A little about Chinese Ink Sticks.
More than 3,000 years ago, Asian artisans discovered how to turn the residue from burnt wood into one of the most important and lasting vehicles for human expression: ink. For more than a thousand years, the method of making Sumi sticks has remained the same. Soot from pine is mixed with deer horn glue, molded and kneaded like dough and dried to form a well-shaped solid block which, when gently rubbed against a certain kind of stone with water, turns to ink. It is unsurpassed for producing the famous Five Colors, or shades of black, that form the basis of monochromatic Sumi painting. The subtlety of Sumi ink is evident in the variety of tones and values it produces.
Ink Stick Grades
|tungoil soot||gelatin||musk, gold, borneol, pearl, rhinoceros horn|
|General use 1
General use 2
|There are seven grades in Chinese ink stick. The grade is usually stamped on the body of an ink stick either in its traditional name or in numbers. The numbering system has been in use since 1965 during Chinese Cultural Revolution, when the names were done away with for they implicated old culture.|
Ink sticks vary in shape and size. Basically because when it is pliable, it is like plastercine and can be shaped as you wish. Normally it is pressed into a wooden or stone mold and set to dry for some years stored away safely.
The older the ink the better it is to work with but contact and exposure to sunlight destroys it. Be wary of ink stick suppliers because they can sell you crude oil based soot ink sticks and these contain seriously poisonous ingredients.
For me, the best way to make ink is with an ink stone and an ink stick. I dont use any other method. To do something that was done trhousands of years before me is very satisfying simply to create a black mark on ancient xuen paper.
You can also purchase coloured ink sticks and so on but the main black soot ink comes in many forms, even premade bottled form though this contains a spirit that allows faster drying and not to be used on your ink stone. Ink stones are not supposed to become dry. The set ink destroys the surface qualities of the stone and pores and hence ruins further use.