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

Turtle Tracks Macrame Bracelet

Loggerhead Turtle

Here in Central Florida, it’s early sea turtle nesting season, so turtle tracks going up the beach can be seen in the mornings around the full moon. Turtles will lay their eggs in the sand towards the dune and cover them in sand. Then, they slip back into the ocean during the night, using the moonlight as a guide.

We are lucky to still have a few turtles left around here because our local conservation agencies do a fantastic job marking nests, so people won’t trample on them hopefully. Loggerhead turtles seem to be the most common off the coast of Brevard county, but I have seen a nice-sized rarer Kemp’s Ridley when I was out paddleboarding a few summers ago.

Check out the Sea Turtle Conservancy for info about sea turtles, and things you can do to help them to keep nesting for a little while longer.

Chaos happens when you leave lights on beachside

Like you could turn off your freakin’ condo lights if you live on the beach so it won’t confuse hatchlings navigating back into the ocean. The Condo Boogeyman’s not coming to take your pills, Grandpa- turn the damn balcony light off.

Anywho, since hatchlings should make tracks that go straight into the ocean, I made a fun Macrame bracelet using some basic knotting techniques that reminds me of a turtle egg and nice straight tracks. Check out the picture tutorial below, and use this knotting guide I made as a reference:

Macrame Knots Guide by Crafty Surf

Linhasita (or C-Lon cord) a flat cut cowrie shell, and some olivewood beads

Make a lark’s head knot though one side of the shell using about 2 yards of each color, folded in half

Use a T-Pin on foam or cork to keep your holding cord straight

Do 3 double half hitches across the green cord, doing 1 double half hitch on each color

Put a T-pin in and rotate the cord to the other direction and do the same knotting pattern, going back and forth

By using T-pins, I could keep the rows tight and straight across

Braiding the remainder, adding an olivewood bead, and making a secure knot. Now do the same on the other side of the shell!

Bringing both ends together to make a sliding adjustable knot

Making the adjustable knot by making a few square knots over both bracelet ends

Clip and melt the ends. Done!

This is always the “bracelet selfie” angle Pura Vida does

Please remember that sea turtles are not pets, Disney characters, and are not there for your fun-filled family entertainment. Please respect what tiny bit of space they have remaining.

This ain’t Disney, and you ain’t Snow White

You put da Lime in da Coconut….

I’m not a drinker, but I wanted to take Harry Nilsson’s advice and see if a lime in the coconut would make me feel any better. Except I’ll do it Crafty Surf style.

We had a pile of bark that came off of the coconut palm in the backyard.

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Spring cleanup

Some of the innermost bark can be almost canvas-like, similar to a rough piece of papyrus, but a touch more supple. I thought, why not try and do some bead embroidery on it for kicks?

First, I soaked it in some soap (or Mr. Belvedere’s Gnar Pro Wash works GREAT to disinfect beachy finds). I made sure do this, or critters might eat the work. Yummy.

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I selected a piece that was pliable, but had some density in the weave

I cut a nice sized rectangle of slightly damp bark material to work with. Using a very thin beading needle and fine nylon beading thread, I took glass seed beads and created a lime slice in freehand for kicks.

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Some of the supplies I used

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Making the first few test stitches

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Almost finished

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Beadwork complete!

The bark sewed surprisingly well, and wasn’t all that brittle. It helped working with it slightly damp, and I made sure there was plenty of space to work with. On the down side,  it sheds quite a bit after a while, so I didn’t want to make a lot of elaborate beadwork since handling it too long just shreds it. Also, the bark doesn’t allow for a lot of mistakes- once you’ve punctured it, ya done.

After I completed the lime slice, I tore away some of the edges of the bark to give the piece more texture. I tried not to tear too far…

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Neato

Done!

I don’t know about you, but every time I hear that song, I think of the only two good actresses from this movie:

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The one on the left will always be Rizzo, sorry