion gone a little rusty… so I needed to find out tips for keeping nibs clean as much as Sarah did!

The internet says the secret of clean nibs is:

Drying them

We’re all guilty of throwing down a nib at the end of a practice session, perhaps giving it a quick dab on a cloth, and leaving it for a while.


A dry nib is a happy nib. That’s basically it.

Rust on calligraphy nibs is caused by moisture. (Obvious from science class at school, and also unanimously agreed on the internet.)DRY YOUR NIBS really really really really well – and they should be fine!

Storing them in a really dry place

I have nibs in:

a) a wooden vintage tea chest box
b) a handmade mache box with a gorgeous fairy on top, who I call ‘the bloke’
c) a wooden matchbox-style box I got from a photographer friend
d) plastic boxes I get when I order nibs in their hundreds

The one thing they all have in common is the little sachet of silica gel inside. That baby keeps nibs super dry, even when they’re stored for a long long time.

Maybe…. oiling them?

So I have wondered about this in the past. And the more I think about it, the more it makes sense. If you’re going to store a nib for a long time, and want it to last, dry it really thoroughly then oil it.

If you’re a gardener, you’ll know you have to look after your secateurs, loppers and shears. Oh, and your trowel and fork and the rest of it. (Mine are all rusting in the garage!)

The same applies to calligraphy nibs! (says the internet) – and remember the potato trick? New nibs come with a lacquer / oil coating to stop them rusting? Potato starch somehow (magic) gets rid of the oil and lets the ink flow? Maybe, just maybe, oiling your nib before long term storage will prevent any rust.

If you try this, let me know how it goes!

Storing them separately

I’d never heard this, but apparently “rust begets rust”. (How old can that saying be? Do folks still say ‘begets’?!) Anyway – it seems to be true. Keep a happy nib next to a rusty one, and it will go rusty. So keep them apart!

Cleaning rust off your nibs before it’s too late!

There are two kinds of rust: surface rust, and ‘red rust’. Nibs are so tiny it can’t be easy to tell the difference, but if your nib is fairly new and has a spot of rust on it, it might just be salvageable. Get an old toothbrush and a pinch of bicarbonate of soda, and rub gently (with a drop of water). Surface rust will clean away, and your nib might be ok to use.

A word of caution:

vintage nibs with rust could be dangerous – if the metal has corroded all the way through, the nib could snap. Don’t risk trying to write with an old nib if it’s had years to rust away: the risk to your beautiful eyes isn’t worth it!

How I store my calligraphy nibs

I’m not a tidy person by any means, but calligraphy nibs live happily in the cutest little containers, so they’re easy to store.

Also, if you ever stand on one you’ll remember it for life. So mine go in boxes so I know they’re not on the carpet under my desk. Lesson learnt.

I have various little containers, and I use separate ones for broad-edged nibs (for italics and gothic lettering etc.) – these are the nibs I don’t use so often nowadays.

My pointed nibs go in the little wooden box if they’re used – and there’s always silica gel in there to keep them dry.

Brand new nibs stay in the original packaging. I keep them air-tight until I need one, and then in goes the silica gel straight away.

A last word on caring for your nibs

This is an interesting video if you’re really having trouble with rusty calligraphy nibs.

It recommends opening a sachet of silica gel and sprinkling a few balls of it into a little test tube-like holder, then putting a teeny piece of toilet roll in, squidging it to the bottom of the tube with the end of a penholder, and lining up all your nibs before popping them inside. Ingenious, if you like that sort of thing!

My nib boxes are from:

(handmade) – Vintage Twee
(wooden box) – Amanda Karen Photography


Further reading:

Storing nibs in cut up straws?

When it’s time to change your nib

Finally! A use for that horrible Arm & Hammer toothpaste!

Family tree calligraphy – bespoke family trees available in the UK and worldwide

In my years as a professional calligrapher I’ve written hundreds of family trees – mainly via my Not On The High Street store, where I sell small format, modern family trees with hand calligraphy. These are wonderful Christmas gift ideas with a very special personal touch – it’s coming up to busy season and I can’t wait!

I also write bespoke family trees for larger families – these are mainly the more traditional family tree layout, and often written in a more timeless calligraphy style. I use gothic lettering for titles, occasionally adding gilding or a little colour on request. Names are added in a Copperplate style flowing script with flourishing detail. Any dates can be included in a more formal italic or gothic lettering style, as per your wishes.

Family tree sizes range from A3 to A1 in size, depending how many names you have, and the required layout for your tree. I’m happy to advise – please don’t hesitate to ask if you have any questions, and I’ll be happy to help!

To order your calligraphy family tree, please get in touch with me – and I will be delighted to help you.


The family tree calligraphy arrived today and I’m super pleased as I’m sure my parents will be when I present it to them.
Thank you for all your hard work and huge thanks again – it’s fabulous 🙂
With Kind Regards
Maria x

Brush lettering, and Christmas calligraphy workshops!

I’m going to brighten up my calligraphy workshops from now with a little more variation in the styles we learn and the tools we use on the day – so here’s our exciting schedule of modern calligraphy classes for the rest of the year!

September 15th – write your own gold ink greetings card

at Swallows & Artisans, Lanehead, Coniston, Cumbria from 2 o’clock until 5.

I have some gorgeous blue cards and softly shining gold inks to use in this class – so we’ll spend the first half of the session learning how to use the dip pen and nib with black ink and letter templates, and then crack open the shiny inks and play!

More info & tickets

Facebook Event Page

October 20th – calligraphy and brush lettering class

at Manchester Craft & Design Centre from 1 o’clock until half past 3

This workshop will be all about using two different calligraphy tools to create beautiful, on-trend modern letter styles. The dip pen and nib is my favourite, and I use this combo every day! Brush lettering is so much fun, and some students find it much more easy to learn… I wonder which will be your fave?

More info & tickets

Facebook Event Page

Photo credit: Melissa Beattie Photography

December 7th – Christmas calligraphy class

at Manchester Craft & Design Centre from 1 o’clock until half past 3

This will be a really festive session aimed at crafty folks who make cards and would love to add their own beautiful hand lettering to their designs! We’ll use metallic inks, coloured cards and gift tags in a vibrant or frosty colour palette!

More info & tickets

Facebook Event Page


Real wedding – Emma & Duncan’s dusky rose calligraphy

I really do get to work with the loveliest people! From the moment Emma emailed about her wedding invitations, every correspondence was a pleasure.

Emma and Duncan’s day was classic, beautifully styled and in a timeless colour palette. I wrote hand calligraphy in a dusky pink ink, on luxury stationery with a slight texture. Printing was in a soft dove grey.

Emma and Duncan ordered invitations from me at first, then for their reception at Cripps Barn went on to have a table plan, place names and wedding menus for all of their tables.

They styled tables with macaron favours, gorgeous table numbers and white linens with a dusky pink ribbon.

Their photographer was Dan Morris, a brilliant Cotswolds wedding photographer.

The happy couple looking absolutely gorgeous! Congratulations, Emma & Duncan!

All images by Dan Morris Photography at

Manchester calligraphy workshop at Ziferblat, August 2018

It’s been a busy summer, and the warm months have really flown by! A few weeks back I was at a new location, Ziferblat – a genius concept cafe and workspace in the heart of the northern quarter. Teaching in their classroom was fantastic – the space for students to write is wonderful; the rollover blackboard lived up to my dreams (although chalk BREAKS all the time… which was actually quite funny).

Lovely Mahwish, who came to a previous class held at the Craft & Design Centre, came along to take some photos on the day. I love them – they capture the very studious nature of this class! I’m sure we’ll be back at Ziferblat again, and I have my eyes on their gorgeous dining room for a more intimate session in 2019. For now though, here are Mahwish’s photos of the day. I hope they give you an intriguing sneak peek behind the scenes of a modern calligraphy class!

Huge thanks to Mahwish for being an absolute superstar, helping me hand out all the inks and worksheets on the day and generally being a brilliant human being. Please visit her Etsy shop Bohemian Drifters when you’re Christmas shopping… she makes the loveliest boho gemstone jewellery and her cushions are stunning!

Next calligraphy workshops are:

Friday 7th September

Saturday 20th October

Friday 7th December

Last minute calligraphy workshop tickets for Friday now only £45!

If you’re reading this because you love modern calligraphy but haven’t picked up a pen yet – or if you have a pen but aren’t sure how to get started, it’s time to start learning!

There are a handful of spaces left on my September calligraphy class at Manchester Craft & Design Centre. It’s on Friday afternoon (7th September) and you’ll learn EVERYTHING you need to know about modern calligraphy techniques in just a couple of hours.

The workshops have a focus on individual personal tuition, with small groups so everyone is free to learn at their own pace. You’ll also have the opportunity to watch demos and ask questions as you learn!

To book your reduced price space(s) for just £45 each just click here: Tickets

Photos by Laura at Inbetween Days Photography