Wednesday, 26 December 2007

Medieval Inks, buckthorn bark and being laid low with a nasty bug.

This is just a quickie as I have been laid low before and after Christmas with a horrible bug. Fortunately I was okay over Christmas itself but a new bug laid me low this morning. At least I will not be putting on weight this Christmas.

I have been doing a little research into inks and find that they are stabalised with gum arabic but so far there has been surprisngly little information in my dye books and I have had more luck researching online. So far I have only come across the standard walnut ink, brazilwood, iron and vinegar and a comment that greens and blues were made but that they were difficult.

Making Woodash
A few weeks ago I put about three to four inches of woodash lye into a bucket and filled it up to the top and produced a weak woodash with a pH of about 9 . That this was not enough is evident because I put 200 go buckthorn bark into a pan covered with the weak wood ash lye and left it on my heating Pad ( ones that are used for wine-these are flat pads which get warm). When I briefly checked on Christmas morning it was covered with mould and the pH was neutral at 7. Fortunately we have had a lot of very cold days and have had a lot of woodfires so I was able to fill a bucket three quarters full of woodash and this is now producing a wood ash lye with a pH of 12. I suspect that I will have to restart fermenting the buckthorn bark so I have lost a week. Very annoying as I am dyeing merino 100's for my next workshop.


  1. I'd like to recommend Ralph Mayer's book "The Artists handbook of Materials and Techniques", I have the 5th edition, published by Faber in 1991 (1st ed. was 1940). There's a whole chapter on different binders for paints, including egg yolk and casein. As regards printing inks, linseed oil was certainly in use in 1600s, I don't know about earlier.

    From his lengthy, very useful, bibliography, a book that I know is in print (minus original illustartions) is "Materials and Techniques of Medieval Painting", Daniel V Thompson, Dover re-print.

  2. Thank you so much Dorothy, I have now ordered both books form Abe Books and feel very excited!

  3. Very interesting about the woodash lye. One of these days (when I have a wood heater again) I will try this.

    I love all your ink colors. Very nice!