Jump to content
Classifieds is broken, please do not submit any new ads ×

Homemade Black Walnut Ink



fiberdrunk

Recommended Posts

To help celebrate Fountain Pen Day 2012, here are my two black walnut ink recipes (a cooked-down variation for dip pens, and a fermented cold-process one that can be used in some fountain pens as well as dip pens). This is the time of year that black walnuts are available. Often you can find people on Craigslist who give them away for free. Both recipes are down below, after the photos. I made huge quantities each time, but you can certainly make much less than I did. Both inks look great on banana paper, by the way.

 

You can see how saturated the cooked-down version is compared with the cold-process one; and how the cold-process one improved as I let it evaporate down for another two months:

 

http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8162/7606574112_6c39390b16_b.jpg

 

 

Start with black walnuts (the outer husks, and not the hard shells or nuts):

 

http://farm5.staticflickr.com/4130/5063006049_aaf47b79b5.jpg

 

Wear heavy rubber gloves, or your fingers will look like this for weeks and weeks:

 

http://farm5.staticflickr.com/4091/5063613998_2e6286aee6_z.jpg

 

 

Soaking and cooking the husks down in water in a non-reactive pot:

 

http://farm5.staticflickr.com/4144/5063615612_a9db0dbc1a_b.jpg

 

 

Store finished ink in a glass bottle:

 

http://farm6.staticflickr.com/5173/5393679574_8dfcdf13ba.jpg

 

 

Writing sample of the cooked-down version:

 

http://farm5.staticflickr.com/4108/5063613444_ec16c38778_b.jpg

 

What you'll need for either recipe:

 

Black walnuts

Water (distilled is probably best)

100-proof vodka

Whole cloves

 

 

 

Cooked-Down Black Walnut Ink (For Dip Pens Only)

 

Black walnuts have a green fruit-like exterior called a husk. This must be cut or torn away to reach the actual hard walnut shell (with its edible nutmeat inside). It's the husk you want for ink, wood stain, fiber dye-baths, or for making medicinal tinctures and ointments-- and not the hard walnut shell. The husk has remarkable staining properties... as soon as it is exposed to air, it turns dark brown quickly. I wore rubber gloves while I de-husked the black walnuts-- some of the husks that were darker in color were easy to tear apart with my hands. The ones that had just dropped off the tree and were still fresh and green were hard enough that I had to use a knife to slice away the husk. Dehusking was hard on the gloves and they kept tearing on me... which is why I still ended up with stained fingers! (Yes, this stuff will stain countertops and everything else it touches, including the pots, strainers and other equipment that you need to process it with, so just be forewarned if you plan to try this. It's best to set aside equipment just for this purpose.)

 

While de-husking, I noticed quite a few had white worms in them. I could usually tell if worms had gotten inside the husks because those were already turning dark brown inside (and those were the easiest to tear apart with my fingers since they were already starting to break down). I actually took the time to pick out the worms. I'm vegetarian and couldn't stand the thought of bugs in my ink... it would've been a lot simpler just to boil the husks whole, but I knew a lot of worms would've been inside them and that would've bothered me to kill them. I felt a lot like those Buddhists in that Brad Pitt movie, Seven Years in Tibet, where they wouldn't build on the ground until they'd removed all the worms safely from the soil, for fear of killing any. Also, if I'd left them whole, then the nuts inside would have been ruined for food. (Edited after the fact: I've since learned these white worms are actually Walnut Husk Maggots! It still bothers me to kill them, though!)

 

After the husks were removed, I simply put them into my large canning pot and covered them with our well water. I homeschool, so I couldn't do anything more with them that day. They soaked for about 24 hours before I could get back to them again. Then I brought them to a boil, lowered the heat, and gently simmered them with the lid on for several hours. I threw in a piece of steel wool for about an hour towards the end. This adds iron and is said to darken the color (though I think I will skip this next time... I prefer a reddish brown, and the steel wool seems to make a blackish brown and dulls the color a bit. Also, our well water has a bit of iron in it anyway.) I turned off the heat, and then let the husks soak overnight because I was too busy to get to the next stage.

 

The next day, I strained all the solids out. I lined a large colander with a "flour sack" dish towel to strain the liquid through. I returned the strained liquid to the rinsed-out canning pot and brought it to a boil on the stove for the last time. Then I lowered the heat to barely a simmer (with no bubbling at all, with just a little steam rising from the top). After a few hours, it reduced down enough to a nice dark brown color. I kept making writing samples every hour or so, to see if the ink was the right color and consistency (not too runny, not too thick). When it was finished, I added 8% alcohol by volume for a preservative (80-proof vodka, to be exact). In later batches, I went with 10% alcohol and 100-proof vodka, which is easier to figure out mathmatically. (For a 10% concentration of alcohol with 100-proof vodka, take the number of ounces of ink you have and divide it by 4 to obtain the amount of alcohol to add. Ex. If you have 32 ounces of ink, divide that by 4 = 8 ounces of alcohol to add). My cooked-down black walnut batches have never molded over, and some of them are 2 years old now.

 

When all was said and done, I had created about a gallon of homemade ink. I didn't count how many black walnuts I started out with, but I filled a large canning pot about 3/4 full with husks and water, if that gives any indication. I used dozens of black walnut husks. Maybe around 50 or so.

 

This ink is meant for dip-pen use only, and not for fountain pens. It would likely ruin a fountain pen. It is especially well-suited to glass dip pens. I recommend gold-plated metal nibs to resist corrosion by the acidic ink.

 

Observations for the Cooked-Down Ink:

 

I notice this cooked-down ink tends to form a thick pigmented sludge that sinks to the bottom of the bottles over time. It can't be shaken back in, though it can be stirred back in (carefully) with a popsicle stick. It doesn't seem to affect the ink adversely (like precipates would for an iron gall ink), though if you don't stir the sludge back in, your ink won't be as saturated and might come across as a bit watery and thin.

 

Sunlight tests have shown this ink to be fade-resistant. The longer the ink dries on the paper, the more waterproof it becomes, too.

 

Slow, Cold-Process Variation (Works in Some Fountain Pens)

 

In the quest to create a black walnut ink that would not form a thick pigmented sludge at the bottom of the bottle (as the cooked-down version is prone to doing), and in the interest of creating an ink that could be used in a fountain pen, instead of repeatedly cooking down the husks, I soaked the husks in water for months, strained, and then let it evaporate down to strength as follows.

 

1. Fermentation stage: Fill a non-reactive container with husks (remove nuts and black walnut maggots first). If you have a large amount, a plastic paint bucket works great. Fill with distilled water to cover and then put a lid on. Allow to ferment for 2 months (I forgot about mine and fermented it for 5 months and it developed a manure smell, and then later a yeast smell during the evaporation stage. It still turned out fine!)

 

2. Filter/strain the ink with a paint strainer or through a few layers of cloth in a strainer. Squeeze out as much of the liquid as you can.

 

3. Evaporation stage: Make a writing sample log. With a glass or dip pen, make a writing sample and note the date. Notice the strength of the ink. Now allow the ink to evaporate down until it is the strength you want. This can take weeks or months, depending on your quantity and how hot/dry it is and the type of container you use (I recommend a glass baking dish or cat litter box or some other shallow non-reactive container). I tape paper towel across the top to keep the dust, pollen and insects out, while still allowing evaporation to happen. Every so often make another writing sample to see how your ink is doing.

 

4. When your ink is dark enough, boil it covered for 10 minutes to kill the ink beasties. Watch it carefully or it will boil over in a huge foamy mess (speaking from personal experience here!) This is a rather stinky process, so ventilate the room. The odor of the ink should improve a little bit with boiling (a little less manurey).

 

5. Black walnut is naturally anti-fungal, but I definitely recommend adding 10% alcohol; basically, for a 10% concentration of alcohol, and if using 100-proof vodka, take the number of ounces of ink you have and divide it by 4 to obtain the amount of alcohol to add. Ex. If you have 32 ounces of ink, divide that by 4 = 8 ounces of alcohol to add). Add several whole cloves as an added preservative. The cloves will help improve the odor, too, somewhat.

 

6. Bottle in sterile glass bottles, preferably amber glass, with no air space inside (this will help prevent mold growth, too).

 

 

Observations for the Cold-Process Variation

 

This ink is pretty forgiving and hard to mess up. I’ve been able to use this ink in Parker Vector, Pilot 78G, and Pilot Parallel fountain pens so far. The cold-process version is a tad less saturated than the cooked-down version, but less prone to forming pigmented sludge on the bottom of the bottle, which is probably why I'm able to use it in a fountain pen (the cooked kind clogs fountain pens). This kind can be used with dip pens, too.

 

I did notice my working jar of ink grew a kind of film on top (mold?) when the ink level became low and there was a lot of air space inside the jar, and after not using it for a couple of weeks. My other full bottles are fine. So I recommend keeping this cold-process ink in jars small enough to contain it, with no air space inside. Or, if you've made a very large quantity of ink, use those storage tanks from photography darkroom suppliers with a floating lid:

 

Ink on tap!

 

 

http://www.freestylephoto.biz/images/prod/1618202.jpg

 

The floating lid:

 

http://www.freestylephoto.biz/images/prod/1618213.jpg

 

 

or a collapsible bottle such as the Arista Air-Evac Bottle... this would be well-suited for iron gall inks, too:

 

http://www.freestylephoto.biz/images/prod/5141.jpg

Edited by fiberdrunk

Find my homemade ink recipes on my Flickr page here.

 

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

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • Replies 69
  • Created
  • Last Reply

Top Posters In This Topic

  • fiberdrunk

    27

  • amberleadavis

    5

  • Mickey

    4

  • jbb

    4

Top Posters In This Topic

Posted Images

By the way, I wanted to add that I set aside a small amount of the cold-process ink to see if I could convert it into an iron gall ink. I added some iron sulfate, but it turned grainy and ruined the flow.

Find my homemade ink recipes on my Flickr page here.

 

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

Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks for sharing these with the rest of us. I like the look of the ink.

 

I was thinking about walnut ink the other day. We were driving through a wooded area and I noticed the semi-circles of stain on the road in front of the walnut trees where cars had crushed the nuts. I thought, when I do get time to make ink, the stains will shorten the search for walnut trees.

Link to post
Share on other sites

http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8162/7606574112_6c39390b16_b.jpg

 

Great color on this ink. AND You're brave to work with those ever-so-staining Black Walnuts. :notworthy1: I finally finished my first batch of Iron Gall Ink and it's an utterly insipid & boring color so I appreciate your success with these inks even more! :clap1:

Link to post
Share on other sites

 

Great color on this ink. AND You're brave to work with those ever-so-staining Black Walnuts. :notworthy1: I finally finished my first batch of Iron Gall Ink and it's an utterly insipid & boring color so I appreciate your success with these inks even more! :clap1:

 

Thanks! Don't give up on your iron gall ink yet. It often improves with age. The Newton ink I did has just gotten blacker and blacker, I suspect from oxidizing while I write with it out of a bottle. It was a bit drab at first, too.

Find my homemade ink recipes on my Flickr page here.

 

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

Link to post
Share on other sites

My wife made some cooked black walnut ink for me several years ago -- wonderful color, but unsuitable for my better pens. However, lots of fun with dip nibs or cheap pens.

<span style='font-size: 12px;'><span style='font-family: Trebuchet MS'><span style='color: #0000ff'><strong class='bbc'>Mitch</strong></span><span style='color: #0000ff'>

=======

http://exploratorius.us

Link to post
Share on other sites

 

Great color on this ink. AND You're brave to work with those ever-so-staining Black Walnuts. :notworthy1: I finally finished my first batch of Iron Gall Ink and it's an utterly insipid & boring color so I appreciate your success with these inks even more! :clap1:

 

Thanks! Don't give up on your iron gall ink yet. It often improves with age. The Newton ink I did has just gotten blacker and blacker, I suspect from oxidizing while I write with it out of a bottle. It was a bit drab at first, too.

Do I need to leave the bottle open or does it get darker on the page after you write?

Link to post
Share on other sites

 

Do I need to leave the bottle open or does it get darker on the page after you write?

 

 

It'll darken as you leave the bottle open to write; it will also darken on some papers, particularly bleached ones (some papers won't have much change, though). Newton's recipe also recommended putting the ink in the sun (he didn't specify for how long- I did it for 3 days). I don't set in the sun with my other iron gall ink recipes, though. Using a metal nib can also blacken the ink, though the chemical reaction that takes place between the metal and the acid in the ink doesn't help the longevity of the ink (either in the bottle or on the page) or the nib since it tends to tarnish the nib. But I have noticed this can coax a blacker color out of a brownish iron gall ink.

Find my homemade ink recipes on my Flickr page here.

 

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

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 2 weeks later...

By the way, I wanted to add that I set aside a small amount of the cold-process ink to see if I could convert it into an iron gall ink. I added some iron sulfate, but it turned grainy and ruined the flow.

 

Fiberdunk, I checked out your cold-process walnut formula on Flickr. It's refreshing to find someone creating "homemade" inks. Kudos ! Back when I was repairing pocket knives, I was unsuccessfully trying to develop a walnut dye that would penetrate bone. (Knife handles are created from the shin bone of cattle). Then, an old-timer told me to add an oz. or so, of DMSO (readily available at any farm store). It's a penetrant Dimethyl Sulfoxide, and NOTHING could live in that solution. I was wondering about substituting that for the vodka, so that it didn't dilute the dye. Just thinking out loud...bleedthrough might be intolerable, tho'. It would definitely penetrate the paper, carrying the walnut color with it. Just a suggestion - I am, by no means, a chemist !

 

Won't react to metal, I know - but not sure about celluloid/acrylic/etc. Might be worth a try ?

 

Take care,

JR

Link to post
Share on other sites

 

Fiberdunk, I checked out your cold-process walnut formula on Flickr. It's refreshing to find someone creating "homemade" inks. Kudos ! Back when I was repairing pocket knives, I was unsuccessfully trying to develop a walnut dye that would penetrate bone. (Knife handles are created from the shin bone of cattle). Then, an old-timer told me to add an oz. or so, of DMSO (readily available at any farm store). It's a penetrant Dimethyl Sulfoxide, and NOTHING could live in that solution. I was wondering about substituting that for the vodka, so that it didn't dilute the dye. Just thinking out loud...bleedthrough might be intolerable, tho'. It would definitely penetrate the paper, carrying the walnut color with it. Just a suggestion - I am, by no means, a chemist !

 

Won't react to metal, I know - but not sure about celluloid/acrylic/etc. Might be worth a try ?

 

Take care,

JR

 

Intriguing suggestion. Did it work on the bone handle? I'll keep it in mind for a future batch.

Find my homemade ink recipes on my Flickr page here.

 

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

Link to post
Share on other sites

 

Fiberdunk, I checked out your cold-process walnut formula on Flickr. It's refreshing to find someone creating "homemade" inks. Kudos ! Back when I was repairing pocket knives, I was unsuccessfully trying to develop a walnut dye that would penetrate bone. (Knife handles are created from the shin bone of cattle). Then, an old-timer told me to add an oz. or so, of DMSO (readily available at any farm store). It's a penetrant Dimethyl Sulfoxide, and NOTHING could live in that solution. I was wondering about substituting that for the vodka, so that it didn't dilute the dye. Just thinking out loud...bleedthrough might be intolerable, tho'. It would definitely penetrate the paper, carrying the walnut color with it. Just a suggestion - I am, by no means, a chemist !

 

Won't react to metal, I know - but not sure about celluloid/acrylic/etc. Might be worth a try ?

 

Take care,

JR

 

Intriguing suggestion. Did it work on the bone handle? I'll keep it in mind for a future batch.

Actually, I was scratchin' around in my boxes of old junk, and came across the bottle I had - still had the price tag on it... 6 bucks a pint, from the farm supply store, here in Harrison.

Be forewarned, if you should try this - wear some disposable rubber gloves (I steal 'em from the Doc), if this stuff gets on your skin, you WILL feel like you've been chewing garlic-flavored gum !

Oh, almost left b4 I answered the question - yes'm, it worked, but nothing works 'Fast' on bone. Guess that's why skeletons last so long, huh ?

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 2 weeks later...

I discovered this nifty little gadget in a calligraphy catalog (Paper & Ink Arts). It's the Badger Mixer, presumably designed for airbrush paints, but I find it works well with blending my homemade ink ingredients (iron gall, etc.) and especially for blending the thick pigmented sludge of the cooked-down black walnut ink (that settles to the bottom over time) back into the liquid. It is hand-held and battery-powered (2 AA batteries). It's designed to work in 1 to 4-ounce size ink bottles. It mixes very well without making a mess. Price is around $12.95. It's a great little gadget and it's not too expensive. :thumbup:

 

 

http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8347/8245161156_24a4f00253_b.jpg

 

 

http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8340/8244097859_e760823f8a_b.jpg

 

http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8348/8244096061_132ab230c8_b.jpg

Edited by fiberdrunk

Find my homemade ink recipes on my Flickr page here.

 

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

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 9 months later...

This is the time of year that black walnuts are available.

 

fiberdrunk;

 

thank you for that excellent tip/tutorial...

 

do you know whether any walnuts can be used for this? I live in WA state, and the walnuts here look similar to what the Wiki shows for Black Walnut, but not the same...for example, the walnuts here are smooth, not fuzzy and the leaf pattern is different...

 

There are walnuts a-plenty within a block of my home, so obtaining them is 0 problem..

 

thank you for any information you can share on this.

 

npm

Franklin-Christoph Stabilis 66 and Pocket 40: both with Matsuyama CI | Karas Kustoms Aluminum, Daniel Smith CI | Italix Parson's Essential and Freshman's Notator | Pilot Prera | Pilot Metropolitan | Lamy Safari, 1.1mm italic | Muji "Round Aluminum Pen" | Waterman Phileas | Noodler's Konrad | Nemosine Singularity 0.6mm stub | ASA Nauka, acrylic and ebonite | Gama Hawk | Wality Airmail | Noodlers Ahab | TWSBI GO | Noodlers Charlie | Pilot Plumix |

Link to post
Share on other sites

 

fiberdrunk;

 

thank you for that excellent tip/tutorial...

 

do you know whether any walnuts can be used for this? I live in WA state, and the walnuts here look similar to what the Wiki shows for Black Walnut, but not the same...for example, the walnuts here are smooth, not fuzzy and the leaf pattern is different...

 

There are walnuts a-plenty within a block of my home, so obtaining them is 0 problem..

 

thank you for any information you can share on this.

 

npm

 

I've never made ink from regular walnuts, but I know you can make ink from many nuts as long as they have a fleshy husk around the hard shell of the nut (it's the husk you use, not the hard shell or nut). This guy on Flickr has made inks from pecan and walnut (I assume he made it from regular walnut, since it's not labelled black walnut). I know you can make ink out of butternut, too.

Edited by fiberdrunk

Find my homemade ink recipes on my Flickr page here.

 

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

Link to post
Share on other sites

OK..cool beans...my wife tells me that it's a European Walnut growing near us...no more specific than that..

 

and, if it's just the husk that has the good stuff, would it be best to use a potato peeler to get just the husk, and not bother cooking down the other tissues, or is it all husk untill the nut shell?

Franklin-Christoph Stabilis 66 and Pocket 40: both with Matsuyama CI | Karas Kustoms Aluminum, Daniel Smith CI | Italix Parson's Essential and Freshman's Notator | Pilot Prera | Pilot Metropolitan | Lamy Safari, 1.1mm italic | Muji "Round Aluminum Pen" | Waterman Phileas | Noodler's Konrad | Nemosine Singularity 0.6mm stub | ASA Nauka, acrylic and ebonite | Gama Hawk | Wality Airmail | Noodlers Ahab | TWSBI GO | Noodlers Charlie | Pilot Plumix |

Link to post
Share on other sites

All husk until the hard shell.

Find my homemade ink recipes on my Flickr page here.

 

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

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 2 weeks later...

I recommend using those heavy-duty dishwashing gloves when you de-husk. I've been dehusking today and only had those thin latex surgical-type gloves, and the stain seeped right through them. This is my hands AFTER washing with Goop, then lemon juice, then vegetable oil! My hands will be stained for weeks, especially the nails. Aaarrgh! You'd think I'd have learned by now...

 

http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7334/9741961359_93e537bbd2_z.jpg

 

 

http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7435/9741961309_40b638257b_z.jpg

Find my homemade ink recipes on my Flickr page here.

 

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

Link to post
Share on other sites

My grandfather and great uncle both had orchards and no kidding those hulls stain. Every fall my thumbs and first two fingers looked like that.

The liberty of the press is indeed essential to the nature of a free state; but this consists in laying no previous restraints upon publications, and not in freedom from censure for criminal matter when published. Every freeman has an undoubted right to lay what sentiments he pleases before the public; to forbid this, is to destroy the freedom of the press; but if he publishes what is improper, mischievous or illegal, he must take the consequence of his own temerity. (4 Bl. Com. 151, 152.) Blackstone's Commentaries

Link to post
Share on other sites

I just finished a new batch of cooked-down black walnut ink. This time, I added gum arabic to the ink, which I've never done before. I wanted to see if it would help hold the pigment in suspension so that there isn't that thick sludge that settles at the bottom of the bottle over time. It's too soon to tell if it will; however, I've noticed that adding gum arabic destroys most of the natural water resistance of black walnut ink. I don't think I'll be using it again for that reason. As flow goes, it's unnecessary anyway. The ink does fine without it.

Edited by fiberdrunk

Find my homemade ink recipes on my Flickr page here.

 

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

Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now







×
×
  • Create New...