I would like to start this topic with one goal: making walnut ink that is able to be used in a fountain pen.
I have made walnut ink twice before, in 2013 and 2014. I used almost none of it for writing or drawing, and the want to use this ink is what got me into fountain pens in the first place.
This year, I have collected a huge amount of walnuts and I am processing them right now. They have been boiled once, and in order to maximize the amount of ink I can get, I will be boiling them again or letting them soak for a long time with fresh, distilled water. Then I will be condensing the ink down to a good concentration.
Insofar as I am, I think I have to:
Remove the sugars
Remove the acids
Add in substances to give it the correct surface tension, dryness/wetness, consistency, and permanence on the page.
Anything info, advice, or comments you guys can give is greatly appreciated! Especially anything on what chemicals/things are generally safe and/or unsafe for pens, and, if you know, why exactly they are safe or unsafe.
My current ideas for removing the sugars:
Drying the ink to crystals and COMPLETELY BURNING the ink (like in a crucible, not throwing them into a bonfire). Have to make sure the sugar does not caramelize, as if it completely burns it should only be CO2 and water vapor produced, but if it caramelizes then elemental carbon will be left behind. So unless you want carbon in it (and I don’t know if you could grind it fine enough to put it into a pen), it has to be burned completely.
Adding yeast and fermenting until the yeast no longer grows. Then boiling off the alcohol and adding more yeast; repeating until yeast no longer has anything left to ferment. Making sure to seal the container when fermenting; if the yeast has oxygen, then it will start making acetic acid (vinegar) eventually. Would letting it mold have the same effect, or be beneficial? I heard once that it is good to let it mold, but I do not know if that is true or not.
I have tested to see if there are even sugars needing to be removed (as even if sugars do not impair pen functionality, I don't want them in there). I took some walnut hull liquor and put some yeast in it, then capped it tightly and let it sit for a few days. It smelled like alcohol afterwards. As a control, I did the same thing with about the same ammount of water as I had of walnut juice, and it smelled only a tiny bit like alcohol; not at all as strongly as the walnuts did.
For removing the acids:
I've heard of adding hydrochloric acid, which I actually should have some of, but this seems risky and I don't know enough of the science behind it to feel certain that adding two acids together can actually cancel out.
There was some form of hydroxide that someone mentioned adding to neutralize acid, but I can not remember what kind it was. HOK? I don't know. I will have to learn more about pH; my other ideas are lye or washing soda, but I do not know if those are good ideas for pen use. I know lye can react with fats to produce glycerine, which I have heard can be an additive to pen ink, so that is what I am leaning toward most right now--even though there shouldn't be very many oils or fats in the walnut ink at any time in processing.
I found somewhere talking about the corrosive properties of iron-gall ink (which is sort of similar to Walnut ink, although I am trying to keep iron out of my ink) that the acids and the iron are what make the ink so aggressive and not archival-friendly. In order to make the best ink possible, I want to get as close to a pH of 7 as possible, and have that pH be as completely stable as possible. I don't think I should have a problem with the iron, as I've been using distilled water, unless the walnut liquor can leech iron out of (it was stained before I used it, so I think it's just plain) steel (my pot). In which case, it would also be damaging to the nib, and I will have to find a way to stop that from happening.
For preserving it:
I do not want to use alcohol as it causes feathering and I don't want to take the chance of harming the plastic, even if pure ethanol that has not been methylated (so, the kind of alcohol that yeast will produce) is safe.
In theory, iodine should work great as a preservative. So long as the source iodine does not contain ether, which can break down pen components. Google says that salts or using it elemental, dissolved in solution, is how tincture of iodine is made, so those are the forms I am going to try I think. Given the color of walnut ink and the small volume of iodine needed, the iodine shouldn't have much impact on color at all. Even if does, Lugol's or "white" iodine might work.
I think this would be pen-safe as I heard a rumor that iodine is already an ingredient in some inks. Can anyone attest to this?
I have used clove oil before (though not enough), and I could use it again in larger quantities, or use it in addition to iodine. I might buy cloves and add them to the process after fermenting, or I might just buy eugenol if I can find it pure enough.
For removing impurities:
I'm thinking of letting it settle, and then pouring off the liquid. If it is dye based (which I think it is) then there shouldn't be anything lost that is actually important. And after that I plan on running it through a coffee filter. Can particles small enough to go through a coffee filter clog the capillary system of a pen? I don't think so, but I can't test that for sure yet.
Things to add in:
I know the least about the things that I need to add to it to make it flow well and work well.
I have heard the term "surfactants," that lubricants of some kind are a good idea, and have found this bit of info on a page I haven't finished reading yet:
"Collectively known as ’vehicle’, these additional ingredients include pH modifiers, humectants to retard premature drying, polymeric resins to impart binding and allied properties, defoamer/antifoaming agents to regulate foam efficiency, wetting agents such as surfactants to control surface properties, biocides to inhibit the fungal and bacterial growth that lead to fouling, and thickeners or rheology modifiers to control ink application." - link
I do not know quite what I am going to do, besides not adding gum arabic (which I added to previous year's runs, and I'm glad I found out it isn't fountain pen safe before I dumped a bunch into this year's run).
I will be updating this thread as I make the ink, and if/when I have a recipe that actually does produce pen-good ink, I will edit this post and add it to the top so it's the first thing people see when they come to this thread. Sorry I don't have pictures for you all right now; imagine, if you will, several orange five-gallon buckets and a stained six-gallon pot all messy with dried splotches of brown. Empty milk-gallon shaped bottles with "great value distilled water" on their labels, mostly clean, piled together. And a concrete floor with a bit of a brown glow in some spots too.
I would also like to thank Fiberdrunk for posting about the walnut ink she makes; I remember referring to her notes when I first made mine.
Tl;dr, I am trying to make walnut ink pen-friendly and I appreciate any advice you guys can give!
I'm also new as you can tell and I apologize if it's not okay to post this.
Edited by PerytonPneuma, 08 December 2016 - 11:50.