Tuesday, September 04, 2012


So, today I crushed up the oak galls I had collected, using my very favorite tool:

I put them in a plastic bag, smashed them good, then transferred the smashed galls into a big stock pot. I didn't have my camera at the time, so I don't have any pics of the ground up galls, but they looked like very chunky cocoa powder, and smelled just about as good -- like warm earth and tea. I had planned to just dump them in some water and let them go to town for a week or two, but then I got antsy, and decided to simmer this batch for a while. They simmered for about an hour, and made the house smell heavenly! Dark chocolate, cinnamon, and tea, all mixed in together. Still no camera at this point, but the water turned a lovely chocolatey brown. While I was in the kitchen doing SCIENCE! (and randomly yelling SCIENCE! at Gamerboy while he played League of Legends with some friends) I cleaned up a little, since I've actually had energy since starting to take iron again.

The water level got a little low on the galls, so I topped it off a bit. I'd initially had 16oz of galls, and now with them reduced down, I had 48 oz of gall-goop and tannin juice. Then I found my camera!

Because I am not exactly known for my patience, I decided to spoon off a little bit of the juice and see if it would react yet. I crushed up a few of my iron pills, mixed them with the juice, and set them going through a coffee filter. It turned black!

I got impatient, again, waiting for it to filter, so I squeezed the last bits out of the filter with my fingers. It definitely stains!

I bottled them up so I can compare them to later batches, with fermented galls. Aren't they handsome?

Then I took a swatch video -- look at that color change!

As it turns out, according to a very smart man on the Fountain Pen Network who is a professional chemist and makes his own iron gall inks for fun, what I need to make these pen-safe is some 25% hydrochloric acid (evidently this can be had from hardware stores). That stops the Fe(II) from becoming Fe(III) (which is what turns it black) while it's still in the bottle or the pen, but once you write with it the HCl evaporates out and it turns black just fine. Lots of folks evidently use simple pen-safe dyes to make sure you can see the ink while you're writing with it -- the HCl turns it back into a clear yellowish liquid until it hit paper. Looking more into that, it looks like some of the stuff I got for nail polish will actually work for that!

Seriously, guys, I'm crazy excited over here. You don't even know. If I can make this work, I might pop up a few bottles on the shop, or mail them out to friends or some such.

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