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Oak gall and Cherry Gum Ink


Before the leaves are back on the trees and spring gets busy its a perfect time to forage for the ingredients for oak gall ink. Oak galls are particularly easy to spot at the moment, the oak gall wasp prefers young trees, or young shoots on mature trees so they are usually within easy reach. I try to take ones with an exit hole in order to leaver the next generation of wasps, the larvae are edible however, but their so tiny its hardly worth it.


The next ingredient, and this is an experiment is cherry gum. Gum arabic is the 'proper' ingredient but there are historical references to cherry gum being used as a binder in other paint recipes and as its local and free I'm going to give it a try. Injured trees produce it in some quantity and even a little mixes with water to produce a thick wall paper paste consistency.

The other two ingredients are unfortunately not foraged but could be with some effort. Wine, wild cherry wine works well but I got so busy with deer skins last year I didn't make any and ferrous sulphate. Any source of iron such as a rusty nail will work but for really good ink as opposed to O.K. for the kids ink I really recommend getting proper ferrous sulphate. This brings into question what we really cannot do without and unlike plastic, industrial education and government, I just can't imagine a future without the responsible use of iron for this and many other activities.

Now that all the ingredients are gathered, the quantities that need to be prepared are as follows, 

1 oz oak galls, crushed

half oz iron sulphate

2 thirds oz cherry gum

200 ml red wine

100 ml water

I'm going to start by preparing the cherry gum. Using two tin cans, one fitting inside the other with holes punched in the base. Put cherry gum and water into inner can and simmer on hob or fire.

This is pure guess work but after a while the water thickened up and with some prodding collected in the larger tin in a consistency that seemed similar if not slightly thicker than dissolved gum arabic. Next crush the oak galls, in a bag with a hammer is easiest and measure out all the ingredients.

Now add them to into a pan, one that won't be used for food, it'll never be the same again.

Simmer for about 20 minutes on a low heat and stir occasionally until the mixture goes black.

Now get a jar ready, around 200ml or bigger and an old cloth to strain it through. It appears that cherry gum is a much thicker binder than gum arabic so I added a little more wine and water to make this easier, it can be reduced again at a later stage if necessary.

And now the ink is ready to experiment with.

This is the ink, freshly applied with a brush. It will darken more as it oxidises over time but on first impressions it looks like a good batch, although I might reduce it slightly and use less cherry gum next time.


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