Thursday, 19 August 2010

Quill and ink

It all started when I found this lovely brass cut glass inkwell on ebay

I have a few dip pens, but I thought how it would be writing with a home-made feather quill. Two hundred years ago every child would know how to cut one and use one, so could I make one myself as well?

I asked my daughter who works as a zoo-keeper to bring me some feathers from the zoo.  She didn't find any Turkey or Goose feathers, but she did find some (female) peacock feathers who looked long enough and sturdy. They need to be sturdy so they won't bend while writing and they need to be long so you can cut more than once a new nib in it.
You can buy also cheap good feathers in craft stores.

First I tempered the feathers. Tempering gives the feathershaft resilience and toughness. I took a tincan from work (I am a QA at a tincan factory :). You can use any metal pot or cake tin or empty tuna can etc.

I filled it with sand.

Than I placed the can in the oven for some 20 minutes, until the sand was very hot. I than stuck the feathers in the sand, as deep as possible.

I left the feathers in the sand, until the sand was cold.

Now the feathers are ready to be cut.
I used my craftknife. I cut down the feather and removed the barb, or feathery bits on the lowest part, there where I hold the quill, so it will not bother me when writing. In the past most of the barb if not all would be removed. The complete feather quil is more a hollywood tradition, but I like them this way :)

Than I cut the nib, which is the most difficult part. It needs a little practise, but I could write with my first nib. This is how it is done:
Make a sloping cut to remove the point of the quill. Take the membrane stuff out of the feather shaft with a knife. Turn the quill so that the cut away side faces up. Insert the knife into the hollow of the quill and cut a slit  by carefully levering the blade upward. Shape the nib by cutting away the corners on either side of the slit. Sharpen the nib by cutting at an angle from the outside. You can cut a new nib once this one has worn out or breaks.

Writing with a quil takes a bit of practise too. I wrote a few lines and you can see where the quill ran dry. It took two dips to finish those few lines. Need to practise more so it will be more flowing :)


Anonymous said...

How very, very interesting! If you win my give-away I will be happy to include some goose feathers in the box. I collect them from the yard. We have geese that live on the lake and so many more that fly over on their way North of South. :)

Shelly said...

This is fascinating! Thanks so much for sharing.