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Old-fashioned letter writing: dipping pens and home-made ink

Last post 07-07-2009 8:23 PM by Juneflower. 15 replies.
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  • 12-28-2008 8:11 AM

    • Gran
    • Not Ranked
    • Joined on 12-28-2008
    • Posts 23

    Old-fashioned letter writing: dipping pens and home-made ink

    I've heard over the years that buying even the least expensive ballpoint pens will add up to spending more money than using ink and a fountain pen or a dipping pen. I decided that I could, at least, write my personal letters with a dipping pen and ink. (My fountain pens need repair.) I priced the ink for dipping pens. It's more expensive than fountain pen ink. Dipping pen ink needs to be thicker, and so it's found in art supply shops and the Calligraphy sections at hobby stores. I'd read a couple of places that liquid bluing was used widely as ink for personal letter writing during the Depression, and the Civil War. I've been using Mrs. Stewart's right out of the bottle, and also have added some carbon black. Next time I have a coupon, I'll get some gum arabic and put a few drops of that into the recipe. I have not yet tested for sunlight or water fading. I'm guessing that the gum arabic will help keep the color and the ink on the paper. So far, I have found the bluing to flow smoothly, with no drips or blobs. I'm using Leonardt writing nibs and standard typing paper. Anyone else have experience with bluing as ink? Or with other easy-to-come-up with inks? I don't plan to make historical inks as they are time consuming and to me, too labor intensive. I don't need historical authenticity. A bottle of Mrs. Stewart's is eight ounces and costs four dollars. A one-ounce bottle of Calligraphy ink can cost $4.00. I use the tiny jam jars from hotels, which I've collected from various sources, and small condiment jars. The tiny jam jars are my favorites. I may try some strong black tea. But, that'll wait till I buy some very inexpensive tea, and the gum arabic.
  • 12-28-2008 8:39 AM In reply to

    Re: Old-fashioned letter writing: dipping pens and home-made ink

     Gran, I think that's really creative and beautiful! I don't have to buy my own ball-points since they're given away so freely by local businesses.

    I can buy 100 bags of generic black tea for $0.99. Are you looking for cheaper than that?

    ~~~~

    Take care of the sense, and the sounds will take care of themselves.
    ~ Lewis Carroll

  • 12-28-2008 9:45 AM In reply to

    • Gran
    • Not Ranked
    • Joined on 12-28-2008
    • Posts 23

    Re: Old-fashioned letter writing: dipping pens and home-made ink

    Joyous, thanks for your kind post. I'll go to the dollar store or Walmart and get the cheapest tea offered and make a strong batch to test. I so enjoy writing with good pens. When I needed to buy refills for my Parker ballpoint pens and found that the refills were scratchy, and the ink flowed as inconsistently as a cheap pen, and at $2.50 - $4.50 a refill, I thought it was time to rethink enjoyable writing. Writing with a good pen is a rewarding experience. It's especially so when I know I'm being thrifty at the same time.
  • 12-28-2008 5:59 PM In reply to

    Re: Old-fashioned letter writing: dipping pens and home-made ink

     

    If it helps you find it, the tea I'm thinking of is sold as the generic alternative to Lipton for iced tea. I've used it to dye shoelaces before.
    ~~~~

    Take care of the sense, and the sounds will take care of themselves.
    ~ Lewis Carroll

  • 12-28-2008 9:37 PM In reply to

    • Edey
    • Top 25 Contributor
      Female
    • Joined on 09-10-2007
    • Los Angeles County, CA
    • Posts 3,869

    Re: Old-fashioned letter writing: dipping pens and home-made ink

    One of the historical recipes for ink that I've seen is soaking iron nails in very strong tea for a couple of days. There is some chemical reaction between the tannic acid in the tea and the iron. Could that be combined with the bluing to make a stronger ink? 

    Edey

    Edey's Vintage and Current Needlework Blog

    Life is like a quilt - it is made beautiful from all the little pieces stitched together.

    Use a HandCranked tool, it doesn't need to be plugged in or charged up!

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    READ THE ARCHIVES! It'll do you good.
  • 12-28-2008 10:59 PM In reply to

    Re: Old-fashioned letter writing: dipping pens and home-made ink

    Thanks for starting this thread.  I'd retired my fountain pen for a while - you've inspired me to use it again 

    I am a bit of a pen snob.  I was introduced to fountain pens when I was 11 years old.  Fountain pens were mandatory at our secondary school.  My school mates all hated using fountain pens but for me, it was love at first sight (or should I say, first write). Now that I am a SAHM, I've been toting around cheap ballpoint pens in my handbag. UGH!

    I don't use the ink cartridges - it is cheaper and green to buy the fountain pen ink in the bottle.  For the occasions when a fountain pen is not feasible, I will happily borrow a ballpoint pen.  If money were no object, I'd buy myself a MontBlanc

    My mother had a dipping pen years ago.  DH has been dying to buy me a handblown glass dipping pen to feed my pen fetish. I cannot offer any insight on your ink experiments.  Please let me know how they turn out!

     


    Philippians 4:19

    And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus
  • 12-29-2008 2:52 PM In reply to

    • Gran
    • Not Ranked
    • Joined on 12-28-2008
    • Posts 23

    Re: Old-fashioned letter writing: dipping pens and home-made ink

    Edey, I'm not willing to test that recipe on my pen nibs. Sounds interesting, though. Tim, if you get to experimenting with making your own ink, will you post what your results are?
  • 12-29-2008 3:59 PM In reply to

    Re: Old-fashioned letter writing: dipping pens and home-made ink

    No experience with this but have read that the berries of Poke were also used as an ink -- I think it was considered a "poor man's" India ink.  However, since these have no known antidote, I would be careful about using them!  Perhaps ink making with these contributed to the shorter lives of our ancestors?

    Lynnea the Dogmom
  • 12-29-2008 4:53 PM In reply to

    Re: Old-fashioned letter writing: dipping pens and home-made ink

    My most beloved birthday gift from my DH was a Waterman fountain pen he gave me 15 years ago. I don't use it as much as I used to but I this post has inspired me to put a new ink cartridge in it and write a few letters this week. I've always used the fountain pen cartridges because I can get it in so many different colors.  I love to use colored ink when I write.  I've never made my own ink but do know that the dipping and India ink can be rather pricey because DS#1 had me get him some to use for a art project he was working on and I was surprised how much it was at the craft store. 

    Shellia

    When your outgo exceeds your income, your upkeep is your downfall. - Unknown
  • 06-11-2009 8:11 PM In reply to

    Re: Old-fashioned letter writing: dipping pens and home-made ink

    I've used Poke as an ink since I was little.  I would go to my grandma's and pick the berries and crush them up to write on tree bark.  Now I crush them up, add salt and vinegar to help preserve it, and thicken it.  They stain, but it makes a beautiful color.  As long as you don't eat them, you'll be fine ;) Hope this helped!

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