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Ink-Making-art - 6/25/17


"Ink Making" by Honorable Lord Ian the Green. A&S class notes.


NOTE: See also the files: inks-msg, Oak-Gall-Inks-art, Blk-Walnt-Ink-art, iwandpc-msg, quills-msg, writing-inst-msg, parchment-msg, calligraphy-msg.





This article was submitted to me by the author for inclusion in this set of files, called Stefan's Florilegium.


These files are available on the Internet at: http://www.florilegium.org


Copyright to the contents of this file remains with the author or translator.


While the author will likely give permission for this work to be reprinted in SCA type publications, please check with the author first or check for any permissions granted at the end of this file.


Thank you,

Mark S. Harris...AKA:..Stefan li Rous

stefan at florilegium.org



Ink Making

by Honorable Lord Ian the Green


Easy to do, sometimes tedious to finish.


The ink making we are doing today is a very simple process that has a lot of information associate with it. We’re making Oak Gall Ink.  In period it came into vogue roughly 400 to 500 A.D and was used regularly up past World War II.


Oak Gall Ink is a permanent ink that is lightfast and colorfast.  Oak Gall Ink is known by several different names, all of which are equally valid.


Iron Gall Ink, Iron Oak Gall Ink, Ferrous Gall Ink, Ferrous Oak Gall Ink and Ferrous Gallo-Tannic Ink.


We’ll be calling it Oak Gall Ink for this handout or simply Ink.


Let us quickly explore what makes ink, ink and why it isn’t a dye or a paint. A dye fundamentally changes the material it touches.  In layman terms dyes stain what they are put on.  Paints are the opposite.  They sit on top of whatever surface they are put on and can be scraped off later with relative ease.  Ink does both.


Quick but important aside: The word "Ink" comes from Late Latin "encaustum," from neuter of Latin "encaustus," meaning "burned in", from Greek "enkaustos", verbal of "enkaiein" meaning "to burn in."  "Ink" and "Caustic" both share this same root word.  If something it caustic, it is acidic.  So ink is acidic?  Yes, even today many of our inks are acidic.  Some are pretty neutral and some are even basic.


Ink sinks, or bites, into the surface it is on, and it sits on the surface as well.  This property of ink is what makes ink impossible to simply erase.  That is because ink has what is called a “binder” agent added to it.  Most inks start off as a dye or pigment.  Then a binder agent such as Gum Arabic is added to it to help bind the ink into and onto the surface it is on such as paper or vellum.


Oak Gall Ink has four (4) ingredients to become ink. Oak Galls, Green Copperas, and water or water based liquid such as wine, and binder most often Gum Arabic.  Sometimes crushed eggshells are added to the ink as well.


Why crushed eggshells?  To answer that lets get some quick information on the other ingredients that go into making ink.  Oak Galls are made up of Tannic Acid.  When we soak or boil Oak Galls we are getting out the Tannic Acid. We then add Green Copperas which is scientifically called Ferrous Sulfate, which is another acid.  We add these together to make the dye and we have a somewhat acidic solution.  The Gum Arabic doesn’t add or take away the acidity.


Eggshells are about 95% calcium carbonate.  Like sodium carbonate (baking soda), calcium carbonate is a base. So what happens when you add a base to an acid?  That’s right they start to cancel each other out and head toward a neutral solution.  So you add crushed eggshells to de-acidify your ink.


Now, onto ink making.


Modern research shows that the most stable ink comes from using a ratio of oak galls to copperas of 3 to 1 or 3:1.  So if you have 21 grams of oak galls you use 7 grams of copperas.  My experience has shown me that a roughly 18 to 1 ratio of water to Oak Galls is appropriate.


First crush up the oak galls you have into small pieces and powder.  Set your water to boil while you are crushing your oak galls.  Once the oak galls are finished being crushed go ahead and put them into the water.  Remember to stir.  The water will boil and start to turn a light brown color and eventually a darker brown color.  You will also begin to notice an acrid smell.  For this reason boil your oak galls near an open window or other well ventilated area.  Once the solution becomes a nice rich brown/black coffee color take it off the heat source.


At this point you may either filter the solution out to get out chunks, or add in the copperas.  If you are using crushed eggshells, you should add them and the copperas in before you filter and stir occasionally for five minutes and then filter.  This is only going to be a rough filtering though.  Once it is rough filtered and you have added in copperas you need to do a more refined filtering.  In period a tight woven cotton fabric was used as was several layers of cheese cloth.  They would also let the solids settle and then decant off the top and then filter it.


I use coffee filters and a regular kitchen funnel to put the ink into a larger container.  I also like to decant and then filter when I have the time.  After you filter you add the Gum Arabic.


Gum Arabic comes in solid and liquid forms.  If you use solid Gum Arabic add it in and mix while the solution is still pretty warm, it works better that way.  Yes, you can reheat the dye soon to become ink if you choose.  Then dispense into smaller containers.  If you are using liquid Gum Arabic I find it better to dispense into small containers and then add the Gum Arabic.


Voila!  You have period Oak Gall Ink.


Copyright 2013 David Roland. <ianthegreen01 at gmail.com> All Rights Reserved.  Permission for use and reproduction for personal use to members of the Society for Creative Anachronism granted.


If this article is reprinted in a publication, I would appreciate a notice in the publication that you found this article in the Florilegium. I would also appreciate an email to myself, so that I can track which articles are being reprinted. Thanks. -Stefan.


<the end>

Formatting copyright © Mark S. Harris (THLord Stefan li Rous).
All other copyrights are property of the original article and message authors.

Comments to the Editor: stefan at florilegium.org