Question on ink thickness

Some inks come in one thickness and the sofer can add water or a Medallel to thin it if necessary.

Some inks come in a choice of thick, medium, and thin. Even then, sometimes a few drops of water may sometimes be necessary for a perfect fit to the convenience of the sofer.

Which kind of inks is preferred by most sofrim? Does it help if all thinning is done by water, never needing a Medallel?


  1. This is an interesting question. Personally, I think a medium ink is best. Too thick and it won't flow properly, too thin and it rushes out of the kulmus and makes blobs on the klaf. Also if it's too thin the letters may end up looking rather grey.

    In thickness of ink there are a couple of other factors to consider. Nahari ink for example is absolutely beautiful at full strength, it's glossy, raised, deep black. Personal experience though tells me that this type of ink tends to be more brittle and crack when used full strength. When undiluted it's also hard to read if the lighting isn't just so. I also find that these inks when undiluted are extremely sticky and gummy. Hadar is closer to what I like, but still a bit too thick.

    Much better just to make your own ink, you get the consistency you want, you know what's in it, and there are no surprises.

  2. Zvi, what do you reccommend for painting retzuos? something kosher, dries quickly and looks nice

    1. I repainted my retzuot and batim with Dio Lanetzach #114 (for rapidograph). First I sanded the area with sand paper to remove loose paint and oily residue from years of use. Then, wiped off the dust with a paper towel. Then, painted.

      For glossy finish let the liquid ink dry undisturbed. For matte finish use a Q-tip instead of a brush, let it dry a little, and run the Q-tip over the area again to break the gloss.

  3. There is no perfect ink for every situation. A lot depends on the personal habits of the sofer. For example, I write on a 30 degree angle, so I use a thinner ink than a sofer who writes on a flat table. Other factors are the shape of the pen point (curved or angled) and the texture of the klaf (smooth or velvety). The size of the writing also has to be taken into account: a 48cm Sefer Torah calls for a thicker ink than a 10cm mezuza.

    The variable that changes the most is probably the weather — the relative temperature and humidity have a huge impact on the flow of the ink and way it dries. I use mostly the thin Nahari ink with a little bit of the regular Nahari mixed in. On hot, dry days I will probably add a few drops of medalel. On cold, wet days I may add more of the regular ink.

  4. I understand there is no perfect ink for every situation. But, if you had a choice, would you prefer the 3 levels of thickness offered by some, or a single thick ink to which you can add your own choice of water quantity - different quantity at different situations.

    1. As I said, I normally use 3 bottles: regular, thin and medalel. I usually go through about 500 cc of thin for every 100cc of regular, and I’ve been using the same 100cc bottle of medalel for many years. I personally have no use for the thickest ink, but that’s just me.

      I could probably manage with only one bottle of ink and water, but I’d rather not.

      In terms of thinning the ink with water, the composition of “plain water” can vary widely. AFAIK, The only way to get pure water would be to distill it, which isn’t any easier than using medalel.

      Also, for most brands of ink, it’s harder to over-dilute the ink (to the point that it isn’t black) with medalel than it is with water.

    2. Desani bottled water is distilled. I've been using Israeli tap water and it works fine. My only problem is thickening the ink when I over-dilute it or if it stam doesn't like the weather. What do you recommend for that? (I use regular nahari)

    3. You can buy a small bottle of the thicker Nahari ink and use a little at a time to thicken your ink as needed. Alternatively, you can leave some ink out in an open dish to evaporate for a few days to thicken it.

  5. Some inks have a vinegar or alchohol base. I recall years ago, Shechter ink was the big deal and we used synthetic vinegar to dilute it. Then Kahana came on the market and we diluted it with alchohol. This was before the Hadar days and before medalel existed. I'd think a thinner ink followed by medalel is the safest means of dilution as it isn't hard to put in too much water causing the ink to come out greyish, particularly fine lines and tagin.
    In israel, where it is more humid (Bnei Brak, Ashdod, etc.) the thicker ink is likely best most of the time while in drier climates like Yerushalayim and Beit Shemesh, the thinner ink is going to best option most of the time.


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