Homemade wood stain can be made using black walnut hulls. Parts of the black walnut tree have been used since prehistory as a dye, and are still used today to add a deep, rich color to wood. Although the tint will be dark, it can be made slightly lighter by steeping the ingredients for less time. It takes more effort to make your own wood stain, but if you aren't afraid to get your hands dirty, you can create a gorgeous homemade wood stain in 24 hours or less.
Black walnut hulls are the main ingredient for making homemade wood stain. Purchase hulls from local farms or food processors, through mail order or harvest them yourself if you have black walnut trees on your property. The hull is the dry outer covering of the walnut, and it is easily removed by hand. Sodium carbonate, also known as soda ash, is used as a fixative in homemade wood stains and dyes. Purchase soda ash at craft or hardware stores.
Use a large stock pot to make the stain, but make sure you won't use it in the future to cook food, as the walnut hulls may permanently stain the pot. You'll also need a hammer, drop cloth or plastic tarp, cheesecloth or fine mesh strainer, and a large, clean bucket with lid.
Preparation and Storage
Crush the black walnut hulls using a hammer or other heavy object. This will allow the water to draw out the pigment more easily. You may use whole hulls if desired, but the cooking time will need to be increased. Make sure to crush the hulls outdoors on a hard surface such as a paved driveway. Cover the area with a drop cloth or plastic tarp to prevent staining.
Place 1 part walnut hulls, whole or crushed, in a large stock pot and cover with 4 parts water. Add 1 tbsp. of soda ash per every gallon of water used. Place a lid on the pot and simmer the mixture over low heat for 4 to 5 hours. If using whole hulls, simmer for 6 to 8 hours. Check the pot every hour and add more water, a cup at a time, if the liquid becomes very thick. Stir and continue simmering until the recommended time has passed.
Remove the homemade wood stain from the heat and allow it to cool completely. You may want to let it stand overnight for a darker stain, but it can be strained as soon as it's cool if you prefer a slightly lighter stain. Pour the stain through a double layer of cheesecloth or a large, fine mesh strainer into a clean bucket. Secure the lid onto the bucket, label with the contents and use your homemade wood stain as desired. The stain will keep for one week if placed in a cool place such as a cellar, basement or refrigerator.