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Iron Gall Inks


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#1 inky

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Posted 12 June 2011 - 04:02

I'm not sure that I really understand what an iron gall ink is, but it seems that special care is required with these inks. Carefully cleaning pens, cleaning more often, etc. Is there a list or can we compile a list here so that we will know which inks to watch?
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#2 Delphideo

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Posted 12 June 2011 - 04:15

The thing is that in the past archival quality inks were made of iron gall. It's obtained from oak galls among other things. The acidic nature of the ink can corrode steel and although modern iron gall inks aren't as corrosive as those in the past, it is recommended you have more care in your pen hygene. A few brands and ink colors I can name off my head are:

Diamine Registar's Ink

Montblanc Blue-Black
Rohrer and Klingner Scabiosa
Lamy Blue-Black (not too sure)


The stance on iron gall inks vary. Some will avoid them because of bad experiences others will still use them, just taking special care of the pen's hygene. I for one use it and don't mind it at all. Hope this helps. You can also do a quick search here on the forums, there are several topics on it.
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#3 Pippin60

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Posted 12 June 2011 - 04:23

The thing is that in the past archival quality inks were made of iron gall. It's obtained from oak galls among other things. The acidic nature of the ink can corrode steel and although modern iron gall inks aren't as corrosive as those in the past, it is recommended you have more care in your pen hygene. A few brands and ink colors I can name off my head are:

Diamine Registar's Ink

Montblanc Blue-Black
Rohrer and Klingner Scabiosa
Lamy Blue-Black (not too sure)


The stance on iron gall inks vary. Some will avoid them because of bad experiences others will still use them, just taking special care of the pen's hygene. I for one use it and don't mind it at all. Hope this helps. You can also do a quick search here on the forums, there are several topics on it.


Agree completely just one clarification; with the exception of Diamine Registar's ink, MB's and Lamy's blue black in cartridges are not iron gall based inks but are iron gall based when purchased in bottle form.

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#4 piembi

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Posted 12 June 2011 - 07:35

Rohrer & Klinger Salix is an iron gall ink too.

I am using MB and Lamy Blueblack for decades now and yes, one should flush the pen more often than with e.g. Pelikan, Lamy or MB Royal Blue but this it is.

If you are used to highly saturated inks like Noodlers and Private Reserve, you won't notice any difference in the maintenance required. I have inked a vintage Pelikan 140 with Salix and have no issues whatsoever. The same with Scabiose filled in a 1980s Pelikan M250.

#5 GeeTee

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Posted 12 June 2011 - 07:51

I agree with the other answers. I have been using MB, Diamine and R&K Iron gall inks and had no problems at all. I clean every pen before i (re)fill it. Other than that Iron gall inks are rather dry i have no problems at all with them.

#6 The Good Captain

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Posted 12 June 2011 - 09:40

Which Pelikan 4001 inks would be classed as iron gall ones, then?

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#7 mstone

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Posted 12 June 2011 - 11:29

Which Pelikan 4001 inks would be classed as iron gall ones, then?


none

#8 pharmacist

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Posted 12 June 2011 - 12:53

I make my own iron gall ink, which work wonderfully well in my FP's. It is based on the german Urkundentinte specications, endorsed by the german law to be the only ink to write and sign state treaties. The ink is very limpid, flows very well from the pen with a blue hue and darkens into an indelible black. It does not feather nor does it clog the pen. Unlike most commercial IG inks, this home-brewed ink also contains tannic acid on top of the gallic acid, rendering the ink much more archival compared to inks which only contain gallic acid.

#9 eds

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Posted 12 June 2011 - 12:59

Which Pelikan 4001 inks would be classed as iron gall ones, then?


Pelikan doesn't make iron gall inks, as far as I'm aware of. HOWEVER, the Pelikan blue-black is somewhat similar in colour to Lamy Blue Black (before the Lamy oxidises to black), and is very water resistant as well.

#10 bluemagister

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Posted 12 June 2011 - 14:19

I make my own iron gall ink, which work wonderfully well in my FP's. It is based on the german Urkundentinte specications, endorsed by the german law to be the only ink to write and sign state treaties. The ink is very limpid, flows very well from the pen with a blue hue and darkens into an indelible black. It does not feather nor does it clog the pen. Unlike most commercial IG inks, this home-brewed ink also contains tannic acid on top of the gallic acid, rendering the ink much more archival compared to inks which only contain gallic acid.



How do you make your ink? Do you have a good recipe?

#11 Mickey

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Posted 12 June 2011 - 15:46

The risk of iron gall inks to fountain pens isn't so much from their acidity as from the precipitate they drop. This is why more frequent flushing is recommended. Modern FP iron galls don't drop significant amounts of precipitate and are not nearly as corrosive as dip pen IG inks, such as McCaffery, Old World, and Blots (which drop loads of precipitate).

Edited by Mickey, 12 June 2011 - 15:47.

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#12 lambertiana

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Posted 13 June 2011 - 00:02

Pelikan Blue-Black has iron gall in it. I e-mailed Pelikan's customer service, and they confirmed it. I don't know how much; for those who understand German, it is "nur ein Hauch", which indicates that it is not a lot, just a touch. But it is there, and the color behaves like an iron gall ink - it goes on deep blue and slowly changes to silvery black, and is very water resistant.

Edited by lambertiana, 13 June 2011 - 00:04.


#13 inky

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Posted 13 June 2011 - 00:52

Just to be clear, we are not saying that these inks are especially good or bad; only that we believe that they may be "iron gall" inks and extra care when cleaning and frequency of cleaning pens is recommended.


Diamine Registar's Ink, bottle (not carts)
Montblanc Blue-Black, bottle (not carts)
Rohrer and Klingner Scabiosa
Lamy Blue-Black, bottle (not carts)
Rohrer & Klinger Salix
Pelikan Blue-Black, just a little
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#14 eds

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Posted 13 June 2011 - 01:28

Pelikan Blue-Black has iron gall in it. I e-mailed Pelikan's customer service, and they confirmed it. I don't know how much; for those who understand German, it is "nur ein Hauch", which indicates that it is not a lot, just a touch. But it is there, and the color behaves like an iron gall ink - it goes on deep blue and slowly changes to silvery black, and is very water resistant.


Hmm... that is a bit weird. The thing is, the blue component of the ink, which is presumably not the iron gall component, seems to be very water resistant as well.

Does this qualify PBB as iron gall? In my opinion in kind of does.

#15 JefferyS

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Posted 13 June 2011 - 01:37

I'm a little surprised that iron gall inks still command interest in the 21st century given the better alternatives. I'm of the impression that these inks don't bind especially well to modern (non-vellum) papers. Is there a "look" of iron gall inks that can't easily be replicated with more modern inks?
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#16 inky

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Posted 13 June 2011 - 01:42

I am a little surprised that Noodler's doesn't have one on the list.
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#17 JefferyS

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Posted 13 June 2011 - 01:51


I am a little surprised that Noodler's doesn't have one on the list.






Whaleman's Sepia looks like one, at least when dry. I don't think it is, and it is probably more durable.
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#18 WendyNC

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Posted 13 June 2011 - 01:51

I'm a little surprised that iron gall inks still command interest in the 21st century given the better alternatives. I'm of the impression that these inks don't bind especially well to modern (non-vellum) papers. Is there a "look" of iron gall inks that can't easily be replicated with more modern inks?


I'm using Lamy BB in my TWSBI, which is my "grab and stab" pen at the office for quick notes. I find it feathers least of the inks I own on cheap paper and I enjoy the quick-drying aspect. It's also never wrong, in case I happen to grab that pen and use it for something to be seen by other eyes.
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#19 Mickey

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Posted 13 June 2011 - 02:21

I'm a little surprised that iron gall inks still command interest in the 21st century given the better alternatives. I'm of the impression that these inks don't bind especially well to modern (non-vellum) papers. Is there a "look" of iron gall inks that can't easily be replicated with more modern inks?


Probably for the same reason some photographers continued using Rodinal long after there were "better" developers, it had a look that nothing else quite gave. The same is true, I believe, for iron gall inks.

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#20 The Good Captain

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Posted 13 June 2011 - 07:55

So what would the general recommendation be with Pelikan Blue-Black? I tend to flush out each pen every two fill of BB and each time if I change colour. They're new (as opposed to vintage) pens and I think this is probably about right. Comments please if this is the right time and place!

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#21 piembi

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Posted 13 June 2011 - 09:18

I'm a little surprised that iron gall inks still command interest in the 21st century given the better alternatives. I'm of the impression that these inks don't bind especially well to modern (non-vellum) papers. Is there a "look" of iron gall inks that can't easily be replicated with more modern inks?


For me it is not the archival quality of the ink (couldn't care less about it) but the properties they come with. I have some real gushers (mainly Pelikan M250 old style and a vintage 140) that are on a Salix and Scabiosa diet.
And most of my vintage German 1950s/1960s pens are very wet and work best with Pelikan BB or a 1:1 mix with Pelikan BB. Pelikan Blue would work as well but I have stopped using the ink I had to use during my first years in school as soon as I was allowed to use something else ....


So what would the general recommendation be with Pelikan Blue-Black? I tend to flush out each pen every two fill of BB and each time if I change colour. They're new (as opposed to vintage) pens and I think this is probably about right. Comments please if this is the right time and place!


Pelikan BB is my goto ink with most of my vintage pens (60-70% of my daily users). Depending on the ink flow of the very pen I might also use a 1:1 mix with Diamine Midnight Blue (= dark blue) or Rohrer & Klingner Royal Blue (= medium dark blue). I refill the pen if empty [edited to add: with the same ink]. Every now and then I flush the pen. Mainly if I think the piston is operating a bit stiff or cannot remember the last flushing. This might be 2-4 times per year. I am doing this for many years now - no problems so far.

Edited by piembi, 13 June 2011 - 09:19.


#22 koa

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Posted 13 June 2011 - 10:28


I'm a little surprised that iron gall inks still command interest in the 21st century given the better alternatives. I'm of the impression that these inks don't bind especially well to modern (non-vellum) papers. Is there a "look" of iron gall inks that can't easily be replicated with more modern inks?



Probably for the same reason some photographers continued using Rodinal long after there were "better" developers, it had a look that nothing else quite gave. The same is true, I believe, for iron gall inks.


I can't quite believe that I see this objection to iron gall inks on a forum dedicated to the use of obsolete writing instruments! Yes, maybe there are reasons to use "old" developers for film photography (people still use film?), and even vinyl for sound systems, but the whole point is that ancient does not necessarily mean obsolete! I mean, people here are still using paper! This may be new tech in the western world, but in China it is ancient. And I dare say that we do not use fountain pens because of some particular effect, but just because they are the best technology, period. Now iron gall may be old, but it is a proven technology, and I am not certain that we will ever know the secret behind these "new fangled" permanent inks, so I for one am sticking with the old ways. Hrumph? :bunny01:
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#23 JefferyS

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Posted 13 June 2011 - 11:45


I'm a little surprised that iron gall inks still command interest in the 21st century given the better alternatives. I'm of the impression that these inks don't bind especially well to modern (non-vellum) papers. Is there a "look" of iron gall inks that can't easily be replicated with more modern inks?


Probably for the same reason some photographers continued using Rodinal long after there were "better" developers, it had a look that nothing else quite gave. The same is true, I believe, for iron gall inks.

I've got a bottle of Rodinal on the sink, next to the microwave. I stocked up on it when Agfa went belly up.
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#24 bwnewton

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Posted 13 June 2011 - 12:16

My favorite inks are iron-gall. I use Lamy BB and R&K Scabiosa daily. I've had no problems with them at all. I just flush the pen every two or three fills.

I've used Diamine Registrar's with satisfaction as well. Someday I might try MB Midnight and R&K Salix.

I recently purchased a bottle of Pelikan BB not realizing it has a small amount of iron-gall according to previous posts. Yea!

#25 Randal6393

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Posted 13 June 2011 - 14:56

Well, talking about iron gall inks (or, more particularly, iron sulfate) inks again. Seems like there are many threads on the subject and many varying opinions. For what it's worth, here is mine -- developed by using fountain pens for over thirty years and iron gall inks for over five years.

First, most fountain pen iron sulfate inks are carefully formulated and give excellent results. Including a distinctive appearance that defines "blue-black". The ink goes on a deep blue, usually. And dries to a dark matte black that is practically "etched" into the paper. The blue component is a dye added to the ink so that the ink shows up well when first written with. As the ink dries, the iron reacts with the paper and bonds chemically into the paper. If the ink is slightly acidic, the reaction stops after the iron precipitates and turns black. If too much acid, then the process may eventually eat a hole in the paper. (Often, over centuries.) IG inks were originally used with parchment and vellum and work better with these media than with paper. However, they work reasonably well with paper and are considered a permanent ink, not readily removed from the media.

Having used IG inks in fountain pens and dip pens, I feel that the extra maintenance and slightly drier flow makes IG inks a poor choice for fountain pens. Many other inks work better. However, for copperplate and other calligraphic-level cursive alphabets, nothing beats a good, hand-made dip pen iron gall, such as McCaffrey's or Old World. Have also heard good words about Blots but have not used it. Regularly do wedding invitations with McCaffrey's and a Brause Rose nib in an elbow oblique holder. The IG ink has an old-world look that nothing duplicates.

For use in a fountain pen, regularly use Diamine inks, especially if permanence is not required. For calligraphy in black, often use Aurora Black. For addressing envelopes, generally use Noodler Heart of Darkness. There are many other excellent fountain pen inks available -- personal taste is mandatory and YMMV.

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#26 wallylynn

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Posted 13 June 2011 - 15:05


I make my own iron gall ink,

How do you make your ink? Do you have a good recipe?

It's posted in the Homemade inks topic, about post number 300. Small bottles are also sold if you can tolerate the high shipping costs.

Pelikan Blue-Black has iron gall in it. I e-mailed Pelikan's customer service, and they confirmed it. I don't know how much; for those who understand German, it is "nur ein Hauch", which indicates that it is not a lot, just a touch. But it is there, and the color behaves like an iron gall ink - it goes on deep blue and slowly changes to silvery black, and is very water resistant.

Grrr, one more ink to get for the collection...

I'm a little surprised that iron gall inks still command interest in the 21st century given the better alternatives. I'm of the impression that these inks don't bind especially well to modern (non-vellum) papers. Is there a "look" of iron gall inks that can't easily be replicated with more modern inks?

There is "a look". There's nothing quite like a good iron-gall ink: shading, and just the strange fountain-pen ink color.

As I understand it, the binding is not to the proteins in the vellum (ala Noodlers binding to cellulose). It's more of a physical intermingling with the fibers. The ink absorbs into the paper/vellum where the iron then precipitates out as the ink dries. The result is that the particles are locked in place. I think that's one reason to use i-g on the vellum. Other inks of that era like india ink would just sit on top of the vellum, and be subject to crumbling off or rubbing off of the surface. The iron-gall would soak into it and be permanent. A more recent ink like the nano-carbon inks, or the Uni-ball super-ink also work their way into the fibers.

I can't quite believe that I see this objection to iron gall inks on a forum dedicated to the use of obsolete writing instruments!

My experience on FPN is that there are three categories of users. Many of us (me included) actively seek it out. The second is invisible as they don't care one way or the other and don't post. The last group who "care" whether or not an ink has i-g in it are those who have heard something and are scared to use it. Once or twice a month some (new) member will ask if it's safe for their pen.

#27 JefferyS

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Posted 13 June 2011 - 16:17

Didn't every kid who ever had a chemistry set make blue-black ink using ferric ammonium sulfate?

Maybe just kids who are now over the age of 50. I imagine that Gilbert Chemistry Sets are considered appallingly dangerous these days.
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#28 JefferyS

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Posted 13 June 2011 - 16:19

I understand the desire of using an ink that gives a special "look". I develop nearly all of my black and white film using a pyro developer that stains the film greenish brown. The chemicals in the developer are toxic, but it gives me a "look" that I really like, very nostalgic.
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#29 RLTodd

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Posted 13 June 2011 - 16:39



I'm a little surprised that iron gall inks still command interest in the 21st century given the better alternatives. I'm of the impression that these inks don't bind especially well to modern (non-vellum) papers. Is there a "look" of iron gall inks that can't easily be replicated with more modern inks?


Probably for the same reason some photographers continued using Rodinal long after there were "better" developers, it had a look that nothing else quite gave. The same is true, I believe, for iron gall inks.

I've got a bottle of Rodinal on the sink, next to the microwave. I stocked up on it when Agfa went belly up.



OT, but Rodinal is still around because it does some things that modern film developers don't do and some photographers like what it does. A lot of people don't, but enough do that there is still money in making the stuff.
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#30 RLTodd

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Posted 13 June 2011 - 16:41

Didn't every kid who ever had a chemistry set make blue-black ink using ferric ammonium sulfate?

Maybe just kids who are now over the age of 50. I imagine that Gilbert Chemistry Sets are considered appallingly dangerous these days.


I mark the date of the beginning of the fall of Western Civilization as the day they quit selling the old Gilbert Chemistry Sets.
YMMV