Ever Thought About Making Your Own Ink?

Over at The Recipes Project, English professor Amy L. Tigner talks about the process of making ink from scratch. It’s a project she did for and with her students at University of Texas, and involved finding the right centuries-old recipe to try:

I considered several different early modern recipes, but I finally decided on one of the several recipes in the Mary Grenville family receipt book manuscript (Folger V.a.430), because it was in English (some of the recipes are in Spanish) and it was the simplest in terms of ingredients, steps, and time.

…the process of ink making turned out to be more expensive and more time-consuming that I had imagined, though both of these factors were also likely similar in the period and in the end a great learning experience.   I cheated a bit by looking on some ink-making websites that were quite helpful (especially, this one), as it explained about the chemistry of the ink making and also translated some of the recipe terms, such as “copperas” into “ferrous sulfate.”

On the ink-making day, students assembled the ingredients following the recipe. The most surprising and exciting part was adding the ferrous sulfate, which turned the formerly beer-brown liquid into the blackest black.

The ink turned out to be very good in terms of viscosity and color–and I’d argue better than the run of the mill India ink you can buy on the market.  Students really loved the project, especially as they were actively involved, and I am certainly planning to make ink the next time I teach a manuscripts class, though perhaps I will try a different recipe.

Definitely read the whole post for different ingredients, what she spent, and the time involved.

Would you ever try to make your own ink? Have you ever made your own paper or pencils or other writing materials? Share your story in the comments.

One Reply to “Ever Thought About Making Your Own Ink?”

  1. That was a fascinating post. I’ve made ink with a couple different recipes (one of which involved soaking nails in vinegar), but haven’t ventured to try this version yet.

    But may I point out that this kind of ink should NEVER be used in fountain pens? It works beautifully with quills and dip pens, but it tends to be corrosive and will destroy a fountain pen very quickly.

    Ruth

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