Want a little something to remind you of the tropics, but on a budget? Not a problem. For just a few dollars and a bit of time, you can make a neat little bowl (with a lid) out of a coconut shell. For this Instructable, you will need the following:
- One coconut. It doesn't have to be perfectly shaped.
- A few scraps of wood - one at least the width of the coconut (e.g.: 6" x 6", or ~15 cm x 15 cm). MDF (medium density fiber board) or similar wood is fine. Thickness can vary - I used something that was roughly 1/2" (1 cm) thick. This will become part of the lid of your coconut bowl.
- White paint (optional)
- A few small screws (e.g.: I used 5/8" screws)
- Wood glue
- Polyurethane or similar varnish.
- A sander. This is optional, but it saves a TON of time.
- A drill, for drilling pilot holes for the screws. (I'll also show you a neat tip if you've got a power drill).
- A saw, capable of cutting your piece of wood. I used a band saw, as it makes cutting the handle and legs easier.
Step 1: Choose Your Coconut
Starting with a good coconut is important. Be sure to choose one that doesn't have any cracks or holes in it. Give it a good shake - if you don't hear it sloshing, that's not a good sign. The particular shape of the coconut doesn't matter too much - it doesn't have to be perfectly round.
Step 2: Sand the Outside
Once you've got your coconut selected, start sanding. First, you'll want to start off with a fairly rough sandpaper, such as 120 grit.
Using a power sander, such as a 1/4 sheet palm sander, speeds up this process. Hold the sander in one hand, and the coconut in the other. If you find this a bit tricky, you may place a folded up towel on your workplace, and place the coconut on it, to prevent it from slipping or sliding around while you are sanding.
If you don't have a power sander, feel free to do this while watching TV or something else. It'll likely take a while.
Don't be alarmed if you go through quite a bit of sandpaper. Coconut shell seems quite hard, and quickly wears out the sandpaper. The goal here is to get down to the brown layer of the shell. Don't expect to sand it until it is perfectly dark, though, as the shell isn't all that thick, and you don't want to sand completely through it!
Once you've gone over it with 120 grit, you may wish to switch to a finer sandpaper, such as 220 grit. It's not necessary, but it does give a nicer final finish.
Step 3: Drain, Cut, and Gut
Drill a small hole in the 'top' of the coconut, and drain the liquid out.
(To me, the 'top' of the coconut is the end without the three light colored spots. It really depends if you want that to be your top or your bottom. It's entirely up to you, as long as you are consistent with keeping your 'top' as the top!).
Keep the hole small - smaller in diameter than the screws you plan on using. It also doesn't matter if the hole is slightly off center, but do try to keep it as close to center as possible. When draining the liquid, it may help to shake the coconut.
Cut the coconut in half. It doesn't matter if your cut is perfectly straight, but as you cut around, both ends of the cut need to end up in the same place! I did this by pushing it into my band saw, and slowly rotated it around.
Remove the coconut meat. To do this, you can use a coconut shredding tool, or a knife. Once the coconut meat has been removed, place the coconut shell in a warm, dry place. (In order to speed the process up, I placed mine in the rear window of my car during a hot day. It was dry in an afternoon).
Step 4: Sand the Inside
After the coconut meat has been removed and the shell dried, you'll need to sand the inside of the shell. It's surprising how much dusty material can be removed here!
It is certainly possible to do this by hand, but the easiest way I found to do this involves making a homemade sanding disk, mounting it in the drill, and using it to do the sanding. It's basically a large bolt, with a piece of cardboard and sandpaper hot glued to the head of the bolt. The threaded portion of the bolt then gets held in the chuck of the drill. The cardboard flexes enough that you can quite easily sand curved surfaces. Again, using a fairly coarse sandpaper such as 120 grit. It'll make quick work of anything left inside the shell. Again, this isn't necessary, but it certainly speeds the process up when compared to sanding it all by hand.
Step 5: Cut the Lid Insert, Handle, and Legs
Using your scrap of wood, trace around the top half of the coconut. Once you've done that, remove the coconut shell and draw a line to the inside of the first line, roughly 1/8" (3 mm). Cut out the wood on that line. This is going to become the inside of the lid for your bowl. The purpose of this piece of wood is so that it is easier to put the lid on the bowl. Without something like this, there's nothing to keep your lid from sliding off. Test fit it to make sure that it fits. If it doesn't fit, sand or cut it down a bit. It doesn't have to be a perfect fit, but it should be able to be wedged in place.
For the handle and legs, I happened to have a scrap of walnut kicking around. Really, anything can be used here, but using a darker wood gives for a nice end product. (You could also use any kind of wood, and stain it darker before attaching them).
The shape of the handle is entirely up to you, but here's what I did:
I started with cutting a small square - roughly 1" (2.5 cm) cubed. I then cut tapers on each side, then, very carefully, cut the corners off the tapers, basically making a tapered octagon. On the narrow end of the taper, I cut a very shallow upside down "V", so that the handle would fit more easily over the ridge at the top of the coconut.
For the legs, I started with three similar sized cubes of wood. I then cut a very upside down shallow "V", just like I did for the handle. I then rolled the cube 90 degrees, then cut another shallow "V". The idea behind this is to try to cut more of a compound curved surface so that it matches the shape of the bottom of the coconut. I then cut off the bottom corner of the leg, so that the bottom would sit flat. (The pictures in the next step help explain this better).
Step 6: Attach the Handle and Legs
Hold the handle and lid together, and drill a pilot hole into the handle, then screw it together. Glue is another option here, that might be a bit easier (but also more time consuming, especially when attaching the legs).
Place the bottom half of the shell on your flat working surface.Place the three legs around the bottom of the shell, and drill pilot holes for the screws. You may wish for someone to help you at this point, as holding both the leg against the shell and the drill opposite of that can be a bit tricky. Start by entirely attaching one leg, then another, then the last leg. (This is easier, than trying to drill pilot holes for all three legs at once, and hoping that you've got everything lined up so that the bowl sits level).
If, while doing this, you've managed to knock out one of the three spots on the bottom, don't worry - they glue in reasonably easy, and a bit of white paint will hide this!
Step 7: Glue the Lid Insert, Paint the Interior, Varnish the Exterior
Using a bit of wood glue, glue the interior of the lid that you cut, into the lid. It shouldn't take much glue. Once the glue is dry, take some white paint and paint the interior of the shell and the wooden insert. This basically gives it a fake coconut look, without having the coconut meat still there. It also gives a nice bit of contrast from the brown exterior. This may take more than one coat of paint.
To make it easier to handle, wait for the white paint to dry. Next, varnish the outside. For this, I used a polyurethane finish, but even something like a danish oil or mineral oil could potentially work. Make sure the bowl and lid are separated at this point, as you don't want to accidentally varnish your bowl shut!
Step 8: Done!
There you are - you've now got a neat little coconut shell bowl with a lid! It could make a nice spot to put spare change or spare keys near an entryway. For the price of a coconut, a few materials, and a bit of time, it's a fun way to add a bit of tropical flavor to your home.