Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Stick Ink

So many commented on the ink stick. Before the convenience of bottled ink, ink was made by collecting soot from burning wood, bone, or oil. The soot was then mixed with a binder like rabbit or fish glue or shellac. The goop was then poured into a rectangular mold and allowed to harden. To use, the scribe or artist would grind the stick with a bit of water on a very smooth stone like slate. The resulting ink could be used with a brush for writing or painting. The stick was very portable and the scribe or artist could grind just enough ink to use for a particular project. In some of the monasteries in China, monkeys were taught how to grind the ink. After the stick is used it's dried and stored in a wooden box to prevent cracking.

Ink sticks come from China or Japan. The characters on the stick tell whether the stick was made from wood or oil and whether the stick is a high quality stick. Colored characters indicate whether the stick can be used for painting. The stick I have is a student grade ink stick. Was recommended by an instructor who said for the cost, it would deliver a good bang for the buck. It gives satisfactory results for both writing and painting.

Do you use an old tool for your work? Any of you writers banging out your novels on an Olivetti or Smith-Corona manual type writer? Do you write your manuscripts long hand with paper and pencil or ink?


  1. Thanks for teaching us about the ink stick. That is really interesting.

  2. Monkeys did the grinding? That's really a cool tidbit. Yes, I love writing by hand :D

  3. Never! I'd never be able to read it again. My penmanship is deplorable. :)

  4. You are such a fountain of wisdom...

    I do hand write... now, finding the time to transfer to the 'puter.