There is a bible, the St. John's Bible, that is being written by hand. The person leading this endeavor is Donald Jackson, the scribe to the Queen of England. The university near us gave a class to our homeschool group about the bible and then the kids were able to practice making ink, writing in calligraphy, using gold leaf and embellishing letters.
Once we had listened to an interesting lecture about the bible and then saw some of the pages, we got to work practicing how it is done.
First was to make the ink. In these little stone trays they put a few drops of water. Next they took the Japanese ink bar, which is made out of soot, and rubbed in the water until it felt slimy. We had our little point and shoot camera with so the pictures aren't as good as we would have liked but I didn't want to lug the regular camera with.
Anyway, once the ink is ready, they dipped a quill into it and started writing. With practice you are suppose to get ten characters per dip.
After they were done they cleaned the quills with pipe cleaners. Spark surprised me with his calligraphy writing skills since he is not a fan of writing to begin with. He may have hidden talent here.
We didn't know this, but for a quill to work as a writing instrument it needs to be completely dry. To get it dry, the writer sticks it in hot sand until the tip is clear. This drying makes it very hard and then it is easy to write with. Of course they need to fashion the end into a blunt tip.
The gold leafing was done on velum. Not actual animal skin velum like they used for the bible but craft store velum. The velum had a red "O" painted on it already. When it was blown on, the humidity and heat from their breath made the "O" sticky.
Then they laid down a piece of gold leaf and rubbed it
They brushed the velum with a paint brush to get the excess gold off the paper. They then learned how to dress them up like the first letter of a sentence in a book. They tacked them on the black boards and put a hanger on back so that it can be hung and admired.
Dancer's finished project. It is much more impressive in real life when the gold shimmers and it doesn't look so flat. Only the "O" is gold leafed, the rest was done with silver and gold pens.
So THAT'S the secret of making a quill a writing instrument! We've tried for years, but I usually would get frustrated and give my kids one of my old metal crow quill tips. I never knew about the hardening in hot sand part!
Peace and Laughter,
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