Monday, December 9, 2013

Guild Mirandola's Oak Gall Ink Kit

Or, Isabel and Aife have a playdate.

At one of the recent SCA events I attended there was an auction and one of the items was a bag full of scribal goodies. Of course I had to have that baggie, but if truth be told I feel a little guilty for paying so little for goods worth A LOT more. One of the items in the baggie was an Oak Gall Ink Kit from Guild Mirandola, a small scribal supplies vendor here in the East Kingdom.

Aife needed ink for something she's working on, and I just happened to have the supplies available. What follows isn't my own work, it's what happened when we followed the instructions included in the Kit. I'm not going to specifically detail the instructions and ingredients here as I feel that would be unfair to Guild Mirandola (Doscelina's contact information can be found on the website). The Kit contains very easy to follow instructions and I strongly recommend that people buy the Kit. This is period-style ink making made so simple that ANYONE can do it.

Although the Oak Gall Ink Kit contains exactly the about of ingredients you need, we actually ended up making double what was specified because I had my own supplies already but had never actually gotten around to using them. Other items needed are easy to lay your hands on and should be readily available to most people.

Crushed gall nuts in the mortar.
First order of business was to set up the gum arabic crystals to dissolve while we followed the rest of the instructions. Once that was set up we needed to crush the gall nuts. They were shoved into a plastic ziplock bag, that was then wrapped in a kitchen towel and then smashed vigorously with a hammer borrowed from my "shop gnome". Once they'd been reduce to much smaller pieces they were transferred to the mortar and pestle and ground into "a fine powder".

I do want to comment on how annoying these were to grind, they proved to be much tougher than I had imagined. They are surprisingly hard and I actually ended up with a blister in the center of my hand from the grinding. Get around this by getting them as broken and small as you possibly can with the hammer. The smaller they are before they hit the mortar and pestle, the less hand grinding you'll need to do.

You'll end up with this...

Gall nuts reduced to "fine powder"
Continuing to following the instructions, add the water and let it sit. So just how patient are you? We were working on a couple of other projects at the same time, so our little container of brown gunk actually ended up marinating for well over an hour. It has a VERY earthy smell which I surprisingly found quite pleasant.

Back to following the instructions that came with the kit and we find that it's time to add the green ferrous sulfate. The instructions say that when you add this to the brown gunk it will start to turn black immediately, and it did! We both stood there, staring into the jug saying "that's SO COOL!". We then stirred vigorously so that everything was thoroughly mixed.

Oak gall "tea" after the ferrous sulfate has been added.
Next step was to filter the mixture through some linen to remove all the nasty gunky bits. We used a piece of natural coloured linen which we first saturated with water to help the process along.

Oak gall ink mixture being filtered through linen to remove the debris.
We ended up with about a half of a pint-sized Mason jar of black liquid, basically a dye, and to this was added the gum arabic which we had been dissolving. The addition of the gum arabic provides the binder (glue) that turns the dye into an ink, making it stick to a page.

Upon testing, we found that we had achieved a nice writable ink in a viscosity that I liked. I will admit to being a little surprised at how black it was straight out of the jar, I was expecting it to initially write quite faint (it darkens over time) and be almost translucent but it wasn't.

Very rough draft writing with the ink made from the Guild Mirandola Oak Gall Ink Kit.

A word on dissolving the gun arabic crystals. We found that keeping the solution warm helped the crystals dissolve at a much better rate. We had allowed the water to cool while we worked on other things, it really delayed the process and the crystals stuck to our stir-stick.

For detailed instructions and supplies please purchase one of these
Oak Gall Ink Kits from Guild Mirandola