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Water-resistant walnut ink


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This is not a fountain pen safe recipe. Designed for dip pens.


I got some of the "Walnut Ink Crystals" from Paper & Ink Arts. These can make some really beautiful ink - from a rich reddish brown to a darker tawny brown depending on the concentration.


One drawback: the ink is extremely non-waterfast. One could make it waterfast (in a way) by making an iron gall version. Likely not to be very friendly to (non-stainless) steel pens though.


I thought about India Ink, how some recipes involve adding shellac to make it waterproof. And thought, why couldn't this work for walnut ink too ( see https://www.fountainpennetwork.com/forum/topic/359748-making-dip-pen-ink-with-shellac/?do=findComment&comment=4422917  ).


Today I tested this, and indeed the shellac adds significant waterfastness, and the ink even retains its brown hue.


I tested with Southworth Parchment paper (shellac-containing ink on the left; non-shellac ink on the right; before and after):




On TreeZero bagasse paper:




So the added shellac has a significant improvement for waterfastness.


Again, not fountain pen friendly of course.

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Thank you for sharing this! I have the same walnut ink crystals. I love the color and use the ink in my fountain pens and refillable markers. The one thing I always regretted was how non-water-resistant the beautiful brown ink is. So I am VERY excited to try this technique. 

Can you tell me your recipe, what type of shellac you used, and where you obtained it? Unless it's a trade secret ;)



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1 hour ago, mail_snail said:

Thank you for sharing this! I have the same walnut ink crystals. I love the color and use the ink in my fountain pens and refillable markers. The one thing I always regretted was how non-water-resistant the beautiful brown ink is. So I am VERY excited to try this technique. 

Can you tell me your recipe, what type of shellac you used, and where you obtained it? Unless it's a trade secret ;)




Hi Anna,


I'll note again that this probably isn't something one would want to put inside of a fountain pen, due to the shellac (and gum arabic).


Here's my rough recipe:


- 1/4 cup distilled water
- 1/2 teaspoon borax
- 1    teaspoon garnet shellac
- 2-3 teaspoon walnut ink crystals
- 1-2 teaspoon gum arabic [optional]
- a few drops clove oil [optional]


  heat up water (helps everything dissolve). stir in borax. then stir in shellac. then stir in other ingredients: add walnut ink crystals to desired hue; gum arabic to desired viscosity. 


(I'm not actually 100% sure on the exact amounts of walnut ink crystals or gum arabic, as I kept adding more until I got to the desired colour and viscosity, but that's easy enough to experiment with.)


(I read through old ink recipes from Henley's twentieth century formulas, recipes and processes, containing ten thousand selected household and workshop formulas, recipes, processes and moneymaking methods for the practical use of manufacturers, mechanics, housekeepers and home workers, which also looks like it would be generally pretty useful if you're ever heading out into a post-apocalyptic world, for inspiration for dealing with shellac in inks.)


I got the WellerMart dewaxed garnet shellac (they have their own internet shopfront and also sell on eBay). I'm not sure how much the brand/variety of shellac matters (it would be interesting to experiment to see if this has much effect on the colour of the resulting ink) — the garnet was slightly cheaper than the blonde or platina ones, and seemed like a nice dark colour —but getting a dewaxed one saves having to strain it.


I also added some clove oil, partially as an antifungal, and partially to make it smell a bit better (the shellac has a faintly insect-y odour about it). Could probably throw a whole clove or two into the bottle as a substitute.


(Other notes: borax isn't hyper dangerous, but it's an irritant, so try to keep it off of your skin and definitely out of your eyes. And don't eat it, of course.)


If you try it out, I'd be interested to hear about results (or experiments with variations).



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58 minutes ago, sgphototn said:

I've used Noodler Walnut and found it water resistant as well as a nice rich color.


Definitely a better choice for fountain pens, in any case!


I don't have any Noodler's inks, but I've seen some waterfastness tests on them and it looks like many of them also maintain their original hues pretty well even after encountering water.


The other inks which look good from this standpoint (waterfastness) are De Atramentis's Document Inks, which are also blendable and so one could probably get these sorts of colours that way. I also don't have any of these inks, but I'd like to get some.

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@Aelfattrum Thank you so much for sharing your recipe! I love to go mad-scientist with ink mixing, even if it would be easier (and prolly cheaper) to just buy a waterproof ink. I am stubborn like that.

And love the Marmite jar for the shellac :D Wonder how well Marmite would write...? If diluted, of course.

I'll keep in mind that this is for dip pens, but can't promise I won't try it out in a disposable Varsity or my half-broken Preppy just to see what happens. If so, I'll let you know how it goes.

As for De Atramentis Doc. inks -- yes! I use the black regularly for drawings which get painted by watercolors, and they don't budge. Have also tried the Doc. Cyan, Yellow, and Magenta -- they feathered, but work as promised if you let them dry all the way. Comes in brown too, which I haven't tried yet.


Still, walnut ink holds more wilderness-type romanticism, so it'd be nice to make this work. Thank you again!

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@mail_snail I'm pretty sure this ink recipe is probably cheaper than even Noodler's. Borax is cheap, and my $5 jar of walnut ink crystals and $5 bag of shellac is enough to make gallons upon gallons of ink! But surely less practical, at least for fountain pens.


I have no empty ink bottles, but a number of empty marmite bottles, so...it only made sense to repurpose them for inks. .... I bet shellac'ed (diluted) marmite probably would actually work! Hmm.....


The thing about shellac is it's like varnish, so if it dries in your fountain pen, it'll eventually clog it, I'm sure. And....it's waterproof, so water wouldn't help. You need something like alcohol to dissolve it (the shellac for furniture making, and I believe the shellac for attaching ink sacs in pens, is dissolved in alcohol), or maybe a borax/water solution (since that's how we get the shellac to dissolve in this ink). I don't know how healthy either of those would be for pen parts, but if it's a pen you don't mind doing unethical mad scientist experiments on.....


I'd like to get some de atramentis document inks at some point to mix my own colours. I bet I could reproduce a walnut-ink colour. (Though for pre-mixed inks, I like Herbin's Lie de Thé and their Cacao du Brésil a lot for brown-toned inks.)


It's fun mixing one's own though!

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@Tasmith I think Tom Norton's walnut ink gets its colour from peat moss; in any case it's not actually walnut-based. But I imagine it doesn't really matter: I adapted the recipe from the carbon-black ink recipes, so I think it's likely to bind whatever colourant is in the ink, so I would bet you could waterproof the Tom Norton one in the same fashion.

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