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Cutting Quill Pens From Feathers

Cutting Quill Pens From Feathers

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Published by DonT_RN
How to turn some feathers in to an instroment for writing.
How to turn some feathers in to an instroment for writing.

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Published by: DonT_RN on Aug 24, 2013
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06/10/2014

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Cutting Quill Pens from Feathers
This is a document written in flux. I'm still experimenting even as we speak (1 June1999), and as I figure more things out, they will be reflected on this page. Quite a lotof this material is an attempt at reconciling conflicting reports on how to cut a quill.People are of many opinions, but the material's the real test. This is just another account of experience and materials.This is a page about how to cut feathers into useful quill pens. It attempts to go intomost of the tradeoffs and possibilities that are possible with one of the most flexiblewriting instruments ever made. A practical guide to making feathers into somethingthat writes.I won't say that if you follow The Instructions Here that you'll get a working pen toyour liking, half the battle is really knowing what you like. The other half is getting afeel for how your knife goes into the feathers of your choice and how the variousthings I'm going to talk about will affect what you really want to do. I will say upfront that it's probably going to take a number of tries, it won't be perfect the firsttime, but with practice it can be really statisfying.I'm going to cover equipment,  prep,cutting, and thenre-cuttingof nibs in this page.
Equipment
This is the stuff I use to cut quills.
 
1. Feathers
First, a bit about feathers. How many people have actually held out the wing of a verylarge dead bird, measured the three or four longest feathers and pulled them out? Anytakers? I know I have never seen a dead goose or turkey wing with feathers still on it.So the old adage about taking the longest three feathers off the wing is all very goodwhen you're Thomas Jefferson and can raise your own geese simply for their quills; but for us modern types there is a much simpler way to gather feathers.I buy my feathers from local Hobby Lobby, Ben Franklin, or even Michael's; andwhatever hobby shop that's filled with odd baskets, dried flowers, leather lacing,candles galore, and beads is the place to hunt down feathers. I've seen these kinds of shops all over the Seattle area, the San Diego area and the Denver area, so I'massuming that they're accessible from all over the U.S.. I have no clue whatinternational equivalents are, but would be glad to list them here if someone tells me.Usually they have bags of 'Indian Feathers' (made in China or Taiwan or whatever)with about six feathers for about a buck and a quarter, so they're about a quarter apiece for usable quill feathers. The usable ones don't have a crushed tube and dohave a significant portion of nearly transparent tubing underneath the plume of thefeather. I've actually had some bad luck finding a majority of usable feathers in the packets at Michael's, so try the others if you can, first.
 
Above is a picture with one of the average feathers I've found by a ruler so you havesome idea of minimum length and tube thickness. I usually go for almost a foot longfeathers and the tube is usually 3/16 to a 1/4 inch thick. I don't like using stuff that'smuch smaller than this. Tales of raven feathers and the like being usable are true, butthese are a good, standard, cheap starting place. Next to it is one of the feathers with acrushed tube, and you can also see that the tube is significantly smaller than theregular feather.
2. The Knife
Above the crushed tube is my knife. It's aBenchmade 875with the blue titaniumliners thatTripgave to me for a birthday. It's the knife I use for pretty much all myquill cutting. It's got a 3.75 inch ATS-34 blade of 59-61 HRC hardness with a .12 inchthickness and a plain edge, no sawtooth. It fits my hand well and, surprisingly, doesthe fine detailed work very easily. The edge is magnificent and cuts very nicelywithout any slippage or misses.I also bought one of the 330's, because I wanted something small, but it just doesn'thave the stability the bigger knife has, the only differences are that it's .8 inches thick and far shorter. So I have no idea why it doesn't cut raw quill material as well. It doescut, but my control isn't as good with the smaller blade and with all the microscopicadjustments I like to make, I prefer using the larger knife. The 875 goes through thestuff easily, the 330 makes it a bit more work. I have some hope that the temperedtubes may make the 330 more useful.I have used a little, tiny Swiss Army pen knife (funny how pen knives are good for cutting pens), you know, those tiny pocket knifes with a toothpick and tweezers thatalways get lost? I sharpened it with a diamond knife sharpening stone, and it's goodfor getting the membrane out. It even has a built-in scissors to start the shaping of thetines and to finish the tip with, so it's actually a fairly good thing to use if it can besharpened enough to cut neatly. It is harder to use than either of the above knives;however, it is significantly cheaper.The knife should be clean, extra sharp to prevent slippage and accidents, and have aflat, none-edged back near the handle for scraping certain bits clean. I'm fairly surethat even a good kitchen knife should be able to do the job, but make sure that it has

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