creating beautiful journals and artist books

How to make a cola pen

This week I have been making cola pens. I first heard about a cola pen from Denise Lach in her book Calligraphy – a Book of Contemporary Inspiration (published by Thames and Hudson 2009). When I saw the beautiful and unusual images she has made with this tool, I set out to make one, and then another and another.

cola pen - creativemarama

My first attempt at making a pen using a lemonade can and a cardboard handle. The calligraphy in the background is by Denise Lach, using a cola pen.

My dear friend Dorothy gave me Denise Lach’s book as a gift and Penelope contributed an aluminium lemonade (not cola) can to make the nib. I have been using ink but you can use watercolour and gauche as well. As I am not a calligrapher, I am still quite clumsy with the tool so it has been a messy process. But it’s so much fun that I will persist.

To make a cola pen:

Cut the ends off an aluminium drink can. I used very strong Chinese kitchen scissors. The rims of the can are very thick,  so take care not to cut yourself. Cut out a rectangle that is about half the size of the remaining can.
Cut the aluminium into the shape shown here and then gently fold it in half to create a well that will hold the ink. I used a strip of matt board for my first handle but you can also use a chop stick or a pencil or stick. Tape the aluminium ‘nib’ to the ‘handle’ using masking tape.
Dip the nib in ink, watercolour or gauche or fill the well up by using a brush.
You can create fine lines with the tip of the nib and wider lines if you move in the other direction. It’s a bit like an italic nib but much more unpredictable. You can make splatters, scratches and flowing lines that go from thick to thin. If you polish the nib with an emery board you can write or draw with finer lines. I can’t find my Indian ink at the moment but I think I might have more control with a thicker ink.

I’m going to need practise to get a flow going with my (non) cola pen but I think it’s worth it as the results can be strikingly different and surprisingly beautiful.


About creativemarama2

Writer, teacher and book artist living on the south coast of NSW Australia.

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This entry was posted on October 30, 2012 by in Art, Bookmaking, Journals, Poetry, Print making.
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