Ultimate Guide To Glass Pens

The notion of a pen made from glass may be a difficult concept to grasp, but these writing tools are highly functional and very beautiful. 

If you are unfamiliar with them, I have put together this guide to glass pens to bring you up to speed on these gorgeous writing implements.

They work in a similar way to fountain pens but have an alien beauty all of their own which also makes them highly collectible. Let’s peer into the world of glass pens and I guarantee you will emerge a huge fan. 

What Is A Glass Pen?

A glass pen is also known as a glass dip pen and unsurprisingly, it is a pen made of glass. Dip pens include fountain pens which traditionally have metal nibs containing capillary channels which draw the ink upwards. 

A glass pen has a nib which is formed from spiraling grooves and uses a similar capillary action to draw ink upwards. The grooves in the nib of the glass pen can hold enough ink to allow the user to write for several sentences before it has to be dipped again and refilled. 

There is no internal reservoir of ink inside a glass pen, so you will always need a bottle of ink in order to use one.

Cleaning a glass pen involves dipping it into clean water to remove the ink although some inks such as India ink or metallic inks may need more work to remove. 

Glass pens are hand blown writing instruments and are very fragile. They come in many beautiful designs and are typically kept in a storage container to protect them from damage. 

What Are Glass Pens Used For?

Glass pens are an excellent choice for calligraphers, writers and artists. The pens offer good ink distribution and are a nice weight, this gives a smoother, more even result for writers and artists. 

As a result they are also very comfortable to use and many people like to have a collection of glass pens as they are so beautiful to look at. One of the most popular uses for glass pens is for calligraphy such as you would use to write wedding invitations. 

Another use that glass pens are put to is for testing inks. As cleaning a glass pen is simple and quick, dipping into a jar of clean water and wiping with a cotton towel, they can be used to easily and quickly test out several different inks in rapid succession. 

The many designs of glass pens also make them very collective. Some are very simple while others are very ornate such as dragon shaped pens. These are often made from Murano glass which adds to their beauty and desirability as a collectible. 

Explaining Calligraphy

Calligraphy is the art of producing decorative handwriting or lettering with a pen or brush. The term may have come from the Greek words for beauty ‘kallos’ and writing ‘graphein’. 

Although it may seem as if calligraphy is something that was used to create ancient manuscripts and belongs to the past, this is not the case. Calligraphy still serves a function in contemporary life.

One of the most popular uses of calligraphy is on wedding invitations, but this is not the only place in modern life that it is used. 

Font design and typography also use calligraphy as does logo design, graphic design, stone inscriptions and religious art. Testimonials, death and birth certificates also used calligraphy. 

The tools for calligraphy include quills, dip pens, fountain pens, ink brushes and qalams which are a type of reed pen used for Islamic calligraphy. 

Inks used are typically water based as they are less viscous than oil based inks. Calligraphy paper should be highly absorbent and have the correct texture. 

A glass pen is a wonderful writing tool for calligraphy and is used by many people who practice this art form. 

Drawing With Glass Pens

Drawing with glass pens is best done on mixed media paper, and you can use any kind of glass pen. Water based ink is most commonly used, but you can use fountain pen ink with ITF which produces a smoother flow and keeps the pen clean. 

With the pen loaded with ink you can draw darker and more pronounced lines and areas. To soften the lines or use a lighter color of the same ink just load the pen with some water.

The results of a glass pen drawing with inks looks very similar to a watercolor. You can add texture to your drawing with a glass pen by using cross hatching, or similar techniques.

As the glass pen has a single thickness it writes with a fixed width line so using different drawing techniques will introduce depth and texture to your glass pen drawings. 

As glass pens are so simple to clean it is much easier to use different colored inks in your drawings. Just dip your pens in clean water between colors. 

How To Use A Glass Pen

So with all of these great uses for a glass pen you’ll want to know exactly how to use one for the best results. 

There is no real mystery to using a glass pen and despite their fragile appearance you can use them in the same way as most other dip pens. 

To write or draw with a glass pen:

  • Dip the tip of the pen nib into the ink bottle. Avoid dipping the entire nib into the bottle as this will load too much ink onto the pen. 
  • Gently slide the tip of the pen over the edge of the ink bottle to remove any excess ink. 
  • Begin writing or drawing, turning the pen in your hand as you do so. This allows you to use all the ink stored in the pen nib. 
  • When the ink starts to run out, dip the tip of the pen back into the ink bottle to continue writing or drawing.

If you want to use a different colored ink, dip the pen into clean water and choose the next color. 

Ultimate Guide To Glass Pens

Choosing Ink

A glass pen will use any type of ink, so you don’t need to buy specialist ink for it. Most people use fountain pen ink which has a low viscosity and is easily cleaned with water. It dries in around 30 seconds. 

As a glass pen is a type of dip pen you may prefer to use dip pen ink. It has a slightly faster drying time of 20 seconds, but it has medium viscosity, and you will need to lightly brush the pen nib to clean it. 

India ink has high viscosity but only takes 15 seconds to dry. Although you will need to scrub the pen nib to clean it, remember to be careful not to break it.

Iron gall ink comes from vegetable sources and is what medieval writers used including Leonardo da Vinci. 

Metallic ink is popular for use on invitations and on artwork, but it has high viscosity, and the pen will need to be brushed clean. This ink dries in around 20 seconds.

If you want to draw using your glass pen you can use diluted watercolors. They have low viscosity and take about 20 seconds to dry. The nib will need to be brushed clean. 

Selecting Paper

Just as important as choosing an ink to use with your glass pen is the choice of paper. 

As glass pens are wet writers you will need to use a paper that is not very absorbent otherwise you will end up with feathering. This is when the ink bleeds beyond the lines originally laid down. 

For writing, the best options are papers recommended for fountain pen use. Other choices are heavyweight art paper specifically for wet media such as ink. 

When using a glass pen for calligraphy or drawing, a mixed media paper is a good choice. Alternatively, a good quality watercolor paper. 

A useful guide for choosing paper to use with a glass pen is to stay above 60 gsm. However if you want to avoid bleed-through you should look for paper that is 160 gsm or higher. 

The texture of the paper is important too. For glass pen drawings smooth paper is preferred as it allows the nib to glide over the surface of the paper and not catch on fibers. 

Cleaning A Glass Pen

The way you clean your glass pen will depend on the ink that you’ve been using. Fountain pen ink and iron gall ink will rinse off just with water. You then need to wipe the glass pen dry before storing it. 

If you have used dip pen ink, metallic ink or diluted watercolor then you will need to use water and a soft toothbrush to clean the nib of your glass pen.

India ink is the hardest to clean off your glass pen and will require some vigorous scrubbing on your part. 

Cleaning the pen is important while the ink is still wet. If you wait until the ink dries it can clog the spiral channels in the pen nib and block the flow of ink. It normally takes just a few seconds to clean the nib, so it is time well spent. 

Storing Glass Pens

Glass is a useful and beautiful material for a writing tool, but it is also a fragile material. The tip of the nib is the most important but also the most vulnerable part of a glass pen. If it is broken you won’t be able to use the pen anymore. 

When you buy your glass pen it should come in a storage box and there should also be a protective sleeve over the nib. Both of these should be used every time you store your glass pen. 

If you have thrown away or lost the original packaging you can keep the glass pen in a pen stand or tray. 

However, you should never store the pen with the nib at the bottom, always stand it on the opposite end. Standing the pen on the nib will damage it and render it unusable.

It’s better to lie the pen down in a pen tray if you don’t have a proper storage box for it. 

Glass Pen Makers

There are many glass pen manufacturers but three of the best are Herbin, Rohrer & Klingner and Wancher. 

Herbin is the oldest name of pen ink in the world having been established in France during the reign of the Sun King, Louis XIV. So it’s no surprise that they produce beautiful glass pens.

Each of their pens is an individual work of art and holds enough ink to write a full page. 

Rohrer & Klingner glass pens are equally beautiful and functional. The glass is very lightweight, and each pen is handcrafted in Germany meaning no two are ever exactly the same. 

Wancher’s Kunisaki Glass pens are a unique collection which are handmade by experienced glassmakers in Japan. Each one takes many months to design, form and craft.

The inspiration for these pens comes from creatures in Kunisaki Peninsula, in Kyushu, Japan. 

These are just some of the beautiful glass pens that you can buy. 

Final Thoughts

Glass pens are not only wonderful to use but also beautiful to look at. We hope that our guide to glass pens has been informative and that you will find your ideal glass pen to add to your collection.