Writing practice with an oblique holder takes a bit of time getting used to. What the oblique holder does is essentially changes your pen nib to a more slanted angle, so it makes it easier for the hand to write script styles.
You might have noticed that when writing with a very angled straight pen holder, the nib tines aren’t parallel to the page and leave an unsteady line. This effect can be circumvented by using an oblique holder.
Fitting the nib in is done is done like this:
Make sure the angled part of the holder is located on the left and points to the right. Then fit your nib into the angled part so it points down to the paper. Hold the straight part of the holder like you would any pen. You’ll see that the effect of this is that your nib will face the paper at a much different angle than before, so if you draw slanted lines the nib tines are parallel to them and spread evenly.
Notice how the nib tines behave with a straight holder when drawing at the same angle:
Which Oblique Holder should I get?
The easiest to get is the Plastic Speedball oblique holder. It’s cheap and available everywhere. For trying out, it’s ok in the beginning, but I actually think you won’t make great results because this holder has ergonomic problems that can cause you to write in a very cramped, unloose way. Also, the nib will stick out of the holder too far because you can’t fit it into the plastic part.
A better solution are oblique holders with a metal flange, fitted in a wood or plastic holder part. With these, you can even adjust the angle of the flange if needed.
You can easily fit different nibs into the flange if you use a plier, and you can push the nib into the flange as far as it needs to be. The nib point should approximately end up in the middle of the straight part of the holder:
One the left the Speedball holder, on the right the Metal Flange holder.
The cheapest metal flange oblique holders (known to me) are available at johnnealbooks.com, and they come prepared for different nib types. Those holder have a decent quality and you can relax your hand while writing with these (as opposed to the death grip of the full plastic Speedball holder).
If you want to spend a little more on beautiful wooden holders, there are different manufacturers out there who sell beautiful holders. For me, as much as I love wood and natural materials and would always prefer it over plastic, for the time being I enjoy my cheap plastic holders because I can stir my ink with them if I need to.
You can use the same nibs that you write with in your straight holders, I find that the Nikko G and the Zebra G (which are great beginner’s nibs) work great in oblique holders, also the Brause EF66 and the Brause Rose, and of course all the nibs preferred by Copperplate/Spencerian experts, like the Leonardt Principal, the Gillot 404, the Gillot 303, and the Hunt 101. Those might need a bit more practice and sensitivity.
While oblique holders are usually used for classic script styles like Copperplate or Spencerian, you can of course also apply their principle to modern calligraphy. Every style that has more than a certain amount of slant will work fine with these holders and actually be more easy to write because you can relax your hand.
Start with putting your arm on the writing surface like you would for normal writing. Hold the oblique holder in a relaxed fashion. Position the paper underneath your arm and then turn it until the nib has the desired angle to write (for classic and many modern styles, this is often around 55°). If you take a look at the paper underneath, you will see that it will not be straight anymore, which might feel funny, but this is the right way to do things. It’s important to turn the paper, not the holder or your hand.
Writing itself is much like with any pointed nib, you apply pressure on the downstrokes and no pressure on the upstrokes. Refer to this introduction to find out more.
And that’s it. You’re ready to write. Remember that it may feel weird at first and it will take a bit of time to get used to the new oblique holder, but you will notice how your hand relaxes when writing certain slanted styles with it.
Not every modern calligrapher uses oblique holders or feels comfortable using them, but you might want to try out if you like writing with them.
Cleaning the Oblique Holder
You should clean your holder from time to time (preferably after each use), especially the metal flange which will be crusted with dried ink and it will become impossible to get the nib out if you don’t. I always pull the nib out with small round pliers, this way you don’t hurt yourself. Make sure to not bend the tines of the nib, apply the pressure on the back part of the nib.
You can clean the flange part with water or softly brush the ink away with an old toothbrush, make sure to dry it off afterwards to prevent rusting.
Of course you should be extra careful with not getting any water on wooden parts of you own a wooden holder or they won’t look beautiful for long.