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How to make your own Viking Age Paint

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Mineral paints are relatively easy to make, they do requires some specialized equipment and some of them can be EXPLOSIVE or TOXIC, I won't be teaching you how to make any of those, we'll start with something simple like rocks. In this Instructable I'm going to take you step by step through how to make a basic ochre paint, we'll substitute for some things but what you'll have is a Viking Age paint. Here we go
 
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Step 1: Step 1 finding the rocks

Picture of Step 1 finding the rocks
Rocks are where you find them, what you need to look for is first a color that you like and second a stone that crushes easily, I carry a hammer when I'm out hunting cause there's just something about whacking things with a hammer that's satisfying and so I can test how hard rocks are. (IMPORTANT SAFETY NOTE - STRIKING A ROCK WITH A HAMMER CAN CAUSE RAZOR SHARP FRAGEMNTS TO FLY AT A HIGH SPEED, ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS WEAR SAFETY GLASSES WHEN USING A HAMMER OR ANYTHING THAT MIGHT DAMAGE YOUR EYES!!!!)

Streams are great places to find rocks that make good paints for a couple of reasons. 1 They tend to contain a selection of stones and 2 the light ones that crush easily are usually on top. If you happen to be located in France there is supposedly the best Red Ochre in the world there.

Many of the stones that make good pigment are sedimentary but not all, malachite is a transitional I think and and there may some igneous pigments.

If you're in town not to worry just head out to your local lapidary and buy some, I've got a piece of Congolese azurite that is a absolute blue, but it's gem quality so I'll never use it for paint, but a guy can dream can't he.

OK you got me, it's not a stream it's a gravel road, but I got some great Kentucky Ochre on this road, like I said rocks are where you find them.
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Ok i want to try this but i got a few qustions i got black onyx can i crush some of that up?? also i got charcoal powder can i mix that in with the paint to make it darker?
Onyx won't make a good paint in and off itself, because it's normally translucent, the charcoal powder on the other hand will work great for making black paint, just grind it as fine as you can and add a bit of linseed oil then grind a little more. Monks sometimes used lamp black which you can get by holding a polished piece of metal over a candle, then rubbing it with linseed oil to produce a very black paint.

Good luck and let me know how it goes
ok but my onyx is black and i don`t got linseed oil will veg oil work and can i mix the charcoal poder ith outher rock to make it darker??

veggie oil will give you a very poor result at best....

I have been blessed in so many ways....

I have a machine that I can run plants & fruit through to extract the oils from....and since I grow my own plants out in the "back 40", I can make my own linseed oil. 8-)

Also i got black walnut trees in my backyard i know that native americans used them a die could i put some of that in to make it a better brown. I still havent found linseed oil

be careful when working with the seed balls from a walnut tree...

that stuff stains EVERYTHING....and I DO mean everything....

there is no soap or laundry detergent known to man that will get them stains out....and if you get it on your skin, it has to wear off, as there is no amount of scrubbing that will remove the stains on your skin(it will take anywhere from 1 to 12 WEEKS to wear off....I speak from experience).

If you want to PERMANENTLY set the dye from walnuts, soak for 1 - 3 days, hang the item over a clothes line till dry, then hose it down(from a distance) to get the excess dye out....let it dry again, then was separately... the colors will fade/bleed/whatever it's called on the first 1 or 2 washes.

Again, I speak from experience...

Darcy7772 years ago
Got to have a fondness towards anyone who says, "I carry a hammer when I'm out hunting cause there's just something about whacking things with a hammer that's satisfying and so I can test how hard rocks are.".

sometimes I think I was born with a hammer in my hand....

never thought about whacking rocks for paint pigment tho...

Rune Cutter (author)  Darcy7772 years ago
Thanks, there's just just something about a hammer that makes you want to whack things
SIRJAMES095 months ago

COOL! TY for sharing. :=)

can you get pigment from plants too? or just rocks?

lazemaple3 years ago
Maybe its common sense - I'd feel better if you mentioned taking along a pair of safety glasses when packing that hammer to whack rocks... so many compromise their sight because they think 'just this time'.... flying rock shards in the eyeball is risky business
Rune Cutter (author)  lazemaple2 years ago
Done! Thanks for the critical eye and drawing my attention to an oversite, kids read these things and try them, safety should always be first
Rune Cutter (author)  lazemaple2 years ago
True about the clay, and the eye protection, I'm going to school right now on a overload but as soon as I can I'll edit in the glasses, an oversight on my part. actually I'll take care of it now
Nomadsanity2 years ago
I know you use primitive methods for preference but what would you think about a small ball mill? I recently used a large one (built to tumble clean maille) to crush feldspar (mica) into a powder as fine as talc.
Rune Cutter (author)  Nomadsanity2 years ago
Yes as a rule I stick to primitive techniques as a matter of choice, they tend to require less specialized equipment.

I've never used a ball mill so you'r e a foot up on me as to how it would work, knowing that large ball mills are used to make dry cement I would expect it to work well.

Good luck and let me know how it works.

RC

I will do that. Perhaps I will write an instructable on building a simple mill...
Rune Cutter (author)  Nomadsanity2 years ago
I would enjoy that, always looking to expand my horizons and knowledge, good luck
lazemaple3 years ago
Very cool; thank you...
lazemaple3 years ago
there is a lot less grinding if you are lucky enough to have a good source of red or green clay....

Most ancient paints had a mixture of animal fats in them...or oil...this is a bi9nder that holds the pigment particles together, and makes them stick onto surfaces.

Rune Cutter (author)  urbanwoodswalker4 years ago
Many did it's true, but this paint follows the instructions of Theophilus in his 12th Century Treatise "On Divers Arts"  you can also do an egg tempera or a casein or milk based paint, the proteins dry into a binder, linseed oil does the same thing except it's a very long chain hydrocarbon in suspension with volatile oils from pressing toasted flax seeds.  The key is the proteins not so much the source.  In lacquers such as shellac insects are the source, every culture had its traditions when it came to pain.

RC
with lineseedoil you have unsaturated fatty acids that will form bigger molecules through oxidation
This looks like it might be fun to do. I live near Sedona, Arizona, which is famous for its red-rock formations such as Cathedral Rock. It's very soft stone and crushes easily--you can carve into it with a sharp tool. Some friends and I were hiking there last summer and came across a place in the canyon where the rock was a distinctive steel-blue color, very noticeable against the reds and browns. Too bad it was 50 feet up the cliff wall! I bet it would make a nice paint if it isn't too hard to grind.
You should ber careful....maybe its turqouise...and would be valuble indeed....turqouise comes in all kinds of colorations.
It looked more like a limestone type of rock, but with a bluish-gray tone to it that was very obvious against the browns of the other rock. I did a Google search, and I guess limestone can be different colors depending on what other minerals are mixed in with it. But like I said, it was pretty high up the cliff wall on the other side of a shallow creek--I would have needed climbing equipment to get to it!
Rune Cutter (author)  Silver Buttons4 years ago
I've used lapis lazuli, chrysocolla, and turquoise as color bases for paints, you just need to ask yourself how much expense you want to put into the project, almost all of the copper based gemstones make good paint but I don't recommend it for the beginner.  Limestone is the most common sedimentary stone and does indeed come in many colors,  any stone which can be ground can be used as a paint base sense it is suspended in a binder.  As I said earlier if you search about at the bottom of the formation where you saw it you're very likely to find pieces which spall of as part of normal erosion.
Rune Cutter (author)  Silver Buttons4 years ago
Sedona does have beautiful stone, but it's best not to mine it, if you search around at the bottom of the cliff face you'll probably find small pieces of the stone you want, erosion being what it is, and gravity being what it is :)
Believe me, you wouldn't have to mine it--it's everywhere! The soil, itself, is red from the high iron content of the rock strata on which the whole town sits. It's such a beautiful country, the rock formations are amazing. I have friends who can look out their back door and see Cathedral Rock in the distance. I get jealous every time I visit them!
nepheron4 years ago
 It's great to hear someone else likes to re-inact historical craftswork. I have a thing for making traditional Polynesian hooks and other fishing tools.
Great job!
Rune Cutter (author)  nepheron4 years ago
I love working in bone as well it has a feel that you don't find anywhere else.  I've been doing re-inatment for about 30 years So I have a lot to write about and I'm loving the corraspondance.
meismeems4 years ago
Thank you, RC, for your recommendation of Havamal....I found the perfect verse.
Rune Cutter (author)  meismeems4 years ago
Good to hear, they're pretty solid axioms and there is almost aways something that applies to someone .
davee52uk4 years ago
Why not use plant materials ? Yellow from onions, green widely available, red and brown from beetroot etc?
You can, but these are generally not very light fast and make better inks, stains  and washes than they do paints. Using them on things that are out in the open for the sun and the weather to affect won't make it last long. Either it will fade or in some instances change color! If you add some sort of binder to the mix you may get the color to hold better, but you are always going to get better results using minerals as a paint.
Rune Cutter (author)  Asura-Valkyrie4 years ago
Asura is absolutely right, theres' also that toxicity thing, plants like to defend themselves and when you concentrate things like hazzle, oak and galls you can get some pretty strong stuff.

Azzurite is a mineral that will break down in sunlight too,  I'm told that the sky in the cisteen chapel was originally done with azurite which would have made it very deep blue like cobalt.  Over the years from reflected light and other factors it's faded to the swimming pool blue green that it currently is.
jtobako4 years ago
Any reason you aren't grinding the softer pigment stone on a hard, coarse grinding stone like granet or basalt?
Rune Cutter (author)  jtobako4 years ago
I knew I forgot to mention something.  Granite is great for a lot of things I just wasn't sure how it would stand up to the abrasives in some of the pigments, if you have a granite mortar and pestal give it a try.  Basalt should be good to and is probably what they would have used historically.

I'll edit that in, thanks for the help

I didn't mean crushing, just grinding, like rubbing chalk on a sidewalk and getting dust.
Rune Cutter (author)  jtobako4 years ago

Some folks use a slab of glass and a modified pestal the name of which escapes me at the moment.

Any grinding method that works, early man may have chewed pigments, not recommended because of toxicity issues,

Another way is to put the pigment between two flat stones and rub the top stone back and forth. 

You just need to make sure that the stone your grinding is softer then the stones your grinding with.

I believe the word for the tool you are describing is a "muller".
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