Using Gum Sandarac, in Calligraphy.

Gum Sandarac is a resin that comes from the Sictus tree (Tetraclinis), which is the national tree of Malta. It is used in the production of lacquer, varnish and is valued for preserving paintings. It is also valued by calligraphers, as it can be used in cases where ink on a page may bleed. By bleeding that means the unintentional spread of ink on the page, from the letter that has been written. The result of using gum sandarac is that is letters will appear sharper with less likelihood of bleeding.

Gum sandarac is available to buy both in lumps ‘tears’ and as a fine powder. If you purchase lumps ‘tears’ these will needed to be ground to a fine powder, ideally using a pestle and mortar.

How to apply Gum Sandarac ?

  1. Taking a small amount of powder and place in a small fine woven material, similar to a fine hessian / cotton. The idea is that there are small enough gaps in the material, to allow a very fine dusting of the page.
  2. Then take a small piece of cord or indeed a rubber band, and tie the small piece of material so that no unwanted gum sandarac escapes; in order to make a pounce.
  3. Once this is done you simply gently rub the pounce over the area of page you intend to work on. When you have finished this any excess powder can be lightly tapped off the page or indeed using a soft brush.

It should be noted, that gum sandarac should always be cleaned up afterwards as if it is allowed to become moist, it will become tacky and will be difficult to clean; so best to clean up when dry. Also it is important to remember that gum sandarac is a dusty material and caution should be exercised when using it.

Furthermore – Gum sandarac must be applied to the page before ink is applied to the page, it does not work after the ink has been applied.