Sunday, September 19, 2010

Ink Diary Week 1

19 September 2010

A few weeks ago, after reading too much news about various corporate trespasses, I decided that my small autumnal rebellion against corporate malfeasance would be to manufacture my own printing inks. Looking, of course, to John Baskerville for guidance I dredged up T C Hansard's recipe for Baskerville's ink from F. E. Pardoe's biography. Neither Baskerville nor his widow Sarah would divulge the secrets of his lustrous black ink but various sources were culled together into a recipe by Hansard in 1825, fifty years after Baskerville's death. On the surface, the recipe sounds fairly straightforward—a bit of lamp black collected from furnace burners mixed in with thickened linseed oil—but for the one predictable exception: "The oil thus prepared was suffered to cool, and had then a small quantity of black or amber rosin dissolved in it, after which it was allowed some months to subside..." [my emphasis] On a close reading of the recipe, the problems begin to multiply. First of all, what does a small quantity of rosin mean? Is it one part per ten or one part per hundred? The issue is one of elasticity: too much rosin will result in an inflexible ink which could potentially crack when dried. The only way to discover the proper proportion is through experimentation. ¶Second, although I can obtain all of the ingredients Hansard mentions from Kremer Pigments, the staff at Kremer assures me that amber has to be dissolved in turpentine (which is highly flammable and noxious) at a temperature of over 500 degrees fahrenheit. The resulting mixture is a shellac used predominantly in oil painting and violin making. Considering Baskerville's years in the Japanware business it makes sense that he would be well versed in the use of shellacs. But Hansard never mentions shellac. The rosin is not added to the linseed oil as a liquid but as a solid, it is dissolved in the oil. Which brings up the issue of time and heat. Does, "after which it was allowed some months to subside," mean that it took some months for the rosin to dissolve in tepid oil? Was the oil re-heated to aid the dissolution of the rosin and then allowed some months to subside? Against the better judgement of Kremer's clerks, I am opting to stick with Hansard for the moment. I have added 15ml of solid amber rosin to 150ml of linseed stand oil at room temperature. If the amber has not dissolved at all in a week I will try the same proportions over heat.