• Miles O'Neal

When You Simply Have To Use a Quill Pen


Have you ever tried to write with a quill pen? It's not really hard to do, but it is a bit of extra work, and hardly the stuff instant gratification is made of. It really doesn't fit well into an assembly line, efficiency at all cost mentality. But if you have the time and inclination. it's a lot of fun, and has its rewards.

I break out the quill for book signing events, whether public (libraries, bookstores, etc.) or private (a new book comes in and I have a number to get out). The very last case is sometimes an exception; for instance when the second Dragon Lord Chronicles first shipment arrived a few days late at Casa Roadkill, I had to get a number of pre-order books out quickly for Christmas. (efficiency!) But I use the quill whenever I reasonably can; I am finding myself looking for excuses to use it.

The photo above shows the parts purchased: pen, holder, inkwell with dropper (lid not shown), and ink. You'll also ned a blotter. The inks typically used, and the quantities dispensed mandate this unless you're writing (or drawing) on a very absorbent paper. I cheat and use a paper towel as a blotter. Whatever it is, it needs to be very absorbent.

Once you have all the pieces you're ready, but you'll need to follow a few more steps than you're probably used to.

  1. Shake the ink bottle thoroughly. At least with older style inks, they can separate when they sit. You should hear something rattling around inside. I shake it pretty good for ten to fifteen seconds.

  2. Pop the cork. If it's the first time, you may have to remove a wax seal first. I chose to leave the top of the cork covered in wax. While this looks cool, the bigger deal to me is protecting the cork. It does make the cork a bit trickier to remove; you have to be careful or it may fly out, getting ink on whatever it hits.

  3. Use the dropper to put ink in the well. Fill it nearly to the top. Wipe off the dropper and put it where the ink won't stain anything if it leaks. There's no point in cleaning it if you will return leftover ink to the bottle. I usually do that because I don't use it frequently enough yet to leave ink in the well.

  4. Dip the pen in the ink. You want to dip it past where the trough from the tip opens into a bigger hole. You should have enough ink to write at least 25 words unless they're really long words or you are making large letters.

  5. Be careful as you write; if you drag skin or clothes across the fresh ink it will smear on the paper and stain whatever drags across it. I can only imagine what a leftie must go through writing with a quill (or even a fountain pen)!

  6. When done (or you need to turn a page or otherwise let something touch what you've just produced), put the pen in the holder, and press the blotter gently to the paper. You only need to keep it there a second or two. If it seems to pick up a lot of ink you may want to use another part of the paper and blot a second time. If you find this happening a lot, you probably want to leave the blotter on the page longer.

  7. If you want to take a break, cover the inkwell. This keeps the dust, bugs, and the dreaded Ink Sucking Venusian Crab from getting into your ink.

  8. If you find the pen requires more frequent dipping, you need more ink in the well.

  9. When you're done, clean the pen nib by rinsing gently (you won't want to splash the binding or quill) with water. Pat the nib dry with a paper towel or cloth. If the pen comes with a protective cover, put the pen in it.

  10. Use the dropper to return as much ink as possible to the bottle. Stopper the bottle. Rinse the inkwell with water and dry it.

  11. Rinse the dropper. You probably don't need to rinse the bulb every time. I dry the dropper tube's inside with a rolled up, thin strip of paper towel. I use a pipe cleaner on the tip.

  12. Store it all in something covered to keep dust out of things. Since I carry mine to signings, I wrap most of it in bubble wrap. The quill goes back into the box it came in. Hardly period, I know.

It takes me about five minutes to set up and five minutes to clean up. I also end up writing more slowly. So why do I do it?

There are several reasons. At public book signings, the buyers love it! It's great theater, and if your work is related to anything more than a hundred years old or so, it fits in well. It also forces you to slow down a bit in order to keep an even ink flow and make things look good. My handwriting has actually improved since I started using this pen. Because I'm paying attention to the words as they flow, and because I have to stop writing every few lines to dip the pen in ink, I also find myself thinking a bit more about what I want to say, which is a very good thing.

If you're interested in getting your own set, I highly recommend buying from Visker & Scrivener . They handcraft brilliant products, really know their stuff, and have some of the best customer service I have encountered.

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