This has been a very long term project. We got one batch of oak galls from Eulalia Piebakere several years back, but the people who wanted the ink had to move, so we just set them aside. At the Shrewsbury Faire demo we were gifted with another bag of them, so we decided it was time.

Research was the next step, although we had seen recipes and heard talk about this kind of ink since we joined the SCA (and in Anja’s case, even before) we didn’t have any specific recipes. Queries went out to different scribes.

Ready to grind. This set is flaky and crunches easily.

A reply about Oak Gall Ink from Antonia (10/2/18) – We made it one year at Egils and as I recall it was possible to make a usable ink in one session, grinding up the oak galls (the woody ones from twigs work much better than the ones on leaves) and shaking them up with vinegar, ferrous sulfate (moss-be-gone) and water; adding powdered gum arabic at the end to get the right consistency. Traditional recipes call for fermenting the oak gall and iron shavings.  I have all the ingredients but have never made it myself, except at the workshop.” (more in Project Day)

So we need to get some moss-be-gone. We have the vinegar and gum arabic.

…and then someone suggested this site…. MAKING IRON GALL INK –

…so that sounded straightforward and we got started.

Oak Gall Ink – So Saturday evening (10/6/18) it took 2 hours to grind 8 oz of oak galls… Wow…. The we added the water to let it soak overnight. …and added water and added water, and two hours later added water…. wow…. The redness of the photos is from the light source where they were taken.

…and of course, when Loren pulled out the two packages of oak galls he said, “Caesar got it wrong!”
“Omnia gallia in *duos* partes divisa?”

Project Day (10/7/18) – The big one for today was Iron Gall Ink and started Saturday evening, so it could soak overnight.

We used instructions from – MAKING IRON GALL INK –

  • 2 oz crushed oak gall
  • 1 pt water
  • Soak 24 hrs, then strain.
  • 1 oz ferrous sulphate (moss-out)
  • ½ oz powdered Gum Arabic
  • Mix well

So then, the ferrous sulphate became a problem. The name that we were given doesn’t seem to be stocked anywhere around here and most of the moss-killers are zinc sulphate. Loren talked about making our own and Anja kinda freaked (battery acid? Gleep!) but a lot of the packages of iron sulphate are 10 pounds or more (and $30) and we needed 4 ounces!

We did a lot of consulting online trying to work this out. Loren was researching and Anja embroidered. At about 5pm (when we were pretty sure that no one else was going to be here) he took off for Newport to see what he could find for ferrous sulphate. Anja was working on the gum arabic in small amounts during the late afternoon and into the evening, finishing before 9pm.

…but this is where we stopped.

On Monday 10/8 we moved the project

We needed to finish the ink, so that was first up. We decided that up front by Anja’s beading area was *not* the best place to be making ink, so Loren cleared up some space on the worktable in back.

…and we got a bunch more information from the frantic questions that went out on Sunday about the ferrous sulphate. These are some good how-to’s and what-is-it’s.

Ink Links

On Tuesday 10/9/18) it turned out that the thickness was resolving and under a “foam” cap, it was regular ink! Yes, Anja’s calligraphy sucks. She was using a square nib and she’s a lefty. She says, “I gotta cut me a quill!”


The next step was filling tiny bottles. So that went on for a couple of days.

Wednesday, 10/10/18

Waxing the corks to keep the ink where it belongs is necessary.

  • moving writing pen motif

In ministerio autem Somnium! Anja, graeca doctrina servus to House Capuchin
Page Created & published 9/7/18 (C)M. Bartlett
Last updated 10/8/18