Lidded Box with a Betel Nut knob

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Project by wood_wench posted 02-05-2009 05:35 AM 2297 views 5 times favorited 7 comments Add to Favorites Watch

In a forum I started about using vegetable nut as fake ivory I mentioned that I had used Betel nut for knobs. Here are some photos of a lidded box I created in David Marks “Vessel Turning with Gilding & Patination” class I took last year. Yeah, I take a lot of classes. I take about 3 to 4 wood working classes a year in an attempt to develop by skills as a wood worker.

This little box is made from a scrap piece of maple with a small piece of ebony and a betel nut knob. In a couple of the photos you will see the betel nut before I turned it with some of its outer skin scraped off. The nut is very hard and easy to work with. The outside of the box was gilded with dutch metal gold and the inside with copper. The surfaces were then treated with various chemicals to get the patina effect. I highly recommend David Marks video on this process if you are interested in trying these techniques. Better yet, take one of David’s classes – he is great to take a class from. Heck, you’ve seen him on WoodWorks, take a class and check him out in person. You will have a blast, learn a lot and make some great friends too.

7 comments so far

View woodworm's profile


14465 posts in 3560 days

#1 posted 02-05-2009 06:54 AM

Fantastic turning work. And using betel nut as the knob is very interesting, thing that I never thought of.

Few questions about the betel nut; how big is the betel nut (in diameter) and was is chemically preserved?
I thought the white parts is very soft like coconut meat.
Is it the same betel nut as is found in my country? (pic shown)

-- masrol, kuala lumpur, MY.

View wood_wench's profile


89 posts in 3400 days

#2 posted 02-05-2009 07:46 AM

You know I’m not sure if its the same nut. The betel nuts I have used are about an inch (2.5cm) in diameter. From conversations with some work colleagues who are from India – the Betel nut is typically found raw and whole or cooked (baked?). I know that it’s use is widely found in the middle east as well – but I don’t know if it is grown there. In India, it is shaved into thin strips and chewed for it’s ability to give the user a sense of well being or euphoria. I have been told that prolonged practice of chewing betel nut turns the users teeth black. I have just recently (today) purchased some betel nuts online that are much larger, 2 to 3 inches in diameter. To the best of my knowledge these nuts are dried but raw and I’m not aware of any chemical preservative used (other than the thin coat of shellac or lacquer I might apply to the final turning).

When turning the betel nut I did not notice the white areas having a distinct density difference from the brown lines. I would say that it is about the hardness of walnut lumber, maybe a little harder even. I have to really press hard to leave an indentation with my fingernail on the turned surface of the betel nut. To get it to be secure as a knob, I turn a small tenon on the end and likewise turn the mortise to match into the ebony, or what ever surface you are trying to attach it to. I used some 5min epoxy to adhere the knob to the rest of the box.

Do you think it is the same nut that grows in your country? Have you any experience using betel nut in wood working? I would be interested in how you might use it.

View woodworm's profile


14465 posts in 3560 days

#3 posted 02-05-2009 08:39 AM

Based on your explanations I am pretty sure it is from the same betel fruit.
Long ago very few of our old women used to chew it with piper betel (leaf) and a kind of ground atree/shrub in the form of flake and also a kind of white paste (as is used for cement plaster). This combination produce bitter taste and reddish juice. This tradition is believed to be derived/inherited by our ancestors from India hundreds of years ago and now rarely practised except by few Indian women.

Thanks Wood-wench for your lengthy explanation. It’s good also to learn other things while discussing woodworking matter. And as far as I know, we never use betel nut in our woodworking. But we do use the white paste I mentioned above for coloring (staining) wood. Mix the white paste with finely ground “curcuma”/”turmeric” (yellow in color) and this mixture becomes yellow paste and is readdy to stain wood. The final color is usually light yellow. We do add ”Curcuma” to our ”Curry” (Indian favorite delicacy) to make it richer in yellow.

Take care Wood-wench.


-- masrol, kuala lumpur, MY.

View hairy's profile


2663 posts in 3501 days

#4 posted 02-05-2009 05:42 PM

That is awesome! I saw betel nut in Thailand. People would chew it,I think it is addictive.It certainly makes a great knob. Good job!

-- My reality check bounced...

View Pete Santos's profile

Pete Santos

172 posts in 3978 days

#5 posted 02-05-2009 09:02 PM

I come from a society that chews betel nut. There are many species and thus many sizes and hardnesses.

There are some other nuts that are similar to the betel nut in appearance but are much harder and cannot be chewed. We use those nuts to make necklaces or to carve with. If you look online, you can find many sources for them, just look for natural necklace beads, or seed beads. Most sources are from the Phillipines or Thailand.

-- Greatness is not found in possessions, power, position, or prestige. It is discovered in goodness, humility, service, and love.

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2141 posts in 3768 days

#6 posted 02-06-2009 01:29 PM

looks great

-- making sawdust....

View Dusty56's profile


11819 posts in 3657 days

#7 posted 02-10-2009 08:02 AM

That knob is awesome …I thought it was some fine pottery at first : )

-- I'm absolutely positive that I couldn't be more uncertain!

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