This Instructable is part of a project I completed for the RISD Museum, for which I copied Luca Cambiaso’s drawing Deposition from the Cross (ca. 1570). This lesson is paired with a secondary article on how to make a quill pen.

Iron gall ink contains three ingredients, plus water: oak galls, ferrous sulphate, and gum arabic. I used a 1770 recipe that calls for two ounces of crushed oak galls soaked overnight in one pint of water, then strained into one ounce of ferrous sulphate. One-half ounce of gum arabic is added, and the mixture stirred until it is dissolved.

You can also read an article I wrote discussing my process for copying Luca Cambiaso 1570 drawing using iron gall ink.

Written by Andrew Raftery (RISD faculty, Printmaking)

Step 1: Harvesting and Drying Oak Gall

Oak galls grow when a gall wasp lays an egg into a puncture on the underside of an oak leaf. As the larva develops, the tree secretes tannic and gallic acids, creating a round formation known as a gall nut or oak apple. These are harvested and dried. The hole from which the wasp emerged is clearly visible on each gall nut. I harvested live oak galls during the New England spring.
<p>along the lines of the idea presented by Edbed, it makes me wonder what would happen if you used strong black tea instead of water. </p>
I've done this but used very strong black tea for the tannins instead of oak galls, it worked well but was a tad watery so I would recommend try to consent rate the tea more.
<p>I wondered why my work bench turned black and CSI'd the answer.</p><p><a href="https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10152291539968311&set=a.124025128310.103077.542808310&type=1&theater" rel="nofollow">https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=1015229153...</a></p>
Cool. Thanks. <br> <br>Ferrous sulphate is probably a fairly late variant on iron gall ink. Medieval formulas only called for iron to be dissolved intot the gall solution. In some cases, pieces of scrap iron were dumped into the solution. <br> <br>For those wanting to do this at home, galls aren't actually necessary. What you're looking for is tannin. I collect acorns, crush them, and steep them in water. <br> <br>For the iron component, I immerse steel wool in the solution. Powdered egg whites also work as a binder/thickener in place of the gum arabic. I wrote an article about this and other inks and pigments last year, for the DIY crafter demographic. I used to be active in the Society for Creative Anachronism, so it is written from that point of view. (If you want to make your own ferrous sulphate, that's covered, too; think old battery acid and steel wool.) <br> <br>http://www.bussjaeger.org/Period%20Inks%20and%20Pigments%20from%20the%20Modern%20Kitchen.pdf <br> <br>(Other crafty type articles at http://www.bussjaeger.org/tiberius.html - armor, paper, mead, medieval shoes, sundials...)
Acorns! What a great alternative!
And if you use acorns, you can eat them when you're done. [grin] <br>(But you'll want to soak/boil and pour out several changes of water before they're really edible.)
Very interesting. Never seen oak galls so I guess they don't happen where I live. I take a walk every day and regularly go by a park with many oak trees and I notice everything.
Interesting info, thanks for sharing.

About This Instructable


208 favorites


Bio: The RISD Museum encourages discovery and creative expression by connecting audiences with art and design.
More by risdmuseum: Work in Process: Machine Knitting Making a one-part rubber mold and casting an object Making Iron Gall Ink
Add instructable to: