The Nutkraken

It is the season when the walnut tree is shedding its bounty. We still haven’t eatet yet all the nuts from last year and it will probably take some time to eat them, possibly a whole another year. And this year’s harvest promises to be even bigger than last year’s. Thus I have some nefarious plans with the nuts this year.

Howevah, all plans include cracking the nuts first. We do have a small hand-held nutcracker, but that is good only if you want to crack a few nuts for a snack, not when you need to go through a bucketful every day. I have tried to make a small lever nutcracker from an old drill press. It worked, but not great. So this year we brainstormed some ideas with my father about how to proceed and this is what I came up with later in the workshope when looking for suitable materials to materialize our idea – behold the mighty Nutkraken:

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size

I made it in about 5 minutes from a piece of board, two armrests salvaged from my father’s old armchair, a 10 cm piece of 4 mm fencing wire, and a bottle cork.

The armrests are connected on one end with the fencing wire. That end not only had pre-drilled holes. The armrests have an S – curve that has a nice short curve on the connected end and a long one on the other, making a nice indentation for the walnut and more than enough space for fingers. The lower arm has attached a perpendicular piece of board to it to stabilize it and to allow for it to be fixed to the table via clamps. After some testing I have added the bottle cork so the nuts do not get totally obliterated, making it easier to separate the shells from the meal. With a bit of additional work it could even be made to look pretty, but I probably won’t bother with that. I usually don’t with tools.

My father enjoys his new toy greatly and he cracked and shelled a bucket of nuts yesterday in no time. Those were low-quality nuts, and I intend to test some things with them first either today or tomorrow before I proceed to mangle the good-quality nuts that start falling next week. I will let you know the results of my sciency experimoments promptly.

The Nutkraken works magnificently. No sprain on wrists and fingers, no over- or under-crushed nuts, no problems whatsoevah.


  1. Bruce says

    A nice design and invention. If you decide to add it to your on-line shop, you will have to find replacements for the rescued armrest pieces. I wonder if it can be made to be better function than other nutcrackers? I bet this one already is.

  2. flex says

    Nice tool. The cork threw me for a moment, I thought it was a walnut in place.

    Do you have any trouble getting the husks off? One of the reasons I haven’t tried to collect the black walnuts which fall around here is because the husks are thick, hard to get off even when dried, and very messy. I really haven’t searched for an easy way to remove the husk, so I’m probably missing something. The squirrels don’t mind that I neglect to collect them.

  3. says

    @GAS thanks. I am happy that my father is able to do something to occupy him and feel content with work well done.
    @Bruce, I do not think there is a market for huge overengineered tools like this, most households do not need to crack several dozen kilograms of nuts each year. I was thinking of designing and making small nutcrackers though. Sometimes. Maybe.
    @flex, this is Juglans regia, the husks usually crack, dry, and fall off the nut fairly easily. The nut itself is smooth and fairly easy to clean. Juglans nigra is trickier on all accounts. The husks tend to cling to the nut and the nut itself is full of spikes and ridges. I have only seen Juglans nigra in parks and I have tried to clean and crack a few nuts just out of interest when I was studying dendrology. Not only the husks are difficult to get, but the shells are thicker and have more nooks and crannies than those of Juglans regia. I would say that Juglans nigra is about 3-4x more work to get at the edible stuff and sort it from the inedible stuff.
    One year we had a bit of trouble cleaning the husks because the weather was damp and they did not crack properly on the tree. That year I had some success with giving a bucket of walnuts into a concrete mixer and rolling them around for a bit with a bit of gravel. Maybe it would help with your black walnuts too if you have a concrete mixer and enough nuts for it to be worth the trouble. But black walnuts are a pain in the ass to process.

  4. Jazzlet says

    Good work Charly! I am so glad that your father is able to find satisfaction in using the Nutkraken. How is he doing now (only if you want to say of course)?

    We are still pondering how to protect our nuts from the squirrels for next year, they had every single nut off the tree weeks ago. The tree isn’t enormous, but it’s big enough we don’t think we could net it . . .

  5. rwiess says

    when my mother was a child, her brothers had the task of de-husking black walnuts, which they did by using a hammer and a sturdy board with a hole drilled through it which was big enough for the nut shells to pass through, but not the husks. And they all got black hands during that harvest.

  6. Ice Swimmer says

    A fine implement with a lot of mechanical advantage, I’m glad you father now has a good tool and can occupy himself with it.

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