Introduction: Quill Pen & Ink

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One of the most practical, prevalent and beautiful art forms in the world, calligraphy has been used throughout human history as a form of expression. And until the mid- to late Nineteenth Century, most of this writing was done with a quill pen. Although today, much calligraphic art is done on a computer, there is nothing more satisfying than creating written works of art by hand. To get started learning this craft, follow the steps in this tutorial to make your own quill pen and ink.

Step 1: What You'll Need

-Measuring cup
-Dish soap
-White glue
-A small stoppered jar or vial to store the ink
-White vinegar
-10 nails
-Wooden spoon
-4 bags of black tea
-Small bowl
-Plastic wrap

Quill Pen:
-Very sharp, small knife
-Long, thin, strong piece of wire
-Glass jar or soup can
-Hot ashes or sand

*Selecting a good feather is vital. The best kind of feather is 10-12" long, and a primary flight feather from a goose (these can be found easily during molting season in early to mid- summer around any body of fresh water) or a turkey tail feather purchased from a craft store

Step 2: The Ink - Cleaning the Nails

Pour 1/4 cup of dish soap into the bowl with 2 cups of water. Soak the nails in the soapy water for half an hour

Step 3: The Ink - Mixing Nails & Vinegar

Drain soapy water. Dry the bowl and nails, replacing the clean nails in the bowl. Pour enough white vinegar over the nails to cover them, then cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Allow to soak for two days.

Step 4: The Ink - Bringing It All Together

Boil the bags of black tea in a cup of water for ten minutes. Allow the water to cool. Mix equal parts of tea and the nail-vinegar liquid (with nails removed) into the vial. The exact amount will vary; use enough to fill your jar or vial to 3/4 full. Mix in glue until the ink is thick enough to write with.
The ink will turn black when it dries on paper.

Step 5: The Quill - Clearing Barbs

Cut away the barbs until the desired amount is left. Traditionally, all of the barbs were cut away and the shaft was cut to a practical 6-7", but a barbed quill is more attractive. At least cut away enough so that the pen rests comfortably in the hand.

Step 6: The Quill - Hardening

Shave away the membrane coating the bottom end of the quill. To harden the quill shaft, plunge the quill into either hot ashes or hot sand (the latter of which can be heated in the oven). Allow to stand for half an hour

Step 7: The Quill - First Cut

Now it's time to begin shaping the tip of the quill. This is done in four main cuts. The first cut is made on the bottom of the quill (ascertain the bottom by holding the quill in your hand; the side that curves downward to naturally touch the paper is the bottom) at a shallow (roughly 45 degree) angle.

Step 8: The Quill - Removing the Quick

Next, remove the quick by sliding the strong, thin wire all the way up the shaft and pulling it out

Step 9: The Quill - Second Cut

Time for the second cut. This cut is closer to the tip than the first and at a much sharper angle

Step 10: The Quill - Final Cuts

The third cut is simply a slit from the tip of the quill to a little past the second cut. The final cut is the shaping of the tip. For this cut, it all depends on what style you want to write in. The narrower the tip, the thinner your written characters will be.

Step 11: The Finished Product

Now you're ready to write! It takes some practice to get the hang of writing with a quill and ink, but there are many books and resources online to help you learn proper technique and how to create different fonts. Writing with a quill is a rewarding experience and once you've learned the basics, the possibilities for creativity are limitless!

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