01 October 2012

Home Made

What can you do when you were not satisfied with any ink in the market? Make it yourself is the immediate answer. Or, at least, if you had the knowledge to do so.

That was Gary’s approach. He was particularly frustrated by the very limited availability of ferrogallic inks. These, with the exception of Rohrer & Klingner’s Scabiosa, come only in blue-black, and he thought he could do better.

He started by creating the basic ink mixing by mixing Iron Chloride and Gallic Acid. Initially transparent, this ink quickly darkens upon being laid by means of the oxidation of the Iron ions by the atmospheric Oxygen. Then, the following step was to add some dyes to the basic ink to provide some color from the very beginning. Gary uses mostly food colorants to create about half a dozen different ferrogallic inks. Finally, some additives were used to control viscosity (Glycerin and Diethylen Glycol) and to prevent the growth of mold (Phenol). The recipes are published (Gary’s blog in English and in Japanese, YouTube channel, Shumi-no Bungubako no. 16, p. 66) and are available for anyone to try.

A number of pen aficionados are afraid of iron-gall inks due to a couple of reasons:

-- Rust. These inks are stable in acidic environment (low pH), and that could be the source of undesirable reactions between ink and metal parts of the pen. In fact, corrosion of the nib was the main argument to use gold, a noble metal. This is a fair concern, but proper pen hygiene does reduce this risk, and stylophiles enjoy performing these maintenance tasks on a regular basis.

-- The second factor is the difficulty to clean these ferro-gallic inks. Again, proper hygiene does take care of the this problem, and the use of diluted Ascorbic Acid (vitamin C) as a cleaning agent does the rest.

Therefore, although there exist a higher risk in using these permanent inks, it is nothing any usual stylophile could not deal with.

The fundamental property of these inks is that they are water-proof. Water, actually, washes the dyes away, but nothing can do to eliminate the mechanical bonds of the iron-tannic pigments with the cellulose fibers. The result, then, is a dark text with a hint of the original color.

Sailor pigmented Sei-boku ink and Gary's red-black ink. Both were immersed in water for over five minutes.
Gary's red-black ink and its resistance to water compared to several other inks. The piece of paper where I scribbled was immersed in water for over 5 minutes.
On my side I have tried and tested Gary’s red-black ink. Initially upon laid, this ink shows a bright red color that darkens as it dries up on the following minute. The final result is an almost black line, albeit with a hint of red. Dry blood is the best description that comes to my mind.

Fluidity and lubrication are on par with most other inks I have tried and I have had no major problem in any pen. The hardest of those was a relatively slow start of a Sailor pocket pen from early 1970s.

The main conclusion is that this home made ink is perfectly usable and, in fact, it actually adds some exciting elements to the present selection on permanent inks in the market.

A secondary conclusion is that the technology of inks is nothing truly sophisticated. It is there in the open for anyone –or any company— to try. The arguments for the prices we pay for many of them cannot be related to any delicate process or to any expensive research.

My thanks to Gary.

Push in celluloid, lever filler  – Pelikan Royal blue

Bruno Taut
September 15th, 2012
labels: tinta, Rohrer & Klingner, Gary, mercado

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