I’ve been using tagua nut for pyrography in some of my jewelry and love the feel of it – but it’s a lot trickier than using wood. Tagua Nut is often referred to ‘vegetable ivory’ as it looks and feels like animal ivory and the obvious benefit no animals are being harmed in the process. It comes from a Palm tree out of South America and can also be used for carving.
Due to the white tone of the nut itself, it creates a great contrast from the pyrography process. And leaving the skin from the nut on adds to an additional cool effect.
The tagua nut provides an excellent resources for pendants, ornaments and pins.
Tagua nut comes in different sizes and even shapes bit in most cases you’ll find it in some oval form. I have found them in much smaller sizes that are mere slivers without it’s nut bark which can also add something extra to a necklace or a bracelet. These are a bit more delicate and I have broken a piece here and there but that’s how you learn!
There are some preparation things to keep in mind. The tagua nut is quite hard and while you can cut them with a band saw or hand saw, I prefer to purchase them sliced so that that part is done and taken care of.
Just like you would with any piece of wood, you’ll need to sand them. Anytime I purchased my slices, they still had the sanding marks on them and that’s not going to work well for the pyrography process.
You can use a hand sander but found that a machine is best as the tagua nut is actually quite hard.
There is a drawback on tagua nut for pyrography because it has an oily surface and you add your oils from your finger tips to the mix it can make the burning a bit tricky when you’re going for consistency. One way to eliminate some of the oiliness is to boil the slices in water for about 30 seconds to a minute. I will say I never used this method so I don’t have too much information about it.
An alternative option for the oiliness is to soak the tagua nut in peroxide for 15 minutes up to 30 minutes and then rinse them with warm water. You will want to make sure they are dry without added heat because they can crack and then whoops the tagua nut is ruined – then again you could get creative.
In essence, I’ve simply wiped the tagua nut down with some alcohol pads before tracing my patterns and then started to burn. Do not go over the tagua nut with anything after you have your outline on there because it will wipe away and then you’ve got to start over. Just ensure you washed your hands really well to reduce the oils on your finger tips a bit.
The thing to keep in mind is that tagua nut is a lot harder than wood and it will require a bit more effort to burn on it. It will also build up carbon a lot faster and you’re going to need to clean your tip a lot more – which is easily done with a leather strop and some oxide powder.
You will also need to take your time, if you burn too hot you stand a chance to melt the tagua nut, so practice finding the temp that works for you and then build on your layers and tonal changes bit by bit.
I sometimes do one layer of burning on tagua nut and then wipe it with alcohol pad – keep in mind that it will remove some of the work but I that’s how I like to build my work.
On the Parrot Tagua Nut Pendant, I added ink to give it a bit different effect – and I love how it turned out but know that ink runs due to its watery consistency.
There’s some really cool things you can do with tagua nut and create some amazing effects. But as with most art mediums practice is going to be key. I often started on a pendant only to sand it all down and start over.