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Homemade Black Walnut Ink


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#31 fiberdrunk

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Posted 15 October 2013 - 23:33

I doubt arabic is reducing the stain's water resistance. More likely it's holding dye stuff above the paper where it is available to smear, wash off, etc. The same is true for "bullet proof" and even IG inks. Any reactive material not allowed to bond to the paper can be washed off unless the ink includes a water proof binder, something typically not FP friendly.

 

Personally, I prefer thinner inks, provided they are not prone to feathering and line bloat. Having recently refreshed my acquaintance with Higgins Eternal, I now remember why I stopped buying it. It won't produce decent hairlines, doing little better in that respect than the peat-based 'walnut' ink crystals. It's easily out performed by IG and properly diluted sumi-e inks. It does, however, feel nice going on the page, which I suspect is the inky equivalent of 'but she's got a great personality.'

 

It's possible.  I do use gum arabic with my iron gall inks, and those are very waterproof.

 

That's interesting about the Higgins Eternal.  I'm surprised it doesn't give good hairlines.  It was one of the inks recommended in Michael Sull's Spencerian book.  I know the John Neal Bookseller website advises adding in a little gum arabic to it.  Have you tried that?  I don't do Spencerian well enough to be the judge of Higgins for that, however.  I'm still a beginner.  Has Higgins Eternal changed at all since Sull wrote his book (my copy is copyrighted 1989)?


Find my homemade ink recipes on my Flickr page here.

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#32 Mickey

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Posted 16 October 2013 - 04:17

 

It's possible.  I do use gum arabic with my iron gall inks, and those are very waterproof.

 

That's interesting about the Higgins Eternal.  I'm surprised it doesn't give good hairlines.  It was one of the inks recommended in Michael Sull's Spencerian book.  I know the John Neal Bookseller website advises adding in a little gum arabic to it.  Have you tried that?  I don't do Spencerian well enough to be the judge of Higgins for that, however.  I'm still a beginner.  Has Higgins Eternal changed at all since Sull wrote his book (my copy is copyrighted 1989)?

I suspect it was recommended largely because it was almost the only game in town back in 1989. To my taste, it's too lush and produces too broad a line for the scale at which I typically write (x  = c. 1.8mm). I suppose I could thin it out and add a bit of gum arabic, but why bother when I can use McCaffery's (or Old World) right out of the bottle or Moon Palace, diluted 6 parts ink to 4 parts distilled water.


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#33 fiberdrunk

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Posted 16 October 2013 - 19:18

After this week, I will have processed 30 gallons (dry weight) of black walnuts into ink.  After doing this much ink (by far the most I've ever processed in such a short period of time), I've learned to streamline the process somewhat.  I thought I'd write it out in steps, with photos.

 

Black Walnut Tree

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Cooked-Down Black Walnut Ink 2013

 

Materials:

Playtex Dishwashing Gloves

Non-Reactive Cooking Pot (I use a large canning pot)

Paper & Dip Pen (to make writing samples with)

Buckets or Bowls

Collander

Fine-Mesh Paint Strainer

Cloth for Filtering

Wooden Spoon

Measuring Cups or Containers

Steel Wool (optional)

 

Black Walnut Husks

Distilled Water

Whole Cloves

100-Proof Vodka (optional)

Gum Arabic (optional)

 

Glass or Nalgene Bottles

Labels

Badger Ink Mixer (optional-- but very useful)

 

Prep Work

1.  Wearing heavy-duty dishwashing gloves (like Playtex), de-husk the black walnuts.  It is the fleshy outer part you want for ink, and not the hard shell or nut.  Most will have Black Walnut Maggots feeding within the husk.  Brush these aside (chickens love them!)  Put the husks into a non-reactive pot and cover with distilled water (I admit to using my well water, which has a bit of iron in it.  I would not use chlorinated tap water.)  If you need to, you can let this soak overnight or even considerably longer, until you’re ready to cook it down.

 

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Black Walnut Maggots

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First Steaming Stage

2.  Bring the husks and water to a boil.  Watch carefully, as this boils over very easily and makes a huge mess!  Once it’s boiling, drop the heat down to just below a simmer-- with no bubbling in the pot, but with steam coming off the surface.  Put a lid on.  Cook it down for several hours to make an extract.  Stir it from time to time.  Make some writing samples.  Continue to cook it down until it’s dark and doesn’t seem to darken any further.  Be patient during the two cooking stages, especially if making a large quantity; don’t rush and scorch the extract.  For this step, I tend to cook this from the time I wake up until I go to bed, then turn the heat off (a smaller quantity would require much less time).

 

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3.  Allow to cool, even overnight.  Then strain and squeeze through a nylon fine-mesh paint strainer.  This is to remove the big chunks and not the smaller particles (there will be a final filtering through cloth later.)  I put one or two handfuls of husks in the strainer at a time– just enough for my hands to manage to squeeze easily.  Try to squeeze out as much of the liquid from the solids as possible.  Discard the solids.

 

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Wringing the Fine-Mesh Paint Strainer

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Second Steaming Stage

4.  Return the liquid extract to the non-reactive pot.  Carefully bring to a boil (again, watch to make sure it doesn’t boil over).  Drop the heat down to just below a simmer so that there is no bubbling, but only with steam rising off the top.  Leave the lid off this time.  Allow it to reduce down, stirring from time to time.  This cooking stage requires less than half the amount of time than the first cooking stage.  A film may appear on the surface (this is the sugars carmelizing).  Just stir it back in.  Make writing samples periodically (every half hour or so at first, then as it begins to darken, make a sample every 15 minutes).  Don't be surprised if, at first, the ink looks paler than the writing sample was from the day before.  Just keep stirring and reducing it down and it will get darker again.  Keep reducing the ink down to the color strength that you like.  If desired, add some clean shiny steel wool to impart some iron to help darken the ink to a blackish-brown sepia color (optional.).  Keep in mind, if you will be using alcohol as a preservative later, that it will dilute the strength of the color a little, so take this into account as you judge the strength of the color.  There will come a point where it just won’t darken any more, so be careful not to steam all your ink away in trying to get it darker.  Stir the ink well before each time you make a writing sample– this will evenly distribute the pigment so that you will get a more accurate color sample. 

 

Notice the Steam Rising Above the Pot -- and No Bubbles in the Pot

Dropping the Steam Wool In

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5.  Allow the ink to cool.  Don your heavy-duty dishwashing gloves again.  Strain again through cheesecloth (I like those flour sack dish towels for this), to remove any remaining particles that might have slipped through the mesh.  Wring the cheesecloth to get every last drop of ink that you can.  Calculate how many ounces of ink you have.

 

Note:  These cloths as well as the paint strainers can be bleached in the washing machine and used again.  I use them only for ink-making.

 

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Finishing It Up

6.  If desired, add 10% alcohol by volume for a preservative (I use 100-proof vodka), stirring well.  Black walnut is naturally anti-fungal, so if you ( A ) keep your bottles cool and ( B ) transfer the ink to smaller bottles as you use it up to prevent air exposure, AND ( C ) if you use whole cloves as a preservative, you can avoid mold even without using alcohol.  But if you want the added protection, use the following excellent formula by Paddler to calculate how much you will need.
 

AX = B(C+X)

Where:
A = alcohol proof divided by 200. This is the alcohol concentration of your booze expressed as a decimal.

B = the alcohol concentration, expressed as a decimal, in your finished ink.

C = the volume, in ml, of raw ink you are starting with.

X = the volume, in ml, of booze you must add to the raw ink.

Solve for X.

 

7.  If desired, add 1 part powdered gum arabic to 30 parts ink, though it’s not necessary (it can make the ink a little less runny, but it does decrease water resistence.  Don’t use it if you desire a waterproof ink).  Stir well.  The lumps will dissolve overnight.  Stir again.  Make some writing samples.  

8.  If your ink has been sitting for awhile prior to bottling, it can be helpful to pour the ink from one container to another beforehand a few times, to make sure the pigment is evenly distributed throughout before you bottle it.  Be sure to scrape the bottom of the container, too (some of the darkest pigment tends to settle at the bottom and you want this stirred back in evenly before bottling to retain the color strength).  Bottle in sterile glass or Nalgene bottles, adding several whole cloves per bottle (this is for a preservative-- cloves have phenol in them).  Label with the date.  Use this ink with dip pens only, preferably gold-plated or stainless steel nibs (the acidic nature of this ink will rapidly tarnish most other metals).  Glass pens and feather quills are also excellent with this ink.  Try it on banana paper with a glass dip pen!

 

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9.  This ink tends to drop a thick pigmented sludge on the bottom of the bottle as it sits.  It’s too thick to shake back in, but you can stir it back in, scraping the bottom with a popsicle stick, or use a hand-held battery-powered Badger Ink Mixer (which retails for about $13 and fits inside bottles up to 4 ounces in size).  If you don’t stir this pigment back in before writing, the ink will be thin.  I always stir my black walnut ink before using it.  Always.

 

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10.  Your ink will keep for many years, especially if you minimize oxygen inside the bottle (transfer to smaller bottles as you use it up). This ink is permanent (fadeproof), as well as waterproof (if gum arabic is not used).  Water resistence increases the longer it dries on the page.

Some figures:

•    I processed one 5-gallon paint bucket full of whole black walnuts at a time (took 2 ½ hours to de-husk each batch).
•    The husks (and water to cover) filled a large canning pot to the very top.
•    I reduced the husks down until I had 58 ounces of extract.
•    I added 14 ½ ounces of 100-proof vodka and 2.41 ounces of powdered gum arabic
•    Total time taken per batch = 4 days (2 ½ hours spread over 2 days for de-husking/soaking; and 2 more days of steaming the extract down)
•    Total yield of ink = approximately 75 ounces of finished ink.  (Other 5-gallon batches I processed yielded as much as 128 ounces of finished ink... you just have to be careful not to steam away your ink in that final steaming stage.  Keep a close eye on it towards the end and don’t let yourself get distracted, or you’ll discover when you return to the pot that there isn’t much ink left!)
 


Edited by fiberdrunk, 17 October 2013 - 04:13.

Find my homemade ink recipes on my Flickr page here.

"I don't wait for inspiration; inspiration waits for me." --Akiane Kramarik

#34 jbb

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Posted 26 October 2013 - 15:03

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#35 jbb

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Posted 26 October 2013 - 15:04

Fiberdrunk!!!! You made my day yesterday when I found your wonderful present in my mailbox!!!! Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!! This is such nice ink.



#36 fiberdrunk

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Posted 26 October 2013 - 20:28

Fiberdrunk!!!! You made my day yesterday when I found your wonderful present in my mailbox!!!! Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!! This is such nice ink.

 

I'm so glad you liked it!  With your pretty penmanship, I know you'll put it to great use!


Find my homemade ink recipes on my Flickr page here.

"I don't wait for inspiration; inspiration waits for me." --Akiane Kramarik

#37 demeter

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Posted 04 November 2013 - 19:36

I cooked up a batch of Black Walnut ink from walnuts I gathered from a town tree across from the library - I'd gather a small bag full on my trips to the library. Anyway, I cooked as suggested by fiberdrunk except not as long - my mixture was black nearly right away. I used husks that turned brown already, so maybe that was a difference. I filtred the liquid through a doubled coffee filtre paper, and the colour didn't lose any richness.

 

Since I cannot locate my dip pen I used one of my cheaper pens (actually a Sheaffer's caligraphy pen that I used as an eyedropper), and the colour seemed splendid! There was very little sludge at the bottom. With proper filtre paper I could probably get it clear of particulate. The big drawback is that it is so dry of an ink that the pen often quits after a few seconds of not writing. So, I added a bit of liquid dish detergent - a tiny dab on a toothpick swirled in the barrel of the pen. That worked wonderfully to promote flow. I'm leaving it a few days to see what effect that has on it.

 

Anyway, thanks for the initial recipe fiberdrunk. It's been fun brewing up the ink.

Andrew



#38 fiberdrunk

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Posted 05 November 2013 - 01:21

I cooked up a batch of Black Walnut ink from walnuts I gathered from a town tree across from the library - I'd gather a small bag full on my trips to the library. Anyway, I cooked as suggested by fiberdrunk except not as long - my mixture was black nearly right away. I used husks that turned brown already, so maybe that was a difference. I filtred the liquid through a doubled coffee filtre paper, and the colour didn't lose any richness.

 

Since I cannot locate my dip pen I used one of my cheaper pens (actually a Sheaffer's caligraphy pen that I used as an eyedropper), and the colour seemed splendid! There was very little sludge at the bottom. With proper filtre paper I could probably get it clear of particulate. The big drawback is that it is so dry of an ink that the pen often quits after a few seconds of not writing. So, I added a bit of liquid dish detergent - a tiny dab on a toothpick swirled in the barrel of the pen. That worked wonderfully to promote flow. I'm leaving it a few days to see what effect that has on it.

 

Anyway, thanks for the initial recipe fiberdrunk. It's been fun brewing up the ink.

Andrew

 

Fantastic!  You won't see that thick peanut butter sludge for awhile-- like when the bottle has been sitting for months or years.  I see it in my 2010 batches.  Those were also some of my most saturated batches, too, though.  Enjoy it!  Let us know how it works in the pen.


Find my homemade ink recipes on my Flickr page here.

"I don't wait for inspiration; inspiration waits for me." --Akiane Kramarik

#39 jelly

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Posted 25 February 2014 - 23:29

i love it, in the first post it looks like you've laid down wood veneer in the shape of letters!


Edited by jelly, 25 February 2014 - 23:30.


#40 Morphling27

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Posted 19 June 2014 - 20:16

I remember reading this article a while ago and wondering about your anti-ink beasties issues with the ink.  I recently purchased some Scribal Workshop ink and remember reviewers mentioning it smells like oregano.  I assume it's actually thyme oil used, but I hate both herbs in most of my cooking so I avoid them.  I know thyme oil is big against bacteria and fungus and other such things as is oregano.  Adding some drops of that might help combat any mold or such things along with the alcohol. 



#41 fiberdrunk

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Posted 19 June 2014 - 21:19

No mold so far.  I was even surprised that one of the jars that was half empty (i.e. with air in the jar) hadn't molded over yet.  Normally I keep the bottles full by transferring down to smaller bottles as I use it up, to keep the air (and thus the mold) out.  Black walnut is naturally anti-fungal, though I do use whole cloves as a precaution (oil of cloves would work, too).  I don't think I'm going to use alcohol at all any more, though I'll wait and see how the last batch does over time before deciding for sure.  The only batch that ever gave me mold trouble was the cold-process (uncooked) one, but as long as I keep the air out, those bottles do fine, too.


Edited by fiberdrunk, 19 June 2014 - 21:21.

Find my homemade ink recipes on my Flickr page here.

"I don't wait for inspiration; inspiration waits for me." --Akiane Kramarik

#42 Cepasaccus

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Posted 19 June 2014 - 21:34

I had a plastic bag with lot of walnut / water mix in the boiler room for over a year, perhaps even two. No mold was visible. So I would not be too anxious.



#43 fiberdrunk

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Posted 19 June 2014 - 21:40

I had a plastic bag with lot of walnut / water mix in the boiler room for over a year, perhaps even two. No mold was visible. So I would not be too anxious.

 

Black walnut is incredible that way.  When I made the cold-process version, I had it outside in a bucket soaking in water for months and months in our hot/humid climate.  At one point it developed a yeasty smell, like rising bread dough, but it never molded during all that time.  It's resilient stuff and hard to mess it up.


Find my homemade ink recipes on my Flickr page here.

"I don't wait for inspiration; inspiration waits for me." --Akiane Kramarik

#44 LucasT

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Posted 20 June 2014 - 03:25

Thymol and clove oil are my personal favorite preservatives, but alas in fountain pen inks I've had to switch to a modern synthetic preservative. All of my historic inks are still clove preserved though (there are multiple examples of this in historic recipes)

 

It is the thymol in the thyme oil and the oregano that makes them smell so similar.


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#45 Morphling27

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Posted 24 June 2014 - 22:16

That's all good information to know.  

 

Fiberdunk - does taking out the alcohol seem to change the ink in anyway?  Writing, color, etc?  I'm also in general jealous of you all living where you do - Arizona has little I can make any ink with that I see online from the stuff in nature.  

 

Lucas - thank you for that bit of information.  I assumed the 2 herbs shared similar chemical properties due to the fact they smell the same and I dislike either in large amounts when cooking.  



#46 fiberdrunk

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Posted 24 June 2014 - 23:25

That's all good information to know.  

 

Fiberdunk - does taking out the alcohol seem to change the ink in anyway?  Writing, color, etc?  I'm also in general jealous of you all living where you do - Arizona has little I can make any ink with that I see online from the stuff in nature.  

 

 

 

Not really.  The flow is good either way.  The color may be just a wee bit darker, after all, adding the alcohol dilutes it just a little.

 

Pomegranates grow in AZ.  You could make pom iron gall ink from those.  (I grew up in Phoenix.  There are some things I miss that I can't get in NC, too!) 


Find my homemade ink recipes on my Flickr page here.

"I don't wait for inspiration; inspiration waits for me." --Akiane Kramarik

#47 Morphling27

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Posted 26 June 2014 - 17:22

They do grow here and I even have a family that are friends with a huge bush in their backyard.  Reminds me to ask them for some as they are mean and rarely 'inform' me when they have lots... as in they eat them all!  That ink doesn't even seem hard to make at all.  



#48 fiberdrunk

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Posted 29 July 2014 - 03:47

If anyone is interested, I'm offering the cooked-down version of my black walnut ink for sale, as well as the homemade U.S. government standard blue-black iron gall ink (limited quantity of the latter).  PM me for details.


Find my homemade ink recipes on my Flickr page here.

"I don't wait for inspiration; inspiration waits for me." --Akiane Kramarik