Many, many years ago, a few decades at least, I made walnut ink over a campfire over the course of a weekend. That ink was then used as dye for fabric by some soul long since forgotten. It was a living history event, and our unit was making homemade dyes and demonstrating their uses. I faintly remember the hours of stirring the huge cast iron pot (much like making apple butter) for what seemed like forever. So, why I decided to re-venture into such realms eludes my intel at the moment. Save it say that I have…
This year, I wanted to do some inky explorations during Inktober… use some ink bases that I don’t often use, or have never used. I’ve always admired those old illustrations done in sepia ink… or maybe it was at one time black ink faded through time. Anyway, I’ve been tempted to make some of my own. With that in mind, I decided to make myself up a quart or two of fresh Black Walnut ink. It’s a fairly simple, if time consuming, process.
Step one: Find a source for Walnuts. For me, I had to go no further than my church yard. Walnuts were free for the taking, and or eating thereof. Fresh fallen walnuts have this shell/husk to them that must be removed. I HIGHLY suggest that one wear rubbergloves while picking…well, throughout the whole process, really. Walnut juice stains EVERYTHING it comes in contact with.
Step two: fill your crockpot/stew pot with husks and water and boil until beyond dead. I suggest doing this outdoors if possible. Walnuts have a very distinct, nostril curling odor. Even for me whose sniffer is less than adequate, the smell is powerful. I cooked mine round the clock for two days on High.
Step three: strain out the husks. boil again for many hours, then strain again through an old stocking (panty hose or knee high). This last strain gets all the unwanted particles out. At this point, I tested the “ink” on a bit of paper to see if I thought it was dark enough for me.
Also, at this point, I changed from crockpot to steel stew pot, added water and repeated the boiling for several more hours. I wanted to try to darken and thicken it a bit more. It did darken it minutely, no real difference in viscosity, though. Sigh… Won’t work so well for my glass dip pen or quils, but works great as a “wash”. It works to some degree with the glass pen, but requires dipped every two letters written so that really doesn’t work for me. Either way, it is what it is and I’m good with it.
I did test the ink on a piece of unfinished pine and it really looked nice. So nice, in fact, that I’m considering staining my handmade chair with it after Inktober is done.
So, now, I’m ready to play for Inktober!