How-to: make coconut Zen bowls

Coconut Zen Bowl

Coconut Zen Bowl

Each time we get coconut to eat, we use the shell to make bowls that we can reuse for something else. We use them for decoration, for eating snacks like peanuts and trail-mix, you could use it as a jewellery bowl or for holding anything small like hair elastics, change and such.

I like making these coconut bowls with the children, it shows them that we can have beautiful objects that are made from recycling readily available materials. It is also a fun craft they like doing (I’ll be reading a book to my 8 year old while he is sanding to perfection his little bowl).

I jokingly call them Zen bowls because if you are going to hand sand the interior of the coconuts and are aiming for perfection, you’ve got to be Zen. I don’t have the time to sand the inside of all the bowls, you don’t really need to either, it’s just much prettier (like in the above picture).

To make them, don’t open the coconut before you start (you can make a hole and drink the coconut water though).

By the way, while I’m at it: about the number of holes in a coconut and which one to pierce

There are three eyes to a coconut. Two of them are as hard as the outer shell and can only be pierced with effort (drill, hammer, I’ve seen people go bazerk trying to get them open!), and only one eye is soft enough to pierce with a pointy knife or screw driver easily. You have to identify the unique looking hole from the two twin fake holes. I spot it with a glimpse of an eye, but if you aren’t sure, try poking your pointy device into each eye, one should be more tender than the other two.
People believe falsely that all three eyes are identical in softness and therefore believe that it is hard as hell to open a coconut because two of those eyes are difficult to open.

So, back to our coconut! As I was saying before that short break, you can drink the coconut water but do not break the coconut.

One of my kids filing a coconut

One of my kids filing a coconut

Start by filing the coconut with a file to get rid of all the fibres around the coconut. The filling accounts for 95% of the work. File away as much of the white strokes as you can until it is mainly dark brown. You can focus on the lower half only if you aren’t going to keep the top for a lid, but filing it while it is whole makes it easier from my experience.
I let my kids use some tools, like the file. They can’t really hurt themselves with the file (maybe a few scratches).

Two coconuts, one almost finished and one untouched

Two coconuts compared, one almost finished and one untouched

When the coconut reaches the desired color, it’s time to open up the coconut with a saw.
Trace a line all around the coconut where you would like the brim of the bowl to be, that is where you will cut it open with the saw.
Place the coconut in a vice (or carefully hold it and use the saw gently) and saw away.

Coconut in a vice, getting sawed

Coconut in a vice, getting sawed

Since the coconut is still inside (and you will probably want to eat it), if your tools are dirty, you might want to try not to saw too deep into the coconut, and rather stay shallow. As you will see on one of the following pictures, I did not care much and joyfully sawed the coconut too. If you do touch the coconut meat with the saw, you can wash off the coconut or slice off that top part.

Coconut shell is sawed all around

Coconut shell is sawed all around

When you finish sawing, use a knife to cut the coconut meat and separate the two halves.
Remove the flesh using whatever means you have (coconut grater, sturdy knife).

Coconut cut in half

Coconut cut in half

Then you need to sand the coconut with sand paper to eliminate all the scratches the file would have left.

When the coconut is soft enough to the touch, if you are lazy, you can stop here. The inside of the bowl will be a little less pretty but oh well.
If you need some Zen time, then continue to next step: hand sand the inside of the coconut with sand paper (or if you have any tool that I do not, by all means, use it!) until the dark wood shows.

Coconut Zen bowl

Coconut Zen bowl

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