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Making Quills

One of my students is working on a project on the history of writing implements. She plans to write up each piece of research using the tool that it is about. We have found an old typewriter, dipping pens, pencils and clay for cuneiform but she has had to make her own quills.

She tried out a few different types of feather (favouring the brighter coloured ones) but found that goose feathers were the most effective.

We found all sorts of advice on how to make quills online and in books and after some experimentation settled on a process that was both simple and effective.

Here's how we did it:

Remove enough of the barbs from the shaft of the feather to allow room to hold it.

Sand the shaft for a smooth grip.

Cut off the end of the feather at an acute angle. If there is any quick inside the feather, flick it out with your knife.

Make a perpendicular cut across the tip of the feather. This will give a broad, chisel-like quill. If you want fine ar line, you can sharpen the tip now.

Make a short slit directly up into the tip of the quill, this allows the ink to flow out.

Dip the quill into your ink and write!

We have tried them with commercial ink, food colouring and the inks we made ourselves earlier in the year, all of these were very successful.

Sidenote: penknives were named for their use in quill making. Feather quills lose their point easily so scribes would carry a small folding knife in their pockets to sharpen their pens. Everything has an invention story!

If you try making quills, please share your experience in the comments below or on the Montessori Handwork Facebook page or the Montessori Handwork Threads Facebook group.

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