iron in writing: rohrer & klingner salix iron gall ink

I can’t really tell why I am so fond of iron gall ink. It might be that it is made from iron and I am from a country rich of iron and there is houses painted in iron oxide and copper red all over. Or that it is a traditional ink. Or the exquisite shading. Or the non-feathering. That it often writes on the dryish side. I don’t know, but like them I do and I was therefore happy to finally try Rohrer and Klingner’s Salix. Salix is the latin name for the tree family that the willow tree belong to, but I don’t know if this means that they have used nuts from the willow tree to create the tannin acid used for the ink. The tannin acid is then used together with some iron vitriol (iron sulphate) together with other stuff to finally become an ink, but the base for it all is tannin acid and iron vitriol. This base gives the ink the permanent – document proof – characteristic that has been valued through centuries. A detailed description of how to make iron gall ink and its properties can be found here.

The “real” iron gall inks I had tried before the Salix is R&K’s Scabiosa and Diamine Registrar’s Ink. The Salix mostly differ from them in regards to colour. The Registrar’s ink grows very dark and grey-blue-black with a faint blue tone and the Scabiosa is an original muted, dusty, greyish purple. I postponed trying this since I expected it to be almost identical to the Registrar’s grey-blue-black, and felt that it was unnecessary to have two identical inks. But, I was wrong. The Salix is an ink of its own and in its own right.

When first put to paper it is a quite bright, medium blue, but as it dries it deepens to a medium blue with a hint of grey. Not blue-grey, but a muted classic blue. As I believe all iron gall inks do, it shades exquisitely – especially in a broader/wetter nib. In an ordinary fine nib it looks most like any traditional medium blue ink, but in a wet, flexy nib it is brought to life in a beautiful way. The paper used in the samples is Moleskine – I wanted to check its qualities in the Moleskine since that probably is the most feathering and bleed through prone paper I’ve got. The “white paper” sample and the waterproof sample is made on ordinary copy paper (80 g). I like this ordinary true blue – especially in these broader nibs. It doesn’t boost, but it isn’t a wallflower either. And – like the traditional “boy-next-door” (or girl for those who prefer girls) it blooms in the right setting – the broad nib.

Non-boring ordinary colours that doesn’t stand out from the paper is quite underrated and I think this is such an ink. It is easy on the eyes, but express quite a lot with the right pen. It doesn’t steal the attention from the text, but it still adds something to the reading. I like it. It will most definitely – just like the Registrar’s – have its place in my everyday rotation.

Despite the nice blue colour and pleasant writing properties – on the dry side, but in non-dry pens that isn’t a problem – my main reason for incorporating it in my regular rotation is that it is a highly practical ink. It is waterproof which makes it very attractive for all sorts of note taking. It is also extremely non-feathering and doesn’t bleed through easily. Even in the wet, flexy nib it passed the Moleskine test; almost no bleed through and practically no feathering (just a few tiny tiny spider legs). That makes it very useful since it can be used on all kinds of paper qualities – even the cheap and very porous papers. With this ink one doesn’t have to be picky about the paper which is good in those cases when one jots and notes the pads and books full in no time and makes it qualify as a margin note pen as well. That it is a true blue is also good in respect to margin notes since it makes it easy to see the notes in a mass of text. Lastly: it is very resistant to water. I held it (and the Registrar’s and The Polar Blue) under the tap for a long while and then soaked it for several minutes without making any damage to any of the inks. No bleeding or blue shading either.


The fast drying time makes it a great ink for note taking and highlighting. It doesn’t smear.

The excellent water proof characteristics also makes it a good study ink – no smear if used with highlighters. One can basically pour a cup of coffee over a sheet of notes and rinse the sheet thoroughly to get rid of the coffee and still have the notes perfectly intact.

The non-feathering and non-bleed through properties makes it an excellent ink for note taking and scribbling – it works on all kind of paper without feathering or bleed. Perfect for studying and extensive writers.

The shading is excellent and gives the ink character – especially in a broader or wetter nib.

It is cheap.


Even if modern iron galls are a great deal nicer than traditional ones it is good to flush the pens properly after each use.

Pens that has a flow on the dry side can have problems with the Salix.


About dandelion

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8 Responses to iron in writing: rohrer & klingner salix iron gall ink

  1. Pingback: one year with lady dandelion – anniversary give away! | lady dandelion

  2. Dizzy Pen says:

    This is just what I need for an overly juicy OS Flattop I have. Thanks for the great review. :)

  3. Palimpsest says:

    A wonderful review and what really delicious inks! They are definitely next on my list of ink purchases.

  4. TAO says:

    What a thorough review! I’m not sure about how I feel about the color of this ink but I certainly know a lot about it now. Thanks.

    • dandelion says:

      LOL – I might have gone over the top with info, but I am happy you enjoyed it. It is even better live – and in wetter nibs – so I hope you’ll get the opportunity to see it in real life. :)

  5. dianeb says:

    What a beautiful color, thanks for showing it next to the Diamine Registrar. I have the latter, and will have to look for the former.

    Willow bark contains salicilin, from which came salicylic acid–the key ingredient in aspirin (and where the drug gets it’s name). It is possible that not only are you dealing with tannins in your Salix ink from the gall- nuts, but salicylic acid as well, both of which will corrupt the pen.

    Modern iron gall inks aren’t as harsh, but I plan on flushing whichever one is inked with Diamine Registrar’s Ink every week or two. I’ll probably do the Sam with this R & K ink, once I add it to my stock.

    • dandelion says:

      Thank you for providing the info on willows! It would be interesting to know if they use it in the Salix :) Even if it is a bit risky with iron gall ink I like it too much to refrain from using it. :) Looking forward to hear how you like the Salix!

  6. Pingback: Tweets that mention iron in writing: rohrer & klingner salix iron gall ink | lady dandelion --

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