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Hand ground ink question

Started by edenworkshops, August 29, 2008, 01:17:37 PM

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I want to grind my own ink from lamp black and linseed oil.

Does anyone know a traditional drier that could be used?

Thank you


Jeff Zilles [jeffo]

I had hoped that an experienced ink miller of my vintage or a bit more might have spotted, loaded and taken a shot at this question - but no luck so far so it looks like I'm gunner. . .

The easy way out - see if you can obtain from an ink vendor some Paste Drier and / or  Cobalt Drier -  The Paste Drier is the gentler and more managable of the two,  whilst with the Cobalt you wash up as soon as you finish the job or chip the solid coating off later with a chisel.

If you insist on doing it the hard way an oldish recipe for a drier for inks used on bookbinders' cases is - Beeswax, One ounce: gum arabic [dissolved in sufficient acetic acid to make a thin mucilage], 1/4 ounce:  brown japan, 1/4 ounce.  Incorporate with one pound of good cut ink.

As an ink-user rather than an ink-maker, my experience in the manufacture of a usable product from the basic raw materials is essentially theoretical apart from time frequently spent in the company of ink makers and chemists whilst they endeavoured to solve a problem and personal ventures into the hands-on witchery / wizardry that the small operator has need to revert to once every now and so often in order to get a saleable job out and still keep some hair.

If you wamt to make your own ink from scratch it may be well to understand something if the properties of the materials you are using and their variables which you can with practice and experience control yourself.

Linseed oil - this substance is in itself the drier -- the activity of which is dependent on the treatment given the oil prior to being included in the formula.

Boiled Linseed Oil --  a popular and universally used misnomer  for to actually BOIL a quantity of the substance would almost certainly get you a visit from the local Fire Department, a deal of embarassment and a hefty increase in the relevant insurance premium.

Below is an extract about this particular procedure which provides an informative and clear description --  it is wogged straight from Henley's which was first published in 1907 with a later revision - old enough to satisfy most who would seek the good oil from 'The Days that Wuz'


Boiling the Linseed Oil.-This process, although it goes by the name of boiling, is not so in the proper sense of the word, but a heating having for its object an initial oxidation of the oil, so that it will dry better.

Linseed oil is one of a type of drying oils, those which when exposed in thin coats to the air absorb large quan­tities of oxygen and are thereby con­verted into tough, solid sheets having properties very similar to those of soft india rubber.

The process goes on much faster with the aid of heat than at the or­dinary temperature, and the rate at which the boiled oil will dry in the ink can be exactly regulated by heating it for a longer or shorter time.
Prolonged heating gives an oil which will dry very quickly on exposure in thin coats to the air, the shorter the heating the more slowly will the ink afterwards made with the oil dry.

Linseed oil must always be boiled in vessels where it has plenty of room, as the oil soon swells up and it begins to de­compose so energetically at a particular temperature that there is considerable risk of its boiling over and catching fire.

Various contrivances have been thought out for boiling large quantities of the oil with safety, such as pans with an outlet pipe in the side, through which the oil escapes when it rises too high, instead of over the edge of the pan, and fires built on a trolley running on rails, so that they can at once be moved from under the pan if there is any probability of the latter boiling over.

The best apparatus for preparing thickened linseed oil is undoubtedly one in which the oil offers a very large surface to the air, and on that account requires to be moderately heated only.

The oil soon becomes very thick under these conditions and if necessary can be diluted to any required consist­ency with unboiled oil.

In boiling linseed oil down to the proper thickness by the old method there are two points demanding special atten­tion.

One is the liability of the oil to boil over, and the other consists in the devel­opment of large quantities of vapor, most­ly of acroleine, which have a most power­ful and disagreeable smell and an intense action upon the eyes.

The attendant must be protected from these fumes, and the boiling must therefore be done where there is a strong draught to take the fumes as fast as they are produced. There are various contrivances to cope with boiling over.


The driers mentioned in the lead lines of this post were generally additional to the built in product of the ink miller and were utilised when special circumstances ordained - troublesome substrates, rush jobs, known slow setting inks, etc..

The next step of course is to combine the prepared vehicle with the pigment which will require some hours of milling -- a laboratory test mill will suffice for small quanties up to about ten pounds.

Good Luck    ------    jeffo

richard Norman

Thank you for the outstanding reply.

I shall have to mull this over.


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