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Re: Porcupine quills

When quill cutting is mentioned in calligraphy books, it refers to bird
feathers (esp. turkey flight feathers from the right wing for right-handers).

I have had a porcupine quill for years and have never been very tempted to
try to cut it and write with it.  It seems like the quill is too thick, too
stiff and maybe too brittle to do well as a writing tool.

The great thing about a bird feather is that the hard hollow part (can't
think of the name, if I ever knew it) is strong and flexible.  So a slit cut
parallel to the shaft of the feather is separated by pressure on the writing
surface, which allows ink to travel down the slit to the writing surface.
Letting up on the pressure closes the slit and ink supply.  This is not going
to happen with a porcupine quill.

I *have* cut sticks as writing tools -- made the chisel shape at the end to
make the thicks and thins.  You don't need a slit for this, because the
capillaric (word?) structure of the wood helps to draw ink up into the stick,
and anyway the wood I used wasn't flexible enough to spring back from the
splitting caused by the pressure.  But you have to reload the pen every other
letter or so.

Bamboo pens are cut in much the same way as feathers, only larger, and Ward
Dunham has an excellent demonstration of cutting a bamboo pen online at <A

Hope some of this rambling helps someone.  Hey, you never know :)


Beth Lee
Tallahassee, Florida

<A HREF="http://www.nettally.com/bethlee">http://www.nettally.com/bethlee</A>

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