Letterpress printers have many tools at their disposal, such as presswash, line gauges and quoins. Not the least of these is their favored printing ink. Broach this subject with a group of printers in person or an online forum and most can hotly debate the one they can’t live without.
Yes, we are going to step into that debate and ask specifically which black printing ink do you hold in high esteem but before we do that, we want to entertain you with an article from a book that gives the recipe for making your own. Looks pretty simple to us but you decide.
The sage instructions of experience come from this book found on openlibrary.org
Six Hundred Receipts, Worth Their Weight in Gold by John Marquardt of Lebanon, PA.
Turn to page 75 – Receipt No. 138 How to make Black Printer’s Ink.
“Printers’ ink is a real black paint, composed of lampblack and linseed-oil, which has undergone a degree of heat superior to that of common drying oils. The manner of preparing it is extremely simple. Boil the linseed-oil in a large iron pot for 8 hours, adding to it bits of toasted bread the purpose of absorbing the water contained in the oil; let it rest till the following morning, and then expose it to the same degree of heat for 8 hours more, or till it has acquired the consistence required; then add lamp-black worked up with a mixture of oil of turpentine and turpentine.
The consistence depends on the degree of heat given to the oil, and the quantity of lampblack mixed up with it; and this consistence is regulated by the strength of the paper for which the ink is intended.
The preparations of printers’ ink should take place in the open air, to prevent the bad effects arising from the vapor of the burnt oil, and, in particular, to guard against accident by fire.”
If one receipt isn’t enough, another is available on page 264 , No. 597 An Excellent Printing-Ink.
“Balsam of copaiva, (or Canada balsam,) 9 ounces; lampblack, 3 ounces; indigo and Prussian blue, each 5 drachms; Indian red, 3/4 ounce; yellow soap, (dry,) 3 ounce. Grind it to an impalpable smoothness. Mix with old linseed oil. “
In case you are wondering – the drachms is a unit of weight formerly used by apothecaries, equivalent to 60 grains or one eighth of an ounce.
Letterpress printers, as a group, seem to be interested in trying new things for their art, so we hope that these two recipes might get a try-out or two from someone. However, it is also fun to note that within the 598 other receipts in this book, you can also find a recipe for peppermint cordial, a cure for the bite of a mad dog, and treatment for scabby heads on children and toothaches.
Back to our original question, we truly are interested in hearing about your favorite black printing ink, either ones you have used in the past and can’t find anymore or one you use everyday.
Tell us in the comments below!