Signed, sealed, delivered…

Today we looked at artefacts from the Roman era (actually most of them were replicas). I was in charge of the writing table. There was recipe for making ink…I had to improvise a bit.
First we needed 5 teaspoons of soot. I ask you! Most of the children don’t have a chimney in their house let alone soot up it. Although, I can think of a few who would benefit from being sent up a chimney or two!
Someone suggested an alternative of crushing up charcoal. Have you ever tried to crush a stick of charcoal using the stick end of a paintbrush? Let me save you the trouble. It doesn’t work. Soon, a few broken up pieces of the messy stuff lay in the bottom of a yoghurt pot.
Next we needed to add some Gum Arabic (they kindly provided some crystalline version and suggested that it would need to be ground with a pestle and mortar). You’ve guessed it, the paintbrush was the nearest we got to that as well.
Gave up on that bit but luckily found some vinegar for the next stage from the staffroom cupboard – left over from Marion’s chip butty the year before last.
Poured a bit in and swilled it around, didn’t resemble ink as much as a dirty puddle with an aroma of the chip shop. The children turned up their noses but still felt impelled to try and use it with the pens provided. We talked about how they would send secret messages sealed with lumps of molten wax and stamped with a seal – They seemed rather fascinated at the idea. I suspect that next Valentine’s there may be a few rather vinegary missives doing the rounds with lumps of old birthday candle decorating the edges!

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