The only problem is that, well, finished quill pens are a bit pricey. And since I listed my classes as "free," I wanted to keep costs to a minimum. As I perused the quill options online, something soon became clear--if I was going to provide quills to 14 students, I needed to buy them uncut, hence cheaply.
Sure. No problem. I could learn to cut quills. I mean, every person who knew how to write for centuries trimmed their own quills. This isn't a big deal. I'm a smart girl. I can figure it out. Right? Right?? LOL
So I ordered my nice set of a dozen black quills. And as I waited for them to arrive, I read up on the process online, visiting several sites to get the full scope of my project. And the more I read...the more I realized that 12 quills ordered for 12 students gave me absolutely no margin of error. Insert Roseanna taking a trip to Jo-Ann Fabrics.
I ended up with 6 colored quills for $2, the 12 black ones for $7, and a precision knife made by Fiskars. (Colonial folks would have used a pen knife. I, however, have not a pen knife. So I went with a sharp blade that still allowed for control.) And I no sooner got home than got an email saying my class size had increased to 14, so it was a good decision. ;-)
|My Fiskars Precision Knife|
|See how the feathers hit my hand at first?|
|After trimming, the feathers don't start until after my hand.|
|Shaving fluffy feathers from inside the rib|
I then cut off all the tips of the feathers. This has to be done at some point, and one of the articles I read said to do it before tempering. Others said after. I see no big difference when you do it, so...whenever, LOL.
|Quill with tip removed|
For this part of the process, you fill a can with sand and pop it in a 350-degree oven for about 15 minutes. Since I was doing so many quills at once, I used a cake pan. Once the sand is heated, pull it out of the oven and bury your quills in as far as they'll go.
|Quills getting their heat treatment in 350-degree sand|
Next comes the part I feared messing up royally--cutting. Getting out my handy-dandy precision knife again, I studied the diagrams and descriptions on the various websites and distilled it down to a few main steps.
1. Make a slice at an angle to take away about half the diameter of the quill.
|The first slice.|
|Removing the membrane|
|Making the slit|
As I practiced using them, I trimmed a bit here and there until I found the shape that made the ink flow best. And of course...