How to Use a Calligraphy Bamboo Pen

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How to Use a Calligraphy Bamboo Pen
Islamic calligraphy traditionally uses bamboo or reed pens. (Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images)

Traditional Islamic calligraphy shapes religious writings into calligraphic images, shaping letters that dance across the page. The bamboo pen is one of the calligrapher's most essential tools. Most calligraphy pens consist of metal or felt-tipped nibs, but calligraphers carve bamboo pens directly from a bamboo cane, shaping them to fit their purpose. Cutting your pen takes practice and, in order to better control the flow of ink, using it requires some different procedures than writing with most calligraphy pens.

Skill level:
Moderately Challenging

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Things you need

  • Bamboo cane, 8 inches in length
  • Craft knife
  • Fine-grained sandpaper
  • Raw silk
  • Empty inkwell
  • Black ink

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    Cutting the Pen

  1. 1

    Roll an eight-inch bamboo cane gently across a flat surface. The side facing upward is the side you will carve.

  2. 2

    Place the end of the pen at the first knuckle of your thumb. Begin carving the pen with a craft knife at the point where the tip of your thumb touches the bamboo. Make a scooping cut to about half the depth of the bamboo.

  3. 3

    Trim away the thickness at the nib of the pen but not so much that it bends or breaks. Trim the nib to the desired width and make a vertical slit slightly right of centre in the nib. Cut a small hole at the top of the slit to store extra ink, which will require refilling the pen less often.

  4. 4

    Cut the nib to a 35 to 40 degree angle so that the right side of the nib comes to a point.

  5. 5

    Smooth the nib with fine-grained sandpaper and gently practice writing letters on a piece of sandpaper until the pen moves smoothly.

    Using the Pen

  1. 1

    Boil raw silk in water for 10 minutes and allow it to dry completely.

  2. 2

    Fill the bottom of an empty inkwell with a wad of raw silk and pour black ink over the silk until the silk has absorbed all that it can hold. You will draw ink from the silk, a method that reduces the number of unsightly blotches created as you work.

  3. 3

    Dip the pen into the ink-soaked silk so that the ink covers the slit and hole in the nib. Allow the ink to soak up into the pen.

  4. 4

    Form practice letters until the ink flows as you want it to. Bamboo pens absorb a lot of ink when you first start working, so it may take a while before you get the pen to absorb the correct amount of ink for you to work comfortably.

Tips and warnings

  • Choose hard, mature bamboo canes for your pens. Softer bamboo soaks up so much ink that the nib may become swollen and deformed. Canes measuring about a half-inch in diameter or larger make the best pens.

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