If you are a beginner, you've likely popped your new nib into your nib holder and attempted to start writing with zero success. What's one more frustration when trying to learn something that's so dang hard already!? That's because nib manufacturers leave an oily residue on the nibs to help preserve them for long term storage. While that helps keep the nib in shape until it's ready to use, it leaves more work for you before you can get started. If you don't remove the oil by priming your nibs, the ink simply won't stick to your nib and will just run right off. I've provided five methods for priming your nibs below, so try them all and choose whichever you prefer!
1: USE DISH SOAP AND A TOOTHBRUSH
The tried and true recommendation from most people is to take an old toothbrush (or one you devote to this sole purpose) and give it a gentle scrub using whatever dish soap you have on hand. Drop it in some water for a minute to help get the soap completely off then wipe it off with a cloth.
2: BURN THEM WITH FIRE
This is my preferred method, because it's quick and always works. Grab a lighter of your choosing, and literally hold the flame to your nib for a few seconds. I like to hold the nib with tweezers or something so I don't burn my fingers, taking extra care not to drop it and ruining the tines. Disclaimer: If you drop said nib do not pick it up immediately like I did recently (note the necessary piece of aloe pictured with burned nibs). Your brain sometimes forgets you just held fire to metal and go on to burn your fingers. Do not blame me if you burn your fingers. Use good judgement and if you feel you are a clumsy person, choose another method. K? Moving on.
3: STICK 'EM IN A POTATO
You read that right. Literally stick. them. in. a. potato. This method is great if you have a bunch of nibs to prime at once or say, need to get more than a few ready for a workshop or gifting purposes. Stick them in a potato for fifteen minutes (no more than that or they risk rusting) and wipe them clean with a cloth.
4: USE TOOTHPASTE AND A TOOTHBRUSH
Sometimes this method works better than the dish soap method, and unless you have no teeth, you have toothpaste in your bathroom. I encourage you to try both, because what works better for one person, might not be the best solution for another. Do the same as with dish soap, scrubbing for a bit then dropping into water and wiping off with a cloth. Easy enough.
5: Nail Polish remover and a Q-tip
The last ditch option if you don't have any of the materials mentioned above is to use a q-tip (or whatever you have) to rub nail polish remover (with acetone) gently on the nib. be sure to rinse and wipe off. It's not as effective as the other methods listed, but will save you in a pinch... in the case you MUST calligraph an urgent envelope with a brand new nib you have on you and you aren't at home or anywhere you can't find toothpaste, dish soap, a potato, or fire... Good luck if that person is you.
What's your favorite method for priming nibs for calligraphy? Feel free to share in the comments and let me know if you have any other methods you swear by!