How to Make a Quill Pen and Berry Ink

When studying the Declaration of Independence, it was really interesting to consider that each of those statements, each part of that Declaration, every single word, was carefully considered and penned to declare that we were now an independent colony, and establish a concept for the founding of our country. The early documents in our time, and even the letters people sent, were written using quills and ink. Now, we have pencils and pens and when the ink runs out, we toss it and snag a new one from the drawer.

But quills, well, that’s a different story. Quills must be painstakingly re-inked while penning a document, and can be temperamental. So what’s it like writing with a quill? We decided to find out.

Start by grabbing a feather. You can usually purchase multi-packs for a reasonable price at craft stores or at your local Walmart. Real feathers are preferable to synthetic feathers, as they draw ink better. Cut the quill at a sharp angle carefully. For younger children, you may want to do this step for them or have an older sibling assist. For older children, it should be fairly easy to snip through.

Your quill is now ready, so set it aside, and work on the red berry ink!

While working on this project, we were studying the Declaration of Independence and were able to learn more about why our founding fathers wrote the document in the first place. To quote HistoryForKids’ summary, “Sometimes one group of people decide to split off from another group, and to become an independent country, as the laws of Nature and of God say that they can. But when this happens, if they want other people to respect them, they should explain why they are splitting off.”

To make your ink, start with one cup of frozen strawberries. These sliced ones tend to thaw faster, and you’ll want them thawed out completely before continuing to the next step.

When it comes to the Declaration of Independence, the founding fathers believed that everyone was created equal, or at least at the time, all men. They believed that there were some God-given rights that no one could take away, and that these rights included the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Unfortunately, it seemed the King of England was doing some very uncool things that were violating the rights the founding fathers believed that all men should have.

Mush the strawberries, squishing them as much as you possibly can. You’ll want to get as much liquid from them as possible by mashing them with a fork or other masher.

The colonists worried that the King of England wasn’t allowing them to pass laws they needed to, and was ruling the colonies from such a distance. He wouldn’t sign laws even when the colonists would pass them, and even tried to force the colonists to give up their right to make these laws.

They also worried that he wouldn’t let new settlers go to America, or let the current settlers take over new land. He was saying they couldn’t choose their own judges, which meant that he could hand-select judges that were loyalists to the Crown. That was hard, because the colonists wanted to go their own way.

Push the mixture through a strainer. The juice (liquid) will be reserved for your ink, and the strawberry pulp can be discarded or, if you’re like my family, set aside for smoothies. Waste not!

The colonists in the not-yet-formed States believed that the King was sending government officials that they didn’t want to have, and was making the colonists pay taxes to pay for these officials. One of the parts of the Bill of Rights says we don’t have to house military, and part of that stems from the King making colonists house soldiers, and how he said the soldiers didn’t have to abide by the same laws as the colonists. That really didn’t sit well!

You’ll get a lot of nice liquid from the berries, which will be the base of your red berry ink.

Honestly, for the colonists, life was getting unbearable. The King was making sure that the colonists only buy from England, so free trade wasn’t an option. Tax laws were passed without any consultation with the colonies (which is a good chunk of why the Boston Tea Party happened. Taxation without representation basically meant that the king was putting taxes out there without having anyone representing the colonies speaking their mind about the taxes to begin with).

Stir in a teaspoon of salt.

The thing that kind of blew my mind about the colonies is something that my teacher reminded me of in high school– that many of the colonists had NEVER seen England. After all, the first explorers came over in the 1400s, and early colonization and settlement was happening in the early 1600s. In fact, it was in 1587 that the first English child was born in North America. Jamestown, one of the first well-known colonies, was established in 1607. It was in the 1630s that the Puritans made their mass migration to America. That means that so many of the settlers under England’s rule had never really even experienced England!

Then, stir in a teaspoon of vinegar. Let it sit for a minute after mixing thoroughly. It’ll thicken slightly, to make it write cleanly, but not significantly, so the quill will draw it up nicely.

Dip your quill, and now you can write! You’ll need to re-dip as the pen starts to run dry. Wouldn’t it take forever to write something like the Declaration of Independence with a quill? Think of how much quicker it would be to use the computer these days, or even a regular pen.

The red ink looks really neat as you put quill to paper, and has a nice texture.

Even our littlest student got a chance to try it out with a quill of his own!

What will you use your quill pen for? Maybe writing your John Hancock like the founding fathers, or sending a letter to a distant (or local) friend? Either way, let me know what you think of this awesome berry ink in the comments below!

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