Ink Comparison – Impromptu

It has been a very long time since I posted new content to the blog.  For those that don’t know I am engaged in post-graduate studies.  These are a big time sink and I don’t get to SCA events much anymore either.  I haven’t had a chance to do much calligraphy either but too much was too much and I did some yesterday.

And it turned into an impromptu ink comparison fest.  I had various bottles of iron gall ink sitting around.  Many were mine from previous batches. Most of which were experimental.  Some were made by other people and sent to me to test.  Many were not labelled at all.  And so this impromptu ink comparison isn’t particularly good for use as a real analysis.

It is however good as a way to see differences between the same kind of ink and what is good and what can cause problems.  All writing was done using a goose quill.


The first two samples were not made by me.  The third one is an old bottle of ink that I made and give out or sell.  The rest are mine but I have no idea from when or what the experiment was about.  I’d have to actually check my notes for that.  And frankly, this was about playing with pen and ink, not about doing a analytical comparison.

“Writing just to write” is an ink from Gulf Wars apparently.  It was gifted to me from someone who attended that year.  It writes nice but has some coverage issues.  The second one came in an oval shaped bottle with a green cap.  I have no idea where it came from.  (Sorry.)  Obviously it has some serious issues.  It goes on black enough to start with but as soon as it gets thinner than almost too much liquid it browns out very quickly.  I’ve made ink that did this myself.  The problem was the iron sulfate did not fully interact with the tannic acid and so there was a lot of tannic acid extract left without any iron to buddy up with it.  And this is what you get from it.

The third one, “On Briston Vellum”, wrote the blackest and with the best coverage.  This is from my recipe and methods.  I don’t know what batch it comes from but I used the this recipe.  It runs a bit more quickly than I like using a quill pen.  Easily solved by adding more gum arabic (ga) to the solution AFTER the iron and tannic acid have had a chance to interact.

“Old iron gall ink” and “Test batch” are bottled I kept reserved from many years ago.  The ink still writes very well.

“Smells heavy on ga”, and “this too”, both were heavy on ga.  You could smell it and when you used it you can tell the difference in the viscosity of the ink as well.  If you add ga too soon after the iron and tannic acid have been mixed together you end up having a problem.  The protein polymer chains of the ga bind to the iron and envelop it, making interaction between the iron and the tannic acid very difficult to accomplish.  And so the ink goes grey instead of black.  Over time this is overcome but only in the bottle, not on the page.  And you can see this “greying” in this example.

“Just having fun”, was written from one of the too much ga bottles.

So there you have it, me doing an impromptu ink comparison test just to get a little calligraphy writing in.

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