Thursday, September 26, 2019

My precious crow-quill pen, RIP

I had a tragedy the other day.  As so many tragedies do, this one started with good intentions.  I decided to properly clean my calligraphy pens.  My usual practice is to scrub them with a wire brush after I finish writing for the day, but that method still leaves ink spots inside the curve and down where the nib fits into the pen holder.  So this time I was going to remove all the nibs from the pens and soak them in my fancy pen cleaner solution of caustic chemicals.

I had been doing quite a bit of writing with a crow-quill pen, and my favorite of the two I inherited from my father was cleverly set in a hexagonal cork finger grip, attached to a very skinny handle.

It was so comfortable to hold, and I love the delicate thick-and-thin lines you get when you alternately bear down on the springy pen and press lightly.  But the nib was encrusted with ink and since I was soaking all the other nibs, why not take this one out and give it a nice wash too.

Couldn't get the nib out of the holder by just grabbing it.  (Well, you can hardly ever get a nib out of its holder by grabbing it, so I keep a needle-nose pliers at hand.)  Gripped it with my pliers and tugged -- and the nib crumbled and broke.

Boy, that nib was cemented in there -- probably because it was never thoroughly cleaned, and the ink had built up a permanent bond with the cork.  Remember, this pen belonged to my dad and I bet hadn't been used in 70 years.

Have to keep going now; no turning back.  Got a better grip with the pliers and managed to pull out the nib in three or four pieces.  And oops, the last chunk of nib was cemented in so tightly that it came out with a big chunk of cork.  That pen is never going to hold a nib again.

So here's my wonderful antique crow-quill pen, ruined.  But I'll be damned if I throw it out.  I have learned that when you break something precious, you can always take the pieces and incorporate them into art.  I'll let you know when that happens.


  1. Oh No! Is there any way to salvage the handle by carving a new grip? Then use just the old cork bits in a new project? Maybe not, new cork just would't be the same I suppose. Especially since the original nib also broke.

  2. maybe some broken type, some frayed fabric, a broken quill pen, a new piece of art!