When I tell people that my hobby is fountain pens, invariably they’ll say “oh, like calligraphy?”
Sometimes I’ll say yes because it’s easier than explaining, but the real answer is “no, not calligraphy”. My handwriting is terrible and I certainly can’t create wonders with flex and italic and needlepoint. My writing could never be described calligraphy or any kind of formal script or penmanship.
I suspect that many of you are in the same position, and that the word “calligraphy” is a little terrifying to you. And one of the biggest obstacles to overcoming that fear and trying calligraphy out is equipment.
I don’t want to buy one of those terrible no-name kits that I got for Christmas as a kid. They were invariably crap. And I don’t want to spend hundreds on a specialty nib for a fancy pen that I end up not using.
Well, Kaweco is here with an answer: the new Perkeo Calligraphy set.
To be clear, this is not a complete solution for a budding calligrapher. It doesn’t include any guide paper or instructions, although you can probably print your own. And it only actually includes stub nibs, in three different sizes: 1.1, 1.5 and 1.9mm.
So you won’t be trying out Spencerian with it, or the crazy styles you get from dip pen nibs.
But for under £25 you get a super-solid grey Perkeo, which is exactly the sort of pen you need when practicing an unfamiliar writing skill: it’s big, has a shaped grip, and yet it’s light enough to use for long periods.
It’s a much better foundation than the Kaweco Sport, which is also available in a calligraphy kit.
With that base pen you get three nib and section units, colour-coded in shades of blue, and three Pearl Black cartridges. It’s all supplied in a blister pack, which is a bit of a shame because a tin to store it all in would have been nice.
The nibs included here may not cover all kinds of calligraphy, but they are a great and accessible way in to adding some flair to your writing.
They’re really rounded, forgiving stubs that are smooth on the paper and don’t require enormous skill to use.
You won’t get expert-level line variation, but nor will you get frustrated and give up. And even when your technique is poor, I found the nibs kept up with decent flow, no skipping or hard-starting.
The 1.9 is fun and chunky, while the 1.1 is slim enough to use as a normal nib. Even the 1.5 is not too impractical. So if the calligraphy hobby doesn’t work out, you’ve got a perfectly practical grey and blue pen to write with as normal. I have even swapped one of the nibs into one of my other Perkeos.
At first I was a bit disappointed at the inclusion of only black cartridges — surely bright colours would be more fun and creative? But actually the Pearl Black is a really nice performer, and the contrast of black against the white of the paper really helped me focus on getting my letter shapes in order, instead of just watching the pretty lines.
With Christmas just around the corner, I can see Kaweco selling a boatload of these, both to adults like me and to parents for kids of say seven and up. The Perkeo is built like a tank and these steel nibs will happily take abuse.
This kit is cheap enough to take a gamble on, and it’s a proper pen you can use every day. Whether you turn into a true calligrapher or simply end up liking writing with a stub, you won’t see me judging you — just keep putting pen to paper and having fun.
Kaweco’s UK distributor sent this kit to me for review. You can get yours from all over the place for around £24. A good start would be Pure Pens.