I made my own black walnut ink!
I get asked about the ink I use a lot, and it seemed inevitable that I would end up making my own ink sooner or later. The walnut ink I have been using up until now was from Monograph Bookwerks on NE Alberta, and was made by them.
The most comprehensive recipe and information I’ve found about how to make walnut ink is from this post on a web forum dedicated to fountain pen enthusiasts. The post was written by a user named Fiberdrunk. Homemade Black Walnut Ink . Although I think this tells you all you need to know, I would recommend reading the entire forum thread as there is more interesting info in it, here and there.
To summarize, walnuts fall out of the tree encased in a husk, which makes them a little smaller than a tennis ball. You take the husks from the collected walnuts (the shell and the nut itself are not necessary) and let them rot until they turn black. Add distilled water, boil them, and then cook them down until you get the desired darkness of ink. Then you strain out the solids and add alcohol (10%) or whole cloves to keep down the mold, and voila! You have ink.
For the super-interested, there is also an interesting forum post on the lightfastness of walnut ink, where a user devised a way to test it, here. Walnut Ink Lightfast Test This same person documented their walnut ink making process here: How to Make Black Walnut Ink.
I’m going to keep my source of black walnuts as my own secret for now. I got get mine from a public place. If you want to know, drop me a line and I’ll tell you how I found them. All you need is a black walnut tree. The walnuts start falling in September.
The bottle in the picture at the top of this page is the entirety of my first batch, which was made from four or five walnut husks. Pictured here is the makings for batch two. If you visited my studio during the 2018 Portland Open Studios tour, then you probably saw this batch in the process of rotting away in a stew pot.
That’s it! Anybody out there made your own? Or have stories about walnuts to share?