Brazilwood Ink – Red or whoops!

I think by now we have all discovered my deep and abiding interest in… ink.  All I have posted here so far has been various recipes of black ink.  Well I made Brazilwood ink and its red.  Or whoops I made a mistake.  No, no, I followed the recipe very well, used the best ingredients I could get my hands on.  I’ll fill you in on the mistake as we go along.

The Book of Secrets Diverse Ways to Make Ink is a very useful book.  The period version I used was in English which is a translation and that may have been a translation itself.  For a transcription and explanation of this book go to the website

The recipe I followed was:

To seeth Brasill another way

To an ounce of Brasill, take the third part of a quart of beere, wine, or vineger, put it in a new pot, let it stand a night, in the morning set it on the fire and let it seeth till it be halfe consumed, then for every ounce of Brasill, take two pennyworth of alum, beaten to pouder, and as much beaten gum Arabike, stir them wel together, and let them seeth againe but if you desire to have it somewhat darke, then scrape a little chalke into it: when it seeteth, let it not seeth over the pot, and being cold, strain it through a cloath, and put it into a glasse well stopped.

Much to the relief of many people I chose to use vinegar.  It is cheaper to purchase than beer and wine and frankly I am not into alcohol abuse.  I did use store bought vinegar this time.  I moved and I haven’t found anyone who sells raw vinegar where I live now.

I also thought it would be a very fun idea to see how well the recipe worked for logwood as well.  Both were used for making inks and dyes pre-1600 AD and both are dyes that change color depending on the pH of the liquid they are in.  I did not expect to get the same color but I did want to experiment and see what would happen.

So last night I set everything up and set the brazilwood and logwood to soak overnight.

I used vinegar as the liquid base for this ink.

I used vinegar as the liquid base for this ink.  10 2/3 fluid ounces of vinegar into each much.  About 315ml


One ounce of brazilwood. That is about 28 grams.


Put the brazilwood in the vinegar.


Stir in the brazilwood so it all gets to soak overnight.


One ounce of logwood. About 28 grams.


Add the logwood to the vinegar.


Label what you are working with.

It is always important to label your stuff.  No matter how good of a memory you have or think you have, LABEL YOUR STUFF.  You never know what will happen.  It could get moved, you might forget, and hundreds of other things.  LABEL YOUR STUFF.


Latin (scientific) names.

Okay so this morning my family wisely ran away to have fun while I boiled vinegar.  To some people this smell is less than pleasant to others it is just fine.


Logwood in the morning.


Brazilwood in the morning.

So there they are soaked overnight.  Time period of about 12 hours.


Labels are important. Putting the brazilwood into the pot.

If this pot looks very familiar to you, that is because I have used it before.  I am very careful to clean out this pot after every use and then again before every use.  I rinse it with large amounts of water as well.


Hard to see here but its actually yellow. Also not that much liquid compared to the brazilwood.

The brazilwood soaked up a lot of the vinegar.


I spilled some when I put it into the pot. This shows the yellow color much better.


I dumped in the brazilwood with the vinegar solution.


And stirred in the brazilwood.

Don’t do this.  Pour out as much of the solution as you can.  Squeeze the brazilwood to get out as much solution as you can and pour that in.  Then boil up the solution.


The empty mug.


The recipe says to bring this to a seething broil. Here it is getting ready to boil.


Okay now it is seething. On my electric stove on high heat the solution went from cold to seething boil in about 4 minutes.

This makes sense when you think about it.  The average can of soda in the USA has 12 fluid ounces (about 354 ml).  This is spread over a pretty wide area and heated quickly.  Still I thought it would take more than 4 minutes.

The recipe says to reduce the amount of vinegar by half.  While that is happening I weighed out my alum and gum arabic.


Paper plate weighs 13 grams.

I had to weigh the plate because this scale is not sensitive enough to weigh anything less than 5 grams and I need about 2 pennyweight of alum and gum arabic each.  That is about 1.2 grams.


I put on 2 grams worth of alum apparently. I did the same wit the gum arabic.

I know what you might be thinking right now.  2 grams of alum to an ounce of logwood and 5 fluid ounces of vinegar isn’t going to make much difference.  I had that thought too!


Added in the gum arabic and the alum.

Recipe says to seeth the solution again but do not let it seeth over the pot.  Notice how the bubbles are much bigger this time and yes, much higher.  At first the bubbles die down and then very quickly  grow very large and tall.

Oooh pretty spill over there on the bottom right there.  Look its red!  Not yellow anymore!  Okay that much alum made the difference.


I used this wooden spoon to pull out the logwood. Pretty color!


Taken off the heat with the logwood mostly removed we see some very pretty red!


The wooden spoon is stained this color permanently it seems.

Followed the recipe again this time with the logwood.  Of course I cleaned out the pot very carefully in between sessions.


Okay, I poured the logwood and the brazilwood back into their mugs.

The recipe says that when it is cold to pour the solution through a cloth into a glass well stopped.


Letting it cool off.

A lot of this takes two hands to do.  So I don’t have any pictures of me pouring the cooled logwood and brazilwood into a glass and then capping it off.

The brazilwood was a beautiful bright red/pink.  You saw some of that in the spill from large seething bubbles.  The logwood was a kinda reddish brown.

But here is where the WHOOPS happened.

I got out my glass jars and grabbed the logwood and poured it into the brazilwood cup.  Well part of it anyway. I realized my mistake and stopped but the damage was done.


Written with the mixed brazilwood/logwood ink. Pretty in its way but NOT what I was after.

As you can see the ink is not red or pink.  It is a brownish color.

So there we have it.  Not paying attention to what you are doing even on one simple step can make for a mistake that will get you vastly different results than you wanted or expected.

Don’t worry.  This recipe is easy to make, and I encourage you to try to make it.  I’ll make it again when I can.

UPDATE: I made a good batch. See Red Ink Redo.


One response to “Brazilwood Ink – Red or whoops!

  1. Pingback: Backlog – Final Draft | scribescribbling·

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