Right Side Of My Desk – Scribal Tools and Materials

Thank you all for your response to the first stop in this tour of my scribal desk.  Today we will be doing down the right side of my scribal desk.

Right side of desk.  Yes, a bit messy

Right side of desk. Yes, a bit messy

Wow, that’s a bit cluttered!  Yes, it is and yes, that is typically what the right side of my desk looks like.  What items are there changes but yes, that’s my clutter.

So a closer look at what you’re seeing there.

Ink bottles!  Containing a calligraphers best friend and biggest challenge all in the same bottle.

Ink bottles! Containing a calligraphers best friend and biggest challenge all in the same bottle.

Top left is a Bombay Crimson.  Top right is Bombay Magenta.  Bottom left is green bottle sumi ink.  Bottom right is Bombay Violet.  As a calligrapher embrace the wonderful variety of colors that are out there!  Even as a historical calligrapher, inks came in many different colors, not just black.

Beeswax candle and match.

Beeswax candle and match.

The beeswax candle in the middle ages existed and was the expensive candle to use.  Tallow candles were cheaper.  For people who don’t know tallow comes from the fat of animals.  So when it burns you might be able to imagine what it smelled like.  Scribes the middle ages were often well paid.  so I splurge and get the beeswax candles from my supplier who hand makes them.

He uses period wicks for the candles as well.  The difference from a modern wick is that I have to trim (cut down) the wick as it burns myself.  I have also noticed that the period wick lights better from the top than from the side like modern candles and wicks do.  The smell of a beeswax candle is just wonderful

Yes, that is canned air.

Yes, that is canned air.

Canned air is a product commonly used for removing dust and debris from your camera lens and electronic equipment.  So why do I have canned air on my scribal desk?  For scribal purposes of course.

As a scribe I do a lot of putting down lines and later erasing them.  Most commonly I use a horsehair brush to clean off the eraser debris.  But sometimes I prefer to blow off the eraser debris.  Canned air has several advantages over my blowing on the page.  First of all canned air doesn’t come out wet.   Secondly I don’t get out of breath using canned air.

A portion of my collection of rulers and straight edges.

A portion of my collection of rulers and straight edges.

Every scribe needs a collection of rules and straight edges.  At the very least they help you draw lines.  But also because measuring your layout can be extremely important.  Notice that all these rules are able to be seen through.  That is a choice I made for two reasons.

1 – Being able to see what you are measuring from and to can be very important and being able to see through the ruler can really help with that.

2 – If some how some wet ink gets on the bottom of my straight edge I want to know about it before I put that ruler back down on my writing area. This helps contain messes and mistakes.  Yes, this was learned the hard way.

Behold!  The humble ziplock bag!

Behold! The humble ziplock bag!

Yes, ziplock bags are scribal tools.  I put my ink bottles in them when I’m going to be traveling with my ink.  I prefer to put a bottle in a bag and then put that bag into another bag.  That way if the bottle leaks and somehow the first bag leaks, the second bag will catch it.  I was taught this at my very first scribal class.  It has worked very very well for me and I can’t recommend it enough for traveling scribes.

Handmade hand forged parchment awl and a parchment pricker.

Handmade hand forged parchment awl and a parchment pricker.

I use both of these to poke holes in parchment.  The awl I use for when I’m poking holes in several sheets of parchment at once.  The pricker I use for one sheet at at time.  The awl was hand made for me at the Texas Renaissance Festival about an hour northwest of Houston.  I was visiting relatives at the time.

Four different ways to mark your page.

Four different ways to mark your page.

Left to right – Lead/Tin Stylus, Silver Point, Scott Drafting Pencil for graphite, Micron 005 marker.

The lead/tin stylus, silver point and graphite pencil all make very similar marks on your writing surface.  They are very hard to tell apart.  The micron marker is very good for outlining things or perhaps making a line darker for later tracing.

Calligraphy Pen and resting block

Calligraphy Pen and resting block

A mahogany pen holder, metal nib and a resting block for the pen.  I do on occasion use modern dip pens.  Whether or not I use a modern dip pen or a dip quill pen it is very useful to have a safe place to put your wet pen down in a way that won’t cause a mess.  I really like using chop stick rests.  Available at every ethnic asian grocery store I have been in, in the USA.

Box cutter and Exacto knife.

Box cutter and Exacto knife.

I have several cutting and scraping implements.  I use the box cutter to cut parchment and larger sheets of paper.  The exacto knife I use mostly to scrape calligraphy mistakes but I have been known to use it to cut things on rare occasion.

Embossing tools medieval to modern.

Embossing tools medieval to modern.

Left to right – Wax tablet stylus – Bronze, Wax table stylus – Iron, modern embossing tools.  Wax tablet styli have a point on one end to write in a wax table and a flat on the other end to put out (erase) the writing in the wax tablet.  The pointed ends also work very well for embossing lines into your parchment or paper.  Embossing lines into parchment was very common in the middle ages.  The modern embossing tool shown here has a ball or rounded tip while the medieval ones are pointed.

Yes, a modern ball point pen.

Yes, a modern ball point pen.

Taking notes as you are working on a project is often a good idea and the modern ball point pen, does this very well.  I also like to have it on the scribal table as a way of enjoying the contrast between the medieval writing I do and the modern writing we all do.

I hope you have enjoyed this second part of the tour.  I look forward to seeing you on the next part of the tour of my scribal desk.

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4 responses to “Right Side Of My Desk – Scribal Tools and Materials

  1. Always fun to see what people work with. I would recommend using something like Moon Palace sumi instead of the green bottle stuff. Unless they’ve changed their formula the green bottle has shellac in it that dries too shiny and ruins you nibs.

    • To be honest I have refilled this ink bottle with a Sumi ink purchased in Chicago’s Chinatown many times. It had no shellac in it but it does have a very strong earthy order.

  2. When travelling with ink, I prefer to wrap the bottle in a paper towel (or two), then double bag it. In the event of a mishap, it’s slightly less messy to clean up this way.

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

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