Quill pens are a unique way to spice up your writings! Crafted from feathers, they are stylish and surprisingly easy to make yourself. They can create beautiful fonts and there are a variety of different styles of pen you can make.

This simple tutorial will go over my method on how to make a quill pen with nothing but a feather, a needle, scissors/a knife, and hot water.

Step 1: Materials

  • Feathers
  • A pair of sharp scissors
  • A pocket knife or scalpel
  • A cup
  • Boiling water
  • A paper towel
  • A needle or toothpick
  • Ink to test your pens with
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A feather diagram.
A feather diagram.

Step 2: Preparing the Feathers

Pour boiling water into a cup. Be careful that you do not overfill. You only want enough water to submerge the bare end of the shaft.

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The purpose of this step is to soften the hollow shaft to make cutting easier. If this step is skipped, the feathers will splinter easily.

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Let the feathers sit in the hot water until the tips are pliable. Depending on the size of your feather, this step may be short or long. You can test the pliability of your feathers by pressing your fingernail into the shaft. If it bends with the pressure, it is ready to be cut.

Step 3: Cutting the Tip

Snip off the tip of the shaft.

The yellow dot at the end of the shaft is where the feather was previously attached to the bird. You can see that the diameter of the shaft expands from this point before becoming a uniform width where I have placed the black dot. This is where you should cut.

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Step 4: Cleaning the Shaft

Within each hollow shaft is soft pulp that gives the feather structure. You need to scrape this pulp out using a needle or toothpick.

Soaking the feather in water has made it easier to remove the pulp; you should be able to press it with the tip of your needle and scrape it out.

If you are having trouble separating it from the interior of the shaft, try spinning or wiggling your tool to loosen the pulp.

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Step 5: Creating the Nib

The nib is what you will write from.

Nibs work by utilizing suction as well as cohesion. When the quill is dipped in ink, the liquid enters the interior of the shaft and sticks to the inside. It stays until it is given somewhere to go. The shape and type of your pen's nib will affect how much and to what extent the ink flows from your pen.

Ink remains in the shaft against gravity's will.
Ink remains in the shaft against gravity's will.

First you will want to cut away a piece of the end of the shaft, as shown. The little 'bowl' you carve will be turned into the piece of the pen that expels ink onto the paper.

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Next, create an angular slice on the back of the pen. This stimulates ink flow and prevents your ink from getting stuck in the pen.

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Shape the tip of your pen to the size of your choice. Angle the walls of the nib to create a point that will write on paper.

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Finally, create a little slice in the very center of the nib. This assists with ink flow.

If you leave this slice off, your pen will become a 'backwards' pen. It will act more like a marker and will write smoothly, but it must be held backwards or at an unusual angle.

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Finished Product

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The pen is now complete. Test it out with ink and fine tune as needed!

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  • Ink will run on normal printer paper; watercolor paper is better.
  • Seamless/backwards pens don't have the cut at the center of the nib.
  • Classic/basic pens are the pens created in this tutorial.
  • Thin nibs are classic pens with very thin tips and are best crafted with a thin scalpel.

Experiment with different cut styles to find a pen that best suits you.