Get on the Speedball

There is nothing like a Speedball pen nib for the ease of making fluid, swirly and blocky letters. They were popular in 1933 when the Speedball Text Book was on the market (the one above is the 12th Edition); and if you tear yourself away from the computer for a few moments, they are still sold in art supply stores today. If you are nonetheless totally wed to the mouse or tablet, I herewith show you some samples – and what you’re missing.

8 thoughts on “Get on the Speedball

  1. Laura Ladendorf

    I love Speedball. I have several of those books – mostly from the 80s I still love to do my own coarse calligraphy on certain projects. I do have a hard time keeping the ink from drying on those nibs though…

  2. David Whitbread

    Like Karen, my Dad’s Speedball lettering book and a biscuit tin of nibs and inks was probably my first awareness of typography and graphic design – and little did I realise it would give me a career. I used to copy the typefaces (using my felt pens because Dad wouldn’t let me use the nibs and the ink). But I also remember the fantastic colour sections with the beautiful showcard designs in poster colour (and yes, I still have a couple of Speedball books in my collection too – Ross F. George was my favourite letterer). Thanks for this reminder, Steven.

  3. Carol Arrington

    I’m a calligrapher and I really enjoyed this article. they taught handwriting when I was in school but my mother and her sisters had beautiful handwriting due to penmanship classes ‘back in the day’.

  4. Jenny

    Thanks for this bit of nostalgia – spent hours with pen and ink as a young person, and my late father in law was a master letterer – we still have his brushes. Can’t part with my old pens either – still love the smell of India ink. Wonderful that the look of Speedball lettering still shows up in revival type faces.

  5. Kathleen

    I first saw the Speedball book on the desk of an art teacher when I was in sixth grade, and I was hooked the minute she let me use her kit.  I still have a full set of nibs and holders and several issues of the books, and had not used them in several years until I happened to go to a craft store and discovered some ink that works well. I have to admit that nothing is quite as satisfying as creating lettering with this technique. Now that I am using them again for personal note cards I find myself inspired to get back into font design.
    Thanks for this feature.

  6. Karen

    Oh, the nostalgia! This brings me back to my childhood and many happy hours playing around with my father’s Speedball lettering pens with all the wonderful interchangeable nibs. I loved dipping the pens in that rich black ink and I loved those books, too, with all the different fonts to try to make! I think I was the only kid in school that loved penmanship classes, even though I thought the plain fountain pens they made us use were clunky. I didn’t know at the time that I was destined to grow up as a graphic designer. Thanks for the memories.