Last weekend we went out to the nearby park hunting for giant crow feathers. The crows of Tokyo are legendary beasts like something flying straight out of the dark recesses of Edgar Allan Poe’s mind. Their fallen feathers became the object of our pursuit, to capture and then hand craft into DIY feather quill pens. I think Poe would approve of the literary nature of our mission.
Once we had secured the best specimens we could find, we took them home and washed them off in the sink. Next, we boiled them for 15 minutes to sterilize and make sure anything that had been living inside, no longer was. Then we let them dry out in front of a fan for several hours until they were fully dried out through and through.
With the feathers dried out, it was time to begin crafting the quills down to precise tips. The first step was to shave off the excess strands at the base of the feather. You want to leave a smooth length of of quill for your fingers to grip the pen. Then it’s time to start crafting the nib. Clip the end of the feather diagonally, leaving a fresh, sharp point at the end of each. With a fine blade, continue to cut shave off bits of the shaft and start streamlining the the point. Then it’s time to engineer a little space to store ink by cutting a slit right down the middle of the point and extending about a centimeter. This channel will hold the ink after each dip.
After carving out seven nib variations, it was time to put the newly crafted feather quill pens to the test. We got out our newly purchased bottle of ink and the finest test paper within an arm’s reach. Our family got to dipping and writing and drawing. Seeing how long the ink could last on a single dip. Testing out different amounts of pressure. Seeing what happened when the end split and you started getting two fine lines.
We soon found that each nib came with its own personality. Some flowed smoothly and freely, as if they had been professionally made. Others produced a scattered, frenetic line that kept you guessing. No matter which pen we tested, it was still an enjoyable sensation. Moving the bird feather across the blank page and leaving an indelible mark of your own.
Here are a few of the scratch pad results of our initial ink test: