A place for Drachenwald's scribes to hang out, learn, discuss and critique each others work.

Monday, January 12, 2009

hair-tearing frustration, calligraphy w/ quills

Ok, I'd really like to get proficient with quills for callig.
I've known how to cut a quill for years, and have a goodly supply laid in, from when I lived close to the Thames, and saw the swans and Canada geese through a moult.
Yesterday I sat down w/ 4 touched-up quills and made - a dog's breakfast. My frustration grew as I tried one after another after another, all with blotchy and uneven results.
And I'm reminded why I gave up last time I tried to use quills - I can't seem to control the ink flow the same way I can with a steel nib.
I get a huge blort of ink, and then the remaining ink doesn't last through a single letter.
In desperation I stuck a brass reservoir up a quill, and got slightly better results, but there was still far too much ink in each letter, rounding the sharp edges and generally looking pretty awful.

Some possible explainations, in retrospect:
- my quills have dried out and become brittle since they were cut. I did notice they seemed to 'chip' rather than shave when I was trimming them.
- I'm starting w/ too small a quill nib. When I learned callig, I learned with a fairly broad nib and worked my way down to something less than 1mm wide. Here I was aiming for a 1mm wide nib, but couldn't seem to trim them consistently.

SO: questions -
Has anyone else 'converted' to quills from steel nibs - or anyone gone back and forth?
What difficulties did you face?
What helped you get better (practice is a given, honest - anything else)?

Also - has anyone successfully made a reservoir for a quill, that works? How, and with what?

Suggestions welcome,



Genevieve la flechiere said...

I x-posted this msg to my own blog, and got some replies:

Duchess Nerissa said...

Since I don't have a livejournal account, I'll reply here....

Featers feel more agile to me, but also more tricky. I don't use a reservoir. I do use the feather tip "upside-down" to convention. The tines tend to get pushed together for the heavier-handed scribe, that way.

I dip more often than with a steel nib, but also am careful to get much ink off back into the inkwell. I also put several "scratches" 90degrees to the tine split, on both the outside & inside of the feather barrell and find this helps for retaining the ink on the feather.

When cutting the final sharp "edge" for a feather I cut down with a sugical scalpel on to glass.

For feather prep: I cut the points off the feathers and then soak them sitting in a jar overnight. Next day, shake the water out and use a fine knitting needle etc to get the gunk out of the feather barrel. I have very fine "silver sand" (you can have some from me if you like). I use a funnell to fill up the feather barrel and then put the feather end into the hot sand for several seconds. (the sand isn't burningly hot) shake out the sand, leave to dry, shake again, and voila feathers are good for cutting.