Creativity tutorials

Calligraphy Tutorial: How to Make a Reed Pen

Learn, step by step, how to make this old calligraphy tool, with Joaquín Seguí

You might never have heard of a reed pen, yet, without a doubt, it is one of the oldest writing tools in existence. It is essentially a hollowed-out reed, cut diagonally at one end, which collects ink and can be used to draw on paper.

It is a key tool for various types of calligraphy, including uncial, given that it enables you to create compact but organic shapes on paper. It is a useful tool for testing the waters and trying out calligraphy for the first time. To do so, you will need to know how to create your own reed pen using basic, low-cost materials. Check out Joaquín’s (@joaquinsegui) video tutorial below:

What materials do I need?

–a reed (it’s better not to use bamboo as it’s too tough to work with)
–a craft knife
–an aluminum drink can
–sandpaper

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You can make a reed pen using these basic materials

1. Make a point at one end of the tube

The first thing we need to do is, using the craft knife, to sharpen one end of the reed. You can see the process in the following photos:

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Here, you can see a tube that has been cut and another with the end intact.
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Use your craft knife to shape one end of the tube until it looks like this.
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Finally, you will need to flatten one end of the reed so that the curve is flattened both inside and out.
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This is how the tip of your reed pen should look.

2. Make an inkwell

The inkwell is where we store ink. To make one, you will need to cut a rectangle out of an aluminum drink can and attach it to the end of the reed that we’ve just been working on. Once cut, you need to create some slits in the tip of the reed that are deep enough to hold the aluminum rectangle in place. Finally, you need to fold the piece of aluminum and slot it into the slits that you’ve made so that it can hold the ink. You can see the process in the following photos:

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Make two slits in the pointed end of the reed.
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Make sure that the slits can hold the piece of aluminum.
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Fold the aluminum so that you can attach it.

3. Sand down the tip

The last step in making our reed is to sand down the tip at the sharpest end so that it glides well across the page.

Our reed pen is ready to use! All you need to do now is apply ink from the aluminum inkwell and start creating letters.

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Put the sandpaper on the table to sand down the tip.

If you liked this tutorial, remember that you can learn to make letters with a modern twist and lots of character with Joaquín Seguí in his Domestika course, Uncial Calligraphy for Beginners.

You may also like:

Introduction to Italic Calligraphy, a course by Belén La Rivera.
Calligraphy and Rock’n’Roll, a course by Iván Castro.
Calligraphy with a Ruling Pen, a course by Silvia Cordero.

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