Re: Hi all
Welcome to WC Zach.
Learning Calligraphy is a lot of fun and having good tools only makes it better :-)
Fountain pens are very useful for practicing and you have a number of options available. For broad edged scripts I have had the best experience with the Rotring Art Pen - the italic nibs come in 1.1, 1.6, 1.9 and 2.3 mm sizes. I have found the ink flow to be perfect and the nibs sharp and crisp without being scratchy. They start sharp for quite some time too although they are also offered in a set with a sharpening stone included.
I really like the quite affordable Manuscript Calligraphy pens too - they come in sets and aren't very well finished but there is a slight springiness to the nibs that I really like. They have nice sharp nibs too.
The most common I believer are the Parker and Sheaffer Calligraphy sets - both of these are fine although my experience with the Sheaffer has only been with their old-style screw on cap No Nonsense models - the new ones have a snap-on cap and rubberized grip but seem to be the same otherwise.
Your choices for pens with flex nibs are limited. Noodler's makes two models of flex nib pens with steel nibs. The nibs are fairly stiff and IMO not really useful for writing Copperplate. Vintage pens can be found with a wide variety of flexible nibs but are quite expensive. Some professionals can customize nibs for you to add flex but once again this is fairly expensive.
Scripts that require a flex nib (Copperplate, Spencerian, Ornamental Penmanship) are best written with an oblique holder anyway as it positions the nib properly for adding shades (the thick part). The choice of flexible nibs available is simply dizzying ranging from very flexible (but hard to control) nibs to fairly stiff nibs that are used to write at a small size. I will be happy to give you more information on this if you are interested in learning Copperplate or Spencerian.
For broad edged scripts (Italic, Blackletter, Uncial, Batarde etc.) you can't beat a good set of nibs and a dip pen. You can use a lot of different inks ranging from India ink to Sumi to Acrylic based and Gouache - not to mention a wide range of specialized Calligraphy inks available. What's more - all you need to change ink color is a dip of the nib in water and a quick wipe and you're ready to go - can't do that with FPs :-)
Holders are fairly inexpensive and are available from a number of sources. There are a number of options for broad-edged nibs but I think you can't go wrong with getting a set of Brause as well as Mitchell nibs. The Brause nibs are quite stiff and have a reservoir on top - they are really useful when learning as one tends to apply a bit more pressure in the beginning. The Mitchell nibs have an easily removable reservoir that fits under the nib and can be a bit fiddly to get right. These nibs are not as stiff as the Brause and quite sharp. You might want to order a few extra reservoirs with the Mitchell nibs as I believe you only get a couple with the set.
Dip pen nibs need to be cleaned before use - they have a thin coating of oil from the manufacturing process that is left on so they don't rust. Since you are now going to use them (and keep them clean and dry when not in use) the oil needs to be removed. A nice wash with a bit of detergent does the job in most cases.
Starting with dip pens is a bit frustrating in the beginning as one is not used to how they work and how the various inks work on the paper you are using but you'll be hooked once you get over the learning curve.
I hope this is answers your questions. Please feel free to ask for clarification where I have not been clear. I'm sure others will chime in with information and help too.
Looking forward to seeing some of your work.
Those who say it can't be done should get out of the way of those doing it - unknown