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Pomegranate Ink


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#1 fiberdrunk

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Posted 23 September 2012 - 17:00

Sorry, this is image and text heavy! But I'm only going to post this once and I wanted to be thorough with all the information I have about this interesting type of iron gall ink.

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).

Pomegranate Ink

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:

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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.

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See the mold on top? That's a good sign:

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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:

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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.)

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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).

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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):

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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):

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Here's the one-peel pom in a Pilot Parallel with a custom-cut 1.0 mm nib (used as an eyedropper):

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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):

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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:

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This sample has been in a sunny window for 6+ months:

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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.

Find my homemade ink recipes on my Flickr page here.

"I don't wait for inspiration; inspiration waits for me." --Akiane Kramarik

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#2 N2theBreach

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Posted 23 September 2012 - 21:57

Thanks for posting! So, the pomegranate just provides acid, not color. When I saw the name, I expected more of a darkish red.

That looks like it would an easy first ink to try. I'm in a grad program until next May. After I'm done and I've caught up on things that I've put off (like home repairs:-), I'll have to give it a go. It will also be a good excuse to buy dip pens. :thumbup:

#3 MadAmos

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Posted 23 September 2012 - 22:12

What do you think about leaving out the gum arabic? Would this reduce the cleaning issues associated with using the ink in a fountain pen (I understand the acidity will be the same)?
Amos

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#4 jbb

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Posted 23 September 2012 - 22:22

Thanks for all the information. I have a haphazardly concocted batch of iron gall ink from oak galls fermenting under my sink. Do you think I should wait two entire months? :crybaby: I'm at three weeks now and was hoping a month would be enough. :headsmack:

#5 fiberdrunk

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Posted 23 September 2012 - 23:19

Thanks for all the information. I have a haphazardly concocted batch of iron gall ink from oak galls fermenting under my sink. Do you think I should wait two entire months? :crybaby: I'm at three weeks now and was hoping a month would be enough. :headsmack:


A month should be plenty, yes. I think I meant to make this pomegranate ink ferment for 1 month, but forgot about it and it ended up 2 months!

eta: actually, maybe you'd better go 2 months. I just double-checked the Ink Corrosion Website, and they have a fermented recipe that goes for 2 months. That's probably where I based my original time frame on. I double-checked my aleppo recipe, and I do that one for 2 months, too. It's the Isaac Newton iron gall recipe that only goes for one month-- that's what I was thinking and got confused. Which recipe are you following? (By the way, I strain my Newton recipe a week from this Friday. I'm only doing that one for one month, per his instructions.)

Edited by fiberdrunk, 23 September 2012 - 23:28.

Find my homemade ink recipes on my Flickr page here.

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#6 fiberdrunk

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Posted 23 September 2012 - 23:21

What do you think about leaving out the gum arabic? Would this reduce the cleaning issues associated with using the ink in a fountain pen (I understand the acidity will be the same)?


I don't use gum arabic in my black walnut inks and they still work fine without it. Your ink will be runnier but you could try it out and see how it goes. You can always add it in later if you need to.
Find my homemade ink recipes on my Flickr page here.

"I don't wait for inspiration; inspiration waits for me." --Akiane Kramarik

#7 fiberdrunk

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Posted 23 September 2012 - 23:29

Thanks for posting! So, the pomegranate just provides acid, not color. When I saw the name, I expected more of a darkish red.



Yes, it is rather disappointing to lose that vibrant red, isn't it? Oh, if we can only figure out a way to retain it!
Find my homemade ink recipes on my Flickr page here.

"I don't wait for inspiration; inspiration waits for me." --Akiane Kramarik

#8 inkstainedruth

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Posted 24 September 2012 - 17:10

Seriously wicked cool. Love the shading.
Are you using the whole peels (or as close as you can get) for a batch? Are you scraping off the pith from the insides? How fine does the chopping have to be (or does it matter all that much?) How fresh do the peels (and the cloves for that matter) need to be? What sorts of nibs are in the FPs you're using (not entirely sure I trust something made with gum arabic in my Vector), and how long are you leaving the ink in them?
(Oh this is bad. This is so very very bad. I already have too many hobbies.... :headsmack:). Of course now i'm going to have to add that reference book to the ILL list.... :roflmho:
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#9 fiberdrunk

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Posted 24 September 2012 - 18:36

Are you using the whole peels (or as close as you can get) for a batch? Are you scraping off the pith from the insides? How fine does the chopping have to be (or does it matter all that much?) How fresh do the peels (and the cloves for that matter) need to be? What sorts of nibs are in the FPs you're using (not entirely sure I trust something made with gum arabic in my Vector), and how long are you leaving the ink in them?



I'm using all the parts that aren't seeds (maybe you can even include the seeds, but I'm not sure). All the pith and rind go in. I chop it all fine in the food processor to increase surface area, mainly. I've always used fresh pom and cloves.

The Parker Vector and Pilot 78G are medium nibs. The Pilot Parallel is a custom-cut 1.0 mm nib, broad-edge italic-style (like a stub but with crisper edges). The Sheaffer is a fine italic calligraphy nib. I've kept these pens permanently inked (some for over a year), just to see if any damage would occur, and so far it hasn't, even with the gum arabic (and the Vectors are particularly well-suited to iron gall inks).

I just noticed something... most of these pens, with the exception of the Vector, have screw-on type caps. I think this helps keep the ink from drying out on the nibs. I've also tried this ink in the Sheaffer Viewpoint, which has a snap-on lid, and while the ink flows well in it, when it's set down overnight, it's dried up and has to be flushed to get it going again. So you need a fountain pen that is absolutely seal-tight with the cap for this ink.

Edited by fiberdrunk, 24 September 2012 - 19:01.

Find my homemade ink recipes on my Flickr page here.

"I don't wait for inspiration; inspiration waits for me." --Akiane Kramarik

#10 mboschm

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Posted 14 October 2012 - 20:09

Just a question, what do you mean with "1 Pomegranate peel"? The peel of a whole pomegranate?
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#11 dcpritch

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Posted 14 October 2012 - 20:37

fiberdrunk, this is a great thread and a super resource. I have always bought my inks but I may give this a try. However, I'm not sure what to do with 32 oz. of homemade ink! Thanks for your work and effort!
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#12 fiberdrunk

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Posted 15 October 2012 - 00:42

Just a question, what do you mean with "1 Pomegranate peel"? The peel of a whole pomegranate?


I used everything but the seeds (and maybe you can even use those... I'm not sure).
Find my homemade ink recipes on my Flickr page here.

"I don't wait for inspiration; inspiration waits for me." --Akiane Kramarik

#13 fiberdrunk

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Posted 15 October 2012 - 00:44

fiberdrunk, this is a great thread and a super resource. I have always bought my inks but I may give this a try. However, I'm not sure what to do with 32 oz. of homemade ink! Thanks for your work and effort!


Thanks! Just look at the chart above and you can make a smaller quantity. You can make a 16-ounce batch instead.

Edited by fiberdrunk, 15 October 2012 - 00:52.

Find my homemade ink recipes on my Flickr page here.

"I don't wait for inspiration; inspiration waits for me." --Akiane Kramarik

#14 smk

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Posted 15 October 2012 - 06:19

I'm wondering if we can get the same result from boiling the peels as in the recipes using Aleppo galls or Walnut husks. Is there a difference in the way tannins are released/modified by the heating process rather than the mold?

S.

#15 fiberdrunk

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Posted 15 October 2012 - 15:24

I'm wondering if we can get the same result from boiling the peels as in the recipes using Aleppo galls or Walnut husks. Is there a difference in the way tannins are released/modified by the heating process rather than the mold?

S.


You probably can boil them for a quicker result, but after reading 40 Centuries of Ink by David Carvalho (in ch. 12), it was discovered that tannin is more soluble in cold than warm or hot water. He said the best gall inks are cold made. Once this was discovered, every ink manufacturer switched over to the cold process. I always try to find the most permanent results, so I prefer to ferment, even though it takes a lot longer. By fermenting, the tannic acid partially converts to gallic acid so you get a gallo-tannic ink (which is generally darker and more permanent). Go ahead and try it cooked-- if you do, please post your results! As there really aren't any actual surviving recipes for pomegranate ink other than what's in this thread (so far as I've been able to find), you could help revive and add to our ink making knowledge base! (Notice the 2 historical recipes I posted in the quote box at the beginning of this thread-- both were boiled.)

I actually made a cold-process black walnut ink (I've done the cooked kind, too). The result was an ink that is not as saturated as the cooked-down kind, but I can use it in some fountain pens. I've been meaning to post that recipe next. I'm currently doing a cold-process acorn ink, too-- I have no idea how that one is going to work out!

Edited by fiberdrunk, 15 October 2012 - 15:46.

Find my homemade ink recipes on my Flickr page here.

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#16 smk

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Posted 15 October 2012 - 15:50

Thanks for your reply. I have one peel fermenting for a few days now and haven't had a chance to get the iron sulphate yet so I'll let it be until I do. I'll surely let you know how it goes.

I prefer darkness over permanence so I guess the boiling down method might work better for me :-)

Salman

ps: thanks for sharing your recipes - the pictures help a lot!

Edited by smk, 15 October 2012 - 15:58.


#17 smk

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Posted 01 December 2012 - 18:29

I'm happy to report a successful, though a light shaded, brew. I got a lot of sludge in the ink which I believe is from the ferrous sulphate tablets I used instead of the crystals. I couldn't find the crystals and couldn't wait any longer :-)

The result is a usable ink that goes on a light grey-green color and darkens to a gray-toned olive color. I quite like it, it reminds me of a slightly diluted MB Racing Green. The scanner did not pick up the green/olive shade and shows a grayer version of the ink.

The ink was made from the peel of one Pomegranate. I have another peel fermenting and two fresh ones sitting in the dining room :-) I'm going go give it another go with boiling fresh peels and see how it goes.

Here are the scans from the freshly made (as in still warm) ink.

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ETA: that last line is written with MB Racing Green.

Salman

Edited by smk, 01 December 2012 - 18:29.


#18 fiberdrunk

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Posted 01 December 2012 - 18:46

Congratulations! It's interesting you got an olive color out of the iron tablets. I like the shading you got with yours. As it ages in the bottle it may darken further. It did for me, anyway, within about 2-3 weeks.

I used Hi-Yield Copperas from my local gardening center (in the fertilizer section). You can find it online, including at Amazon, though shipping would be high.

Posted Image
Find my homemade ink recipes on my Flickr page here.

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#19 smk

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Posted 01 December 2012 - 19:52

Thanks fiberdrunk - this was (is!) an interesting experiment and I'm looking forward to at least two more brews.

I reduced the water to about half but when I didn't get a dark color, I reduced it yet again to about a quarter of what I started out with. It didn't help - if anything the ink is now lighter than it was before :headsmack:

I'm going to use it with dip pens only, which is fine. I'm letting it sit overnight so any sludge matter settles and decant the ink from the top tomorrow.

I added a few cloves - do I also need to add alcohol?

S.

#20 fiberdrunk

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Posted 01 December 2012 - 23:23

No need for alcohol for this particular recipe. Just throw plenty of whole cloves in. I have a batch from early 2011 that still hasn't precipated out or molded over. Just keep the air out of the bottle (i.e. as you use it up, transfer over to smaller bottles to keep the air out as much as possible).
Find my homemade ink recipes on my Flickr page here.

"I don't wait for inspiration; inspiration waits for me." --Akiane Kramarik






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