I found that using vice grips works. Position nut lengthwise into grips and screw till just a little bit smaller than nut so the squeeze travel is as limited as you want it. a little bit of practice will have you shelling nuts quite well pretty quickly.
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It's tricky, but you need to limit the "travel" of the cracker. The idea is to fracture the shell, so that you can pick it off. Squeeze carefully (like Kiteman says) but just until you hear/feel cracking. Move it and crack from a different angle. repeat this. Only once did I manage this with a Walnut... L
Squeeze slowly, try not to "follow through" when it cracks.
I use one of the ratchet style nut openers and put them in long-ways. Usually shears the shell right off and the meat comes out clean.
The only thing I have ever found that works is called a "Texan Nut Sheller" You nip off the ends and all of the edges and the nut meat will usually come out clean. You can get them at many places on the net, just google the name.