Like quill pens, which were made at home in the days before manufacturing, ink was also homemade, with items found on hand or easily nearby. Make your own natural inks of different colors using berries or nuts -- perfect for your homemade quill pen.
Fresh berries provide the pigment for a berry-based ink you can make with other supplies from around the kitchen. Choose berries that stain a bit, such as blackberries, raspberries, blueberries or mulberries -- any berry that colors your fingers also leaves its pigment on paper. Mash 1/2 cup or so of berries through a strainer into a shallow container. Smash the berries with the bowl of a spoon or ladle to produce the juice that forms the pigment. Add 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and white vinegar to the juice, stirring the mixture. If the solution seems too thick, add a few drops of water until it reaches the desired consistency. Adjust the recipe as you like, adding more berries or more water. Test the ink with your quill pen on paper until you reach a mixture that works for you. Store the ink in a tiny bottle with a secure lid; placing the ink in the refrigerator helps keep it from growing mold, and the vinegar in the blend also helps preserve it. Some berry inks fade a bit as they dry; write over them a second time for a darker look.
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Make your own walnut ink, similar to an ink the pioneers used, by crushing and boiling walnut shells in water. Break 10 or more walnut shells inside a sturdy cloth with a hammer, smashing them over a hard surface such as a rock or a cement block. Add the shells to 1 cup of water in a saucepan, simmering them for 45 minutes until the liquid becomes dark brown. Check the pan frequently to make sure the liquid doesn't evaporate completely; it will evaporate as it simmers. Once the liquid cools, strain it into a jar; then stir in 1/2 teaspoon each of white vinegar and salt until the salt dissolves. The salt and vinegar help preserve the ink.
Roman or Medieval Ink
Black inks made in old-fashioned ways usually contain carbon, such as soot. Create a similar ink by crushing up charcoal -- use charcoal sold in pet stores for air or water purification, rather than barbecue charcoal, which may contain other chemicals. Mix 5 parts crushed charcoal to 2 parts gum arabic from a craft or art-supply store. Add 4 parts white vinegar, stirring until the mixture becomes a pasty ink. Add more vinegar, as desired.