Unusual Gift Ideas For Families – Hand Carved Coconuts

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The biggest shopping season of the year is upon us again.  Today we want to revisit the subject of gifts for those hard to shop for.  Please review the gift ideas for those difficult to shop for:  Uncommon Gifts and Coconut Carvings post for family gift ideas.

So this post is specifically about Unusual Gift Ideas For Families – hand carved coconut shells.  These are uncommon in various designs, shades and sizes for any member of the family.


Coconut Shell Lampshade Designs



Hand Carved Coconut Shells

Hand carved coconuts bring back memories for my family.  We were a military family stationed in the Philippines many years ago.  Wood carving was a native art.  Their wood carving village was one of my favorite places to visit.  Carved coconut shells were one of the items I was fascinated with then and I still am.

There is a large variety to choose from, and all submitted by different artists.
We’ll talk about, 1) The craft of coconut carving,  2) Other uses for coconut shells and husks, 3) Shells and coconut farmers, and 4) Coconut Shell Craft Production Process.

Craft Of Coconut Carving  

Carving coconut shells into decorative art pieces is a craft long standing craft.  This craft is practiced mostly in India in areas where coconuts grown in abundance.  It’s also prevalent in other countries such as Cambodia, Thailand, the Philippines, Java, Maldives and Sri Lanka.

One report mentions this particular craft being brought in from Iraq almost 900 years ago. So it’s possible the wood carving artisans from the Middle East and Persia were the first ones to try carving coconut shell.

Other Uses For Coconut Shells and Husks.             

Bowls and serving spoons has always been popular items made from coconut wood and shells.  Historically coconut shells have also been used for cooking fuel and part of building materials.  Other miscellaneous uses are floor polishers, brushes, floor mats, small planters, and bird feeders.

Then And Now

Craftsman have started being more creative over time with the help of modern tools.  The art pieces they’re making now are increasingly decorative and intricate carvings.  They have gone from crude to much more exquisite and delicate carvings.



Shells and Coconut Farmers

Crafting objects out of coconut shells to make household objects was traditionally practiced by coconut farmers.   They would scoop out the copra (meat) by making a neat hole at the top of the shell.   The shell was considered waste or the by-product.

Hollow coconut shells are bought from coconut growers.  Most all of the wood used is procured from coconut plantations.  Some of the crafted pieces are done by individual artists. Others are done as a group or village project.

A family constitutes a group, with each family member assigned to a particular job.  When a community or group is involved, the product is made then distributed to various women who complete the finishing and polishing of the pieces in their homes.


Coconut Shell Craft Production Process

1. Choose the right shell for the product that has to be developed. They come in all sizes.

2. Scrape the surface of the shell with files to clean the husk on the shell, thus making it smooth.

3. The shell is cut open with a hack-saw, the cut determined by the shape and size of the product to be made.

4. Smaller portions are cut from the open shell with a hack saw.  The shape to be cut is drawn on the inside of the shell and the blade is inserted through a small hole.

In case of a complicated design, for example if a piece of jewelry is to be made, a photocopied paper stencil is stuck on the inside surface of the shell and the design is carved out using a bow blade.

If a circle is to be cut then a paper stencil is made. This is stuck on the inside surface of a cut portion of a shell, the bow blade is inserted and the circle carved out from the shell.  Smaller elements are cut and stuck on to the main piece for ornamentation.

5. After a shape is cut out, the edges are made smooth by filing or by sanding with sand paper.

6. This process is followed repeatedly till the finish is satisfactory.

7. After the article is made small hooks are attached if required. This is done by drilling a small           hole and sticking the metal hook using a strong adhesive such as Fevikwik.

8. In case of a bigger object such as an ice cream cup or a bowl, the whole shell is used by cutting          it as per the required size.  Various designs are engraved in the shell using a file.

9. After the object is made it is sanded with sand paper till it is smooth. It is then polished with           bees wax. Alternatively, if a glossy finish is desired, it is given a coat of synthetic varnish. If the       surface is to have a dark finish then it is painted before the varnish coat is applied. The inside of     the object in this case is first rubbed with sand paper to get the desired smoothness and then it       is buffed on the machine. No varnish or bees wax is applied on the inside if the object is to hold       foodstuff.

10. The piece is dried in the sun.

Watch this brief coconut carvings video

View these posts for coconut carvings and more gift ideas   Uncommon Gifts and Coconut Carvings


Final Thoughts

Over time this outstanding craft has proven longevity.  It has gone from producing decorative pieces to producing contemporary lifestyle products and furniture.

This is due to more refined tools being used.  During the early years hand lathes were used,  but now machine lathes are used.  This has greatly increased the possibilities.  The machine drill has made precision drilling possible, therefore enabling a perfect and well-finished product.

The craft has gone from being completely manual to having some simple machines.  However, the judgment and skill of the artisan still make decisions about the look and beauty of the product.

I hope this information is helpful to someone looking for uncommon holiday gifts.


Until next time,



Vanna Pearl







42 thoughts on “Unusual Gift Ideas For Families – Hand Carved Coconuts”

  1. Coconut shells indeed can create lots of very creative piece of art in the region I stay in. And I highly recommend anyone to buy any art pieces made of coconut shell because they are most created by underserved communities to earn a living. Not only this can become a beautiful decoration in your house, buying will also help more communities in need. Thanks for sharing. 

    1. Hi Florence,

      I really appreciate your comments.  You absolutely right about the economics of all this.  Whether it’s an individual artist, a family or other group, it helps them a little financially.  

      Even though they have better carving tools now it is still time consuming and tedious work.  There are so many other items made from coconut shells that are quite nice also.  I’ll add more nice pieces as I find them.

      Thanks again for your participation in this discussion.

      Please remember to encourage someone today!

      Vanna Pearl

  2. Thanks for the great article. I never quite know what sort of gift I should get for my parents, and this seems like a cool and unique gift idea. Some of those designs are amazing! I especially like the one with the butterfly design, and the coconut theme lamp looks cool too. 

    1. Hi Nate,

      Thanks for your comments.  I’m glad you like the idea. 

       If you decide to purchase them for Christmas gifts just be sure to order early.  Shipping can take a few weeks.  Delivery time varies because the different designs are done by different artists.  

      I have two tealight holders of the same design.  They make very interested lighting in a dark room.  The shells seem to last forever.  

      All the best to you.

      Please remember to encourage someone today!

      Vanna Pearl

  3. This is really neat. I have never seen coconuts carved like this ever, those lampshade designs are super cool and I can think of so many people I can give that to as a gift. How much do those lamps usually cost, and where can I find them? It would be even more awesome if there was a place that could do a custom designs. Looking forward to your response.

    1. Hi There Huy,

      Thanks for your comments and interest in the information posted about the coconut carvings. They are definitely available for purchase.  This post has links to a page where the items may be purchased.  Just be sure to order early if you wish to have them for Christmas gifts.  They take 2-3 weeks for delivery.  Some artist even take longer.

      Please let me know if you still need more information after following the links in this post.

      All the best to you,

      Vanna Pearl

  4. Great post! I have been curious on how these are produced. Several of my friends have these pieces and I wondered where they came from. I would be curious to know if there is any concern with rotting inside the shell. Maybe the wax or varnish gets rid of this but any excess coconut could be problematic … I would imagine.

    1. Hi Josh,

      Thanks for your comments and questions.   The coconut shells are thoroughly scrubbed and sanded before use.  The ones used in this post are varnished and seem to last forever.  There is no sign of coconut left when the cleaning and preparation is completed. 

      I have had two very pretty carved coconut tealight holders for about 21 years.  They still look real nice when I light a candle inside. 

      Thanks again for your comments and questions.

      Please remember to encourage someone today!

      Vanna Pearl

  5. I have to say that these coconuts are wonderful! I would love to have some of these in my home. Actually, I have one hanging nest to me that is decorated like a pirate’s head and face.

    But it’s nothing like you present here!I’m amazed that you can hand carve a coconut and have it come out looking like these do.

    From the way you described it, it looks like a lot of work!These would make awesome gifts for Christmas this year! I’m impressed!

    Can you buy these anywhere?

    1. Hi There Rob,

      Thanks for your comments, I’m glad you like the presentation.  Yes they do make nice gifts for Christmas.  That’s why I thought this a good time to feature them.  

      They are absolutely available.  The samples on this page are linked to a page where they can be purchased.  It could take 2-3 weeks for delivery so I would suggest you order early if you wish to have them for Christmas.  Let me know if you have any more questions.  All the best.

      Please remember to encourage someone today!

      Vanna Pearl

  6. That coconut bird house is adorable! I would absolutely love the bowls and spoons made from coconut wood. I have never heard of coconut wood being used to make things before. Is it durable? I could see coconut items being a great gift for quirky/earthy people.

    Is coconut wood similar to bamboo? I imagine it’s softer?

    1. Hi there Holly,

      I appreciate your comments.  The coconut shells are scrubbed and sanded and most finished products are then varnished.  

      In answer to your question, these sculptures and carvings are extremely hard and durable.  I still have two tealight candle holders from the Philippines for about 21 years.  Also the shell with the husk still around it is used for a hard wood floor polisher in the Philippines.   That says a lot about it’s sturdiness and durability. 

      The reason for the post at this time is I thought someone might like to have these for Christmas gifts.  

      I wish you all the best Holly.

      Vanna pearl

  7. They do look cool and maybe have their place around our pool deck.  My wife would hate them in our house.  They just don’t go with the decor.

    When we have been away on vacation I have seen a few I like, but I always get the look from her and we continue on our way.

    1. Hello Stew,

      Thanks for your comments.  The sculptures and carvings are very well liked by many people of all ages.  They have been around from generation to generation in several countries.  Sorry your wife won’t allow you to have one.

      All the best,

      V. Pearl

  8. I have searched for so long for an article like this, suggesting some unusual gift ideas for the whole family. I feel utterly bored with common gift ideas presented anywhere and I have already consumed half of them. I need new ideas and have received tons only by this article. Love the Coconut Shell Lampshade Designs, they will be the perfect Christmas gift for my mother.

    1. Hello Leo,

      I’m really glad you found this information useful.  The coconut sculptures have been around for a long time but they just keep getting better.  

      I would suggest you order early if you plan to give any of these items for Christmas gifts.  They can take a few weeks for delivery depending on where the artist is located.

      Thanks for your comments Leo and all the best to you.

      Vanna Pearl

  9. Opps! it really cool post, actually i was trying to figure out what type of gift i could give my best friends out there, i couldn’t even think but i just want something different and i have one COCONUT CARVING. 

    The picture i have seen here has proven all, the carving handwork are lovely and good for presentation of gift, i love this, and am sure i am really gonna take this for my holiday gift. 

    Thanks for the good work and time dedication for helping a friends out. GOOD!!! thanks till next time looking forward for your next post

    1. You are so welcome Ibrahim.  I’m glad you like the gift idea and found the information helpful.

      I would suggest you order early if you plan to use the coconut sculptures and carvings for Christmas gifts.  Deliery can take a few weeks depending on where the artist is located. 

      Thank you for your comments.  I  hope you’re having a great day!

      Vanna Pearl

  10. Hi Vanna,

    This article on the hand carved coconuts was thoroughly enjoyable. I had no idea so many items could be made with these shells. Or that the husks were used to make brushes and floor mats. I do buy coconut husk liners for my hanging baskets in the spring, and they are inexpensive and do a great job.

    The variety and complexity of the handcrafted items are truly amazing and beautiful. I was really attracted by the lampshades and the light patterns they project.

    Thanks for doing the research to provide this information. I will be back for more!

    Kyle Ann

    1. Why hello there Ms Kyle Ann,

      It’s nice to hear from you today.  Thank you for your comments about the coconut carvings and other uses.  I’m actually hinting about the lamp as one of the gifts I’d like for Christmas.

      I wasn’t aware of the linings for the baskets.  I do know the shells are extremely durable.  Here’s a brief video of how a coconut shell with the husk still on is used as a floor polisher in the Philippines.  

      Good to hear from you, hope all is well.

      Vanna Pearl

  11. I just cant believe what kind of talent there is out there.  Without the internet there is really no way I would have ever heard of this.  You were right when you said unusual gift ideas.  The cool thing is its so hard to buy things anymore for gifts because everything seems to be the same.  Thank you for this great article.

    1. Hi Dale,

      Thank you for your comments on the coconut carvings and sculptures.  I’m glad you found them interesting and I hope the information will be useful to you.  This has been going on for generations and they just keep getting better.

      All the best to you.

      Vanna Pearl

  12. I really liked the Buddha, the dog and the lamps. I have see some coconut carvings before but didn’t realize it was such a big deal for other cultures. Thank you for the information it was a very interesting reed, especially the old way of hand carving. The nut shells will make great gifts, as you pointed out. 

    1. Hi Lance,

      Thank you for reviewing this post and leaving your comments.  I plan to do more research because I know there are a lot more designs available for the shells.  When I have enough new information I’ll post that too.

      All the best,

      Vanna Pearl

  13. I think this is an excellent post, I had no idea such wonderful crafts could be made from coconut shells. I especially love the coconut theme lamp, the finish is amazing.

    It must take skill and dedication to complete these wonderful pieces, I have some small ornaments made from wood in my home but nothing made from coconut shells. This is something I am going to rectify now. Thankyou for this excellent insight into how they are made.


    1. Hi there Dave,

      You are welcome and thank you for leaving your comments.  

      I’m glad you found the information helpful.  I appreciate that you mentioned the skill and time involved in the making of one of these beautiful pieces from start to finish.  In areas where coconuts are so plentiful, they use them for everything from fuel to the beautiful sculptures and carvings I displayed in the article.

      All the best to you.

      Vanna Pearl

  14. Thank you so much for this very informative post. The new year is coming and this is perfect gift ideas for families. We love to give our loved ones gifts and among all the New Year gift ideas, this is the most creative and unique gift ideas. I like the abstract tree of life one.  These are all very interesting and different gift ideas, thanks for sharing.

    1. Hello Bushra,

      I’m glad you enjoyed the post and found the information useful.  I take my hat off to the artist who do all of that intricate carving for these beautiful pieces of art.  

      I would just suggest you place your order early If you plan to order any of these items for holiday gifts.  It can take a few weeks for delivery depending on why the artist or supplier is located.

      Thanks again for taking the time to leave your comments. 

      All the best to you,

      Vanna Pearl

  15. This is an awesome article. I am fascinated by this art! Definitely, this is a great idea for giving the personalised and unusual gift. I love the way it is used as decor article. Thanks for this great post.

  16. Hi Vanna

    I have never before heard of coconut carving, and I am so impressed by the beautiful objects which can be made from coconut shells. Previously, the only use that I knew of for coconut shells was as a percussion instrument, particularly useful for imitating hoofbeats! I guess I had never really thought about it.

    I love the lampshades which you show, and a shell does make a good nesting box, as you illustrate. I agree that any of the things which you show would make really unusual Christmas gifts.

     Did you make any of those  objects yourself, as you are extremely knowledgable about the techniques which are used?

    Thank you so much for showing us these beautiful things.

    Chrissie 🙂

    1. Hello Chrissie,

      Thank you for taking the time to leave your comments.  I’m glad you found the information interesting.

      No I did not make any of the items, I don’t have that kind of talent.  My first exposure to these kind of carvings was when my family lived in the Philippines for a few years.  There was a wood carving village where they made the most beautiful things out of wood and coconut shells.

      All the best to you.

      V. Pearl

  17. This is so cool. I never would have thought of coconut carving.

    How well does this last? I mean is it as durable as wood products?

    I have made many wood projects before but nothing ever as ornate as coconut carvings and artwork. I thought this was a very cool and informative article.

    1. Hi Jake,

      I’m glad you liked the coconut art.  The shells are completely cleaned and treated so.  Not only do they hold up through the carving process, they last for years and years.  I’ve had wood carvings and coconut art too many years to remember.  I don’t know if they’ll ever wear out.

      Thanks for your comments.

      V. Pearl

  18. Amazing article. I’ve never heard of carving coconuts before. What a great idea. I see it’s been done for a long time. These would be truly unique gifts for family members. I just want to know where I could purchase hand carved coconuts and if there is somewhere I can buy the shells to carve on? Thanks for the article this gave me some great ideas!

    1. Hello Cory,

      Thank you for your comments.  I’m glad your liked the post about coconut shell art.  Apparently you missed part of the information in the article.  Here is a link to purchase the carvings. Click to continue…

      I don’t have information to share about where to purchase the raw shells in bulk.  The carving kits however may be purchased on Amazon. 

      All the best to you.

      V. Pearl

  19. What a fantastic idea for someone who has everything! I’ve just noticed that Coconut Bowls are a very popular option in eco-stores which leads me to believe they must be quite sustainable. Would you agree with this? 

    Those coconut lamp shades are really beautiful too! Who knew there were so many things you can make with coconuts. 

    1. Hi Fiona,

      I’m glad you found this post interesting regarding the coconut art.  Not only is the coconut art sustainable it keeps getting better.  Coconut shells are so plentiful where coconuts are grown and harvested regularly.  The shells are used for so much more that carving as mentioned in the article.

      V. Pearl

  20. I have a relative that loves hand-crafted items and she would absolutely adore something so unique.  I had never really heard, much less seen, a lot of artwork from carved coconuts but the craftsmanship of the pieces in the article are fantastic.

    I don’t know why but the photo of the coconut bowls and spoons intrigued me to no end.  Thought they were practical and beautiful. What a fun change of pace for gift ideas.  Loved the article.

    1. Mike thank you for taking the time to read the article.  Not only is the shell art beautiful but it is extremely durable.  If you decide to purchase as a Christmas gift you should do it now to have them in time.

      All the best,

      V. Pearl

  21. I just absolutely love hand-crafted items.  In my search for gift ideas, I was actually shocked to come across this site.  The idea of hand-carved coconuts was not something that I had even considered.  The works are absolutely gorgeous.

    You can see the skill, time and love that goes into every piece of art.  Thank you for bringing this lovely craft to light. I have many friends that I will recommend this site to for unique and lovely gift ideas.

    1. Hello Kelly, 

      I appreciate you taking the time to review this article.  Your comments were comprehensive and sincere.

      So glad you found the information interesting enough to share with others.

      All the best,

      V. Pearl

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