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Building a Frame Saw
Forging a Copper Kettle
Making a pair of leather work boots
Forging and Fletching a Bodkin
Flocking a drawer interior

Monday, September 2, 2013

Isarn Project

Some friends and I have been planning a collaborative project for some time now, and it is finally time to put pen to paper and begin the first steps towards a unique journey through cultural history. The idea is to all create pieces of a culture using traditional craftsmanship, starting with a map (that I will draw), and then forge/craft pieces of the heritage relating to that region such as axes, tool chests, locks, knives, etc. I will be doing the maps all by hand with quill and ink on either parchment or hand made paper. Having never mapped with a quill before, I thought I would take the time to practise before doing anything really time consuming and meant for distribution. Although the ink I used was supposed to be waterproof, it was not, so the sealing of the paper resulted in quite a bit of smearing, so I will be getting a different type next time.

This began, as I usually do, with a general, low detail pencil drawing to work out what it will look like and make any small adjustments before using the ink.

The elder futhark runes simply read 'Isarn Project' spelled phonetically, as would have been done back in that Age.

Being left handed makes me take much more caution and consideration to what I am doing, an more than once I lost sight of how long it takes ink to dry. Fortunately, the smudges were in places where I could mostly hide them behind fresh ink.

The level of detail possible with a quill is astounding, although it is difficult at times to prevent lines from bleeding together or drawing excess ink out through surface tension.

My goal with this piece was not necessarily to make a map, but to survey all the different elements I use in cartography and see the differences between the techniques I used in the past and how they changed with a quill in hand.

Because it takes so long for the ink to dry and I do not have a sand jar (yet), I had to draw this over the course of several days, taking sections at a time and working right to left so as to avoid destroying everything I just drew.

Some things, like mountains and the shoreline are easier with a quill, while others, like forests and cities/buildings are far more difficult. This has certainly been a learning process, there is no doubt about that.

Contrary to most popular literature, there is a very low risk of errant droplets or splatters landing on the paper. Perhaps with a cut feather quill it would be different, but this steel nib from Italy when my folks travelled there a few months back is very clean and smooth.

In the trees is where the lines were most likely to bleed together. When dipping the quill back into the ink, the first few strokes are much thicker, and as a result the tiny circle tree shapes close into black dots unless extreme care is taken to avoid drawing lines next to each other for a few seconds.

And finally the finished piece. This is before the paper was sealed. Nothing spectacular, but an eye opening experience.

Despite the claims that this ink was waterproof and permanent, it was obviously not. Most notably along the left coastline and trees, the ink began to bleed and smear. It is, unfortunately, one of those learning points that comes when it is too late to do anything about it. I will be replacing my generic ink that I found in the attic a few months back with India ink, which I trust well above this to perform and dry permanently.


  1. Nice work with the quill pen! I make a lot of RPG maps, but never with a pen like that. Thanks for the inspiration. ^_^

    1. Thanks, I appreciate the kind words! Soon I will be drawing the actual map for the project and I will likely be posting it as a work in progress.