Centuries ago, people wrote with feathers, a.k.a “quills”. In fact, U.S. President Thomas Jefferson bred geese specifically because he went through quills so quickly! The downside of using quills, as I’m sure President Jefferson would tell you, is that they wear down at alarming speed. That’s why we are lucky to have steel crowquill nibs today! In this article, we’ll explore the fabulous crowquill nib and what you can use it to create.
What is a Crowquill Nib?
A crowquill calligraphy nib is a nib that, essentially, mimics a sharpened goose feather. It features a teeny-tiny tip that typically has minimal flex. Unlike other nibs, its shank is completely round (instead of semi-circular).
Like other nibs, the crowquill arrives with a protective coating on it that isn’t ink flow-friendly. Be sure to stick it in a potato — as described in this tutorial — to remove that coating!
Crowquill Compatible Pens
The crowquill nib’s circular shank isn’t compatible with most pen holders. If you want to use a crowquill nib, be sure to choose a pen that will accommodate it. My favorite crowquill-friendly pen is the Tachikawa T-40 because it can accommodate most crowquill nibs in addition to other nibs like the Nikko G and the Brause EF66.
Note that if you wish to use your crowquill with an oblique pen, Paper & Ink Arts’ adjustable oblique will accommodate this nib! That oblique pen is a good option if you’ve got some wiggle room in your calligraphy budget.
Crowquill Nib Advantages
1. Tiny Calligraphy
First and foremost, the crowquill nib is fantastic for writing tiny calligraphy! When I think of crowquill letters, I always think of the letter pictured below, which Jodean Cooper sent to me several years ago. She used a crowquill nib to create a masterpiece that features stroke contrast and delicate characters.
I also love to use crowquill nib for crosshatched illustrations. The nib’s ability to fill in light spaces with barely-there lines is just fantastic!
3. Everyday Writing
When I’m not in the mood to write a calligraphed letter, I use my crowquill nib like a regular pen. I don’t pay attention to exerting balanced pressure on the tines of my nib or keeping my nib holder in a stationary position. This leads to handwriting that looks simultaneously vintage and modern, as shown below:
Disadvantages of Crowquill Nibs
Crowquill nibs are wonderful for the applications I listed above. Note, however, that they’re not great for writing bold calligraphy on envelopes. Larger, more flexible nibs are better for that. Another disadvantage of this type of nib is that its circular shank makes it difficult to clean. Just do your best to wipe off excess water and ink!
It’s also important to note that this nib isn’t great for calligraphy beginners. To use it effectively — for calligraphy, at least — you should have a good handle on how to effectively use pointed pen nibs. Otherwise, you’ll find it to be finicky and unenjoyable!
Best Crowquill Nib Inks
The crowquill nib’s delicate tip means that it is most compatible with watery inks like iron gall. You will likely find inks like sumi and India to be too thick, which will lead to ink flow issues.
See It in Action
The crowquill nib is a fun little tool that — I suspect — you’ll enjoy using for several applications. It’s especially wonderful for writing beautiful little notes! To give you a good idea of how to use it, I put together a 1 minute-long video tutorial:
For the most part, crowquill nibs are just like other pointed pen nibs. They just have a couple of differences, like that circular shank and the teensy tip! If you haven’t tried a crowquill nib, I encourage you to give it a shot.
This article was first posted in June of 2021. It has been updated to include a tutorial video.