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Messages - K-2

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Open Flourish | General Discussion / Re: Neck Pain
« on: October 19, 2019, 12:21:43 PM »
@Mike Schoeningh - it sounds like maybe you're lifting your arm from your shoulder.  Instead of shrugging your shoulder up to get your arm off the table, try keeping it down, while lifting up your elbow (think of lifting your elbow up and out to the side).  That will free up a wider range of motion for you too.  It could also be that flourishing with your whole arm is more physically demanding than you might expect, and you're still building the muscles to do it.
--best, K

Open Flourish | General Discussion / Re: K-2's mite story
« on: October 14, 2019, 06:16:32 PM »
@jeanwilson - the great winged migration is happening right now (raptors over the ridge, songbirds below), and we're in the last of peak fall color.

Sadly, the Pickwick changed owners & management a few years ago and hasn't really been the same ever since.  There's a Bridgeman's in the Fitger's complex now, but the Lakewalk is still under construction after last year's storms did it in again.

And we had a couple inches of snow this past weekend, so I guess I can hide things behind the lawnmower again. I moved to Duluth 20 years ago, but I wouldn't ever want to live anywhere else now.  Hope you get to visit at least from time to time.

Open Flourish | General Discussion / Re: K-2's mite story
« on: October 14, 2019, 01:40:36 PM »
@jeanwilson - best wishes getting the critters out of your attic.  We had a raccoon try to take up residence in ours once. But they are not endangered, so we chased it out armed with a snow shovel and a ski-helmet & goggles.  The skunk that tried to move into our crawl space under the sunroom was a more delicate situation, as we wanted to encourage her to leave on her own - the "bad neighbor" technique might be effective for bats too though.  It worked great for the skunk:
1. install a light source at the opening and turn it on after you think the nocturnal critters have gone out for the night (neither bats nor skunks like bright light, and will be reluctant to come back in)
2. put a radio or iPod or something in there and play music or talk radio continually (they also don't like loud noises, and will avoid)
3. stomp around when you're at home to make the place shake.

@RD5 Take that moral with a lot of salt - Winter in northern Minnesota means temperatures down to -40F (that's also -40C for those using metric measure) and extremely dry conditions (too cold to snow and the wrong side of the Great Lakes for lake effect moisture).  hmm. and now I'm wondering if the extreme cold might have done something to cure them too.

Also, those bare shafts probably spent another year in my basement drying out further, after the mites had stripped them, because I could not un-see the mites. Also, seriously. MITES.  Do you really want to invite a billion bird mites into your life?  didn't you read jeanwilson's commentary about critter-bugs?  Are you not married?

ps - spouse still does not know about the mites.

Open Flourish | General Discussion / Re: K-2's mite story
« on: October 12, 2019, 10:06:05 PM »
@jeanwilson - it was so gross.  I got a couple pounds of turkey feathers from the farm.  Mind you, it's a game farm, so those birds live good lives.


I made two key mistakes: 1. asking for "as many of them as I could get" (specifying that I could only use the first three primary flight feathers from each wing). and 2. asking for them right before Thanksgiving (but in my defense I was buying a free-range heritage turkey from them, and thought it would save a trip all the way out there).

Apparently they gave me ALL the feathers from ALL the turkeys they had processed for ALL their customers in Northern Minnesota.  For Thanksgiving.  So do you know how many feathers are in "a couple pounds"?  It's a lot of feathers.  An overwhelming number of feathers.  Way too many for me to deal with right away - especially since they were dirty, and especially as it was going to be Thanksgiving, and I had holiday things to do.

They were in a big plastic bag (but not clean, because they had shortly before been on living turkeys running free on a game farm).  So I put them down in my basement until I could deal with them after the holidays.  You know - one thing lead to another. My in-laws came for a long weekend; my kids were still really little; I was really busy at work....  So the feathers stayed in the bag in the basement, until one of my kids was down there looking for something a few weeks later and asked me if the birds in the bag were okay.  I told him they're just feathers, but he said, no, there are birds in there. because it. was. moving.

OMG you could see the feathers shaking in there as billions of microscopic bird mites proliferated and feasted on them. So I did what any self-respecting person would do. I snuck them out to the garage before my spouse could see and hid them behind the lawn mower. And then I took a very hot shower while screaming inwardly.

When I went to pull the lawn mower out in the spring, there weren't any more feathers on the feathers.  Just bare shafts and some...dust.  So I put them in a bucket in my basement, and tried not to think about them too much, as I tried to work up the nerve to deal with them.  Okay, maybe a reasonable person would have thrown them away. But I paid money for them, and I didn't want to believe that they were a total loss.

Later, much later, I discovered that the shafts were clear and hard, because they had been sitting there, drying out and curing.  I cut one without tempering it, and it turned out great.  We strip off the feathers for writing anyway, so silver lining, I guess.

And that is my bird mite story.  Moral of the story: Wash those feathers as soon as you get them.

I'll take a stab at this - but while I've studied quill making historically (as part of my academic research on medieval paleography) and practically (at the Minnesota Book Arts Center), I won't claim that my answers here are authoritative or exhaustive.

Also, feathers are an organic compound with a lot of variability - I've worked with goose, turkey, pheasant, and crow quills, and they all behave a little differently in the curing process, and all need slightly different times and temperatures to get the desired results.  Even individual feathers from the same species can behave differently.

1. Alum: Chemically speaking the alum raises the acidity of the water. Whether or not people use it might have something to do with the ph of their local water supply.  Most people probably know what alum does to something soaked in it, in the context of pickling - alum keeps the pickles crispy.  I'm sure it could also help de-grease the feathers, but the hot sand curing should scour them enough that the ink doesn't blob off (like with a fresh, oily, new metal nib).

2. Soaking: I don't think you absolutely have to soak the feathers, but a bit of a soak in the alum solution does clean them up a bit, and makes sure that if you're going to store them before curing them, they don't have a bunch of bird mites infesting them.  Ask me how I know about the mites.  I've cured fresh turkey feathers without soaking them, and they've turned out fine.  You're probably right that soaking cuts down some of the variables.

3. Curing: Heating is the fastest way to cure the feathers.  It dries them out and denatures the proteins in the shaft so that the material is harder and more flexible -- It's called "tempering" because of that.  However, given enough time and dry conditions, feathers will cure on their own too (but practically speaking, who wants to hoard feathers in their attic/basement for months and months and months, waiting for them to cure themselves).

4. Heating: the traditional manner of tempering quills is to heat a deep pail of fine, dry sand, and then insert the quills into the sand and let them sit until the sand cools down.  How hot? opinions differ, but I've had good results with sand heated to around 275-300F.  Just make sure it's thoroughly heated and that it bakes on its own long enough to drive out any residual moisture. (It takes a long time, and it smells kind of bad, if you start with fresh sand from the hardware or garden store. My spouse does not appreciate it when I do this, which led to a batch of feathers in my basement curing themselves that one time.  Now, when I want to temper feathers, I heat up the sand outside, on the barbecue, which makes it harder to regulate the temperature, but easier to stay married)

RE: "Can you dry them too much?" -- I don't know if the "dry" is the problem, but if you apply too much heat, the shafts will bubble up and split like popcorn (it will also smell like popcorn, which may put you off wanting to eat popcorn for a while).  This may make your heat gun idea inadvisable.

5. Pre-cutting: Huh, I didn't know that modern quill cutters open the shaft before tempering.  I haven't read about that in medieval sources, so I haven't done it before.  Maybe I'll give it a try next time I cure a batch.

Best wishes making all the quills for your kid's science class, @AAAndrew!  Also, kudos on being such an involved parent.  I'm sure all the kids in your son's science class will be energized and inspired by your participation and your intellectual curiosity!  I hope you also get to share with them your process of discovery in making the quills for them.
--yours, K

Tools & Supplies / Re: Worst Papers??
« on: October 09, 2019, 09:43:42 PM »
Okay - I'll share.  I've had a little pressure from my local public library to serve on its board of directors, which I do not have time for.  Nonetheless, it was a very flattering and kind invitation, so I wanted to make them a little token of my appreciation in the form of some custom book plates for the executive committee.

I thought I'd take some Avery labels, spray them with matte fixative (my go-to for substandard paper), and make some fancy name plates for them.

People - they absorbed all that matte spray, curled up, and still bled and bled and bled - even with sumi ink, even with India ink. even with gouache.  Hard Fail.  the. worst. paper. ever.

Tools & Supplies / Re: Cleaning your nib...cloth Vs paper towel.
« on: September 25, 2019, 05:09:15 PM »
I'm team cloth: wash and reuse!  But it doesn't have to be linen - just as long as it is lint-free, tightly woven, and absorbent.  I actually like using pieces of old, worn-out cotton sheets/pillowcases or um. worn-out boxers.

Broad Edge Pen Calligraphy / Re: Mitchell Nib Question
« on: September 21, 2019, 01:46:06 PM »
Thanks for that addendum @jeanwilson!

It's funny though -- When I cut my quills, I definitely bevel the underside as a natural consequence of the scoop cut that forms the nib and determines the width.  I also shape the top of it a bit to tidy it up, but most of the cutting comes from underneath.  So that's how I sharpen my Mitchells too, because nobody ever told me otherwise.  I hadn't realized that was so unorthodox.  (I'm old enough to know that if it's been working for me for the number of decades I've been doing it that way, I don't need to call it "wrong" - but maybe I'll try it the other way when I prep a new tiny nib)

At any rate, whichever way you do it, it still ends up sharp -- like the difference between a santoku knife (like your sushi knife, which is only sharpened on one side) and a French chef's knife (sharpened on both).  I have a sushi knife from Aritsugu in Kyoto (forging knives since the 16th century - before then, they made swords) They stamped my name into the blade.  My children lightly bicker about who gets to inherit it when I die.

I should note that I work on a tilted writing desk, so that changes the relative angle of the nib - and probably the bevel on the underside makes more sense that way, as the desk falls away from it at a steeper angle.  Manuscript evidence attests that medieval scribes always wrote on a slanted surface, and indeed, I find it difficult to use a quill on a flat surface.

Broad Edge Pen Calligraphy / Re: Mitchell Nib Question
« on: September 20, 2019, 10:41:51 PM »
@Karl H. Gansai are Japanese watercolors, but the pigment particulates are smaller than gouache and larger than Western style transparent watercolors.  JetPens (where I get a lot of art supplies) has a basic explainer on the differences between watercolor, gansai, gouache, and poster color:

They come in little pans like watercolors, so you just paint them on a nib straight from the pan.  They're a lot like those Finetecs that way.  They make them in metallic colors too, but I prefer the Finetecs for metallics.  Gansai are opaque and I prefer them to gouache because they dry with a glossy finish.  I think the particle size of the pigments must be similar to sumi ink - it's formulated to paint on washi paper, just like sumi.

That R&K Auszeihtusche Sepia is billed as a type of India ink for drawing (the make it in 3 colors; and they make a lot of other drawing inks); I don't find that it needs any gum arabic for broad edge - it's not great for pointed pen though.  It is NOT for fountain pens (and don't get it confused with the regular R&K fountain pen Sepia).  Of the R&K fountain pen inks, I find the iron gall inks pretty friendly to broad edge calligraphy, and surprisingly good for pointed pen with a drop of gum arabic in a dinky dip - but then, I don't mind fussing with the inks that give me excellent shading, sheen and shimmer options (witness my irrational devotion to the utterly frustrating J.Herbin Emeraude de Chivor in this thread:  EdC, why can't I quit you?)

As for those tiny Mitchells.  Once they're sharpened, I get very nice crisp contrast with them on that ultra-smooth hot press watercolor paper - as long as the tiny writing is a scaled down version of the normal sized, just as precise.  It's one of the times I prefer a very smooth paper for broad edge.

(Fellow knife sharpener! I sharpen all my knives when I need to chill out.  I like them sharp enough to cleanly slice a leaf of basil floating in a pan of water.  Of course, then my across the street neighbor lady almost cut her thumb off with one of them - I tried to warn her it was much sharper than she was used to)

* Oh, and hey, I use those 5-Star Mead pads WITH THE LINES (I keep some college ruled and wide ruled pads around).  because, you know, mostly for practice, I'm going to use guidelines anyway.

--yours, K

Broad Edge Pen Calligraphy / Re: Mitchell Nib Question
« on: September 20, 2019, 03:18:05 PM »
@jeanwilson & @Karl H I like practicing on 5-Star Mead notebook paper too!  In fact, it's what I start my paleography students off on, when they're just working on learning the letter forms, before we do layout, pricking, ruling, etc.

If I need to have practice or trial runs with particular guidelines and text block layouts, I print them onto 32# printer paper - which is pretty smooth, and heavier than regular 24# copy paper.  Someone once recommended it to me for pointed pen practice, but I use it for all sorts of practice.  It's cheap enough that I practice and experiment on it with wild abandon.

But I strongly second Jean's advice to get a sampler pack of paper.  You never know what you're going to like if you don't try new things!  I very recently discovered that I like writing on that Southmore brand "linen" and "parchment" style "resume paper" that they sell in the stationery section of Office Max (the kind for "announcements, invitations, awards" that you can feed through a printer).  One of my kids was using it for a school project and the leftovers ended up under my writing desk.  It's got a little bite to it, and if you want to use it for best and are afraid it might bleed with some crazy fountain pen ink you want to heap on it, just hit it with a little matte spray first.  Otherwise, it's not expensive, so I don't feel like I need to ration it.  And when somebody wanted me to make them a "Pirate Map" (I have a very niche business), the color and texture of the "parchment" style was perfect.  I actually use it for quite a few "mock-medieval" style projects.

It's really a matter of personal preference and the specific project you're doing.  I know a lot of people prefer a toothy paper for broad edge (as do I), but for some projects, I prefer ultra-smooth hot-pressed Arches watercolor paper - especially if I need to use one of those #5 or #6 Mitchells to write textura quadrata with an x-height of 3mm.  The texture of the paper can otherwise get in the way of the letter detail.

I don't sharpen my Mitchells very often - in fact, I almost never sharpen the wider nibs.  If I need a very precise pen, I cut a turkey or goose quill and paint the ink onto the underside.  There's nothing exactly like a real quill for a beautiful clean line, but a Mitchell comes pretty close.  I do sharpen the small ones - #3, 4, 5, 6 - to get better contrast detail.  Jean's method sounds about how I do it - although I'd say, I "sharpen" the bottom edge, and then swipe the top edge just to get the burr off.  Of course, I'm not young either.

I'll second the recommendation for the ink stick - it's the very best! The scribes who penned the Saint John's Bible used that method of applying ink to their quills.  You can apply shell gold like that too, and then burnish it.  I don't grind and apply with a brush except for with very special projects though, because I get interrupted a lot, and I hate scrubbing a crusty brush and dried-up ink-stone.

When I use Mitchells with sumi ink, I dip and then scrape the ink off the top against the inside rim of the ink well.  Sometimes I have a piece of damp sponge in a saucer to clean off the top of the nib after each dip too (especially with the tiny nibs).  But I also rinse and wipe them a lot too.  It kind of gives me the convenience of a dip, with something of the control of the brush application.

I also like using Rohrer & Klingner's "Auszeihtusche Sepia" -- it's a little darker than the walnut ink I mix from the crystals, and plays better with the gansai paints I tend to favor over gouache for color work.

Broad Edge Pen Calligraphy / Re: Mitchell Nib Question
« on: September 15, 2019, 02:19:15 PM »
I think Jean has it exactly right about the reservoir.  I use Mitchells almost exclusively for my broad edge work (which is most of my work), because of all the broad edge nibs, they feel most like tempered feather quills to write with (I think they were designed with that goal), with the pros and cons to match.  They are quite flexible, just like quills, but not so much with the reservoir attached.  For that reason, I almost never use the reservoirs and just dip more often, like a quill.  Even without the reservoir, they hold a decent amount of ink though, so if you can't get the reservoir to work, try it without.

I also think that every nib has its favorite ink, and in my experience, Moon Palace sumi works better with them than the Kuretake or Tachekawa brands.

Introductions / Re: Hello from the Arkansas Ozarks
« on: September 14, 2019, 12:33:27 PM »
@ShawnHoefer -- There are a couple applications that I still like those Speedball inks for (and it almost doesn't matter how cheap your paper is - they almost never bleed)...  In addition to some India inks, you might like to try an iron gall ink.  It'll seem really watery, but they give the most delicate hairlines with pointed pen work.

Get some gum arabic and some dinky dips, and you'll be set up to use practically any ink your heart desires with pointed pen or broad edge.  How many inks does my heart desire?  So many inks, and Nick Stewart keeps making me want more of them:  (we were recently having a conversation about adapting fountain pen inks to use with dip pens on the "tools and supplies" thread:

I'm pretty envious of your walnut trees.  I love experimenting and making ink, but these days I live too far north for walnut trees -- about a hundred miles outside of their natural range.  And I love walnut ink.

Lots of folks on the forum use gouache for color.  Watercolors are great too, and produce a lovely delicate effect.  In my own work, I mostly use sumi ink (I make one of my own) and Japanese gansai paints for medieval-style decorated & illuminated manuscripts.

Have fun inking it up!

Introductions / Re: Hello from the Arkansas Ozarks
« on: September 13, 2019, 10:24:11 AM »
Welcome @ShawnHoefer!  I'm kind of new on the forum myself.

If you haven't done much calligraphy in the past 35 years, you should really check out some different inks.  I know we used to use those Speedball all the time, and there's still nothing wrong with it, but there are so many more inks that the internet gives us access too.  So many more colors, formulations, sheens & shimmers and other special effects.  And since you're a crafty one, I'm betting that you might be interested in making your own walnut ink sometime too.

--yours truly, K

Tools & Supplies / Re: Iron Gall Ink Degradation over time?
« on: September 11, 2019, 07:01:46 PM »
Yes! -- furthermore, that grainy sludge is the actual iron of "iron gall ink" that has precipitated out of the solution.  Some iron gall inks are effectively transparent when they're "fresh", so manufacturers like Diamine, for their Registrar's Ink, put a light blue dye in it so that you can see what you're writing, but the real dark blue-black color comes from the iron in suspension binding to the paper and then oxidizing as it's liquid holding medium evaporates.

The microscopic iron particulates are dissolved and held in suspension by the gallic acid (the gall in "iron gall ink").  When that evaporates or breathes out of your plastic bottle, since it's molecularly smaller than water, the iron will fall out of suspension and form that grainy sludge at the bottom, and all that's left is your lightly tinted grayish water.


Tools & Supplies / Re: Acidic, wood-pulp paper.
« on: September 11, 2019, 06:52:15 PM »
Chemically pulped & bleached cellulose paper (i.e. bleached wood pulp paper) is sold as "kraft paper" these days.  Butcher paper is a type of kraft paper.  So is cartridge paper.   I'm not sure it's the exact formula the old pen masters you're thinking of used though.  Wood pulp paper enters the consumer market in Europe somewhat after my academic specialty ends.  I'm supposing cartridge paper might be quite similar though.  Fully bleached kraft paper is very strong and very beautiful, and bright white.

Most of the paper that was have from say, England in the 17th-18th centuries is made of linen, sourced from old clothes.  It was very expensive, because it was a byproduct of the life-cycle of clothing, and clothes were the most expensive single item that most people owned, on account of the amount of grueling manual labor required to produce them -- from harvesting the linen (or wool or cotton in some parts of the world - like the American South) to washing, carding, spinning, weaving, and finally cutting and sewing it into garments, all by hand.  It's telling that the first thing that got industrialized in the Industrial Revolution was cloth-making, and the first "computer" run on wooden punch cards was a jacquard loom.

Before industrialization, people saved their clothes, reused, refashioned, repaired, and finally recycled them into paper, because even the rags had value.  The rag pickers bought rags and then separated the fibers out from the old clothes and sold them to paper makers to turn into paper.  The single most expensive element in the first edition of Shakespeare's First Folio (1623) was the paper.  It was so expensive that they didn't waste any on editing - they edited on the fly, so every copy is different.

This type of linen (or cotton paper) is very very durable though.  It can last for centuries, remaining soft and supple.  Wood pulp paper, on the other hand, degrades rather rapidly when exposed to light, since the acidic bleaching compounds literally digest the paper from the inside out.  It smells great thought, because as it happens, it releases volatile chemicals similar to vanillin (which makes vanilla smell good too).  Hence, that special smell in old bookstores.

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