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Home Made Ink (Mostly Ig) & **tips And Tricks**


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Depends on the carbon you used, what you'd get. Common lampblack pigment, as sold for hard-core artists who mix their own paints, is coarse enough that most of it will stay in a fine filter, but there is carbon available in nanoparticles that will readily pass a coffee filter.

 

I'm working on making some iron tannate ink, hopefully this weekend. I got some steel cuttings from a pipe threading machine at work that I was going to use for the iron, completely forgetting that I also have a bunch of woodworker's steel wool balls (which don't require me to find a way to wash the cutting oil off the steel). I have battery acid that I'll add to the mix to make the steel react (I'll probably neutralize the solution with baking soda once it's "ripe", so the resulting ink isn't too acidic), and I plan to use very strong black tea as the tannin source. Like you, I'll be making dextrin from corn starch, and I also bought a tiny bottle of glycerin; those two will act as flow modifiers. Iron-gall ink (especially if not colored with paper ashes as was commonly done in medieval times) should pass a filter easily, as the working ink is a solution, rather than a suspension, and even a medieval formula shouldn't damage a modern pen (at least not quickly). I suspect I'll have to find a source of dye to color the ink so I can see it on the page before it darkens, but I'll be able to see how the ink acts, at least.

 

I'll be posting results here once I have something...

 

Sweet! I can't wait to see your results. :) I was also thinking about using glycerine as a flow modifier after seeing them in Chemistry Lab. Wow, I don't think I could get myself near battery acid; I'd be too afraid! haha :P But hmm... Do you think there would be a difference in tannin between cheap tea and expensive ones? My local market has boxes of 100 bags selling for like 2 dollars. Well, that's for the cheap green tea, at least. Probably black as well. Hmm.. that's something I'd have to look up; tannin levels of different teas. :)

 

I was thinking of getting a pack of Hero 616s to test how well these inks would stand in pens. I'm not sure how long the sack would hold up. But I want to experiment with the frequency of flushings needed and whatnot in order to keep the pen in working order. I would assume it might take a while to corrode, since the old papers didn't show signs of corrosion for some time, but you never know.

 

-- Moo

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A couple of questions:

 

1) How do you know when the iron solution is "ripe?" I don't want to leave my steel wool + vinegar for too long. Smell? Looks? Should I put it in a mason jar as well? It's not fermenting, so I wouldn't think the glass would explode. >_O But that's just a guess.

 

1a) If it is not sitting in a mason jar and is not closed, then wouldn't some of the vinegar evaporate? Most recipes tell you to put just enough vinegar to cover the steel wool. But upon evaporation, the wool would be exposed to air, causing rust to form, which I would assume would kill our ink...

 

 

2) Most Dextrin tutorials have you "roast" the corn starch in an oven. Would using a stove top work as well? Though, I'd need to constantly stir it and junk to ensure that it doesn't get burned.

 

3) How long do you have to brew the tea for? On the older forum, one of the members said that they had left it out for a week. I had assumed that it would grow mouldy, but the member stated that he made his in a mason jar and that it wouldn't get mouldy for 2 or 3 weeks. I didn't think that the tea's tannin would become any better over time. If anything, it might decrease over the course of time, would it not?

 

-- Moo

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I can't offer any advice on the iron gall front; I've never really bothered with making that ink.

 

If you're interested in going the synthetic route, though, I've given it a shot. The inks I've created for myself all follow the same general ingredient list:

  • dye
  • water
  • buffer (optional) -- I've used HEPES and PIPES
  • surfactant (optional) -- generally I've been using Triton X-100
  • preservative (optional) -- thymol and EDTA
  • evaporation modifiers (optional) -- PEG 300
  • deliquescents (optional) -- LiCl, urea
  • flow modifier / lubricant (optional) -- glycerol, PVP 40 (the latter was a disaster :) )

Most of the optional ingredients will not be easily available to you; exceptions that come to mind are dishwashing liquid (probably just triton / tween / similar) for the surfactant, urea for the deliquescent, and glycerol for the flow modifier / evaporation modifier / lubricant. With some industry you'd be able to make a simple buffer as well, citrate would be easiest.

 

However, the point is that all of these are optional. I've made perfectly functional inks from around 1.0% w/v dye (ethyl green and methylene blue so far) and buffer, which is pretty well just the dye and water. The inks aren't perfect (in particular, they flow a little too well and so feather on some poorly-sized papers, and they tend to dry on the nib faster than commercial inks), but they are quite effective. Fortunately for us fountain pens seem to be designed to write rather well using inks that are quite similar in physical properties to water. The nib drying is a non-issue unless the dye is very saturated (in which case starting problems may appear) -- the only side-effect in most cases is that the pen writes darker after being uncapped for a while.

 

So if you want to start on the synthetic route, I suggest you just use some food dye. It won't be waterfast (at least the food dyes that I've tested weren't), but it will be simple and effective. Add some glycerol and dishwashing liquid (*in very small quantities* -- I suggest diluting each in water first then adding the diluted solutions) to modify the flow to taste, and you're done.

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Easy homemade ink: Mrs. Stewart's liquid bluing. Add a couple of drops of tincture of iodine. Put some in a shot glass. Let evaporate a bit.

 

Dip and write.

 

 

A couple of folks here were experimenting with beet juice. Don't know what came of those experiments though.

 

 

Strong tea and iodine, also evaporated a bit, works, but mine was pale. I bought cheap tea bags, used six in one cup of water.

 

I still need to try doing that with some rusty steel wool for flavor.

 

 

Moo and Zeiss Ikon, thanks for your posts. It's interesting to read of what your experiments are.

 

Marpin, that's a whole 'nother world. Do you remember what brands of food dyes you tried?

Edited by Gran

May you have pens you enjoy, with plenty of paper and ink. :)

Please use only my FPN name "Gran" in your posts. Thanks very much!

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Someone here tried making some with pokeberries, I personally don't know what they are, but you might have some near you.

 

https://www.fountainpennetwork.com/forum/index.php?showtopic=120765&hl=berry%20ink&st=0

"My two fingers on a typewriter have never connected with my brain. My hand on a pen does. A fountain pen, of course. Ball-point pens are only good for filling out forms on a plane." - Graham Greene

 

"The palest ink is better than the best memory." - Chinese Proverb

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Battery acid is no big deal to work with -- it's much safer than common drain openers and identical to certain "industrial strength" cleaners sold to the general public in home improvement stores; it's just 30% solution of sulfuric acid. If you get it on your skin, wash it off, with soap, and the alkalinity of common soap will neutralize the small amount of acid present (if you don't do this, battery acid will make your skin itch, but isn't strong enough to produce a real burn, at least on your hands); the biggest hazard is if you get it in your eyes (wear eye protection goggles and take care not to transfer from your fingers -- wash hands after handling the acid, even if you're sure you didn't get any on you). It will, however, damage any cotton cloth from the tiniest drop -- you won't see anything until you wash the item, then the cotton that was attacked by the acid will simply wash away, leaving a hole. Used the way I'm doing it, though, handling the battery acid isn't any more hazardous than adding water to a car battery to top up the cells, and less hazardous than using dry crystal lye to open a clogged drain (which latter I also do routinely; I have the lye on hand for making photographic developer anyway, so I use that in preference to liquid drain openers).

 

The ink is under way now; I boiled a quart of water (I used tap water -- which is far purer than any water available to the vast majority of medieval ink makers), and ten tea bags are steeping now with a twenty minute timer (well, finished while I was typing this, and the tea is now cooling). While I was waiting for the microwave to boil the water, I put a steel wool ball and roughly a cup of battery acid in a clean mason jar, and used a disposable tool to poke the steel down so it's pretty much all in the acid bath; that's sitting (with a sealed lid) on the bathroom counter while the tea steeps and then cools. In a couple hours, I'll carefully pour the tea into the jar (so as not to splash acid around), close the jar, and the ink will be ready to "ripen". As I understand it, the color will change as the iron reacts with the tannin, changing the solution from reddish to a blue-gray color; when it stops changing, it's ready for filtering (mainly to remove steel wool particles), neutralization/buffering (quick and dirty, by adding baking soda or washing soda until foaming stops), and testing before adding flow modifiers (I'll roast the dextrin when I'm ready to use it, probably in two or three weeks).

 

Something that's occurred to me -- one would want to avoid glycerin or glycols as flow modifiers for inks to be used in pens with latex sacs, as glycerin is one of the chemicals that are warned against as tending to convert natural rubber into goo. I'll test my ink for flow with a dip pen before I decide whether to add something like that. I'll probably add a few drops of Edwal LFN (a photographic wetting agent I have on hand, as I understand it it's just a solution of Tween 20) to the ink as surfactant (two drops per pint is how it's used for final rinse on film; probably half that is about right for ink), and the dextrin will probably increase viscosity a little, so I'll save any glycerin addition for last, in hopes of getting an ink I dare use in a fountain pen (at least my old Osmiroid, which is a piston filler and easily disassmbled for complete cleaning).

 

I like the idea of bluing as a dye; I'll put some on the laundry list for next shopping trip (two weeks). I don't care if the ink is dark enough to be suitable for regular writing as it comes from the pen, I just want to be able to see it before it darkens (I find it hard to write if I can't see the line).

 

For other questions from further up -- no, rust shouldn't cause any problem, it likely won't even react with acetic or sulfuric acids, and if you filter the ink rust particles should wind up in the filter. I wouldn't expect tannin to improve over time, but I think the two to three week period is the time it takes for the iron to react with the tannin (especially if the iron isn't already in a soluble form, as would be the case if you use ferrous sulfate, aka copperas, or ferrous chloride). In theory, as the iron reacts there will be a small amount of hydrogen evolved, but I wouldn't expect that to be enough in this case to cause trouble in a closed jar (though I wouldn't smoke while opening the jar at the end of the ripening time!). Now, if you started with tea bags in cold water, the tea will continue to get stronger for several hours, at least, but virtually all the tannin comes out in the first ten minutes of steeping starting from boiling water (I gave twenty minutes just to be sure). For roasting dextrin, the oven works better because you get heat from all around the container, instead of mainly on the bottom.

 

I wouldn't actually expect corrosion to be a huge issue if you neutralize the ink (though I'm not certain that won't kill the process by which the ink darkens -- I'll try it with only a portion of this batch, just in case). The solution will have a lot of sulfate ion in it, either made my way or using copperas, but modern stainless shouldn't be much affected by that (and never mind gold), and if the pH is close to neutral there shouldn't be anything cutting through the layer of chrome and nickel oxides that actually makes steel "stainless". The part I'm not certain about is whether the iron in the ink will lead to "concentration cells" that promote micro-electrolysis -- the only way to know is to test, but for whatever it's worth, iron-gall inks have been used in fountain pens from the appearance of the first reservoir pens in the 19th century; AFAIK they weren't and aren't known for eating pens, but the medieval formulae contain so much other "junk" that they're prone to clogging, the same way India ink would.

 

Edit to correct amount of acid used.

Edited by ZeissIkon

Does not always write loving messages.

Does not always foot up columns correctly.

Does not always sign big checks.

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Following up -- the tea was cooled to just above room temperature. After steeping, there was 24 ounces left (even after squeezing the bags); that was just enough to fill up the jar in which the acid and steel wool had been reacting. When I opened the jar, there was a puff of escaping gas; from its lack of odor, presumably hydrogen from the steel reacting with the acid (there were a lot of bubbles caught in the wool before I opened the jar, too). As I poured in the tea, the initial mixture quickly turned black (that's the reaction we're after here), then the color changed back to red as the reacted solution was overpowered by the remaining tannin. Over time, the sulfate from the battery acid should remain in solution and catalyze the reaction of much of the remaining iron, turning the whole solution black -- that's how I'll know the ink is ripe, or, failing the color change, how I'll know I need to add more of either steel wool (if it's used up) or acid (if there's a lot of steel left and the reaction has stopped). I'll probably have to open the jar from time to time to let out the hydrogen, but for now, the ink just has to stand and react slowly. If I were in a hurry, I could speed the reaction by heating the ink mixture -- but I'm not in a hurry and don't want to risk stinking up the kitchen or worse.

Does not always write loving messages.

Does not always foot up columns correctly.

Does not always sign big checks.

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ZeissIkon, it's nice to read your report. How long will you let the ink sit?

May you have pens you enjoy, with plenty of paper and ink. :)

Please use only my FPN name "Gran" in your posts. Thanks very much!

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ZeissIkon, it's nice to read your report. How long will you let the ink sit?

 

I'll give it at least a week, or until it stops changing color, or until there's an obvious problem. I'm prepared to wait up to three weeks, if the reaction appears to be ongoing but isn't complete, and wouldn't completely rule out waiting longer if there's a slower than expected reaction.

Does not always write loving messages.

Does not always foot up columns correctly.

Does not always sign big checks.

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ZeissIkon, I hope it behaves well. I'm looking forward to reading about it.

May you have pens you enjoy, with plenty of paper and ink. :)

Please use only my FPN name "Gran" in your posts. Thanks very much!

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ZeissIkon, I hope it behaves well. I'm looking forward to reading about it.

 

It's already darkening a bit, and I've had to loosen the cap once to release evolved gas -- and the steel wool is floating due to trapped bubbles. It's reacting. Based on the apparent reaction rate, one to three weeks looks about right for it to ripen.

Does not always write loving messages.

Does not always foot up columns correctly.

Does not always sign big checks.

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@Marpin: Thanks for your recipe. I have a bunch of the ingredients listed available to me in the Chemistry lab. I have tried the dye + water before, but it still ended up clogging my pen. What kind of dye did you use, exactly? I was just playing with food colouring. xD

 

 

Easy homemade ink: Mrs. Stewart's liquid bluing. Add a couple of drops of tincture of iodine. Put some in a shot glass. Let evaporate a bit.

 

Dip and write.

 

 

A couple of folks here were experimenting with beet juice. Don't know what came of those experiments though.

 

 

Strong tea and iodine, also evaporated a bit, works, but mine was pale. I bought cheap tea bags, used six in one cup of water.

 

I still need to try doing that with some rusty steel wool for flavor.

Hmm... I would have thought that the beet juice would rot over time unless something acidic was added. Vinegar perhaps? Honey? Salt, maybe? I've read about the bluing as well. I've never seen it before... If you do go the steel wool route, do post on how it goes!

 

Someone here tried making some with pokeberries, I personally don't know what they are, but you might have some near you.

 

https://www.fountainpennetwork.com/forum/index.php?showtopic=120765&hl=berry%20ink&st=0

:) I have indeed read that thread. I've actually never seen a poke weed in my life. I don't think they exist around here... (in the city). :P But it would be interesting to try.

 

Thanks everyone for all of your posts. :) I'm loving this discussion.

 

Zeiss, I'm looking forward to your final product! Keep us updated. :D I'll be starting on mine tomorrow. Thanks to your post, I finally understand the steps to making the ink. I was thinking that everything was "brewed" separately then added after a couple of weeks. I hadn't realised that it was added together first, THEN left to "ripe," which is why I thought the tea would go bad.

 

-- Moo

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Gran:

The food dyes I tested were Queen brand, from the standard red-blue-green-yellow four-pack. From memory they were all azo dyes.

 

Moo:

This is from memory (my notes aren't nearby at the moment), so forgive me for the inexact concentrations.

I tried a range of compositions, generally using 10 mg ethyl green / mL ink in PIPES (10 mM I think) at pH 7. EDTA was present at 1 mM or so, and I think thymol at 0.1%, from an ethanolic solution. Solutions were 0.22 um filtered to ensure no particles would cause issues. That composition wrote fine, and I used it as a basis for the development of others. Without my notes I can't be much more specific, but I can offer some advice from some of my failures:

  • Be careful with LiCl as a deliquescent -- it salted out the dye pretty savagely
  • PEG 300 solves drying issues admirably, but induces totally unacceptable feather
  • Higher MW polymers have the potential to lead to clogging upon drying. PVP 40 was very bad on this point.

 

Keep in mind ZeissIkon's caution regarding glycerol and glycols; I'm unaware of any incompatability there but wouldn't stake everything on it. There at least was no problem in my Lamy. I've found that plain old glucose was quite an effective flow modifer -- you might want to try that as an easy and safe (if somewhat sticky) alternative.

 

Oh, and although my early inks were based on ethyl green, this proved to be a poor choice -- it has relatively low colour bang for its saturation buck. I'd suggest methylene blue instead.

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Hello mooshisho,

 

Thank you for your interesting topic about the homemade ink.

I would like to talk about how to make iron gall ink.

But, my reply was delayed because of my poor English skill.

I take time to read and write replies in English.

 

My hobby is to made iron gall inks for fountain pen with chemical reagents.

I have uploaded videos about the my inks "How to make Iron gall ink for fountain pen".

And, I have used my iron gall ink with Sailer Profit21 mat-black for about six months.

I am especially fascinated by the iron gall ink, because it is roots of ink for fountain pens.

Traditional iron gall ink was made with ferrous sulfate, tannic acid, gallic acid, sulfuric acid, dye, and water.

However, commercial tannic acid is mixed some components, so I used gallic acid only (not used tannic acid).

First, the important point of the stabilization of iron gall ink was to add an equivalent mol of ferrous sulfate and gallic acid.

Because, iron and gallic acid make chelate complex with one-to-one.

Second, the important point was to use degassing purified water.

 

I hope you find it informative.

 

P.S. Please let me know when you find a mistake in my English.

Edited by pgary
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Very VERY nice pgary!

 

Thankyou so much for your presence on this board. That was very helpful and informative.

 

I think some of us would like to know about measurements amd time of mixing etc.

 

Thanks again

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Thank you for joining in on the discussion, Pgary.

 

I now understand that the reaction takes place in a 1:1 mole ratio of ferrous sulfate and gallic acid, thank you. Before reading your post, I hadn't even thought of trying to write chemical equations to figure out the ratios. ;) And here I am about to take a test on balanced chemical equations in class! I will play around with this equation today if I can find the time in lab. Would deionised water work ok? I know you use MilliQ, but I'm not sure what that is.

 

As for my steel wool experiment, I couldn't find any (we only had scrubbies on hand), so that will be delayed. ;) Still looking forward to Zeiss's final product though.

 

-- Moo

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Well, now that the thread is unlocked so we can post again...

 

I had to put in a new ball of steel wool Tuesday night; the original one (which was put in the original mix Sunday evening) completely disintegrated, leaving only short strands of wire that had been dissolved to be almost as fine as hair. With the new steel addition, the gas production rate jumped and the ink is getting darker faster (it seems). I tested the liquid after work this afternoon; I dipped a bamboo skewer in it and wrote a few words, and sure enough, the ink, barely visible when I wrote, darkened as it dried (so far, only to a light gray). It doesn't look as if I'll need to add more battery acid; if I'm understanding correctly, the sulfate ion is acting as a catalyst, bringing the iron into solution so it can react with the tannic acid. If the ink is still too light-drying when it stops darkening in the jar, however, I might put in some more tea bags (to provide additional tannin to react with the iron). I can keep adding tea and steel until the ink is dark enough, most likely.

 

I'm still considering a suitable dye to make the ink visible initially -- I may visit a fabric store and look at Rit fabric dyes, which have been discussed previously as potential "almost ready to use" waterproof inks, and are concentrated enough to make a whole washing machine full of water strong enough to dye cloth.

 

The more I look at this, the more I think I'm going to try this in a fountain pen when it's done. I've got an Osmiroid that can be fully disassembled for cleaning, and has a gold plated stainless nib and no other metal parts (that would contact ink). Once the reaction of the iron and tannic acid is complete, I should be safe in neutralizing the sulfuric acid, and the resulting ink (with dye added) should be similar in overall character to modern fountain pen iron-gall inks. Hard to beat the price, too; this batch of ink is going to wind up costing about a dollar more than whatever I pay for dye -- that's for what will, after filtering out the sludge from the steel wool, be about 28 ounces (or 850 ml) of ink.

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I added another steel wool ball to the ink tonight -- I'm beginning to ask where all this steel is going; these balls weigh close to an ounce each (they're the kind sold for woodworking, they can smooth wood without cutting the fibers the way sandpaper does), and two of them have dissolved to effectively nothing in four days, yet the ink (even after the marks have stood 24 hours) is still not dark enough on the paper. There isn't enough sulfate in the mix to completely dissolve that much steel without it reacting with something else, and I question whether there's enough tannin from ten bags of tea to have reacted with (so far) a couple ounces of iron (tannin is a big, heavy molecule, effectively like anywhere from 20 to 100 gallic acid molecules joined together and folded up). One possibility is that the tannin might be breaking down into gallic acid, which (because it's a smaller molecule) could take up much more iron.

 

Still, if I added dye enough to make a reasonable blue ink from what I have, it'd be a usable blue-black, because the darkening of the iron-gall portion would cause the blue to turn black, and the marks are dark enough to read, even if the blue were washed away, within a few minutes. I think I'll plan to finish up the ink this weekend -- filter out the junk, test pH neutralization (on a small portion first), add dye and a flow modifier. By Saturday evening, it should have consumed the third steel wool ball, and if the ink is still gaining strength at the rate it has, it'll be a fine registrar's blue-black when I'm done.

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Does not always foot up columns correctly.

Does not always sign big checks.

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