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Iron Gall Ink

How to Make Iron Gall Ink
Technical Details / Chemistry
My Iron Gall Ink Experience

First attempt(flop):  Oak galls are all over my Missouri neighborhood, so I thought I would give them a try. They were already dried and had been in an outdoor environment for a year or more and the price (free!) was hard to beat.  The old coffee grinder in the kitchen was great for grinding galls with a bit of help from a hammer to reduce a few of the larger specimens to a size that would fall into the grinding head. HOWEVER... it turns out that proper oak galls are harvested, mainly in Europe, in a green state and then purpose dried. My iron gall reaction worked- it promptly produced black pigment, but far too dilute to be of any use.  I was able to boil it down to a few milliliters (half a teaspoon) of grey ink... not much yield for 100+ grams (3+ oz.) of ground oak gall.  LESSON:  Coffee grinder good, old galls bad. Purchase oak galls for this purpose on-line!! 

Second attempt(success!): Using the Scribal Workshop Step-By-Step document (link above) as a guide, but noting various other recipes and options on-line, I proceeded without the use of wine (alcohol) and opted for preservation with 0.2% thymol. The resulting ink was deep black and very little pigment appeared to be lost in final filtration. I was able to fill four 2-oz bottles with quite satisfactory Iron Gall Ink!  See image gallery below.

Now what?:  Interesting historical knowledge... BUT since iron gall ink is highly damaging to paper over time, it really has no use in book preservation. Managing it in existing documents is a problem and "authentic" replacement a bad idea.  Its fun to recreate the experience of quill-pen on paper or parchment, but not useful for anything but "disposable" documents!

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