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Homemade U.s. Government Standard Iron Gall Ink


fiberdrunk
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U. S. Government Standard Ink
Recipe in Popular Science (January 1935, p. 54)

11.7 g tannic acid
3.8 g gallic acid
15 g iron sulfate
3 cc hydrochloric acid (aka muriatic acid; or 2 cc sulphuric acid) – used to prevent sediment forming
1 g carbolic acid-- a preservative to prevent mold*
3.5 g china-blue aniline dye (water-soluble)
1000 cc distilled water

*Have corner drug store make up a solution containing 5 or 10 cc of water, the entire amount being substituted for the 1 gram called for in the formula

1. First dissolve the tannic and gallic acid crystals in about 400 cc water.

2. In another beaker, containing 200 cc water, place the ferrous sulphate and the hydrochloric or sulphuric acid.

3. The dye then should be dissolved in 200 cc of water placed in a third container.

4. When all three solutions are ready, mix them together and add the carbolic acid solution and enough additional water to bring the total solution up to about 1000 cc in volume. A part of this water can be used to rinse out the containers.

5. Pour the resulting ink into a bottle, leaving practically no air space at the top, and stopper it tightly. The ink is then ready for aging, a process that may vary from 12 hours to several weeks. The longer the ink ages, the freer it will be of suspended particles. A good ink will show no sediment after standing for 24 hours.

Skin-tight cappings may be placed on bottles by dipping the corked necks into a hot mixture of cooking gelatin, glycerin, and water.

Note: the article also mentions using methyl violet dye for a violet ink (quantity not given) or nigrosine dye for a blacker ink. However, Pharmacist mentioned trying methyl violet dye and he had disastrous results with it.

 

As per Pharmacist, I halved the water to make it fountain pen-friendly. I also substituted an equal amount of salicylic acid for the carbolic acid (it's less hazardous and less expensive that way). I also added 25 ml glycerol as a flow-moderator for fountain pens (it works equally well with dip pens, though, even with the changes). The ink is very waterproof. It goes down blue and oxidizes to black (on cotton papers this process is a little slower).

 

Here is how it looks in different fountain pens (only the Hero 5028 felt dry to write with):

 

14658881491_e2a3d55066_c.jpg

 

And here's how it compares with other iron gall inks:

 

14661723312_90d0d89c6d_c.jpg

Edited by fiberdrunk

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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That is really cool. Is it 100% safe in pens? And how is the flow? Any clogging issues as of yet? Thank you for this post as well-- very interesting

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That is really cool. Is it 100% safe in pens? And how is the flow? Any clogging issues as of yet? Thank you for this post as well-- very interesting

 

No clogging yet but then I just made the ink this weekend. The pens have started up fine the very next day without priming, so far. The only pen that felt dry was the Hero 5028. I would only use it in inexpensive fountain pens to be safe. I can't guarantee its safety so use it at your own risk. I feel confident, however, in recommending Parker Vectors, Rotring ArtPens and most of the lower end Pilot fountain pens (particularly the 78G, Parallel, Plumix and Metropolitan). I have used these pens successfully with my historic iron gall ink recipes that are meant for dip pens, yet they have worked well in these fountain pens too. The Rotring ArtPen and Pilot pens I mentioned have ink feeds that can be taken apart for cleaning which makes them especially good fountain pens for iron gall inks. I recommend using designated pens and converters for iron gall inks to prevent a bad chemical reaction with other ink residues. Any iron gall ink will need more frequent flushing compared with dye-based inks. To clean, soak with diluted vinegar first before using any other kind of cleaner like ammonia. If you don't start with vinegar first, you could clog your pen with pigment and ruin it. Just follow these guidelines and I think you'll do fine.

Edited by fiberdrunk

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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Is there any way to neutralize the acidity of ingredients, one the ink is finished? I can imagine even if it used on acid free paper, the rather acidic ingredients might wreak havoc on your paper, in time.

 

It might be hard to get an actual idea of the acidity unless in a lab setting, because it is an ink. You can't just put a drop of red cabbage juice in there, you won't be able to tell what color it turns! Theoretically you could always dilute the ink with a measured quantity of distilled water, measure the pH then, and then calculate the pH of the normal solution based on the diluteed pH. But it is a lot of maths to figure out the concentration of hydronium ions from that.

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Is there any way to neutralize the acidity of ingredients, one the ink is finished? I can imagine even if it used on acid free paper, the rather acidic ingredients might wreak havoc on your paper, in time.

 

It might be hard to get an actual idea of the acidity unless in a lab setting, because it is an ink. You can't just put a drop of red cabbage juice in there, you won't be able to tell what color it turns! Theoretically you could always dilute the ink with a measured quantity of distilled water, measure the pH then, and then calculate the pH of the normal solution based on the diluteed pH. But it is a lot of maths to figure out the concentration of hydronium ions from that.

 

Not that I know of. As I understand, it is the acidity that helps keep the pigment in suspension. If you neutralize it, it will precipitate out and then it would be worthless. I'm hoping this is a stable recipe. Hopefully the U.S. government did the research for developing the most archival balance, as other governments have for their important documents. Not all iron gall inks eat the paper, as centuries old manuscripts attest (yes, some were eaten, like Bach's manuscripts... the trick is finding the recipes with the proper ratios of ingredients). It's been my personal interest to try to find those.

 

eta: Wikipedia has an entry for iron gall ink which shows the German standard, for comparison to the U.S. one.

Edited by fiberdrunk

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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I wanted to test out how this ink shades. I wrote these samples on Strathmore 100% Cotton using a 3/16" Coit calligraphy dip pen. The ink is slower to oxidize to black on 100% cotton paper, so this gives you a chance to see how blue it is before it finishes transforming:

 

14506548798_47fc2535be_c.jpg

14690020191_f77f41fcd1_c.jpg

Edited by fiberdrunk

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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Here's another sample. I don't see all that much shading with the fountain pens. It does flow just fine in flex dip pens. Again this is on 100% cotton paper (Strathmore) to show the blue color:

 

14693141732_5c4877a226_c.jpg

Edited by fiberdrunk

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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Not that I know of. As I understand, it is the acidity that helps keep the pigment in suspension. If you neutralize it, it will precipitate out and then it would be worthless. I'm hoping this is a stable recipe. Hopefully the U.S. government did the research for developing the most archival balance, as other governments have for their important documents. Not all iron gall inks eat the paper, as centuries old manuscripts attest (yes, some were eaten, like Bach's manuscripts... the trick is finding the recipes with the proper ratios of ingredients). It's been my personal interest to try to find those.

 

eta: Wikipedia has an entry for iron gall ink which shows the German standard, for comparison to the U.S. one.

I can share with you the Indian standard(Standard IS:220) for Ferrogallotannate inks (0.1% iron content) if you are interested, just PM with your email ID and I will email the pdf file to you.

In case you wish to write to me, pls use ONLY email by clicking here. I do not check PMs. Thank you.

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Here are the same writing samples (on the 100% cotton Strathmore) 24 hours later:

 

14699214521_12375bbce0_z.jpg

 

 

 

 

14722260333_0d9f341fc6_z.jpg

 

 

14515727299_ea557ee59c_c.jpg

Edited by fiberdrunk

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 weeks later...

If anyone is interested, I have a limited quantity of this ink to sell, as well as my black walnut ink (cooked down version). PM me for details.

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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Just an update... this ink works very well in the following fountain pens: Rotring ArtPen, Pilot 78G, Pilot Parallel, Pilot Metropolitan, Parker Vector, Jinhao X450, Jinhao X750, Sheaffer No-Nonsense (early '80's version), and the Osmiroid India Ink fountain pen. (For the Pilot pens, I don't recommend using the Con-20 or "cleaner converter" that comes with these pens-- it is the squeeze-type kind with the rubber sac. I have had leaking issues with those converters with iron gall ink. I'd use the Con-50 with these pens instead.) Most of these pens have ink feeds that can be taken apart completely for cleaning, which makes life easier. They also just seem to be able to handle the more permanent inks out there.

 

I also tested the Hero 5028, which felt dry to write with, and it had start-up issues the next day. So I don't recommend that particular pen.

 

My recommendation is to have a "designated" pen and ink converter just for your iron gall inks. They don't play well with other ink residues, and you don't want to risk a fatal clog to your pen.

 

As with all iron gall inks, for cleaning, soak in diluted vinegar first before using any other cleaner. I find the diluted vinegar is adequate as a cleaner. Use a soft toothbrush to remove any stubborn pigment. Rinse very well. I haven't figured out how to take the Parker Vector ink feed apart yet, so after soaking, I use a nasal bulb syringe to force water through, several times, until it runs clear.

Edited by fiberdrunk

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 weeks later...

Here are the same writing samples (on the 100% cotton Strathmore) 24 hours later:

 

14699214521_12375bbce0_z.jpg

 

 

 

 

14722260333_0d9f341fc6_z.jpg

 

 

14515727299_ea557ee59c_c.jpg

This colour is very close to R&K Salix. I love it, and I will try to make it. By the way, I have a few questions for you:

 

1. Instead of 1000 [cm]3 of distilled water, are you using 500 [cm]3?

2. Is China-blue aniline dye the same component used to dye clothes? Here in Chile there are "Anilinas" for dye clothes, but i don't know if they can be used for this application, it is slightly soluble in water, but very soluble in organic liquids.

 

Also, thank you for your work.

 

Husar.

«To the meaningless French idealisms: Liberty, Equality and Fraternity, we oppose the three German realities: Infantry, Cavalry, and Artillery».

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This colour is very close to R&K Salix. I love it, and I will try to make it. By the way, I have a few questions for you:

 

1. Instead of 1000 [cm]3 of distilled water, are you using 500 [cm]3?

2. Is China-blue aniline dye the same component used to dye clothes? Here in Chile there are "Anilinas" for dye clothes, but i don't know if they can be used for this application, it is slightly soluble in water, but very soluble in organic liquids.

 

Also, thank you for your work.

 

Husar.

 

Yes, I used 500 ml of distilled water instead of 1000 ml so the coverage would be dark enough for fountain pen use. If you're making it only for dip pens, you could go with 1000 ml.

 

I'm not sure if China-blue aniline dye is the same dye used to dye clothes. Maybe someone can chime in here? Using dyes is a tricky business with iron gall inks... if you get the wrong one, the ink will precipitate out. I'd recommend making a very small batch and adding the dye and see what happens. If it doesn't precipitate out within a few weeks, you've probably got a good one.

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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Textile dyes have lots of additives in them to make them stick to cloth, and these interact with other chemicals.

I would suggest either simple Laundry Bluing if you can still find it, or a good Food Colouring Dye. Both are much safer in pens and for mixing with inks.

fpn_1412827311__pg_d_104def64.gif




“Them as can do has to do for them as can’t.


And someone has to speak up for them as has no voices.”


Granny Aching

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I tested another fountain pen with this ink: the Noodler's Nib Creeper. Mine has a standard non-flex nib. It works really well. No start up hassles or clogging issues.

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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Hi, I was finding some clue in this things. There are some water soluble "china ink", so I'm getting that, by the way, you can mix that water soluble inks to make colours. I have seen a japanese boy than makes green, yellow, brown, and orange. But that isn't the big problem. Tannic and Gallic acid are. Can't get some at reasonable price, and the chinese sellers in ebay are very temperamental (price in first day is 22USD, next day 35 USD, etc.). I'm going for 0.5L of ink. If I can get the acids, I will try to do my own "Toffee brown" 1L bottle.

«To the meaningless French idealisms: Liberty, Equality and Fraternity, we oppose the three German realities: Infantry, Cavalry, and Artillery».

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Hi, I was finding some clue in this things. There are some water soluble "china ink", so I'm getting that, by the way, you can mix that water soluble inks to make colours. I have seen a japanese boy than makes green, yellow, brown, and orange. But that isn't the big problem. Tannic and Gallic acid are. Can't get some at reasonable price, and the chinese sellers in ebay are very temperamental (price in first day is 22USD, next day 35 USD, etc.). I'm going for 0.5L of ink. If I can get the acids, I will try to do my own "Toffee brown" 1L bottle.

 

Try Elemental Scientific. They sell smaller quantities of chemicals and their prices seem good.

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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Thank you. Let's see it.

«To the meaningless French idealisms: Liberty, Equality and Fraternity, we oppose the three German realities: Infantry, Cavalry, and Artillery».

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      @Texas42 Thank you. I myself have recently had the experience of cleaning out a Wing Sung 699, in which the iron-gall ink has been sitting for six months. No damage to the metal piston rod (whereas, in a Wing Sung 3013 vacuum-filler, it would have been corroded, turned green, and contaminated the ink in mere weeks), but there was a ring of colour at the far end of the barrel that wouldn't budge, and I found it impossible to unscrew the filling mechanism to clean the interior wall of the ink rese
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      Dang. You are a great friend!   One comment as a relative newcomer would be within the cleaning section: issues/differences in cleaning vacuum filler, piston filler in addition to cartridge/converter. I just cleaned out my Pilot 823 and while it wasn't particularly difficult I was a little paranoid about the drops of water that I could not get out. Perhaps this is something you are already including.   Anyway, great project and very thoughtful of you. I know it's a project fo
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      Ah Ruaidhri ya wee heid banger, you do indeed have an Irishman’s way wid dose words now. I’ll be from outer Aberdeenshire up in the blizzard riven braes of the Grampians.  Amateur medicine and surgery is it? Well what noble aspirations you do possess, we need to encourage such noble experimentations.  I pondered on leaving my own battered shell to science, but, until I read your pearls of wisdom and lament, I had comedown on the side of leaving my body to Findus frozen foods.  However, your rema
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      Hi Smug Dill,   Nice project.  If it were me, I'd cover stuff like: - nib types available, i.e. styles, materials (SS vs gold), flex vs nails; - filling systems (I love the "thingie" comment) and how once can use them in practice (e.g. fill cartridges with a syringe); - pen body materials and their consequences (pen not balanced of too heavy and big for the hand); - and, whilst you've made it clear that you do not like vintage pens, a discussion of these beyond "I d
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