Sunday, October 09, 2011

Homemade Black Walnut Ink ~ Instructions

When one of the members of my garden forum posted a photo of his black walnut harvest in progress I thought it would be fun to try making my own walnut ink and instructions online are not difficult to find. At my request this member kindly sent me a gallon size ziploc full of black walnut husks. He had already completed the really hard and messy job of removing the nuts from their husks(walnut husks are terribly staining). When the husks arrived some were still green so I set them out on my deck in the sun on newspaper to thoroughly dry and finish turning black. If you're interested in trying this squirrels can do the husking for you! As I understand it, squirrels will husk the nuts and store only the nutmeats in their shells leaving those precious husks under the tree, free for the taking.


1.) Black walnut husks

2.) Gloves!

3.) Two glass jars

4.) Some rusty nails or other rusty material that will fit in your jars.

5.) Fine mesh cheesecloth or muslin.

6.) A cookpot to boil the husks.

7.) Clove oil (can be purchased from a pharmacy).



Step 1) Procure your husks. You need only the outer husks, not the shells or the nuts themselves. If you are doing your own shelling wear gloves...please!

Step 2) You will need a few rusty nails or other rusty material that will fit in your jar. This will help cause a chemical reaction in the ink making process.

Step 3) Crunch the husks as best as you can. I plan to do this step by putting the husks in a clean ziploc and tapping the bag gently with a hammer or meat mallet. Put them in a pan with an equal amount of water (a good guess here is fine) and boil them for about 20 minutes, just long enough for them to start to break down. Let them cool a bit.

Step 4) Put your 'yummy stuff' in a glass jar with a couple of rusty pieces of iron and seal it up. Glass is inert and wont add anything to your mix, unlike some plastics and other metals. Now the waiting begins. This lovely stuff needs to ferment. Open it in a week (oh, you should do that outside. It’s stinky.) and scrape off the mold. Close it back up again and let it sit. Do this for another 4 weeks.

Step 5) Now you strain it. A piece of fine meshed cheese cloth(or several layers of regular cheesecloth), or muslin works great for this. Cut a piece off and with a rubber band put it over the top of another jar (recycled mayonnaise or pickle jars work great for this. I'll be using spaghetti sauce jars.) Push it in a bit with your finger to make a little depression or bowl. Slowly pour in your mix, scraping off the husks and depositing them in another bowl. You can use them twice, so go ahead and keep them!

Step 6) The best storage for your ink is something that doesn’t let in light. Ceramic or naturally tinted glass is great. UV light will break down the plant material in your ink. As a preservative, add some clove oil, just a couple of drops, and your ink will last for over a year. It should be a shade of brown. Let it sit out in the air to evaporate the water to get a darker shade, or add water to get a lighter shade. It makes a fairly permanent stain on paper, and is great for drawing or calligraphy. The same stuff can be used to dye fabric.

I just got my supplies together today so my results won't be ready for another 1 1/2 -2 months. I will be posting updates on my progress.



Jeanette Jobson said...

What a great project and something useful at the end. I bet you can't wait to try out the resulting ink.

It reminds me of a house I lived in in Devon, in a little place called Upottery. There was a huge walnut tree in the garden and at the time I had considered making walnut ink, but of course no internet then to search out instructions, only the library.

I made an ink of sorts but don't think it was very time worthy it was pretty much rubbing alcohol, water and walnut husks.

As for the staining power of those husks - oh yes, the stain is virtually impossible to remove from hands and clothes. Said from the mother of a small child who would come in daily with fists and pockets full of the walnuts.

vivien said...

fascinating Billie! I look forward to seeing the results (minus the stinky bit :>) )

Billie Crain said...

I'm certainly having fun with this project, Jeanette.:) The stain factor was my biggest concern but I was saved by my stainless steel cooktop and formica counter. When the pressure is on me during a project I'm usually a menace but this went rather smoothly. Surprise, surprise!

Billie Crain said...

I'm looking forward to the final results myself, Vivien. Can't wait to see if I succeed. The stinky part is yet to come.;p