Deer Parchment re-visited

Making parchment is something I wish I had the ability to do at leisure.  Of course we all feel that way about some things. As for the deer parchment I’ve been working on, we’re probably about 12 “man hours” away from having finished parchment.

One of the key tools we use is the Lunallum which the tool for scraping the hides.

A lunalarium named that way for the shape of the blade

A lunallum named that way for the shape of the blade

You get very familiar with this tool.  It is a sharp tool so you need to use caution when using it and laying it down. It also dulls so you have to sharpen it after repeated use.

How they look when you're scaping

How they look when you’re scaping

Used correctly this version of the lunallum is a two handed skill.  One hand at the bottom to pull with and one hand at the top to press into the skin when scraping.  This two handed method gives you great stability and control.  This lunallum was purchased from Master Ranthulfr (Randy Asplund) at his parchment making workshop in 2011.

Of course you have to put the skin on a frame so that the skin is stretched.  One of the big differences between leather and parchment is that parchment is dried under tension

Connecting the skin to the parchment to it is under tension

Connecting the skin to the parchment to it is under tension

Looking carefully you can see that the twine is tied to the skin.  When you are first putting the skin onto the frame you put small pebbles under the skin and then tie the skin around the pebble.  Then you attach that tie to a wooden peg on the frame.  You then tighten the string to stretch the skin by turning the wooden peg.

The peg is kept in place by one of two methods.  In the middle ages the peg was tapered from being smaller than the hole it was in to being bigger then the hold this was in.  So when they needed to tighten the cord more, they pulled the peg up, turned the peg to tighten the cord as much as possible and then hammered the peg back into place so it wouldn’t turn.

We are using a different more modern method.  We are using a stop in the peg.  Next to the peg we hammered in a long thick nail.  This will act as the stopper.

We drilled a  small hold through the peg and put a thin nail in that hole 90 degrees from the peg.   This small nail sticks out and will hit the big thick nail next to the peg hole. This stops the peg from turning at all, and we don’t have to worry about the peg slipping from the hole.

What have we accomplished so far?

Scraping both the hair and the flesh side down to a good rough sanding with the Lunallum, rough pumice stone and 220 grit sandpaper.  You could write on it at this point, though you wouldn’t like it much.  For best results you want to sand it down to the equivalent of 1000 grit sandpaper.

What is left to do?

– Continue to thin down the skin to manuscript thickness which is about 0.01 inches (0.254mm) thickness.

– Sand it down to the best possible writing surface, preferably to the 1000 grit equivalent.

– Finish the parchment by laying the fibers down all in the same directions.

All of this is being done at Johannes Von Narrenstein‘s home. Many thanks to him.  And to his wife for letting us do the project there.

I mentioned I did a parchment making workshop last year in 2011.  Please enjoy this explanatory slide show about the parchment making process.


2 responses to “Deer Parchment re-visited

    • Animal skin has proteins (collagen being one among others) which form chains and strings. The process of making parchment breaks down the skin and loosens what remains chains and strings there may be. Like fine paper the way these lay is important to what the writing experience is going to be like. If they all lay in the same direction you have a uniform writing experience. If they don’t, it will be a random writing experience and could (in rare cases,) cause the ink to spider on the parchment.

      So you do a very light re-wetting of the parchment and then take the lunilarium and with very light pressure pull it the length of the parchment. This lays the fibers all in the same direction.

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