Husking Black Walnuts for Organic Brown Dye

Husking Black Walnuts to make black walnut dye for brain tanned bags

Robin was able to husk this second batch of blackened walnut hulls from their nutshells fairly quickly with a knife. The outer hulls will be simmered for a deep brown dye. This natural black walnut dye will be used on a couple of special brain tanned leather bags in the works. The first batch, if you’re wondering, was husked by squirrels. 

Popular Methods for Husking Black Walnuts

I thought it would be harder! The most popular methods for husking large batches of black walnuts are:

  • Filling your driveway with walnuts and running them over with your vehicle for weeks 
  • Building a walnut husking machine – usually a cement mixer with water and hull-busting rocks in the mix (the hulls and water become a sludge)

I’m relieved this is a small scale project. Fortunately, getting the meat out of their unyielding shells is not a requirement for dye. The squirrels will be happy to take over from here.

Husking Black Walnuts for Organic Brown Dye

Black Walnut Precautions

A warning: I’ve heard of people getting contact dermatitis from handling the hulls, especially with prolonged exposure. Black walnut hulls will stain your hands for weeks, and whatever else you get it on will be stained – many advise non-disposable, chemical resistant gloves or heavy-duty latex gloves as a precaution. 

Another warning that comes with husking black walnuts is to be careful how you dispose of the hulls/sludge – it’s toxic to plants and animals.

Making Black Walnut Dye

Robin is now simmering the hulls over a fire pit until the desired color is reached. Crock pots (if you’re okay with it getting stained as well!) are also handy for this. 1 Tsp of iron or vinegar per cup will darken the dye. But a mordant is not required due to high tannin content. To be continued..

Black Walnut Dye Test