Making Walnut Ink

There is something profoundly wonderful about creating with what you have around you, especially when it is beautiful. 

A friend gave me a box of walnuts from her huge old tree so I decided to make my own walnut ink. I have used walnut ink with dip pens in the past when writing in calligraphic scripts; it is a rich smooth intense medium which is immensely rewarding to write with. 

Walnut ink is an ink made from the green husk surrounding the nut of walnuts, once the green husks starts to decay and turn almost black.

This is the box of walnuts from Jenny, I selected the ones with the blackened decaying husk still on to make my ink.

Walnuts with husks turning black

I put them in an old stainless steel pot covered them with water and boiled them for 8 hours.

Use gloves. Wikipedia tells us that... An ancient use of walnut ink was to stain the hands of criminals in Romani communities. Once stained, it is impossible to wash off and remains in the skin for a long period of time.              😉 


So gloves...definitely use gloves


.A pot of walnuts and husks boiling in water

Photo: Walnuts and husks boiling for 8 hours


They were left to sit for another 16 hours. Black walnut husks after boiling for 8 hours 

Photo: After a further 16 hours sitting in the water, the husk pulp has been scrapped off the walnuts and squeezed into a bowl of the liquid.

The water was strained through a sieve  into another bowl and the husks removed from the shells and squeezed to extract the liquid into the bowl.

Next, the resulting 'ink' went back into the pot on the stove and was boiled to reduce the liquid and intensify the ink colour for about 20 minutes. 

Once cool enough, it was strained again, and decanted into a bottle with a secure screw top lid to keep.

Decanting walnut ink into a screw top jar

I think I will add some Gum Arabic to improve flow.  I'm not sure about how well the walnut ink keeps - I haven't put anything to preserve it, so I wonder if it will start to degenerate?  

Here is my jar of walnut ink and my first go at Copperplate Script. I am so pleased with the way the walnut ink works. It is intense, velvety and gives hues from an almost black brown, to the clearest sepia when the nib is nearly empty of ink.



1 comment

  • Vivii. I love this. How creative and what a wonderful upcycling exercise. Your walnut ink looks wonderful, as does your first attempt at copperplate script. I loved the historic backstory – so glad you used gloves. Thanks for sharing this delightful cameo from another one of your creative endeavours.

    Barbara Hickingbotham

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