Sunday, August 21, 2011

Van Dyke Crystals

Walnut Soup

While standing out in front of the shop last week I heard something bounce off my van and saw a walnut go rolling across the drive. Odd that having been in the space since April, I had never noticed the black walnut tree behind the garage.

It got me to thinking that Van Dyke stain is one of my favorite for new work and restoration. While I have used it for years I had never tried to make it from scratch.

With that thought in my head I set about making walnut soup.

After collecting 20 or so walnuts in their hulls I set about boiling them in water. Every morning when I came into the shop I would top off the pot with fresh water and turn the heat back up to high. At least twice a day I would add more water.
After two or three days the hulls fell off of the nuts they were protecting and slowly turned into a lumpy sludge. I half expected there to be a strong odor after days of boiling but the smell was rather mild.

Every time I added more water the mixture seemed darker and more intense. After six full days of boiling it didn't appear to be getting any more concentrated.
The lumpy sludge had by now been reduced to a finely granulated slurry with I first filtered twice with a screen strainer, then through cheese cloth and finely through a paper lab filter.

Replacing the strained liquid in the pot I boiled down the filtered liquid till it became about a thick as honey.

This I poured into a shallow tray and allowed it to dry completely to a solid block. Breaking the material into sections it was a simple task to crush it to fine crystal powder in a mortar and pestle.

The resulting Van Dyke crystals could then be mixed with warm water to any desired strength as need.
The final step was to use it to stain a walnut table I was refinishing for a customer. A rich and transparent coloration that accentuates the beauty of the wood.

A lot of work for such a small amount of stain, but an enlightening and fulfilling task.

ADDENDUM 11-0822
Got to work this morning and the storm over the weekend had apparently done some damage to the walnut tree. There was a crew in the driveway and walnut hulls everywhere.

I couldn't help myself I filled an entire bucket before they hauled the rest away.
I guess there is more boiling in my near future!

A lot more about using Walnut stain with fabric.
A wonderful set of descriptions. .