Saturday, February 14, 2015

California Iron Gall Ink

Raven painted with my own Iron Gall Ink.

 Raven #2 - Iron Gall Ink

 Iron Gall Ink Wash Texture

I painted the new ink onto a sheet of watercolor paper, then sprayed water in the middle to dilute it and blotted it off to make the middle a little lighter.  I'm quite pleased with the result.  ;-)

Of course, you can also WRITE with this ink.  It's recommended that you use a glass pen, or a feather quill, as this ink will damage and corrode metal nibs.   Writing isn't my real purpose for making the ink, though ...   It takes too long!

I had intended to use this recipe from The Fountain Pen Network, with California Oak Galls from JBB Pens and Paper at Etsy.

Local galls from Hartman Creek, WI - Noticeably smaller than the California variety below :

California Galls from JBB on Etsy

I would like to try the famous Aleppo Galls at some point with Dr Stark's Recipe, but I don't imagine much is coming from Aleppo these days with the war and unrest in Syria.

If you don't have the patience to wait for the fermentation process (or it's just too darn cold to ferment anything where you live this time of year), try this recipe from Scribe Scribbling.  He even has pictures of the process in this post.  It sounds like he's an SCA scholar and scribe.

I made a batch this afternoon with success!  Yup--sometimes the delayed gratification-thing just won't do!  The spent California oak galls didn't smell bad as they were cooking --  it just smelled like dried herbs--probably because I didn't ferment them.

Spent Galls
After I strained out the tannin-rich juice, the spent galls looked a lot like spent walnut hulls from making walnut ink.   I saved them in the freezer with the idea of trying to get a second batch out of them.

The Oak Gall Tea looked a lot like regular (black) tea -- with a rich red color.  Which made me wonder if this whole process couldn't be done with tea instead of going through the trouble to get Oak Galls.  I think the answer to this is that it is indeed possible to make Iron Gall ink from tea--the secret is to get enough tannin to interact with the iron.  To that effect, I found a few other recipes that I want to try out with strong tea and steel wool ...

Shortly after I added the iron sulphate, the red-brown tea turn black.   Like magic!  Closer -- but not quite ink yet ...   I next added the powdered form of gum arabic, which immediately gelled into something that looked like globs of amber.  I guess it was going back to it's original gum form -- which is basically a tree sap.  It eventually dissolved, and is said to be a binder that helps make the ink flow nicely.

This is all very reminiscent of rust-dying, too.  Where you mix the tea with the rusty liquor to get the stormy gray colors. I also found a recipe to use iron sulphate brine to age wood to that wonderful dark gray weathered barnwood color.  I have a project in mind for that, too!

Ink stain on paper.  
It goes on gray or translucent.  On one of the ravens, I kept adding more ink to make it darker, not realizing I only had to wait a bit for the ink to oxidize.  After a few minutes, the ink stain looked like this with no extra ink added :

I have a bottle of PH testing strips on order.   It's said this particular kind of ink is quite acidic.  Some recipes suggest adding crushed egg shells to balance out the PH levels.  I'll be experimenting with that in coming weeks.

Here, I bottled a smaller, more manageable portion for writing and painting.  You can see just how black black black this ink is in the jar.    Here you can see one of the ravens in in the background with the ink still wet.


Dave R said...

Looks like you made some wonderful ink. Very beautiful and a good smooth color.

Iron gall ink won't eat away your metal nibs anymore than a commercial black ink. Just clean your metal nibs as you should any other metal nib and you won't have nay problems.

Also, thank you very much for linking to my blog on scribescribbling. I am indeed an SCA participant and scholar.

Yours truly,


Dave R said...

I forgot to mention,

You can purchased Alepo Galls from John Neal Bookseller online.

This is where I get my galls from. Alepo is in war right now and the region is less than stable. However, the alepo tree in question is found in Turkey through Syria and and a bit beyond that range.

That said the price has almost doubled since the conflict in the region began.

I hope this is helpful for you.

Yours Truly,


Michele Matucheski said...

Thanks for that. I think I did see you post leading to the bookseller for the galls. Thanks for clarifying Alepo the City from Alepo the tree. That makes sense. Still I like to think of images of the spice market in Alepo also selling these galls for those who have a use! Yes--heartbreaking about the unrest there.