Introduction: Make a Real Feather Writing Quill

Picture of Make a Real Feather Writing Quill

Making a quill from a feather is not very hard, doesn't require a lot of tools, and can be a lot of fun. My first attempt wrote fairly well, and my third or forth was quite nice. Disclaimer: I am not an expert, there are other ways, probably even better ways, to make a quill than this. However this works for me and you might find it helpful.

Here's what you'll need:

A soup can
Some fine sand
A very sharp knife with a small blade
Some feathers
Calligraphy Ink

You can get everything you need but the soup can at most craft stores. I went to Micheal's Art's and Crafts and got the feathers, sand and hobby knife for a few bucks.

For the knife I used an Xacto hobby knife. Calligraphers use all different sorts of knives as their pen knives but the main requirement is that it be fairly short and VERY sharp.

Feathers. Most hobby stores sell turkey feathers. I got mine in a four pack for 2 dollars. You want them to be long, and check that the tips aren't crushed. Sometimes they are dyed different colors, this is fine.

I found pouches of fine sand at the craft store as well, I think they are for miniatures.

Step 1: Preparing the Feather

Picture of Preparing the Feather

At this step you need to decide what you want your quill to look like.

Historically, writing quills had some or all of the barbs removed from the shaft. A fully barbed quill is really a Hollywood invention. For practical reasons most quills had all of the barbs removed and the skinny end of the shaft cut off. This left something about the size of a modern writing pen that sat well in the hand. Some people used quills that used the whole shaft of the feather but retained the barbs on the end. This was really a matter of preference. I like to make this style, as I like how they look.

First you want to use your knife to shave off all of the barbs you don't want. You'll want to remove at least enough so that you can comfortably hold the quill without the barbs getting in your way. If you are making a barbless quill then just cut them all off and chop of the excess shaft.

Next, use the back of your knife or your fingernail to scrape all of the extra scale off the end of the quill that will become the tip. You want this to be smooth and even.

Now cut off the very tip of the quill, just the solid round end. Then use a long thin pokey thing (like a straightened paper clip) to clean out all of the dried membrane material from inside the shaft.


Step 2: Tempering the Quill

Picture of Tempering the Quill

In order to keep a nice sharp tip, quills need to be tempered to harden them. One way is to leave them in a drawer for around 3 years or so, but that takes too long. Another is to temper them in hot sand. This will remove all of the extra oils in the quill and harden it.

Fill and empty soup can with fine sand, then heat it in the oven at 350 degrees for around 15 minutes. Then carefully remove the can (it's hot!) and thrust your quills into the hot sand as far as they'll go. Now wait till the sand cools off. Your quills should now be tempered.


Step 3: Cutting the Tip

Picture of Cutting the Tip

This is probably the hardest part. Don't be discouraged if your first attempt isn't perfect. Feathers are cheap and a little practice will make for a good tip.

The first cut I make is fairly straight cut from the top of the barrel at about a 45 degree angle, this determines the end. Next a make a long shallow cut on the bottom. The shallow cut should not reach the other side, you want it to run out straight to the end.

Next you make the third cut, about halfway down the second cut in the bottom. This third cut will roughly shape the tip. After that you make the channel split. The channel will help hold the ink and guide it to the tip. It should be straight and about the same same length as the second cut. Try to get it as close to the center of the tip as possible.

Finally you finish the tip by carefully trimming the tines on either side of the split so that they smoothly curve to the tip, then trim of the tiniest bit of the tip to square it off neatly.

Step 4: Writing With Ye Olde Quill Pen!

Picture of Writing With Ye Olde Quill Pen!

Dip the end in a little calligraphy ink and go to town! When writing with a quill it's a good idea to have your paper angled a bit, as wring straight down on the paper can cause all the ink to run out at once. I make no claims about being a calligrapher so I will leave those instructions to those better suited.

I hope this has made sense, please feel free to comment with questions.

Comments

Dreak (author)2017-09-13

do you think you can post a video on how to make the tip of the quill

tushar patial (author)2015-01-19

can i use pen ink

Dreak (author)tushar patial2017-09-02

how much

D10D3 (author)tushar patial2015-01-19

Yeah, any ink should work. The easiest way to handle it is to get a bottle of calligraphy ink from a craft store, it's common and pretty cheap.

Kaiven (author)2009-12-15

How do I make the ink though? :)

drj62783 (author)Kaiven2017-05-22

take a cup of coffee grounds to 2 quarts water steep for an hour or so "not boiling or it will make a mess" put an iron nail in the mix let sit for a few days strain with coffee filter and simmer the liquid untill its gel like now you have nice dark brown ink and its non toxic ink. you can use oak gulls insted of coffee

Dreak (author)drj627832017-08-28

is there a easy way from making ink?

D10D3 (author)Dreak2017-08-28

hillsburg2 suggested a pretty easy method below, and if you search Instructables for "ink" you will find many recipes. Also, you can buy calligraphy ink at stationary or craft stores.

hillsburg2 (author)Kaiven2010-02-24

get a art charcoal,rubbing alcohol,fine sand paper,stick,bowl and get the charcoal rub it to the sand paper and put the powder in the bowl and after that put alcohol in it and mix it with the stick and your DONE!

D10D3 (author)Kaiven2009-12-15

you can get calligraphy ink at any craft or stationary store.

Dreak (author)2017-08-12

do you have to use sand

What else can you use

D10D3 (author)Dreak2017-08-13

I suppose you might use salt. Anything that is dry, granular, and will withstand heat.

Dreak (author)2017-08-12

I still don't know how to make a quill

V Jaya (author)2015-07-15

Hi Does the size of the feather matter??? :D

D10D3 (author)V Jaya2015-07-15

The length doesn't matter much, but the shaft needs to be thick enough that it can hold some ink and easily be trimmed. Most goose or turkey feathers are fine for this. Song bird feathers tend to be too small. Raven wing feathers were a traditional favorite.

Volkivich (author)D10D32017-01-23

PS love the sword quote in the last pic!?

Volkivich (author)D10D32017-01-23

Thanks for your great instructable, I have been collecting crow (cousin to the raven), Kookaburra & other feathers from the grounds where I work. I have been looking for a project to use them creatively. I literally just thought I'd make a quill with a couple of them, Googled the net & found your awesome instructable ?. A couple of these will make my day when I am doing my calligraphy projects as the added authentic twist. I am off now to get the soup can & sand (I have everything else ). Thanks again for your great instructable ?.

Dinoman217 (author)2015-12-18

this is awesome! Hey, could I use any kind of feather?

onomatopeian made it! (author)2015-04-15

Thanks man! Super sweet instructions. Did mine on a sulphur crested cockatoo flight feather

tushar patial (author)2015-01-19

can i use a pen ink

saphira69 (author)2010-03-16

hello there everyone i am new here

josh1324 (author)saphira692011-06-10

whats your point? hehe, get it? Point? Because its a pen? Huh? HUH?!

Alumirust (author)josh13242012-07-09

Da dun...ch!

sneakyparasol (author)2010-10-22

i've been wondering how to do this for years! thank you so much!

hillsburg2 (author)2010-02-24

but i dont know where to get a feather can i use a chicken
feather? please! help! I BEG YOU!

saphira69 (author)hillsburg22010-03-16

yes you can use chichen feathers. you can find any feather at any craft stores or by the river or park.

saphira69 (author)hillsburg22010-03-16

you can find any bird feathers  by going for walks in the park or by the river. look by the river i found many by the river. or if you like to go hunting you can take some off of your bird.

D10D3 (author)hillsburg22010-02-24

Most arts & craft stores carry feathers. Sometimes that are dyed different colors. Generally they are turkey feathers and work quite well for this.

hillsburg2 (author)2010-02-23

coolllllllllllllllllllllllllllll!!!!!

xhudaman (author)2009-12-16

cool instructable i think im gonna try it!! but i dont really get how to make the tip so...i guess i have to work that out lol

Kiteman (author)2009-12-14

Just in time to write your letter to Santa!

Nice job.

stephenniall (author)Kiteman2009-12-14

Santas all out of Drill presses this year ! 

lemonie (author)2009-12-14

Great, I shall go looking...

L

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