Iron Gall Ink

Iron gall (also called oak gall) ink had been the standard writing and drawing ink in Europe for around 1500 years. It has a color of blue-black when freshly made and become rusty brown when degraded. Iron gall ink was very popular because it is very durable that could not be wiped off from the paper or any other porous materials unless you scape the material off. Therefore, a lot of important manuscripts have been written using iron gall ink including the United States Constitution, the oldest, most complete Bible currently known to exist. Meanwhile, iron gall ink was not used exclusively for writing, some well-known artists such as Van Gogh and Victor Hugo used the ink for drawing.

davinci_drawingiron gall ink drawing by Leonardo Da Vinci                                                          image credit:

The galls used to make iron gall ink are rich in tannic acid. Galls are abnormal outgrowths of plant tissue on certain trees like benign tumors in animals, which are usually found on foliage or twigs. Some galls form where insects or mites feed or lay eggs. They may also develop as a response to infections by several kinds of fungi, bacteria, and viruses.

Traditional iron gall ink are homemade for dip pens because the ferrogallic deposit would clog the fountain pen’s ink passages and corrode metal pen parts since the ink is highly acidic. The acidity could be a problem of the ink because over time the ink may corrode the material applied especially paper.

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Currently, there are hundreds of recipes of the ink. They are all based on for basic ingredients:

—water or wine(red or white)
—powdered galls
—binding material(commonly gum arabic)
—iron donor(commonly iron sulfate)

We’ll use the galls from our pin oak trees to make “Brookings” iron gall ink.

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