Laser Cut Tagua Inlay (Vegetable Ivory)

I watched the Grace Kelly Eyes inlay video from Crimson Guitars and he showed a Tagua Nut slice and mentioned that it was “Vegetable Ivory.” When I looked this up, I found that many people were carving Tagua nuts into various things. At that point, I had to give this Vegetable Ivory a try as inlay. Right away, I ordered some (6lbs = a lot) of them from eBay for about $50.

They arrived this morning and I got to work right-away. I sliced them by hot-gluing them to a board and cutting them into 0.070″ thick slices using the bandsaw. After a few test runs on my Omtech Polar 350, I was able to cut them pretty accurately without much charring. My plan is to use these on banjo fretboards and headstocks so I went ahead with a test piece. A small floral pattern was cut out from the Tagua nut and a piece of walnut. Gluing them together with a medium CA glue + activator gave a good fit. Sanding to 3000 grit and finishing with my DIY Hardwax Oil Finish provided an exceptional result.

Although I was skeptical about these, I am extremely pleased with the results. The Tagua nuts are much harder than expected. A scratch test with my fingernail shows that they are harder than the walnut. The grain pattern sort of looks like real elephant ivory without the legal and ethical issues associated with that.

Here is a post & video about how I slice the Tagua Nuts

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