Introduction: Coconut Goblet

In this Instructable, we will turn a mere dry coconut shell into a beautiful goblet. The resulting cup is a perfect vehicle to escape your everyday troubles and enjoy a little paradise at home. Or at a party. Or with a friend (as a gift?).

The process is simple and requires few tools. I currently live in an apartment and understand what it is to be without a workbench or even a proper vise. I have gathered tools piece by piece and even made a few of my own. Substitutions are totally allowed, this is just how I did it.

I used:

  1. A Table
  2. A Rubber Band
  3. A Marker
  4. A Cross-Cutting Saw
  5. A Roll of Duct Tape - for the roll, not the tape
  6. A Paring Knife
  7. A Coconut-Sized Bowl
  8. A Spoon I don't care about
  9. Sandpaper (100 through 220 grit)
  10. A Hard, Flat Surface
  11. A 1/4 Sheet Palm Sander
  12. A Combination Square
  13. A Pencil
  14. A 10" Wood Hand Screw Clamp
  15. Two Small Bar Clamps
  16. A Set of Spade Bits (1", 7/8", and 3/4")
  17. A Cordless Drill
  18. A Set of Chisels
  19. A Homemade Mallet
  20. Some Cardboard
  21. Some Clean Cotton Rags

I used these on:

  1. A coconut
  2. A little block of wood I had
  3. Some JB Weld
  4. A bit of Howard's Butcher Block Conditioner

I think that's it?

Step 1: Figuring Out This Nut

Dry coconuts are actually drupes. That is, they aren't really nuts at all but rather the (large!) pits of an even larger fruits; think of this being like a peach pit (please don't eat those, cyanide is bad for you). Almonds are also drupes. Which means that the shell of the coconut is a wonderfully tough resource, meant to protect the baby coconut palm tree until it has a chance to grow OR gets eaten. The shell is naturally quite beautiful, being woven out of tough and dark fibers. This Instructable will show you how to turn a dry, hairy coconut into a functional goblet suitable for cool drinks and desserts in time for Summer (or any time you wish was Summer).

Start by picking out a coconut that feels heavy for its size, as round as you can find and without soft eyes ormold. To make a nice goblet, I used a rubber band and stretched it around the coconut, towards the end with the eyes. The pointy end of the coconut will be the bowl and the end with the eyes will become the foot of the goblet. Cutting the coconut this way is important because the side with the eyes can leak - trust me, I have messed this up before. Adjust the rubber band until it looks flat all the way around; the better you line up the band, the flatter your cup rim and foot will be which means less sanding later. Trace the rubber band with a permanent marker or pen.

You could just saw along the line, holding a round, liquid-filled ball. That seems a little dangerous. Duct Tape to the rescue! Use the duct tape to secure your coconut, not by strapping it to your table but by using as a temporary base. Much steadier cutting. The key here is to just barely cut through the shell and leave the meat intact. Telling when you cut far enough is easy, the saw will slide through the meat will little resistance. When you reach the meat in one position, rotate the coconut and continue to saw all the way around.

I know many more macho ways of opening coconuts, using the back edge of a machete is my favorite, but since we are interested in turning the shell in to a very predictable shape I find the saw the much more effective in this case.

Step 2: Emptying the Drupe

So, now you have a coconut that is still held together by a lot of meat. There will still be a fair amount of liquid inside, so you will probably want a bowl for this next step, slightly larger than the coconut itself.

Take a stout paring knife and cut through the meat, turning as you go. Please be mindful of your fingers and thumb as you do this. The coconut should pop apart before long. If you are really awesome, you can tip the pointy end of the coconut down just in time to keep all that coconut water inside.

Drink it.

Lots of electrolytes and a cool refreshment after all that "hard" work you put in. You deserve it.

There are a lot of ways (and Instructables) that deal with removing the meat of a coconut. I like to take the same stout paring knife and score the meat in a cross pattern. You probably won't cut all the way through the meat to the shell. This is good - you don't want to scar the shell interior if you can help it.

Using a strong table spoon (that you don't care about too much), pry out the meat. Push the tip of the spoon between the edge of the meat and the inside of the shell. You will have to lever the meat out. Strong table knives (that are dull and also not of a sentimental nature) can be used as well, after you have removed at least one wedge. Put the tip of the knife in to a score mark and lever or twist it to pop meat out of the shell. All of this prying could potentially be bending your silverware, be smart.

DO NOT use the sharp paring knife for this - it is bad for the sharp tip and bad for the integrity of your body's meat (if you get my drift). I don't have direct experience with the disastrous consequences, but I have a vivid imagination.

Save the meat. Enjoy the meat fresh or maybe make some macaroons or something. If I hear people have been sacrificing coconuts and not eating the meat inside, I will be upset with them.

Step 3: Trimming the Shell

Congratulations, you have two pieces of coconut shell. If your coconut's face (eyes and a mouth, kind of...) are off-center (and they will be, coconuts weren't meant to be perfectly radially symmetrical), you may have to trim a little more off. I did the rubber_band-marker-saw thing again and made the base a little narrower to suit my sense of aesthetics.

Time to sand the rims flat. You may not think this is important. "It will help this look more rustic" you say. Wrong. People notice if their cups fall over to one side and foul up parties. They also don't like jagged edges on their lips. Drinks also act as liquid levels and are pretty revealing of shoddy workmanship and wavy edges. Put some coarse sand paper on a clean, flat surface like this granite tile or a piece of plate glass (that you don't love). Rub the coconut shells around until the edges are flat. After flattening the edges, fold a little sandpaper over the edges and take off the sharp edge.

Sand the inside. There may be little bits of the inner skin of the coconut clinging to the inside of the shell, remove those with some light sanding with 200-ish grit. If you let the coconut shell sit out, these will usually dry out and flake off anyway.

GO OUTSIDE. If you haven't been sanding this entire thing outside, definitely find a place where you can make a mess (to be swept up later). This is especially important if you are intending to use power tools to aid you in your quest for a tropical grail.

Sand the outside. I have left shells rough and hairy in the past of a really rustic look. Gilligan, the Professor, and Mary Ann would have been proud. This time, I decided to sand off the hair and reveal the smooth, mottled, dark core of the shell. I would call this halfway-to-coconut-bikini; rustic but not rough - charming but not unrefined. You could do this by hand (start with the coarsest paper you have), but I chose to use my little DeWalt 411 1/4 Sheet Sander in the interest of time. Watch your fingers. Keep the sander moving in slow spiraling circles over the surface of the shell. Work consistently, making an even finish over the entire shell. Work from coarse to fine, I finished by hand-sanding with 220 grit.

Step 4: Roughing Out the Stem

I had some scraps of mahogany that I picked up for free (woohoo!) from a boat builder who was retiring. This particular piece is pretty square, 1.75" x 1.75" x 3.5".

To fit the shells properly, I drilled some shallow holes with a spade bit. To find the center of the block, draw lines from corner to corner. Spade bits are nice because you can use them with hand drills and still end up with nice, perpendicular holes; the edges of the bit will cut a nice, even ring in to the wood if you are nice and square to it. Test the depth of the hole with your (bottom) shell, the shell should just barely miss the bottom of the hole. Saw the block to length (mine looked good at around 2" long). Now mark and drill the other side. Since the bowl of the coconut is pointer than the bottom shell, I drilled deeper with 7/8" and 3/4" bits to make a stepped hole. That fits much better.

To make the stem of the goblet less blocky, I cut off the corners, marking them with a combination square. I happen to be blessed with chisels and a homemade mallet. I made the first cut far away from my 45-degree line on the end to make sure that the wood would not split too close to my lines on the sides. After you have lopped off the bulk of the wood, pare off the remainder using both hands and gentle pressure. You could saw this off if you don't have chisels.

The octagon shape is nice. It would work for the goblet, but still a little blocky. This shape is more important because it is easy to hold in my improvised vise. It is really a 10" wooden hand screw clamp that I have secured to the table with some small bar clamps.

Step 5: Refining the Stem

Scallops will make our goblet stem a little prettier. Cutting these in to the first four faces of the block helps a little, cutting scallops in to the other four edges makes a sweet, octagonal-faceted stem that is easy on the eyes and comfortable to hold.

Start by marking every other edge of the octagon with a line down the center. Lift the block high enough in the vise so that you can saw freely down the middle until you just meet the lines. Lower the block so that it is braced flat against the table and ready for chisel chopping. Putting the chisel bevel down, towards the wood, helps to form the curve of the scallop naturally. The saw cut stops your chisel from splitting the wood on the other side. Turn the block around and chop the other half of the scallop the same way. Using just hand pressure, pare off the rough parts of the wood and make a nicer surface.

Rotate 90-degrees and repeat the process. Do this for all four main faces.

To bring the shape back to octagonal, mark a short way in from the thin corners of the block and pare the scallops in to the wood. Now the octagonal ends really shine, they sit nicely in the vise jaws.

Admire your handiwork and/or pare some more if the shape doesn't look right to you. I decided to chamfer the ends of the block.

If your coconut has prominent ridges that keep it from sitting properly in the hole, you can pare those off with your chisel too. I took a little off of each of the three lines on my bowl.

Step 6: Gluing It All Together and Finishing

To assemble the goblet, I used JB Weld in the holes of my stem to secure the shells. I recommend using an epoxy that is thickened with filler to allow it to fill the gaps and cling to the bottom of the cup. In the future, I might use a clear or more natural-colored epoxy since a tiny seam line shows.

GET A PIECE OF CARDBOARD. Or some other less-absorbent material you can throw away. Protect any surface you don't want stained or ruined with epoxy drips and smears. Tape it down if you are prone to accidents with adhesives. Wear gloves if you have a history of unintentionally touching wet paint or glue. Be smart here too.

Mix the epoxy paste as the instructions describe. completely cover the bottom of your hole with at least an 1/8" thick layer. Center the stem on the base of the cup and place it right-side up. A nice, thickened epoxy like JB Weld should not give you any trouble when you flip it over. If you peek under the stem and see that it is not making solid contact with the epoxy, take the stem off and dab a little more epoxy on the middle of the shell.

Repeat the process and attach the bowl of your goblet. The epoxy takes a little time to cure, so take some time to level the top rim of your cup with the level (perhaps from your combination square). If your coconut shell is a little more oval than circular, you may wish to rotate the shells at this point to balance the look of the cup.

Wait for the epoxy to cure. JB Weld takes a few hours to cure enough for handling and overnight to be completely set. Your epoxy may differ.

WAIT. I am serious. Don't skimp on the waiting. Read a book. Cook some nice meals (probably about three before this is ready). Go to sleep? Work on some other projects. Did I mention how waiting is important?

Finishing the cup is pretty easy. I used Howard's Butcher Block Conditioner. It is safe for incidental and direct contact with food. Follow the instructions; slather it on, wait (some more), wipe off the excess, repeat 3+ times before you give it a final buffing. I had some cotton rags cut from old (THOROUGHLY CLEANED) pajama pants that I used for dabbing and rubbing the finish. If you have tried any other food-safe seals/finishes, please let me know in the comments. I am always looking for new things to try!

Step 7: Serving Suggestions

  1. You could certainly do worse than drinking a Hawaiian beer.
  2. Alcohol not your thing? A cool goblet of lemonade is always refreshing.
  3. Feeling hungry? How about serving guacamole or your favorite dip? Served here with some homemade chili powder and Hawaiian sea salt.
  4. Try my favorite, a budget-friendly, 1944 Trader Vic-inspired Mai Tai! Served strong, no pre-mixed mixers or pineapple juice, umbrella optional.

Enjoy responsibly and AWESOMELY.

Thanks for taking the time to read my Instructable, this is my first one!

P.S. The Howard's Butcher Block Conditioner is a fine finish, but I would recommend that you avoid putting hot beverages, very acidic liquids, red wine, or other juices that tend to stain things in your goblet. Do not leave filled overnight. Hand clean with soap and water. You will want to reapply the Butcher Block Conditioner from time to time.

Hand Tools Only Contest 2016

Participated in the
Hand Tools Only Contest 2016