How to cut a reed pen


Cutting a reed pen following Edward Johnston

Cutting a reed pen following Edward Johnston


Cutting a reed pen following Matthias Gröschke


Cutting a reed pen following Matthias GröschkeA reed pen is very much suitable for speedy writing and creative scripts. It can easily be used on very rough paper surfaces.

Bamboo, the raw material, can be found in most DIY superstores and market gardens. The available qualities are very different. If the bamboo is too soft, it's not suitable for a reed pen. You have to try it out.

The reed pen has to be dipped into the inkwell more often than usual metal nibs, but the stroke is much more lively.

For the cutting of a reed pen you need a very keen knife or cutter. Work with the appropriate caution!

Working according to these instructions is at your own risk!



1st cut:

Cut a bamboo stick of about 15 to 20cm. The stick is then cut to half its thickness over a length of about 3 cm.

reed pen, 1st cut


2nd cut:

Continue cutting until you have a flat surface at the front with a legth of about 1.5 to 2cm.

reed pen, 2nd cut


3rd cut:

Turn the bamboo stick and remove some material from the top side parallel to the 2nd cut, until the thickness of the front edge is about 0.5mm. A thinner edge will break when pressure is applied, if it's too thick, it has no flexibility.

reed pen, 3rd cut


4th cut:

Put the bamboo stick on a stiff wooden bark - bottom side up - and press the point of your knife into the bamboo stick, approx. 1.5cm away from front edge, until the front part splits in two. Should this not work, either the front edge is to thick or the bamboo is too soft. Try different qualities to find out the best for this purpose.

reed pen, 4th cut


5th cut:

As required the writing edge can be cut broader or narrower or entirely pointed. Take away material from both sides, always leaving the split in the middle. reed pen, 5th cut


6th cut:

Put the bamboo stick on a stiff wooden bark again and cut the tip to receive a sharp writing edge. Ready for writing! After a while the tip softens and has to be cut again.

reed pen, 6th cut

This instruction is available as a leaflet in the calligraphy shop.
Information about the cutting of goose quills can be found in the Online Pen Nibs Museum. At the moment only in German language.