When we say “natural materials,” the mind leaps immediately to wood, stone, leather, natural fibers. But there are lots of interesting and more “exotic” materials from the natural world that we don’t tend to think of, right away, and digging these up and showing them off is one of the things I’m most looking forward to in this month’s theme. To kick things off, here’s a sampler of some of my personal favorite unusual natural materials from our archives, arranged in highly unscientific how-much-does-Sean-like-it order. There’s cool stuff here made from antler, acorns, fish scales, insect parts—even shark’s teeth! Enjoy!


How-To: Mount a Knife Blade in an Antler Without Glue


Make a Survival Hand Vise


Plastic From Fish Scales


How-To: Classic Leather Water Bottle


How-To: Scrimshaw


Brilliant Red Dye Made From Insects


Beetle Shell Ceiling


Bamboo Bike Studio Expanding


How-To: Make Traditional Hawaiian Shark-Tooth Weapons


Jonathan Wolfe’s Puzzle Acorns

Sean Michael Ragan

Sean Michael Ragan

I am descended from 5,000 generations of tool-using primates. Also, I went to college and stuff. I am a long-time contributor to MAKE magazine and makezine.com. My work has also appeared in ReadyMade, c’t – Magazin für Computertechnik, and The Wall Street Journal.