How to Select a Palm Tree Trunk To Use to Make A Tiki Statue
Tiki statues are cool,- very cool! Not only have they always been an integral part of the “South Seas,” or Polynesian culture, but have seemingly become inseparably tied to a tropical, laid-back, relaxing-island-beach lifestyle in general. We’ve all heard of (and probably been to) Tiki Bars in some exotic vacation spot. Restaurants that sport Tiki Statues have a certain allure and mystique that, for many, seem to draw them in. While they were traditionally thought to guard against evil, for most of us they are simply associated with an exotic, carefree lifestyle.
For those that truly appreciate the beauty and tropical attractiveness of a Tiki Statue, there might arise the question, “how do I get one of my own?” They do, indeed, make wonderful features or accents in any landscape for those attempting to create a “tropical” look. They are available, of course, from a wide variety of sources in an even wider variety of shapes and sizes for those willing to spend the money. To my mind, however, a more attractive option would be, making my own! With a bit of time and patience, I believe anyone can do it. Obviously there are different tasks that must be accomplished for a successful completion. This article will deal with selection of the raw material out of which to make your tiki.
Tikis are made out of lots of things. Some are made out of palm tree trunks. Others are made out of a variety of other woods. Still others are made out of stone (or concrete). I think that traditionally (at least in Hawaii) Tiki Statues were carved out of the trunks of palm trees indigenous to a given area (they used what was around). The Moai sculptures of Easter Island, however, are great monolithic (large or massive stone) structures. All can work out well, depending upon availability and the direction in which one’s taste runs. I think palm trunks have a nice “feel” to them since they were originally part of a palm tree which, by definition, grew in a tropical or subtropical area (or close to it), maybe making the resulting tiki seem extra exotic. For the purposes of this article I will focus on palm tree trunks (Cabbage Palms).
If you live in an area in which palm trees grow, acquiring one should be fairly easy. In my area (central Florida) housing or construction projects almost always involve clearing land of scrub and palm trees. The kind of tree most often cleared is the Cabbage Palm (Sabal Palmetto) which grows wild here, and as far north as North Carolina (it is a very hearty palm). A construction site would be a simple, easy and cheap way to acquire a trunk to carve. Another way might be to get one from a friend or neighbor who wishes to have a palm removed from their yard or landscape for aesthetic purposes or perhaps because it died (just remember to have it removed by a professional, since Cabbage Palms are somewhat difficult to “cut down” and-because they retain so much water- are very, very heavy).
Always remember when selecting a palm trunk to check it for soundness. Many palms can have areas of structural deterioration, even when alive and standing. This can take the form of deep scars or “erosion” of the trunk, causing a section of bark and fiber underneath to be simply gone. It is easily spotted by visual examination. This eroding (or rotting) can even happen UNDER the bark or outer surface, making the trunk appear solid and sound when it’s not. An easy way to check for this is simply “knock” on the trunk. When the trunk is sound, you will hear a solid, resonant thump. When it’s not, you will hear a hollow sound, and may even find the trunk feels soft in that area.
Once acquired, the palm trunk can likely be moved around with a moving dolly or with a friend to help with the lifting. Many people simply carve them on the ground and then move them to the area in which they would like to place them. I prefer to use somewhat longer trunk pieces and actually dig a fairly deep hole where I want to place them and put them in the ground to stabilize and hold them securely. I think it helps make them easier to carve, and allows for easy perspective in estimating what the finished product will look like in that location. Obviously you couldn’t do that if you wanted to place your tiki on a patio, deck or sidewalk.
Having selected your raw material is a big step, and allows you to be on your way toward creating your own tiki. While it does require a modicum of skill, carving your tiki is truly not all that difficult. With patience and persistence, I believe you will be able to achieve a result of which you will be proud.
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