Inking Tool: the Nail

It just struck me the other day that there is an essential tool that I use when drawing in pen-and-ink that I have never read any writer discuss.

Image of a nail encrusted with ink.

Now, I don’t ink with a nail (though it’s possible), but I use one all the time.

unclogging ink bottle with a nail

First, I often use a nail to unclog my ink bottles. I have some huge containers of ink that I’ve had forever, and over time the ink dries, clogging up the spout. A nail fits perfectly in the hole to push out the dried pieces of ink.

Stirring ink in ink well with a nail

I also use a nail to stir up ink in my ink well. Certain inks start to dry out and get thick when an ink well stays open for a long period of time. I use a nail to mix the ink and get it to a homogenous consistency. Sometimes I add a few drops of water and stir them in to get the ink to be more liquid.

using a nail to clean a pen nib

Ink also starts to build up on my pen nibs, even when I wipe them off regularly. So I use a nail to scrape off the excess dried ink. It’s good to do this with the tines of the nib pressed against a hard surface so you don’t damage them. I find that doing this keeps my nibs in working shape for longer.

So besides having a cleaning cloth and a piece of blotter paper, I find that a nail is an essential tool in my pen-and-ink work.

On a side note, when my grandmother died, we went through her house. In every single drawer we found a nail. So maybe this obsession with nails is a family thing. Full disclosure.

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