Tagua Nut Carving

I’ve always had a thing for palm trees, probably since they remind me of tropical places and surfy times.

It’s no surprise, then, that I freakin’ love Tagua nut anything, since it grows naturally from the Ivory Palm Tree.

Tagua was used in the old days like plastic would be used today: buttons, handles, knobs, jewelry, etc. were easily carved from this nut that resembles elephant ivory on the inside. So, after years of collecting various carved Tagua pieces, I had to try out carving some myself. Especially since non-biodegradable plastics seem to be forming islands in the ocean around us, it’s worth checking out for some hippie eco-fun.

I ordered some raw nuts from Etsy for about $1 each plus shipping, so it wasn’t a huge investment. Tagua nut harvesting is one of the few industries that encourages keeping rainforests around a little longer too….super hippie eco bonus.

One of the raw Tagua nuts I ordered

Tagua is supposed to cut similar to wood, so I used those type of tools for woodworking. I used tools like a scroll saw, sanding wheel, and drill bits that I already use for small wood craft projects:

My Dremel scroll saw

Since I didn’t want to saw my fingers off, using a vise was helpful- especially for cutting nice, even slices. You must either use a vise or glue the nut onto a steady block of wood to cut it. It’s just too small to try and line up under the saw with just your fingers….and keep ’em.

The hard rubber jaws of the vise are perfect for this work

Top view of the nut getting ready to be sawed in two

A nut slice…has a small void

Every Tagua nut potentially has a void at its’ center, which is something to consider when carving this. If the Tagua is dried properly during the harvest process, there is supposedly less of a void. So I’ve heard. This batch I received also looks a bit dark on the inside, so this Tagua might be older, but it’s still a beautiful color.

I made sure to cut and grind slowly, since Tagua burns very easily. And you can smell it when it starts to get too hot.

Sanding the exposed surface on the side wheel

Makin’ slices

I used a sanding bit to sand away the surface to make cool patterns

Tagua is delicate! I was too harsh with this piece

Some of the Dremel bits I played with

They polish up like little fancy bits o’ wood

Now, Tagua isn’t waterproof- it’s very porous cellulose, so it’s not a bad idea to coat pieces with a clear sealant. I like the paint-on varnishes better than the spray can type for these. When I tried using the spray can, the varnish left tiny little raised dots all over the surface. Bleh.

Here’s some of my sealed pieces using the better paint-on varnish:

Finished and varnished pieces

Since I already enjoy woodworking, I can totally see myself getting into this tropical craft that’s fun, sustainable, and reminds me of my favorite trees ever….

Christmas lights should be banned in Florida because it’s absurd

DIY Cork Display Ladder for Matau Carved Necklaces

I’ve become a collector of Maori-style carved pendants, mostly Hei Matau. I’ve even expanded my collection beyond the traditional fish hooks, and a local Cocoa Beach artist (Capt. Steve Bowman) has made me several sea life pieces that I adore.

My first Hei Matau (Left), my favorite carved pendant, Seadragon (right)


Problem is, I really have no good way to display them nor store them currently (I’m constantly wearing them and switching them out) and it’s been bugging me.
I was out at my local discount store and found this cork trivet that I thought would work perfectly as a necklace ladder. It would keep the pendants from banging against the wall, they could be easily accessible, and I can SEE them. Perfect. All for 4 bucks in the clearance bin. Score.

Craft cork can be expensive, so the Kitchen wares department is a great place to look

I cut the connecting jute cord and separated the cork tubes, which were already pre-drilled. Of course, I’ve seen these type of tubes at the craft store, so you could make your own with a small rotary drill.

Any leftovers can be used for leash loops on your surfboards!

Simple overhand stopper knots to make rings, spaced out about two inches

 
I re-threaded the tubes with doubled #90 paracord, with a simple overhand knot on each side of each “rung” as a stopper. I used about 2 lengths of 2 yards to make the ladder.

Adjust the knots to even up spacing

Make sure to burn and melt any ends or they’ll fray

 
Done! And it fits perfectly between the closet doors. I just used simple wooden tacks to hang up each necklace.

Done!

Much easier to get to….

Gotta take care of the surf cred like this since I don’t have surf tattoos, only the surfy jewelry. Yeah, I know I need to step up the surf cred game, but wetsuit season is coming. I can just PRETEND I’m covered in gnar surf tattoos, and no one can really know.

Psych out, brah.

This wins for most gnar surf tattoo

Maori Hook Loop Wrap and Cord

I’m an avid collector of Maori style hooks (matau), wood or bone, and general hook, tiki, or ocean life motifs. I actually wear mine often, and in the surf, so I need to know how to re-wrap my mataus with waxed cotton or nylon after a few years of regular use or hanging for display. Metal jump rings just won’t do.

imageCase in point, I have a hook I got recently from a friend who does AMAZING work, Captain Steve Bowman (Da Bonz Carver). He made this hook out of old surfboard resin from a local glasser. He wrapped it with black waxed cord, but I wanted something a bit brighter, like a pink, since the resin is so happy and colorful. The cord was also black, and the toggle was a button of resin to match the hook. The resin design idea of his was totally awesome, though!

image

I trimmed off the black wrap to expose the carved hook neck. Next, I’ll measure out 3/4 to 1 yard of Linahasita cord thread on a needle. With the matau hook front facing me, I’ll kept a tail of Linahasita down and behind, came through the round top hole, and left a little loop space for a cord to pass through. I used the needle to pass the thread back through the hole to the front.

While holding the tail behind the matau hook neck, I started wrapping the cord going right to left, starting the wrap IN THE FRONT.

When I made as many wraps as I wanted, I turned the matau hook to the back and used the needle to go back up through the wraps. On the back, I had one cord end coming up out the top, and one out the bottom. I used my “Thread Zap” point heat element tool to seal the waxed cord.

Once the ends were sealed, the hook was ready for a cord. I wanted to make one that imagewas a bit different than most of my hemp colored roundish rope I have on a lot of my necklaces. I thought a color combo of cords that reflected some of the colors in the hook’s resin would be fun.

imageI decided to use a muted blue and rose together. I knotted the two 1 yard lengths of cords together and threaded on the button toggle. Once the knot’s in place, I used my Thread Zap again to melt the knot and to cut the excess Linhasita cord. You can see that the pattern I used was a lark’s head knot on one cord, then one on the other.

Once I got about halfway through the knotting (which was about 8 inches since I was making a choker) I slid on the matau hook. Once I got to the end, I knotted a bit more to make a loop that would let the toggle button pass through. Then, I made about two tight square knots joining the two ends together. Again, I sealed these ends off with my Thread Zapper and took the excess off.

There! It’s finished! One of my flashier ones- very hippie, I think. Now I need to make a proper place to hang all these treasured carvings… Hmmmmm….