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How to Polish Sea-Beans by Hand Sanding
by Bill Blazek

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Hand sanding is a slow one-bean-at-a-time process.
Because the outer shells of sea-beans are so hard, it takes a lot of sanding to make them shiny.

Photo by Margie Mitchell
At the 2006 Sea-Bean Symposium, Bill Blazek provided a display (photo to left) of many sea-beans that had been polished by hand sanding. He also did a slideshow presentation in full beachwalking attire (photo to right).

Bill's slides are presented here, as well as his instructions and guidance (see below) for hand sanding (polishing!) sea-beans.

Slideshow photos & graphics compliments of Charles (Chuckles) Mosolf. Thanks!

Pick a sea-bean...   and sand, sand, sand!

Upper: polished (left) and unpolished (right)
Lower: polished coconuts
Although polishing with sandpaper can seem to be a somewhat slow and arduous process, it is nevertheless an excellent way to pass the time during those periods on the beach when the wrack refuses to yield any sea-beans.

Many species of sea-beans lend themselves to hand-polishing. These include "hamburgers," or true sea-beans, sea purses, nickarnuts, sea hearts, starnuts and prickly palms …even laurelwoods and, surprisingly enough, sea coconuts.

Maci shows how its done!
(click photo for larger image)

    At some hardware stores, one can purchase 8½ by 11 sheets of dry sandpaper with varying degrees of "coarseness" and "smoothness." Grit numbers 120, 180, 220, 400, 600 and 1500 are suggested, although much finer grits will produce a better product. All one need do is cut the large sheets into smaller, easy-to-handle ones (maybe nine small sheets from one large sheet; see photo to left). Then, one obviously begins polishing with the coarse grits, progressively using finer and finer grits until a high, polished sheen is developed. With a little experience, one will quickly learn not to select beans with deep pits, "dents" or other irregularities! As final undertakings, the bean can be buffed with the "back" of the 1500 grit sandpaper and a light coat of furniture wax can be then be applied. Each bean can take up to five or more hours of sanding, polishing and buffing.    
Examples of Bill Blazek's work.
Polished and unpolished,
in each container.

Polishing Sea Coconuts, Manicaria saccifera

(by Bill Blazek)
    Among the most interesting beans to hand-polish are sea coconuts. By sanding partially though the outer layers of the bean, a variety of hues and textures will present themselves. Inasmuch as most sea coconuts have broken and wrinkled outer layers, much care must be exercised in selecting the rare spherical beans with smooth, unbroken "skins." Additionally, it's best to let even these beans "dry" for several months to ensure that no cracks or wrinkles develop prior to polishing. With sea coconuts, there is no substitute for experience in choosing those particular beans that will best result in good "final products."


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Photo: Mike Ley
The following examples are the polishing work of Mike Ley
Additionally, so are the photos!

To the left, top to bottom, are Seahearts (Entada gigas), Red Hamburger Beans (Mucuna urens); Crabwood (Carapa sp.); and Starnut Palm (Astrocaryum sp.).

Below is a close-up of the pair of unpolished and polished Seahearts (Entada gigas) shown at the top of the photo to the left.

Photo: Mike Ley

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