What use are Tagua Nuts to me?

Tagua Nuts
Tagua Nuts


No I don’t want to eat them. You see Tagua nuts can be carved and they are just the right size for Netsuke.

In fact another name for them is Vegetable Ivory as they can be used as a substitute for Ivory. Under that brown inner ‘husk’ they are lovely and white, although they do tend to have a hole in the middle so that has to be taken into consideration when working out a design.

So why am I so excited about these things? I have wanted to try to carve these for ages but every timber seller I saw face to face didn’t have them and as they’re not a necessity I didn’t look anywhere online for them. Until the other day I had an urgent job come through and I had to go get some timber for it as I didn’t have the timber they wanted.

At this particular timber place they have loads and loads of different types of timber as they sell blanks and spindles for turners. Its one of those places I can’t go to often as I have a tendency to buy lots and lots, good for them and bad for my bank balance! All of a sudden I spotted bags of Tagua Nuts on the shelf and decided what the hell I was there, they were there, they needed to come home with me.

I have done a little reading and research on Tagua Nuts, mainly through my general Netsuke reading and research. It seems that you can carve them with normal gouges and that burrs are good on them aswell, also you can stain them too. I think I need to do a little more reading before I start carving, but not too much or I won’t get to the carving!

So now I have a bag of nuts that need to be squirrelled away until I come up with designs that are right for them. Fantastic stuff I can’t wait.

Oh and Tagua Nuts can be eaten, they are left for a couple of months to harden before they can be carved but before that they can be eaten.





Jutta M Stiller is a wood carver and sculptor specialising in Netsuke and Couture frames click here to subscribe to her newsletter ‘Tales From the Woodcarving Bench’ .