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Thread: Carving quills

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    Senior Member calamus's Avatar
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    Default Carving quills

    I've recently started trying to carve quills from goose or turkey feathers, and have had varying degrees of luck. Lately I've been having trouble with the quills dumping huge gobs of ink after I dip. I use scrap paper, but then after it stops making blobs I can only draw a few letters before I have to dip again. I know something's wrong, but I'm not sure what. I use a slanted tabletop, so that's not the issue. Can anyone make any suggestions? Also, for curing, what temperature seems to work best for heating the sand, and how long do you leave the shaft in? I recently tried 300º F. for 5 minutes, but am wondering if that's too high or too long, or both.

    Thanks.
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    FPG Donor ♕ Chrissy's Avatar
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    Default Re: Carving quills

    Sadly I don't know the cause of the problem, but wonder if it could possibly be the fact that there is just a glob of ink in the end of the quill and no air getting to it to cause any sort of flow other than a dumping of the whole glob at once? After all, I've seen some dip pen nibs that were designed with a sort of breather hole or slit.

    Edited to show this YouTube video that I found. It confirms there is a slit on the inside of the quill end for ink flow. Also, there is no mention of curing using heat.
    Last edited by Chrissy; December 23rd, 2018 at 03:07 AM.
    Regards, Chrissy | My Blog: inkyfountainpens

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    Default Re: Carving quills

    Long ago, I did carve quills, and they did work. Never 'cured' them...but I did put in a slit. Some sources suggest a piece of brass shim for an ink reservoir. Never tried this myself.

    I had an entire Dover book dedicated to making old artist tools. I cut reed pens, even made charcoal.

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    Default Re: Carving quills

    If anyone can answer your questions, it will be Jim Marshall. http://www.penpencilgallery.com/#

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    Default Re: Carving quills

    Quote Originally Posted by FredRydr View Post
    If anyone can answer your questions, it will be Jim Marshall. http://www.penpencilgallery.com/#
    Thank you kindly. It gives an email address on the home page. I'll shoot him off an email.
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    Senior Member calamus's Avatar
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    Default Re: Carving quills

    Quote Originally Posted by Sailor Kenshin View Post
    Long ago, I did carve quills, and they did work. Never 'cured' them...but I did put in a slit. Some sources suggest a piece of brass shim for an ink reservoir. Never tried this myself.

    I had an entire Dover book dedicated to making old artist tools. I cut reed pens, even made charcoal.
    Reed pens and charcoal. Sounds like fun. Also a very back-to-the-earth, self-sufficiency skill. And sorta like a time machine.

    But yeah, I've made some that worked, too. They had slightly narrower shafts. I made one from a crow feather I found in the parking lot at work. Cured it in the microwave, just managed to luck out on the timing. Works great. And I recut one made from a goose feather quill that had a funky nib. It became a beautiful italic/stub nib, wrote a nice Foundational and a nice blackletter for as long as it lasted.
    Last edited by calamus; December 23rd, 2018 at 07:19 PM.
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    Senior Member calamus's Avatar
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    Default Re: Carving quills

    Quote Originally Posted by Chrissy View Post
    Sadly I don't know the cause of the problem, but wonder if it could possibly be the fact that there is just a glob of ink in the end of the quill and no air getting to it to cause any sort of flow other than a dumping of the whole glob at once? After all, I've seen some dip pen nibs that were designed with a sort of breather hole or slit.

    Edited to show this YouTube video that I found. It confirms there is a slit on the inside of the quill end for ink flow. Also, there is no mention of curing using heat.
    A breather hole sounds like it might work. I'll have to give it a try.
    The slit for ink flow is the slit in the nib. The end of a quill pen is shaped very much like a fountain pen nib, usually an italic/stub shape for edged nib calligraphy. You can also cut them into pointed nibs.

    Curing (heating) the shaft makes it stiffer and slightly brittle. When you carve it, it has a crunchy sound. You can get it too stiff, though. If you don't cure it at all, it will be a little too flexible, almost rubbery, and not very good for flex writing because it's a little mushy when it "snaps" back.

    I've seen that video you linked to a couple of times. I've watched a ton of YouTube videos about making quills. There are lots of approaches, and a number of people who as far as I can tell are passing themselves off as more knowledgeable than they really are. The lady dressed up like a nun was holding her pen about a quarter inch from the business end of her quill, and her fingertips were covered in ink. Not sure how authentic that was.

    Most quill makers do heat their quills in hot sand, but some cut the end off first and some don't, some soak the shaft in water first for varying lengths of time, some don't, and temperatures that I've read about have varies from 200º F. (93º C.) to 300º F. (150º C.) and leave them in from a minute to five minutes. It affects stiffness, hardness, flexibility, and durability.
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    Default Re: Carving quills

    Fascinating as this subject is, I'll just be cheering for your efforts on the sidelines

    Some metal nibs are temperamental enough to test my patience, sounds like feather quills are even more so.
    - Will
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    Default Re: Carving quills

    Quote Originally Posted by Sailor Kenshin View Post
    Long ago, I did carve quills, and they did work. Never 'cured' them...but I did put in a slit. Some sources suggest a piece of brass shim for an ink reservoir. Never tried this myself.
    While I've successfully made a fine brush from a parrot feather, which was rather satisfactory, not yet attempted a quill. However, many years ago a professional artist friend of mine gave me a goose quill she'd made, and had indeed used a curl of metal poked into the open end of the quill as a reservoir. Not sure it was as smart a material as brass; might have been a piece from an old tin or some such, as she was extraordinarily resourceful in that respect. From what I remember it wrote very effectively, but died a death some time ago. Sadly so has she, and I curse how much I would like to pick her brains now but that I wasn't terribly interested in then.

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    Default Re: Carving quills

    Something that needs clarification: "flex" was not a thing in the age of quills. There was roundhand, and it was done using, essentially, an oblique cut that was and angle unique to the user, as they made their own quills. You can't make a sharp point quill and attempt to "spread the tines" to create line variation like you can with metal nibs.

    This is an excellent resource for the making and using of quill pens: https://herreputationforaccomplishme...nd-make-a-pen/

    I picked up this book in Jamestown a few years back that is also a great resource, with historical references, into the making and using of quill pens to write in the style of the 18th century:

    [/url]

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    Default Re: Carving quills

    Quote Originally Posted by AzJon View Post
    Something that needs clarification: "flex" was not a thing in the age of quills. There was roundhand, and it was done using, essentially, an oblique cut that was and angle unique to the user, as they made their own quills. You can't make a sharp point quill and attempt to "spread the tines" to create line variation like you can with metal nibs.
    Thank you for that clarification. I didn't mean to suggest that you could spread the tines like on a Zebra G, although my language may have suggested that. I've only used quills cut into an italic/stub edged shape. I have tried cutting them pointed just to see what they'd do, and was able to write in a fairly boring line whose width varied with the amount of ink it was laying down at the moment; that is, wider when first dipped, gradually getting thinner as the ink got used up.

    I read somewhere -- I believe it was on this forum -- someone saying that an edged nib quill had a slight amount of flex. I tried pressing down a little on one once, and it seemed to make a broad line ever so slightly broader, or it could have been my imagination. Anyway, I uncritically assumed that whoever had said that must have known what they were talking about, so I had a vague idea that there was a flex aspect that could come into play. The fact that I couldn't get one to do that I'd more or less attributed to my lack of expertise at nib-cutting. And I did notice that heat curing made the nib stiffer. In any event, in terms of my own experience, when I manage to cut a quill that works successfully, using it is very similar to using a Speedball C nib. Also, I've discovered that for me, anyway, I get the best results by using a very light touch. Even if the quill had some degree of flex, I wouldn't want to press on it hard enough to flex it, because a lighter touch works so much better.

    The article you linked to is excellent, and has a number of links to other very good articles on the subject as well, one or two of which I was already familiar with, but the rest new to me.
    Last edited by calamus; December 25th, 2018 at 11:25 PM.
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    Default Re: Carving quills

    Meanwhile, I think I discovered what was causing the blob dump problem, and when I recut the nib to test my theory, the problem went away. I'll post a drawing to try to show what I did. The red is supposed to be ink.

    Quid rides? Mutato nomine de te fabula narratur. — Horace
    (What are you laughing at? Just change the name and the joke’s on you.)

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    Default Re: Carving quills

    I never tried a quill so far, but I´ve created black elder stick pens.
    Because we don´t have Bamboo here in Europe I searched and found a replacement for it.
    Black Elder is easy to find , easy to hollow, is durable and works really good for writing/drawing.
    I also cut a slit into them and gave all of mine an oblique italic cut.

    I‘m also curious to try a quill some time.

    For those who are interested in my Black Elder approach:

    Show_response_895 by Ptero Pterodactylus

    Show_response_894 by Ptero Pterodactylus

    Writing sample:

    Show_response_913 by Ptero Pterodactylus

    (Black Elder Pen ..... Libro Königsblau)

    Drawing samples:

    Giraffe by Ptero Pterodactylus

    Dragon by Ptero Pterodactylus

    Frog by Ptero Pterodactylus

    Horse by Ptero Pterodactylus

    Lion by Ptero Pterodactylus

    Dragon Eye by Ptero Pterodactylus

    (Black Elder Stick Pen, Libro Königsblau)

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    Default Re: Carving quills

    Very nice Ptero! Thanks for posting.
    Quid rides? Mutato nomine de te fabula narratur. — Horace
    (What are you laughing at? Just change the name and the joke’s on you.)

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