Quill pens are made from the feathers of birds. Quill pens have been used since the Middle Ages when scribes made them used them to write and copy documents and books. The usage of quill pens continued through the 19th Century when business owners used them for records and children even used them for homework. Historically, making a quill pen involved sticking the feather into hot sand to sterilise and dry it, then carving the end into a nib. However, you can make a quill pen just by cutting off the end of a feather at an angle.
- Skill level:
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Things you need
- Large feather
- Paper towel
- Paper clip
- Paper towel
- Writing paper
Find a feather to use for your quill pen. You can use any kind of feather, even ones you find on the ground, but the larger the better. Feathers from turkeys, geese, swans or other large birds make the best quill pens, and craft supply stores sell feathers that you could use. The hard, middle part of the feather is called the "shaft" and that is the part you will be cutting.
Cut away the barbs from one side of the feather's stem so that the barbs do not scratch your hand when you write with the quill pen. Barbs are the feathery parts that grow on opposite sides of the stem, forming the plume. The side you trim will become the bottom, or underside, of the pen. Cut off enough of the barbs so you can hold the pen comfortably.
Cut off about a fourth of an inch from the end of the feather. Make the cut at a sloping angle from bottom to top so that the top part of the feather is longer than the bottom. Remember that the bottom is the side where you cut off the barbs.
Insert the paper clip into the "nib" end of the feather. Move it around and scrape the sides to clean it out and make it hollow. Wipe off the feather with a paper towel.
Write with your quill pen by dipping the sharp tip into ink then writing on regular paper. You will have to dip the quill pen into the ink often because the ink runs out quickly.
Sharpen your quill pen whenever necessary by simply cutting off another quarter-inch section as you did in Step 3.
Tips and warnings
- Older children can make a small slit lengthwise in the quill pen from the longest point with a knife, or an adult can do this. The slit helps hold ink on the tip of the pen.
- Make your own quill pen ink by combining the juice of a half cup of ripe berries with a half teaspoon of salt and a half teaspoon of vinegar. Store the ink in a small jar with a tight-fitting lid because it will evaporate quickly.
- Adult supervision is required for young children.
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