The Java Reed
The Java reed has got to be one of the most elusive writing instruments I’ve ever encountered. It was first mentioned to me by Ben Bahman, the Iranian calligrapher I met at the UW Islamic Art show I organized who became my first teacher. Massoud Valipour, also Iranian, mentioned it when I was hanging out with him at his store in Los Angeles. Neither of them had any idea how to get a hold of one.
I finally found them for sale in the Sahaflar Carşisi here in Istanbul. It is essentially a very thin piece of hard wood that is famous for retaining its integrity and sharpness through rigorous usage. It is said that one calligrapher was able to write an entire Quran with a single cut of his Java reed. Most bamboo pens require that they be re-sharpened after about a page of writing, and regular reeds must be recut every few lines.
The reed is cut like a normal calligraphy reed, and then the tip (about the last 3 inches of the reed) is broken or cut off, and then snugly stuck into a piece of bamboo, which acts as a holder.
Of course, after I found this incredibly rare and elusive reed, I found a Turkish website offering them for sale. It’s actually a pretty decent website for Islamic art supplies.