Introduction: Staining Wood With Wodka & Walnuts

Picture of Staining Wood With Wodka & Walnuts

This year is going to be The Year Of The Walnut.

It's been, already, The Year Of The Cherries - never I've seen so many cherries on one tree, the trunks sunk almost one meter in the ground. No kidding.

It's also been The Year Without Meat, The Year With The Big Beer Compensation & The Year Of The Biggest Hangover Ever. In that order.

Whatever. We have so many nuts this year that there's going to be a serious risk for Earth Rotation Deviation, and since I'm seriously concerned about the earths well being, I've started to gather some nuts prematurely.

I made my first walnut stain.

I know, it's very well known, it's very easy, but for the welfare of us all it's also very necessary.

Step 1: Gather & Demolish

Picture of Gather & Demolish

Gather some nuts, put them in a plastic bag and smash them to tiny pieces.

A wooden hammer can be helpful.

Or a cat - but beware of those claws, they can perforate the plastic easily.

Better is a small dog, in fact.

Or the jawbone of a water buffallo - depending on the region where you live.

Step 2: Mix With Wodka & Wait

Picture of Mix With Wodka & Wait

Put that walnut mash in an empty bottle - it's better to give too much advice than not enough - and add some kind of alcohol.

Vodka is great, but so is pure ethanol, methanol or whateveranol - just see what you can get, depending on the region where you live.

Step 3: No Finickin'

Picture of No Finickin'

Close the bottle & wait one day.

Or a few days.

Poor the blackish liquid in a glass & start staining.

Of course waiting more days may be an option.

Of course filtering may be another option.

Of course using only the husks may also be an option.

Of course using only the husks of mature nuts may be the Ultimate Option.

But of course, I used the whole.

I didn't wait & I didn't filter. No finickin', as always.

I gave it one shot, two, four, seven, a dozen.

And I became a fan of this homemade product.

I don't know it yet - I used 'cleaning alcohol' - but I'm sure that the vodka version might be the first stain you actually can drink. Really.

The results? Look at those pics & judge.

I tested it on a reinforced poplar cutting board since I wanted a very clear wood to see the effect of the staining at full potential.

It's like a kind of olive by now, due to the amount of chlorophyl that's still in the mixture, but I'm sure the greenish will greyish.

Simply beautiful, and so it's a go for me. Definitely.


DredPirateAngE (author)2015-07-26

I'm with Krezlord. Do you write? I can't tolerate most modern writers' style or lack thereof. To read something with panache even as short as this is refreshing. Also with Kretzlord on the black walnuts. I have a few of these trees lobbing tennis-ball-sized fruit at us every year. Only a few squirrels seem to think it's worth the bother to get at the nut. So they sit and rot. But not anymore! Thank you!

bricobart (author)DredPirateAngE2015-07-27

Thanx a lot! I'm not a writer, if it's that what you mean, I'm just a non-conformist craftsman...

Good luck with those nuts, thanx to us not a single clear wood plank won't be safe anymore. This world needs walnuts, definitively.

I've been inspired to join instructables. You got an insta thing?

vsegre (author)2015-11-24


JLsSpittlings (author)2015-08-02

I love the idea but maybe will try it with processed walnuts.

Do you know that walnuts in its fruit, leaves and branches are laced with toxic chemicals. Ever noticed nothing grows well within 50 yards of the walnut tree?

Here is something to help you.

Be safe. Cheers

cwisneski (author)JLsSpittlings2015-11-20

yeah, if you make it with whole black walnuts and vodka, you made rat poison. Literally. Alcohol is great for pulling the 'essence' out of fruits and nuts - you can make dyes / stains out of almost anything, but you'd be surprised how many things also make poison that way. Don't drink stains - natural stains are often more toxic than commercial chemical stuff. Otherwise, great post. Making your own stains is a lost art, and it's so easy. Just stick to commercial non-toxic stuff if you need non-toxic, like making kid's toys.

thatmckenzie (author)2015-08-03

Very nice, except those look like butternuts, not walnuts.

Butternuts are also known as white walnuts in some areas.

I think they are too. Good eyes!

andrew.mead.1253 (author)2015-08-16

I think a more economical ingredient would be Methyl Hydrate (Wood Alcohol). Vodka is too expensive and (obviously, so I'm told) can be drunk. DON'T drink wood alcohol. It's very similar to drinkin' alcohol but it can kill or blind with one or repeated ingestions. Vodka can do the same but it usually takes a decade or two.

Xonk61 (author)2015-08-03

drinking the walnut wodka probably wouldn't hurt a person, black walnut as mentioned in the comments contains juglone, which kills parasites, and has been used in folk medicine for exactly that. Also Black walnut may be one of the only land based sources for iodine, so it could be that you've created a nutrient drink! Everything in moderation, of course... (right?)

dnjk27 (author)2015-07-28

lovely stain....beware the yellow fingers...I can only speak for handling the black walnut, but the hulls will stain just about anything they contact...wear gloves and your painting clothes.

Tarun Upadhyaya (author)2015-07-26

I have everything but a walnut tree :(. This is amazing. Great show as always dear friend :)

Thanx my friend, don't you have something similar where you live?

What other possible fruit trees it might work with?

To get a really dark stain, you need to find Laxativus liquishitti - but watch out for the smell...


;D Try to get in contact with some woodworkers around you - especially the older ones - because they've surely a lot of knowledge to share! Just don't forget to take a bottle of Kukuri Rum with you to get their lips loose ;D

Thanks for the timeless advice my friend ;D

Jobar007 (author)2015-07-27

Well written, as always. Thanks for sharing

I've got a black walnut tree in my back yard and due to the drought that we've had here in the normally damp PNW, it is already shedding leaves and nuts. Looks like I have a potential use for those "droppings." ;)

caitlinsdad (author)2015-07-24

Only the Great Bricobart can make an instructable on his nut juice.

bricobart (author)caitlinsdad2015-07-27

In the next one I'll discuss my way to wax my pestle.

caitlinsdad (author)bricobart2015-07-27

It's better if you find someone else to rub it out for you.


CaptainCassie (author)2015-07-27

This was an awesome read, and sonething I'd never thought of. Gives me an idea of what to do with the nut trees I'm constantly being attacked by while mowing the lawn.

olm911 (author)2015-07-26

The idea of making a stain from the seed husk is good but drinking the mixture could be a very bad idea. Green walnut hulls have long been used for a method of fishing called "juicing". They poison the fish causing them to float to the surface. The practice is now illegal. The following is from a UGA publication,

Juglone is so toxic only minute amounts can sicken, sedate, or kill people and animals. The
concentration difference of juglone between that needed for sedation, and that causing death, is small.
Juglone disrupts oxygen and food use in both plants and animals, a respiration poison. Juglone is like
cyanide in its effect on people, animals, and plants.

bricobart (author)olm9112015-07-27

Thanx for the advice, but we're not talking about the same walnuts. The husks of the black 'american' walnuts are toxic, indeed, contrary to the husks of the common 'european' walnuts. Many people use the green walnuts to make 'port-like' brewings, over here, and no-one is getting sick of it - only drunk.

I drank it a few times, and it's really tasty. If you like port, the european nuts are the ones to gather.

olm911 (author)bricobart2015-07-27

Well, it seems like I learn something new every day. Thanks for the botany lesson. I guess if you drink that stuff it makes you feel like you dyed a little inside. Sorry about that, just couldn't help myself. ☺

mworrall (author)bricobart2015-07-27

I didn't realise there were two types of walnut-thanks for the info

gravityisweak (author)2015-07-27

Staining trees using trees. Poetic.

delicia.ambrosino.1 (author)2015-07-26

The blacker the nut the darker the color, of course. This can be made with a good wood oil as well. Takes longer to accumulate color however but it also "conditions" the wood. I just had a "U" shape walker steps and deck done. I would need a whole lot of this but actually the beauty of it is great. My only other alternative without much expense is to use my acrylic paints, render a color I really like and use a whole lot of oil and blending well perfect the color I want. I've done this with water as well for inside project. However, I do prefer the "all natural" versions best.

I think the best alternative is to give it a good stain first, and oil it afterwards. Having seen what the results of this stain are, we're sure we'll never use those industrial colorings again.

I totally agree. I was just mentioning an alternative I have used on some of my carved and hand painted wood items that I have made whereby using an alcohol based stain would have certainly undone my work. Milk paints I have used on certain items also using nothing more than natural, non-toxic pigments, non-fat dry milk, and water. I generally go as natural as I can although that is not always possible under certain circumstances. Alcohol or water bases aren't generally very good for wood unless oiled and maintained regularly as the alcohol dries the wood out even to the point of splitting, which if the splits are small can sometimes enhance a wood project. In any case all wood projects should be oiled well or waxed with a premium wax for longevity.

Edward WH (author)2015-07-26

I don't think I could bring myself to use good drinking vodka - I think I'll try wood alcohol. Great writing - I really enjoyed reading your instructions.

bricobart (author)Edward WH2015-07-27

Thank you very much, very nice compliment!

kype138 (author)2015-07-26

The black walnut produces a toxin called juglone - it's secreted through the roots, nut husks and leaves/stems - this is produced to prevent other plants from encroaching on/crowding out the black walnut tree. This toxin can be hazardous to horses, and I would probably shy away from drinking a decoction of vodka and black walnut. It may not be bad for you, but I wouldnt risk it.

bricobart (author)kype1382015-07-27

Like I said to olm911, we're not talking about the same walnuts. I'm using the common 'european' version, which isn't toxic. Thanx for the warnings, anyway.

Cheese Queen (author)2015-07-26

Black walnuts in which the husk has gone soft and black will give you the deepest stain.

In fact, taking a soft dark husk and rubbing it on wood furniture makes an excellent scratch cover-up, like Old English. Put the husk/nut in a baggie and freeze it for the next time you need to disguise where the cat sharpens his claws.

bricobart (author)Cheese Queen2015-07-27

We don't have black walnuts over here, but I'll give this tip a try with ours.

About that furniture: try those cat scratching panels and place them at strategic places like corners & entrances in you house. They'll do it on the panels, instead of on your furniture...

mworrall (author)2015-07-26

The last time i mixed walnuts and vodka I kept the liquor for a year and then drank it....

I have a feeling that the stain would have worked using salty water.

bricobart (author)mworrall2015-07-26

A few friends of mine did the same, mixed with some spices, lemon, sugar etc, and they made a real smooth 'port-like' criminal with it. You drink it like water, but the side-affects aren't the same...

missnebulajones (author)2015-07-26

I wonder if it would work with pecans... Got lots of those in the area I live.

Give it a try, and let me know! Sounds cool btw!

WhitskyU (author)2015-07-25

Great color

bricobart (author)WhitskyU2015-07-26


Attmos (author)2015-07-25


bricobart (author)Attmos2015-07-26


kretzlord (author)2015-07-24

I quite enjoy your writing style :) I have a large black walnut tree in my yard that drops a huge amount of these every year and have been looking for something to do with them. Thanks for the inspiration!

bricobart (author)kretzlord2015-07-26

Thank you for those compliments! Just be careful when you use those black walnuts, since in contrary to our european 'common' walnuts the husks of the black ones are toxic. Don't stain & drink, or it will be the Year Of The Very Bad Trip, also.

CJStephens (author)2015-07-24

Well I guess i might have to go get me some nuts off the place now! great instructable!

About This Instructable




Bio: I made a beer mug with only a knife & a hatchet. I think that says a lot about me.
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