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As Told By College of Micronesia-FSM Students

By Nameth Joe

KOLONIA, Pohnpei, Federated States of Micronesia (December 13-26, 2001 - The Kaselehlie Press)---In Kapingamarangi, the southern most atoll of Micronesia, carving ivory nut handicrafts is one of the most traditional ways of making a living. Carving handicrafts is a skill needing careful use of hands to make an object shaped the way it should be.

Carving handicrafts from ivory nuts has been a practice of the Kapinga people for many years. They use them for welcoming, as farewell gifts, for decoration when dancing, souvenirs, and they sell them to make money.

There are several major steps involved in carving an ivory nut.

The first step is to gather all the necessary tools, materials and equipment such as a sharp file knife, an adze, an axe, a coping saw, a hand drill with drill bits, a vise, a tool box, a hard black ivory nut, small two foot timber for supporting the carver when using the tools, a bucket of water with some rough and smooth waterproof sandpaper, coconut palm tree shoot strings made by Kapinga woman and some varnish.

The next step is to start carving. You have to think of what you are going to carve. If you come up with an idea of carving a dolphin, manta ray, or a turtle for the first time then it isn’t going to get better. When you first carve, try to carve something like a betel nut or a ball. You get an ivory nut and take off the epidermis. You cut the ivory nut with an axe into half or small pieces. After that you get an adze and start cutting the black part off the nut. You put the ivory nut on the timber while cutting it with the adze. You put your elbow on your leg while carving the ivory nut.

The third step is to start carving the nut by using a sharp file knife, which is the best kind of knife for ivory nut carving. When you carve, hold the knife gently with your hand while carving the ivory nut in your other hand. You try to finish it up. Carving the ivory nut does not take you so long. It really depends on what you are going to carve. Different carvings take different times.

The fourth step is to start sanding your ivory nut carving with rough sandpaper to get rid of the ripples on the ivory nut, and then it will be smooth. When you’re done with the rough sandpaper, get a bucket of water with smooth waterproof sandpaper. You make your ivory nut and sandpaper wet and then start sanding the ivory nut by dipping it into the bucket of water.

After that, you drill a hole with a 3/8-hand drill and insert the string through that hole. Before varnishing, you have to wipe the ivory nut with a rag. When varnishing, dip the ivory nut into the varnish with a string in that hole. Dip it for about five seconds. You pick it up and spin it into a centrifugal force to remove the excess varnish. You hang it up in a cool dry place until it dries out. It only takes twenty-four hours.

The last step is to braid the coconut palm tree shoot strings from which to hang the ivory nut. You try to include a shell for a button to connect the braided strings. Insert the braided strings into the hole you made in the ivory nut and then button it with the shell.

Finally it is done and ready to be used for activities and business.

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