Top of My Desk – Scribal Tools and Materials

I realized I haven’t talked about tools and materials much lately.  So I decided to take you on a tour of my scribal desk a part at a time.  We’re going to start from the top and work our way down in this grouping of posts.  Do I suggest you set up your desk this way?  No, set it up the way that works for you.  If you are like me, that will change depending on what you are working on.

Today’s tour starts with the top of my scribal desk and the items I seem to randomly put up there.

This is the current view of the top of my scribal text.  Why?  Because that is what I put there.

This is the current view of the top of my scribal desk. Why? Because that is what I put there.

From left to right you see a pumice bag, AMES lettering guide, quill pen, bottle of good ink, reed pen, bottle of weak ink, small jar of ground pumice, bottle of yellow buckthorne berry ink, small pumice stone.

So let’s explore each item in turn

Pounce Bag

Pounce (gum sandarac) in a linen bag tied with string.

Pounce (gum sandarac) in a linen bag tied with string.

Pounce is gum sandarac.  Often it is mixed with whitening agents such as chalk, ground up cuttlefish bone, ground pumice and other similar materials.  This is such a common practice that there is an ongoing discussion if pounce is both materials or just gum sandarac.  I wrote a blog entry about gum sandarac titled, “Sand, Myth or Real?” that goes into greater depth.

AMES lettering guide

AMES lettering guide.  One of the best and most infuriating tools a calligrapher can learn to use.

AMES lettering guide. One of the best and most infuriating tools a calligrapher can learn to use.

This lovely little tool has saved me hours of work and correction.  The simple idea behind this tool is to create lines on your paper to guide your calligraphy in a quick, simple, easily reproducible manner.  Just follow the simple instructions and all is easy.  Of course the directions aren’t always easy to follow.  The single best description and set of instructions on how to use the AMES lettering guide was written by Alexandre Saint Pierre on his blog, “The Pensive Pen

Quill Pen

One of my quill pens.

One of my quill pens.

A quill is the quintessential medieval tool for writing.  Even today it is evocative of the writer who makes magic by putting ink to paper and storing knowledge by forming pictures of sounds that others can interpret as language and ideas.  So why is it called a quill pen and not a feather pen?

A feather is made up of several parts.  The feathery bits are called barbs, the solid part the barbs are attached to is called the shaft and the hollow part of the feather at the end is called the quill.  It is the quill of the feather that is cut and shaped and then used as a pen.

Bottle of Good Ink

One of my bottles of ink from the 1/4/14 batch.  Very good ink.

One of my bottles of ink from the 1/4/14 batch. Very good ink.

Have I mentioned I’m very happy with how the batch of ink from January 4, 2014?  The test came out well and subsequent usages have proven it to be a very good ink I’ve been using this bottle for several projects.

Reed Pen

A reed pen.

A reed pen.

I am not a fan of the reed pen, but I must give it it’s due.  The use of the reed pen comes before the use of quill pens.  And it was used during the same time the quill pen was being used.  It is a very durable pen but it simple can not make the fine hair thin lines a quill can in my experience.  The sensation of it in your hand is also different which is to be expected.

Bottle of Thin Ink

Bottle of ink from the batch that separated.  Can you tell the difference in the bottle?

Bottle of ink from the batch that separated. Can you tell the difference in the bottle?

Can you tell the difference in the bottle between this thin ink and the good rich dark ink?  Most people won’t be able to.  This is why it is a good idea to test hand made inks before you use (or buy) them when possible.

To see the difference between the two ink check out this picture.

Just what the picture says.  The thin ink really shows off its insufficient pigmentation once it gets out of the bottle

Just what the picture says. The thin ink really shows off its insufficient pigmentation once it gets out of the bottle

Pretty clear difference once they are put on the writing surface.  In this case the writing surface is pergamenata.

Stone Ink Pot

Carved stone ink pot.

Carved stone ink pot.

A lovely little ink pot that I use at home and take with me to demonstrations.  It is a stone ink pot about 2 inches by 2 inches by 2 inches (5 cm X 5 cm X 5 cm).  The lid is very well fitted to the pot.

Jar of Ground Pumice

Finely ground pumice stone.  Whitening agent and prep for using a silver point.

Finely ground pumice stone. Whitening agent and prep for using a silver point.

A small jar of finely ground pumice.  I put it in a screw tight container because it is so finely ground that a breeze can pick up small particles of it.  I use this as a way to whiten up my writing surface.  It also works very well to create a rougher surface on paper or parchment so that a silver point can be used to draw on it.

Yellow Buckthorne Berry Ink

My yellow buckthorn ink.

My yellow buckthorne ink.

You may recall me highlighting this ink in my December 27, 2013 blog entry.

Pumice Stone

Small pumice stone roughly 1.5 X 0.875 inches.

Small pumice stone roughly 1.5 X 0.875 inches.

This wonderful little tool is a pumice stone.  Pumice is a rough volcanic rock.  This was gifted to me by Mistress Eithni ingen Talorgain when she came back from an event.  I use it to smooth out writing areas on parchment that may not have been finished as well as they should have been.  In modern terms this little stone will sand down the surface to roughly an 800 grit finish.

And that ends the tour of this section of my scribal desk.  I hope you enjoyed it and even more so I hope it was informative to you in a useful way.

2 responses to “Top of My Desk – Scribal Tools and Materials

  1. Pingback: OPW – A short post | scribescribbling·

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