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

Just Surfer Girly Things

Since it’s almost the official start of Summer, I figured it’s a good time to share my honest opinion about Surfer Girl related stuff out there in SurfyLand that I’ve personally purchased and/or tried recently. As always, y’all know I’m not sponsored, a “rep”, nor am I worthy of touching Kelly Slater’s bald head. Just an average surfer chick with some info for ya.

N-Joy!

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LOVE: Costa Bikinis

I recently decided to try this company’s swimwear since I really admire some of their team surfers like Keala Kennelly from Hawaii, and Kaydi Archer, who is an extremely charitable and talented local surfer lady who is VERY active with Surfers for Autism. Plus, their suits are made in Spain. You know, I went to a Tapas Restaurant once, so I’m an expert about Spain.

They have a sale going right now, so I picked up 4 pieces for $80 with free shipping. It took a while to receive my package, but the wait was worth it. Reversible construction, nice prints, comfortable to wear, and stays in place when I’m surfing- I’m sold. I can see paying full price for one of these instead of a poorly manufactured, pricier Roxy suit.

Their online shopping area was difficult to use on a mobile platform, however, so I hope that gets worked out soon. As far as sizing- if you’ve got some interesting curves, go for the next size up from your normal size. I was glad I did. On Instagram, they put “costafriends” as a 15% off coupon code- I’m assuming that’s open use, and not a one time only deal, but I can’t confirm.

LOVE: Sally Hansen X-Treme Wear Nail Polish

This is my #1 recommendation to all surfer girls who paint their nails or toenails. This particular line has been the ONLY nail polish that will stay on my toenails for a hot minute when I surf. I’ve tried OPI, Essie, Chanel, etc., and none hold a candle to this bargain. I can take the bits of wax stuck to my toes after a sesh, and the polish still stays intact underneath. Even after knee paddling, duckdiving, Rickrolling, etc. this polish can last me almost a week of surfing every day, and still look halfway decent afterwards. Amazeballs.

The best part is you can find it at the drugstore for cheap. Yeah, there’s not a huge selection of colors usually. Get over it. Just stick with lighter shades, use the matching clear topcoat, and stick to only 1 coat of each. Even makes my funky feet look passable. Don’t ever stare at your feet too long….trippy……

LIKE: Sun Bum Deep Conditioning Masque

This is the only time of year I’ll pick this up, since it seems to help with the summer heat and saltwater that dry out my hair. Honestly, I really dig the beachy smell of the conditioner, but it sucked 20 bucks out of the Surf Trip Fund.

This is great to use every Monday morning before work, so you can think of the beach and “bum” yourself out even more when you’re at your desk. Nice.

LIKE: Sand Cloud Towels

I finally broke down and ordered one of these towels. They are expensive for a beach towel (I ended up paying around $40 for mine total), but they are nicely woven and shockingly light.

The first time I used it was to watch a rocket launch on the beach. At first, I wasn’t too jazzed about the braided knotted tassels that finish off each side, but they seem to give the towel a little weight against a windy beach which was a nice bonus.

Mine seems to wash well in warm water even though the tag says hand wash only. Yeah, right. Make sure to use a 25% off coupon when you buy a towel online- it usually consists of a girl’s name (they’ve got loads of “reps”) and the number 25 (example: JANE25, MARY25). Check a coupon code site for one if that doesn’t work.

MEH: Pura Vida Bracelets

Ever since Pura Vida was found to be manufacturing their bracelets in other countries outside of Costa Rica (the whole basis of their sales pitch), they’ve sure had some backpedaling to do (read the Mia Culpa here). So with that, I’ve just been making my own, or opting for 4Ocean Bracelets this summer.

MEH: Rip Curl G-Bomb Front Zip Jacket

I was so disappointed about this one. When I first tried it on, I noticed I had to go waaay up in size compared to other brands, and it was still a bit difficult to get on and off, but the half front zipper’s teeth were covered well (protects from the surf wax). I really wanted that feature, and I was having a tough time finding it on other vests, especially on front full zip jackets.

If only this vest had a slightly larger chest circumference and a full chest zip like a true jacket did. Boo. Instead, I guess we’re supposed to pull our zippers down a little and let the tight torso give us cleavage whilst surfing like a pro, like freakin’ young Alana Blanchard. Mmmkay.

You know, if I ever make a surf wear brand, I’ll call it “Surf Cougar,” for all of us older surf chicks out there who haven’t totally blown out a knee or hip quite yet. Hey, it takes a certain degree of confidence to keep on surfing into the sunset. No apologies, brah.

Binding and Wrapping a Shell Slice

Normally, I’m not a huge fan of purchasing shells, but I will take the exception once in

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Beautiful, but endangered

while if I see something cool at a bead store or at a gem and bead show. Shells have been sold and traded for use in jewelry and adornments throughout our history, so I don’t think selling shells is going away anytime soon. I just like to avoid endangered ones.

I picked up a neato Mitra shell that was cut lengthwise to show the spiral inside the shell. The Mitra Sea Snail is common, but the shell is quite beautiful and unique when polished to show off the patterns and the inside structure.

I thought it would be cool to wrap it similar to how I would wrap and secure a Matau hook style pendant necklace over a cord to stabilize it.

First, I hand braided a Kumihimo cord for the shell pendant using waxed Linhasita thread.

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A simple 4 strand braid with a knotted toggle

Next, I used a little more of the waxed nylon thread to make a series of several half hitch knots over the center of the necklace cord AND over and through one of the voids in the sliced shell to hold both together. I singed and melted the ends of the binding using a Zap-It tool, or you can use a lighter (carefully- and outside!). The knots can still slide along the cord, but the cut edge of the shell can wear on the threads over time, so I like to keep the wrap centered typically. This is another excellent reason to use waxed nylon cord for this type of project.

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The ridge of half hitch knots is on the top side

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It took about 8 half hitches to ensure the shell was securely bound to the cord

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I’m Queen of the MerPeople, you noob

I think it makes a cool surfy necklace, and a little different from the conventional. And NO, I’m not trying to appropriate anyone’s culture- don’t get up in my face about it….

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Hang up the phone. NOW, Princess.

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

Sea Heart of the Ocean Necklace

In my last post, I practiced polishing a Sea Heart sea bean. Now that it’s finished, I wanted to be

The Sea Heart I polished last time

able to wear it, but I didn’t want to drill into it or paint it. This will keep the piece as natural as possible.

To make my necklace, I used a macrame technique called Bezeling. The sea bean is thick, so I needed to make sure the bezel wrap would hold the sea heart securely. To make my ladder, I used two strands of light tan Linhasita macrame cord spaced 1 inch apart. For the alternating lark’s head knots, I used a dark green color strand.

I used a macrame foam board and lots of t-pins to keep things straight

Close up of the lark’s head ladder in work

I had measured the circumference of the sea heart to estimate the length of my ladder. I erred on the short side so I can “stretch” it over the edges of the sea bean to secure it using a bit of tension. I tied the ends together using a few square knots, and I melted the ends of the excess cord with a lighter (please use it outside- it’s a smelly process).

Tying the ends up around the bean- this was quite tricky

I singed the ends, leaving just two long strands to use for my necklace

Next, I used the 2 long cords remaining to make my necklace. I tied on 2 dark brown pieces to each light tan cord, and made a half hitch sinnet for a few inches, then braided the rest to the end. I did the same with the other side.

One side of the necklace

Completing each side of the necklace with a braid

For clasps, I used a carved tagua nut hook set that was drilled vertically, so I could thread the cord into each hook, and knot the ends off. This method doesn’t require any glue, but I did singe and melt the cord ends.

Tagua nut clasp

Finished necklace

With this very basic type of bezel wrap around my bean, it’s pretty secure. However, I’m probably not going to wear it while surfing though, just to make sure it doesn’t pop out. It is totally waterproof, however. Gnar.

That model needs a LOT of photoshop…..

I think it looks really cool, but it is a LARGE piece, so maybe only on special beachy occasions. Otherwise, you can call me Flava Flav of Cocoa Beach. Boiiiiiiiiiii.

My Hero.

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!

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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….