Interrupted Progress – Moving Forward

About 8 days ago, I posted about my ink making project.  I had taken the step of boiling oak galls and was about to continue.  Then you heard nothing.  My progress was interrupted.

The next day, I got out my ferrous sulfate, (white powder kind), called Copperas and also Green Vitriol, in period, to play with it.  If you think by “to play with it,” I mean experiment and observe and take notes you would be right.  But play with it is just so much more joyful in its connotation!

I put a ¼ teaspoon of it in water and as normal it dissolved quite nicely.  When I dipped my quill and wrote on the paper, I smelled something … different.  Normally the smell isn’t altogether pleasant but it is almost sweet.  This time it was … a bit more like brimstone.  Uh-oh.  So I let the solution sit and let it dry on the paper.

Ferrous sulfate is one atom of iron (Fe) and one molecule of sulfate (SO4).  Over time chemicals will break down.  I’ve had that 100 mg bottle for almost 3 years, it was actually past time for it to break down.

Sure enough, the writing that should have remained clear on the paper dried yellow, and the sulfur suspended out in the water solution.  The iron?  Well it isn’t visible but it suspended out too.  A magnet might show that, but I doubt it, as the amounts are so tiny.  My nose was correct; the chemical had broken down past where it was no longer viable for ink making.

Lesson 1:  Make sure you are using all of your senses when you are working on your projects.  All of them are useful to telling you if things are going well, or if things are not as they should be.  Vision and touch are the two most of use for many projects.  Use the smell, taste (if it’s safe) and smell (again if it’s safe).

Okay so now what do I do?  I can sit there and fume over it (no pun intended, but very much enjoyed none-the-less), and not get anything done and bewail my crappy luck.  Okay, luck had nothing to do with it.  I had had the chemical well beyond its shelf life of 1 year.  It was my fault entirely for trying stock that was so old.  I had good luck for almost two years in that it worked for as long as it did. I’m happy for that.

Or I can get more.  I want to enter this stuff into a regional Arts & Sciences Competition in the Middle Kingdom, sitting around and bemoaning my life isn’t going to solve anything.  So I went onto the Scribal Resources for Scadians  website and checked out the Commercial Resources page and the SCA Scribal Merchants page.  There were a couple of choices.

I clicked on one of the links, and for less than $10 I bought 500mg of the green crystal ferrous sulfate and that included shipping for it as well.  The green crystal is the more period formulation of ferrous sulfate, as every description in every book I’ve referenced about it calls it a green crystal.  That is one of the reasons it was called copperas for part of period.  People thought it had copper in it because when copper oxidizes (think ‘rusts’) it turns green.  That is why the Statue of Liberty is green.  Yes, that is a whole lot of Verdigris there, folks.

So I waited patiently.   (don’t laugh).

And it arrived yesterday!  Now I have five times as much copperas to play with and it is the more period formulation!  Bad luck?  Luck had nothing to do with it, that was the push I needed to get more of the better stuff for me, anyway.  If any luck was involved it was good luck!

Lesson 2:  Stumbling Blocks and Life’s Lemons are there as raw materials in your life; to make stairs up to where you need to be, and for making lemonade when you get there!

I will be posting more of my ink making progress as I move along.


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