Introduction: Coconut Shell Earrings

Making stuff out of coconut shell only takes a few hand tools and none of them have to be power tools. Coconuts are available in most countries as well. The shell is quite hard, but easy to work with metal tools and it polishes to a nice dark lustre (with a bit of extra work, it can even resemble a glazing), so everyone should be able to give it a try.

In the following, I will show you how I made the earrings above, from initial idea to finished state and you should be able to either copy my design (template included), or make an entirely different design - the possible variations are near endless.

Tools used:

  • Pencil
  • Eraser
  • Fineline pen
  • Scribe
  • Drill bits (0.5mm, 1.5mm, 2mm and 8mm, the last one for forming the earwire)
  • Jewellers saw (with a #5 blade)
  • Hacksaw (to open the nut)
  • Flush cutter
  • Flat nose pliers
  • Round nose pliers
  • Regular file, key file and needle file - all half-round
  • Sandpaper 150 and 400 grit
  • Nail sanding/polishing block with 4 grit sizes (from roughly 800 grit to very fine)

Materials used:

  • Baking paper (for pattern transfer)
  • Drawing paper of kinds
  • A piece of coconut (inner) shell
  • Around 30..40 cm of 0.5mm bronze wire
  • Super glue (or epoxy glue)
  • Patience

Step 1: Doodle

Whenever you have an idle moment, paper and a pencil, you can doodle weird shapes (just like when you were bored in school).

If you focus a bit on the doodles, you might start seeing patterns or something that can become patterns with a few extra strokes and suddenly, you have the beginning of a design. Keep to it and redraw it and let it evolve from your subconscious mind - I really started from scratch on this project, the proof is in (on) the paper.

Step 2: Refine

I ended up with this design, drew it in pencil until I was satisfied with it, inked it with a fine-line roller pen and when dry, I used an eraser to remove the excess pencil strokes and my loose idea was becoming a bit more tangible.

Step 3: Transfer Your Pattern

To make a symmetrical pair, use baking paper to copy your design. It's easy to see the pattern when turned upside down. You could scan the design and mirror it in a paint program as well, but sometimes it's nice to do simple and keep old ways alive.

The shell will be easier to work with if you file or sand most of the hairy fibers off. It will look fairly light colored due to the fibers and the surface will be rough and hard to draw on (although not too hard). If you have a belt sander or lots of patience to go with a piece of regular sandpaper (grit 100..150), you could even out the outside before you even take a hacksaw to it and dig out the cocos meat (mine was already opened, as I used some of the shell about 6 months ago, so I was spared some work).

Tape the baking paper to the shell with whatever tape you have handy and copy the pattern by scribing through the lines. Start from the inside, as you cut the paper and it is only held at the outside.

If you have no scribe, file a piece of steel, like a nail, to a sharp point. Do not use a sharp knife as a scribe, it is bound to slip on the hard and rounded shell and accidents are almost given that way.

Once you have traced the full pattern, line it up with a pencil, to make it easier to follow when you cut along the lines with a jewellers saw.

Step 4: Cut the Nut

Drill a hole of around 2mm in each inside panel/hole and thread your saw blade through the holes one by one. Saw out the inner panels first, as it is easier when you have more material to grip.

When the inside panels are done, cut along the outside and be very careful when you reach the end, or you might accidentally break off a part of your design.

When both parts are done, compare them with your initial design, to see where you need to file the most material (compare your two pieces of baking paper ahead, to avoid a mistake in the drawing (I did not and had to file that much more).

When the outline and the panels are to your liking, sand the edges as well as the outside and for a dangling earring, you might wanna sand the inside as well.

Using progressively finer grit, go on until you have the lustre you want - some like a matte look, some want mirror polish, but only you can decide what to go for here.

Step 5: Sand, Sand and Sand... Polish, Polish and Polish

When your nut has had enough of you and you think you gave it all you got, you gotta give it a little bit more!

Step 6: Mounting an Eyelet

Make an eyelet in the top of your two pieces. Just drilling a hole for a jump ring is not really my thing, but if you feel lazy and don't mind the look, go with your own methods.

I used cyanoacrylate glue (3 second super glue). 2-component epoxy is probably stronger, but you have to hold the pieces together while it hardens - without getting glue on anything else and that can be a hard job. You also have to mix a lot more glue than what 2 earrings need and why waste.

Step 7: Ear Wire+

Unfortunately, I could not take any photos while making the ear wires and the double looped jump rings, so here they are attached and ready to wear.

Step 8: Wear It With Pride (or Leave That to Someone Else)

As you can see, they are useable, although I will probably upgrade the ear wire to 0.8mm or 0.9mm in silver (replacing all the metal parts), as some are sensitive to bronce.

I drew the pattern digitally as well, if anybody wants to use it, but do scale it down before you print it.

The ones I made are 59mm (2-5/16" or 2.313") tall and 20mm (25/32" or 0.782") wide.

I have attached a pdf-file of my design, as it will be easier to scale to whatever size you want.

So much for my first try at it - have fun with it - but don't laugh too hard at me, please ;)

Any questions? I will try my best to answer.

Comments

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Rajaa Kahel (author)2017-02-06

Looks really beautiful!

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AbbiePhilpott (author)2015-05-20

Wow, such a nifty idea! I love jewels that are made from natural materials. I buy tons of them all the time. Unfortunately I'm kinda "left-handed" if you know what I mean :D Can't seem to make even a simple bracelet. Any advice for the novice in making jewels?

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Omnivent (author)AbbiePhilpott2015-05-20

Thanks :)

Save your money for some basic tools rather than buying ready-made and get tips and inspiration from this site - perhaps start with something that requires a minimum of tools. Hard to give precise advice without knowing your preferences; earrings, finger rings, necklages, bracelets or whatever(?), but a little supply of wire goes with almost all jewellery making.

A side-cutter is indispensable and so are "chain nose" pliers and for some stuff "round nose" pliers as well. Go for quality and you will have tools that last you a life time and are nice to use go for cheap and you will be disappointed in no time.

London has got so many shops where you can get both wire, tools, findings and what not, so you are very lucky in that respect :)

Most of the tools can be bought in left-handed versions as well - just ask the shop keeper ;)

Seriously, if you are not, hmmm, shall we say "faux-Burberry afflicted", I am pretty sure that you can learn to make, what your mind can conceive - just start small and consider mistakes as part of the learning experience - do you have a particular project in mind? Perhaps I can help you with more specific advice then.

Remember to take a lot of snaps doing it, so that you can post your own projects.

Looking forward to see something from your (left) hand ;)

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AbbiePhilpott (author)Omnivent2015-05-25

Hey, tnx for the reply :)

I prefer boho, hipster kinda necklaces and bracelets. I don't have holes on my ears, so I buy clip earrings. I also have a "starter pack" (if you may even call it that way) jewelry tools which includes two types of rope, various elements and some pointy pliers. I wanted to make this design

https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/736x/c7/82/64...

but failed miserable. I'll make a photo to show you the "final result" xD

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Omnivent (author)AbbiePhilpott2015-05-25

Besides clips, there's magnets as well - not sure if the nickel coated variety is a good idea on something as skin-tight, but perhaps gold plated magnets are available. If you go for DIY clips, you might wanna consider the type where you can adjust the maximum pressure with a finger screw.

Other options are over-the-ear hangers and cuffs - My original plan was to use two or more cuffs to place the shells on the ear, rather than as dangles, as almost any ear can carry a cuff, but I realized that they were to short for this (perhaps another time).

I'm not sure what rope has to do with jewellery(?), except for when you fail miserably ;) The pointy pliers might be round nose pliers, where each jaw is conical - this is the right one to bend wire and make loops, but isn't good for much else. You can see an example here:

http://www.jewellersequipment.co.uk/item.rnrp.html

The bracelet that you want to make should be doable, if the pitch of your chain matches (more or less) the size of your pearls and you have a suitable wire for "sewing" it together - in the second photo from the top is shown 3 solenoid/relay coils, which consist of a fairly soft copper with a lacquer coating - I'd probably use bronze- or "nickel silver" or a similar stiff wire for such a project, as it will be easier to get through the beads and chain links - but it seems that it's just stringing the wire back and forth through each link and the pearls, so if it went less successful than anticipated, remember the adage "If at first you don't succeed..." - you know the rest I'm sure ;)

All beginnings can be nerve wrecking, but in a while, you'll smile at it :)

And it doesn't have to be absolutely perfect (perfect is boring), as the purpose of jewellery is just to enhance and express who you are, not to steal your own "shine".

Did you find a construction description, or did you just go from the photo?

Photo, yes please and you should photo document all that you make - will show your progress as well as the particular object :)

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AbbiePhilpott (author)Omnivent2015-05-26

Yeah, I just watched the photo. It looks very easy - that's why I tried it in the first place. But I guess some things look nice only in picture. Though, I didn't use a wire - just plain string

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Omnivent (author)AbbiePhilpott2015-05-26

That may be it then. Try redoing it with wire and I'm sure it will be a lot better - the wire is the only rigid support tying it all together - with string, I'd imagine it to collapse - but snap a photo before you cut the string :)

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AbbiePhilpott (author)Omnivent2015-05-28

Oh, sorry, I forgot I promised. Will do that in the next few days. Do you have a recommendation on the wire I should buy?

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Omnivent (author)AbbiePhilpott2015-05-28

Bring a couple of your pearls/beads and one of the chains to a store where they have at least one person competent in making jewellery. Go there outside rush hour, smile and ask about making such a bracelet and you'll surely get lots of help

I'd use something not too soft, but still pliable and perhaps bronze and nickel-silver may be a bit hard for your first try - ask them about aluminium wire, it comes in lots of different shiny colours (including silver and gold) and it may be possible to match your chains pretty close (which will look more integrated), or you may find a contrasting colour will have more "wow factor". That's the reason to bring some of the chain, while the pearls are needed to find the most suitable gauge/diameter.

Without seeing your beads, or the size of the hole in them, I cannot say, but I'm sure the shop keeper can guide you well. It should be a good fit, to keep the beads from wobbling around, but OTOH not too tight, or it will be hard to thread the beads - as an example, I'd use 0.6mm to 0.8mm if the holes are 1.0mm (which seems to be a very common hole size in "small hole beads", at least the kind used for stringing on 3-ply spun silk and the like.

Get enough wire that you can use some for practice, to get the feel for how to handle the wire and see if you need e.g. an extra loop around the chain links and pay attention to the wire that it doesn't get kinks (and if, bend them carefully back - worst thing to do is just pull and hope for the best, so perhaps make a few kinks in one end and get the feel for straightening it out nicely. Oh, perhaps also bring your wire cutter, to make sure it's able to cut the wire that they suggest to use :)

If you haven't got one, take a look at what they have in chain nose pliers, to help string the wire through the assembly of chains and pearls - being careless and bare handed is a sure way of getting hurt.

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AbbiePhilpott (author)Omnivent2015-06-08

Wow, you're so knowledgeable on the topic it's almost scary xD I thought of asking the seller lady, but in my local store there's always a huge crowd (at least whenever I go).

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Omnivent (author)AbbiePhilpott2015-06-08

Thanks, but don't get too frightened, you can be just as scary if you keep to it ;)

Given the number of DIY jewellery (and similar) stores in London, you could pick another, or perhaps get to a shop within the first two opening hours, where there's bound to be less customers.

Never try to hit them right before lunch time though - they'll be hungry, irritable and not as forthcoming as a couple of hours earlier (where they may even welcome the chance to an informal chat about their expert areas).

That said, no matter how crowded a shop is, they should be ready to guide their customers within reason - they live of your business and if needed, there's plenty of shops around you...

If you keep your eyes open for it, you may even find useful stuff in quite different types of shops - cow bones, while a bit of work to prepare, is a more or less passable substitute for ivory and it is nice to work with (local butcher shop). Many types of exotic hardwood, horn, the cheap (-ish) eastern amber, bamboo, just to name a few of the fairly cheap bio-materials that work well for jewellery.

Browse the DIY shops when you have time, you'll learn a bit every time and likewise on this site - just use the search field to find what you're after.

Rena Klingenberg, a really "scary" lady can be found here:

http://jewelrymakingjournal.com/

And her blog is at:

http://renaklingenberg.com/

I'm sure you can learn a lot from visiting her and on her blog, there's a good amount of comments, so you can join in with questions as well :)

Have a nice day and remember to smile - makes life easier :)

BTW. Did your dog eat the pictures of the bracelet or...?

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AbbiePhilpott (author)Omnivent2015-06-30

Oh, sorry for the late response. Aaand.. sorry again for not having the picture :( I usually browse Instructables from work, and by the time I get home I completely forget all about it...

Thank you for the useful links, I will enjoy browsing through them.

I promise I will upload the picture the next time

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Corinbw (author)2015-05-21

My dad gets coconuts at the store quite often. i really want to make something like this. a bit different but similar. i love the finished look.

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Omnivent (author)Corinbw2015-05-21

Thanks, just go ahead, crack some nuts and find a pencil and please post what you made. Nice to have a selection to pick from - some nuts are very round, some more elongated and you may even find some with a less curved side, which may make it easier to work with.

Trying to get my mind around a necklace to go with these - choices, choices and more choices :)

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NathanSellers (author)2015-05-19

These are great. I loved seeing these types of things when I lived on an island.

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Omnivent (author)NathanSellers2015-05-20

Thanks. I do live on an island (sort of - Copenhagen, DK), but here, the coconuts only "grow" on greengrocer shops rather than on trees ;)

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seamster (author)2015-05-19

I really like these! Great instructions, very easy to follow. Well done!!

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Omnivent (author)seamster2015-05-19

Thank you.