Looking for a colmus (pen) sharpener

I was wondering if anyone have heard of the colmus (pen) sharpener, I saw one a couple days ago on a website I cant seem to find again. Any info is much appreciated.


  1. I'm not sure if this is what you're thinking of but John Neal Books sells an extremely good quill knife designed specifically for sharpening quills. I have one and I can't recommend it enough. It's far better than an exacto blade.


  2. I have actually been eyeing that for a while since I hate using a scalpel for the cutting.
    Is it really $70 better?
    Does it stay sharp?
    Can you elaborate why you like it better?

  3. In my opinion it's absolutely worth the money for a number of reasons. If you do a lot of writing you're probably buying 70 dollars of exacto blades a year. Investing in a quill knife is not just a money saver but a major step up in technology.

    The main advantage is that it is specifically designed to cut quills with a view to making the very best letter forms possible. One side of the knife's blade is perfects flat for final nibbing of the quill. The other side is convex which is for the scooping cuts on either side of the tip. The angles of the cuts really make an enormous difference in terms of the final quality of the letters you're writing, as well as how long your quill stays sharp. An Exacto just isn't designed for the cuts we're asking it to make.

    If there was one tool I could put back on every sofer's desk it would be a real quill knife.

    If you're interested in this knife I'd recommend reading the article about it in The Calligrapher's Handbook," written by Donald Jackson, the Queen's calligrapher. There are a lot of diagrams and instructions for using it that are easier to see than to describe. This book is a resource that I think every sofer should study. It simply has too much information about how to get professional level results to be ignored.

    When using this kind of knife you do have to learn to maintain it. When it comes it's not particularly sharp. So I had a shochet friend give me a few pointers on how to really sharpen a knife. I'd recommend doing the same, or if I get a chance maybe I can make a post explaining how to do it.

  4. Where is the Calligrapher's Handbook available. Seems to be out of print.

  5. Amazon has it starting at around 10 dollars.


    1. Thanks! I bought the book and will order knife shortly on your recommendation, I would love something better than a scalpel/razor blade.

  6. Quill knives are great!!! WAAAAAY better than cutting with a scalpal.

    I have used quill knives for years and have three haaros:

    1) VERY IMPORTANT: There are left handed and right-handed versions. The quill-knife makers assume that you are cutting the quill with it facing toward you, not away. So, if you hold the quill cutting away from you, and are right handed, then you need the left-handed version and vice-versa. If you get the wrong-handed version, then the knife is basically unusable. You will have to change how you cut in order to use it.

    2) There are two makers of quill knifes out there. John Neal (http://www.johnnealbooks.com/), and a Swiss site Kalligraphie (http://www.kalligraphie.ch/).

    Kalligraphie sells several knives, in particular, a very expensive knife for 125 Euro (http://www.kalligraphie.ch/store/product_info.php/info/p2164_Quill-knife-for-right-handers--Boxwood.html?x2e308=60e5l3j9qpk19fl53hou2aqk15).

    I have tried all of the knives on both sites - the 125 Euro Kalligraphie knife is far and above a better tool than any of the others and is well worth the money. The john neal ones are not well made, do not fit the hand well, and are hard to be sharpened.

    3) Get your knife professionally sharpened, don't do it yourself. Too easy to ruin the special bevel of the blade, which is the whole point of the quill knife.

    1. Thanks for the run-down. Do you know any resources for learning how to sharpen quill knives? I'm good with a whetstone and am currently making my own chalaf so working on one of these seems like an interesting project

  7. One other thing - John Neal booksellers, though they don't sell a good quill knife, are the best resource in the US for everything else.

  8. Thanks, but what is "everything else" I love finding good sources in US instead relying on friends to bring back things from trips to EY.


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