Oak gall ink

I love making things from nature including dyes and inks. This appeals to my pagan and creative side is another reason that I combine these things on my site! There were oak gall attached to the leaves of an oak tree at the park this fall. You can make an ink from the gall that was once used between the 12 – 19th centuries.

At Samhain I collected a lot of oak gall from a tree with Melody‘s help. Oak gall, or the balls that attach themselves to the oak tree or oak leaves are funny looking and you might miss them if you weren’t looking for them. Not all trees have oak gall and it’s not usually enough to kill the tree. Most of these galls, or balls are formed from wasps that have infested the tree. The ones we found were on the leaves and they may have fallen earlier because they were weighted down from the galls.

Oak galls are light in weight and are filled with air and fibers and are rich in gallotannic acid, which is broken down by water into tannic acid, one of the ingredients for making this type of ink. The galls themselves are crushed and then I ground mine in my herbal coffee grinder. I use this grinder only for herbs and not edibles.

Then add the crushed oak gall powder to about a half a cup of boiling water and then let it cool till it‘s lukewarm. You can then add iron nails to your mixture and about ¼ cup of vinegar.

You are supposed to let that sit until the reaction of the acid vinegar dissolving iron from the nails is complete. I don’t know when that was and I don’t know if I had the correct iron nails anyways. I ended up adding some of my iron filings that are to “feed” my lodestones. This went into the bottle and I let it sit for a month or two actually. Then I finally strained it off and I found some small bottles to put the ink in.

When you first use the ink it doesn’t look that dark but it darkens after it sits for awhile. This ink is supposed to be used soon after you make it but I thought it was better to wait until it was darker. It might be a matter of preference.

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2 thoughts on “Oak gall ink

    1. That should be next on my list! Sounds great and I love using things from nature that are free. I kept beet juice in a jar but I don’t know what to do with it other than a dye. I haven’t found a book for making inks and paints only.

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