Pomegranates are arriving in the stores so I thought I'd share my ink recipe. When I first made this ink in 2011, it cost $2 for 32 ounces of ink (not including the cost of the pomegranates... I counted those as a recycled item).
4 pomegranate peels, finely chopped (I used a food processor)
2 quarts distilled water
2 ounces iron sulfate
1 oz. gum arabic
6-10 whole cloves
If you want to make other quantities, use the following chart:
1. Mix together the peels and distilled water in a sterile glass jar. Put on the lid and keep it on. Allow it to ferment and mold in a warm room for 2 months. The mold will transform the tannic acid in the pomegranate peel to gallic acid, for a richer ink.
See the mold on top? That's a good sign:
2. Strain through several layers of cloth. Boil the remaining liquid for 10 minutes in a non-reactive pot to kill the biological activity (this is stinky, so I recommend ventilating the room) – reduce it down by half, to approximately 4 cups of liquid (or, if you boil too long, add more distilled water to bring it up to 4 cups). Allow to cool.
Boiling to kill the ink beasties:
3. Add the iron sulfate and stir well (I use a wooden spoon for this). Then add the gum arabic.
It turns instantly black! (The white glue-like blobs are gum arabic... these take a while to dissolve-- even overnight.)
4. Stir again until well dissolved. Bottle in sterile (preferably amber) jars. Add the whole cloves as a preservative. Yields approximately 32 ounces of iron gall ink. This ink does not need to age a few days to become dark. It is dark as soon as it is mixed up fresh (however, you may notice it darkening a little more as it ages).
5. Make a writing sample (you should have a dark gray or light black ink-- it will look darker with a dip pen. The sample below was written with a metal dip pen):
The first time I made this ink, I only made it with 1 pomegranate peel (and all the other ingredient amounts were the same). Here's a writing sample from the 1-peel pom variation (it's slightly lighter gray, depending on the pen used):
Here's the one-peel pom in a Pilot Parallel with a custom-cut 1.0 mm nib (used as an eyedropper):
Your finished ink will be waterproof and permanent, though perhaps not as permanent as an iron gall ink made from aleppo galls. Your ink will behave like a typical iron gall ink, darkening on the page as you write (especially on bleached paper)-- how fast this happens will depend on your nib and paper. Some ink samples I made in early 2011 show some browning around the edges, especially with the 1-peel pom version (see the scans below). My first batch of pom ink is over a year and a half old and it has not dropped sediment yet, nor has it molded over. I keep it stored in a cool room. If / when your ink drops sediment, it's time to throw it out and make another batch-- it's no longer fit as a permanent ink. (There is an article on IAMPETH about freshening an iron gall ink, but I have not tried it and can't vouch for its effectiveness. Read the .pdf here.)
One-peel pom waterproof test (written with a J. Herbin Glass Pen and soaked in water-- as you can see, it's very waterproof):
A Note on Pens: Ordinarily, traditional iron gall ink recipes such as this one are for dip pens only and not for fountain pens (see exceptions below). For the best and most stable results, use a feather quill, reed or glass pen. Dr. James Stark (a chemist and ink maker in the 1800's) warned against using metal dip pens with iron gall inks, if your quest is maximum longevity. The metal reacts negatively to the acid in the ink-- an effect that is bad for the ink, nib and paper (the nib corrodes; the ink is aged prematurely, causing it to drop sediment; and, you're left with marks on the page that will eat holes in the paper in time.) However, if you still wish to use metal dip pens (and you will get a blacker ink if you do use a metal dip pen because of the chemical reaction with the metal), you can minimize these effects by doing this: (A) set aside a small amount of ink in a small container to dip directly from (see the vial I use in the photo above). This will prevent you from contaminating and prematurely aging the entire batch of ink. (B ) A gold-plated nib will resist the corrosive effects from the acid in the ink (still follow step A, even so). Other metal nibs will begin to tarnish immediately upon contact. Even taking these precautions will not ensure a stable ink on the page, however.
Use this ink in a fountain pen at your own risk! Best results will always come from dip pens.
Now, having said that, I have successfully used this ink in the following fountain pens: Pilot Parallel, Pilot 78G, Parker Vector, and the early 80's Sheaffer No-Nonsense Calligraphy Fountain Pen. It also worked in a Platinum Preppy Marker (not the Preppy Fountain Pen-- it clogged). The ink came out a paler gray in the marker, however. I've kept the pens permanently inked and haven't seen any corrosive damage to the nibs or nib feeds during this time. They are "designated pens" just for this ink. I periodically flush the nibs, as I would any commercial iron gall ink. As mentioned before, metal nibs will prematurely age iron gall inks, so I do not recommend direct dipping into the ink bottle (fill directly from the ink converter if it is plastic, rather than through the metal nib). As before, I recommend setting a little ink aside in a small container to refill directly from, rather than contaminating the entire batch, if metal does have to come in contact with the ink during any part of the process.
To clean this ink from your nibs or fountain pen: rinse or soak in diluted white distilled vinegar first, then if still necessary, rinse with diluted ammonia. Rinse well with water and dry. I recommend designated pens for this ink to avoid possible cross-contamination with other inks-- iron gall inks do not mix well with other inks, including any residual ink left in the converter or nib feed in between ink changes. Be sure your pen is thoroughly clean before filling with any iron gall ink. Don't risk ruining your pen over a bad chemical reaction!
Comparing This Ink with Other Commercial and Homemade Iron Gall Inks
These samples were written with a J. Herbin glass pen on Sugarmade paper. This sample has been stored in the dark:
This sample has been in a sunny window for 6+ months:
This is an ongoing ink test. You can see the one-peel pom is browning compared to the four-peel pom (which is why I recommend going with 4 peels). You can also see some of the commercial iron gall inks are fading.
For historical reference: These are the only two pomegranate ink recipes I've ever been able to find.
#1: Infuse a pound of pomegranate peels, broken to a gross powder, for 24 hours in a gallon and a half of water, and afterwards boil the mixture till 1-3d of the fluid be wasted. Then add to it 1 lb. of Roman vitriol, and 4 oz. of gum arabic powdered, and continue the boiling till the vitriol and gum be dissolved, after which the ink must be strained through a coarse linen cloth, when it will be fit for use. This ink is somewhat more expensive, and yet not so good in hue as that made by the general method, but the colour which it has is not liable to vanish or fade in any length of time.
#2: There are but few exceptions respecting the general sameness of ink receipts of the succeeding centuries, one of which is the "Pomegranate," credited to the seventh century but really belonging to an earlier period:
"Of the dried Pommegranite (apple) rind take an ounce, boil it in a pint of water until 3/4 be
gone; add 1/2 pint of small beer wort and once more boil it away so that only a 1/4 pint remain.
After you shall have strained it, boiling hot through a linnen cloth and it comes cold, being then of a glutinous consistence, drop in a 'bit' of Sal Alkali and add as much warm water as will bring it to a due fluidity and a gold brown color for writing with a pen."
Following this formula and without any modifications, I obtained an excellent ink of durable quality, but of poor color, from a standpoint of blackness.
The black ink formulas of the eighth century are but few, and show marked improvement in respect to the constituents they call for, indicating that many of those of earlier times had been tried and found wanting. One in particular is worthy of notice as it names (blue) vitriol, yeast, the lees (dregs) of wine and the rind of the pomegranate apple, which if commingled together would give results not altogether unlike the characteristic phenomena of "gall" ink. Confirmation of the employment of such an ink on a document of the reign of Charlemigne in the beginning of the ninth century on yellow-brown Esparto (a Spanish rush) paper, is still preserved. Specimens of "pomegranate" ink, to which lampblack and other pigments had been added of varying degrees of blackness, on MSS., but lessening in number as late as the fourteenth century, are still extant in the British Museum and other public libraries.
(source: Forty Centuries of Ink by Carvalho)
Edited by fiberdrunk, 23 September 2012 - 19:20.