Oblique holders are for writing slanted scripts. They ease writing by changing the angle of the nib, thus allowing you to hold your hand in a relaxed manner. If you find yourself writing often in a very slanted style, or if you want to take up classic calligraphy styles like Copperplate or Spencerian, you should try writing with an oblique holder. I’ve written about how to use it here.

Before I owned a decent oblique holder I tried writing slanted scripts with a plastic Speedball holder. The pro of these things is: they’re cheap and you can get them everywhere. That’s about it. There are many cons, which you can read about in detail in the article I linked above. Essentially, those holders have a slightly wrong angle to write comfortably in and they can make your hand tired after a while, while your calligraphy doesn’t look its best. That said, there are people who do fine with those holders, I just don’t happen to be one of them. So go try them out. If nothing else, they’re good for stirring ink (because the holder part is made of plastic).

Before I got an adjusted oblique holder, which I had to specifically order from the US because those things aren’t sold anywhere in Germany, I came across a great little videoclip that showed how someone made his own oblique holder. I was hooked, because it looked really easy and I had all the spare parts lying around. You don’t really need much time to try this out, and 15 minutes later I made my first writing attempt with my selfmade oblique pen holder.
If you live in an area where it’s hard to get hold of a decent oblique holder or if you just want to assemble your own calligraphy materials because you think it’s fun, here’s how to do it:

You’ll need:

  • a thin piece of metal from a tin (should not be too thin, a can of beer won’t work as well as a sturdier one)
  • small round pliers
  • a simple wooden pen holder (or a wooden brush about the size of a pen holder)
  • scissors that can cut through thin metal (I used an old pair)
  • a cutter
  • a ruler
  • a nail file or some sandpaper (for metal)
  • very probably glue
  • optional, a Swiss army knife (this can always come in handy)

How to assemble the pen holder:

  1. With your scissors, cut a piece of metal out of the can. It should measure circa 2 x 8 cm. If necessary, get rid of the rim of the can with the Swiss army knife first. Make sure the edges are straight.
  2. File away any sharp edges with the file or sandpaper. Make sure to file every corner and edge at least once, you don’t want to cut yourself later.
  3. Fold the tin strip in the middle so that you end up with a folded, two layered piece of metal. It should be half as long now and the layers should be very close together.


  1. Then bend the double-layered strip to a round 180° half-circle with your pliers so that you can fit a nib in there. First make the circle, then bend the rest of the strip back. This may need some adjustments. You can see how it should look here:



  1. Remove the metal insert part of your wooden holder with pliers. Now, very carefully, cut a thin piece of wood out of the holder, about 2 cm long. I did this with the small part of my swiss army knife and a cutter. Be very careful with sharp cutting instruments and always cut away from your hands and your body. You can also use a Swiss army knive or any other saw-like knife you have, as long as this minimizes the the danger of hurting yourself and doesn’t make the opening too big.


  1. Mark your metal strip with a 45° angle about 0,5 cm from the bended part and cut the rest away with the scissors. You don’t need to file this part, it will disappear in the holder.

  2. Put the metal insert back into the cut-open holder so that the opening will match with where your cut has been made. Put your bended metal strip into the holder and adjust until it fits. It shouldn’t protrude above the metal insert. At this point, you can insert a nib and do a test write, but if it still feels wobbly or the metal strip falls out, you’ll have to use some glue to hold everything in place.


  1. After everything has dried, start writing. :)

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