When last we left our intrepid scribes, they were taking a wee cordial break. After we finished imbibing, it was time to make some iron-gall ink. First we started out by grinding Aleppo oak galls (you can use domestic US oak galls, but you have to use so many more because they are not as tannic as the Aleppo galls) into a coarse powder.
When they reached the desired consistency (above), we brewed them into a tea for about ten minutes (below). Oak gall tea smells about how you would expect it to.
After the tea was done, we strained the gall-pulp out.
Then we added the copperas (copper sulfate), which turned the brown tisane dark lavender-black.
Then we dissolved some gum arabic and added it to the mix, to help with flow and consistency.
Then another straining. You can see how deeply purple-black the liquid is. After this, I think we added a tiny bit of red-wine vinegar (I forget why), and then it was ink!
After that, we made quills. The lower shafts were soaking in water to… I can’t remember. Keep them supple? Something. We didn’t end up hardening these quills because we didn’t have sand (oops!) but they’re just more flexible that way.
We started out by stripping the barbs off of the rachis (what the quill is made from). I liked leaving a little tuft at the end. It looks so jaunty.
One of the things that has to happen is that you need to pick a feather that feels good in your hand. It’s no use cutting a quill that is uncomfortable.
My preferred quill-cutting tool is a scalpel with a #10 blade. They’re very sharp, the blades come in packs of 100, and they’re pennies compared to X-acto blades.
We make an initial long cut, and pull out the inner pulp. It looks like a snakeskin.
Then we shape the shoulders of the quill. I took this picture specifically to remember the shape of a well-cut quill. After this, we cut the slit and the flat nib tip. Et voila: quill!
They make awesome fashion statements.
After the quills were cut, the gesso was dry enough to gild. I forgot to get a picture of the smoothing process, but we basically just used our scalpels to scrape the surface smooth; every imperfection is a place where the gold will potentially not stick. Then we breathed on the gesso with deep tummy breaths (Penelope told us to pretend we were Aslan breathing on the stone statues). Then we took our patent gold (the kind with the paper on the back) and plplaced it gold-down on the gesso letters.
We rubbed the back of the gold through silk fabric, and then burnished the gold letters with agate and hematite.
It was soooo shiny.
Then we used our new ink to write the rest of the quote in. Mine was my motto, which SHOULD read Deus Pascit Corvus, or ‘God Feeds the Crows’. Then we were done! I have since added more finishing touches, but that is another post.