Last updated: 10 July 2016
It is important to use pens with fairly wide nibs or similar chisel edged pencils when rendering practice alphabets in order to examine the essential letterform characteristics:
Artist's pencil sharpened to a chisel edge for practice writing
Edged nib fountain pens with their copious "on board" ink supply are my writing implements of choice for rendering everyday Italic handwriting. However, fountain pens with appropriately narrow edged nibs are hard to use well.
Many beginners soon discover that the italic writing they can render comfortably and well is too large for everyday writing applications but that their letterform quality deteriorates when they use narrower nibs. Well, narrow edged nibs are hard to control -- only practice and experience using "wide" nibs first will cure the problem.
Chancery cursive (Italic) letterforms as I describe them -- of small size <3mm (<1/8") letter body height -- require narrow nibs. The narrowest calligraphic fountain pen nibs commonly available are 1.1 mm wide which is obviously too wide and so I reduce the width to .4mm - .5mm.
Of course if chisel edged steel nib pens equipped with metal reservoirs are used a wide selection of nib widths are available. Quills and canes can be cut to the width desired by hand.
Made-up double line writing devices are very useful in diagnosing letterform construction problems:
I make these up using pencils, ball point pens or crow quill pens taped together as illustrated in the following photograph:
Twin pen point setup
I tape them together like these two BIC Stic BP pens held together with masking tape, occasionally using the inner "cartridges" only, for narrow spacing. I sometimes do a similar thing with pencils, shaving away the wood until the desired line spacing is achieved. Writing is very easy using these devices -- as long as you let "the pen rule the hand" and maintain the points consistently at the correct angle to the line of writing and keep them in contact with the paper throughout the letter formation. The very ends of the letterform strokes have to be finished carefully using one of the points. This method of letterform construction provides ready detection of errors and deficiencies.
The following essential minuscule letterforms were rendered using a double line writing device. The letterforms produced by these devices are perfect for study and error detection:
Twin Stone cutters pen minuscule alphabet writing exemplar
I often include freely rendered alphabets in the form of gloss with my Chancery cursive (Italic) renditions in the same way that Renaissance writing masters did -- with didactic and decorative intent as illustrated by my following exemplar:
Small writing exemplar
I do test (and adjust if necessary) the nib smoothness and ink flow of pens using the folded guard paper immediately prior to commencing writing. I also use the guard paper to write out a very brief passage from the rendition I am about to undertake in order to establish the letterform size, weight, slope, spacing, etc. -- and obtain a relaxed, comfortable, writing position and pen hold.
Of course, I use the same pen/nib, ink and paper for this brief pre-writing activity that I am going to use for the actual work.