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Quill Pens & Berry Ink


Knowing how to write has been a valued skill throughout history. History itself depends on writing, and writing has changed over time from scratches on clay to computerized letters.

What you'll need:
For quill pen: feather, scissors, a paper clip

For berry ink: 1/2 cup of ripe berries, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon vinegar, food strainer, bowl, wooden spoon, small jar with tight-fitting lid

Paper
Paper towel
History log

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What to do:

  1. Make the ink: Collect some berries for your ink. Consider what color you want your ink to be, and what berries are available. Blueberries, cherries, blackberries, strawberries, or raspberries work well. Fill the strainer with berries and hold it over the bowl. Crush the berries against the strainer with the wooden spoon so that the berry juice drips into the bowl. When all the juice is out of the berries, throw the pulp away. Add the salt and vinegar to the berry juice and stir well. If the ink is too thick, add a teaspoon or two of water, but don't add too much or you'll lose the color. Store the ink in a small jar with a tight-fitting lid. Make only as much as you think you will use at one time, because it will dry up quickly.

  2. Make the pen: Find a feather. Form the pen point by cutting the fat end of the quill on an angle, curving the cut slightly. A good pair of scissors is safer than a knife. Clean out the inside of the quill so that the ink will flow to the point. Use the end of a paper clip if needed. You may want to cut a center slit in the point; however, if you press too hard on the pen when you write, it may split.

  3. Write with the pen: Dip just the tip of the pen in the ink, and keep a paper towel handy to use as an ink blotter. Experiment by drawing lines, curves, and single letters, and by holding the pen at different angles. Most people press too hard or stop too long in one spot.

  4. Practice signing your name, John Hancock style, with the early American letters shown here. Then write your signature in your history log.

  5. Write your name again using a pen or pencil. Compare the results.

Questions to ask:
Why do we write? When do people in your family use writing? What written things do you see every day? What is their purpose? What effect do different writing implements have on writing, for example quill pens, ballpoint pens, typewriters, and computers?







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