How do I dry out a coconut for horse sound effect?
April 2, 2018 7:00 PM   Subscribe

How do I open & dry out a coconut for use as a "trotting horse" sound effect?

My goofier son wants to bring along two halves of a dried coconut on the next Boy Scout hike to give that awesome "Monty Python and the Knights of the Holy Grail" ambience to the New Hampshire forest. I fully support his desire to play the role of Patsy the squire, so I want to deliver. We have about four weeks.

Is it as simple as these directions? Other web pages suggest there is a kind of natural seam along the coconut.

There's a big Indian grocery store near me that has young coconuts as well as the hairy brown ones. I have a hacksaw, most normal handtools, and a hook knife for carving wood.

What else do I want to buy, and how do I do it? Thanks in advance, ya nerds!
posted by wenestvedt to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (19 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
It doesn't have the same DIY father/son bonding involved but you can buy dried coconut shell halves on ebay for a few bucks. Just be careful though because a lot of them come from other continents and may take several weeks to ship. Just doing a quick search I found at least a couple shipping from the US.

So that's an option, but personally I'd DIY because why not.
posted by bondcliff at 7:16 PM on April 2, 2018 [1 favorite]

When I was probably the same age, I poked a nail through two of the eyes, drained the milk, and then took my dad's hacksaw to it, then shovel the meat out. This took a while, and I had to buy my dad a new blade (they really are quite tough). There is no real drying required, as a coconut in brown-form is pretty much already dried out. Fresh coconuts are a different animal entirely, and would not produce the desired noise, or look. They will clock-clock right off the bat.

The instructions you linked to say to use a vice; that's probably not bad idea. They are round however, and too much pressure could crack the coconut in places you'd rather it not be cracked. They also say that you're to drain the milk through the saw line with a screwdriver, but that seems a bit silly if you're going to be poking holes in it to attach a lanyard between the two.

If I was doing this today, I would use a bandsaw, as it would be infinitely faster, but I would not trust younger-self to do so unsupervised. Ymmv.
posted by furnace.heart at 7:21 PM on April 2, 2018 [4 favorites]

I was lusting the other day over a battery powered sawzall, got one of those and it'll go quick. Agree with furnace that draining the milk via a hole is a much better idea. Get a couple from the store in case the first cut is not straight.
posted by sammyo at 7:28 PM on April 2, 2018 [2 favorites]

I get that it probably has to be coconut shells because Monty python, but we discovered in the lab that two (empty) eppendorf microcentrifuge tube racks clapped together make excellent horse clompy noises.
posted by Tandem Affinity at 8:11 PM on April 2, 2018 [8 favorites]

This is just a guess, but you might need to sand the edges flat. This should give the maximum compressive noise.
posted by H21 at 10:25 PM on April 2, 2018 [1 favorite]

I've sawed a coconut in half for other reasons with an induction hardened hand saw and I found my particular nut (of the brown variety) to be super hard. I would use a hacksaw in the future (with a coarse blade 12-18 tpi) rather than a band saw as the coconut, if it was anything like mine, will dull the bandsaw blade. They can be sanded with a belt sander.
posted by Mitheral at 10:47 PM on April 2, 2018 [1 favorite]

You've had all the right answers: drain the milk through the holes. Then use a saw (I'd go with the hacksaw). A vise is good, but go low on the pressure or the nut will crack. Then remove and eat the coconut flesh. No drying is required, your horse will be ready to go right away.

For double dad bonus points, melt some chocolate for dipping the coconut flesh into. Super delicious.
posted by Too-Ticky at 1:20 AM on April 3, 2018 [3 favorites]

If you drain and then freeze one of the hairy brown ones overnight, the meat will shrink away from the shell and almost fall out when you saw it in half. Seconding hacksaw.
posted by halfbuckaroo at 3:31 AM on April 3, 2018 [3 favorites]

If the hacksaw is what I see on Google images, it's too fine for cutting the (brown) coconut open. Can you borrow a machete or something of that nature? That's the usual tool coconut-eating ppl would use. (Basically a heavy long blade) if you can get one, you don't need a drill to drain out the water or milk. Just hack over a drain, or do it outside.

But... If you are near an Indian store, can you just get them to do it? I realise this might be a hit-or-miss advice, but they do have to split coconuts open to get to the flesh. If they actually sell shredded fresh coconut meat (you can use them to get coconut milk!) then they might have spare coconut shells anyway.

If not, and you are doing it yourself, don't forget to scrape out the white coconut meat inside before drying! It'd be a waste if not plus it'll just make the drying out longer and probably nastier because that's an edible.
posted by cendawanita at 6:04 AM on April 3, 2018 [2 favorites]

If you do use a bandsaw, you will need to hold the coconut in a clamp of some sort.

At the first moment of contact, the blade of the bandsaw will spin the leading edge of the coconut downward, like a wheel making contact with a fast moving belt.

This isn't so much a safety issue, your hands should already be out of the way of the blade. But it will freak you out if you are not expecting it.
posted by bdc34 at 7:12 AM on April 3, 2018 [2 favorites]

cendawanita: "If the hacksaw is what I see on Google images, it's too fine for cutting the (brown) coconut open"

I use my hacksaw (with a 32 TPI electricians blade no less) for cutting dimension lumber all the time. It's not efficient (because the teeth don't have enough gullet to clear chips properly) but it works well enough and I don't have to carry another saw for notching 2x4s.

PS: one of the advantages of a hacksaw over a power tool in this application is it's pretty much impossible to hack off a body part.
posted by Mitheral at 10:50 AM on April 3, 2018 [2 favorites]

I worry about having to keep the coconut steady considering the hardness and the shape, and eventually, the leaking liquid*. Hence just a couple of steady whacks with a machete or a cleaver or a Chinese butcher knife. Ah well, as long as you have a clamp or something of that sort, it should be fine.

*Save it to drink, if you can.
posted by cendawanita at 11:43 AM on April 3, 2018

Little old ladies (and most everyone else) in South Asia and other regions where coconuts are a staple crack open multiple dried coconuts on a daily basis like this (pertinent section ~1:20 to 2:29.) I managed to do this as a teen with no practice when I visited my family in Sri Lanka. If you have access to a large, heavy knife and a few coconuts to practice on, it shouldn't be too hard (yes, pun intended.) The edges of the two halves will not be smooth, though, so if that's what you're after you'll need a saw of some kind as recommended above for a more precise cut.
posted by Everydayville at 2:03 PM on April 3, 2018 [1 favorite]

No offense to little old ladies meant, btw. Where I come from, they're a force to be reckoned with. Way tougher than coconuts.
posted by Everydayville at 2:09 PM on April 3, 2018 [3 favorites]

Holy cows, you's guys, that was easy and kind of fun!

So I bought two mature coconuts for $1.49 each at Patel Brothers on Route 1 in Attleboro. I went home, and gouged out one of the bowling ball spots on each one. I drained the coconut water into a measuring cup, and let them sit for a while.

I put one of the coconuts into a plastic baggie and went down to my work bench. Bracing the coconut on top of my wide-open vise, with the baggie under it to catch whatever fell out/off, I used a cheap coping saw to cut through it. I sawed for maybe four minutes, and simply wrenched the halves apart at the end. Simple!

I took the halves back upstairs and wiped clean the cut edges of the coconut meat. I was trying to carve out the meat with a paring knife, but suddenly I noticed that using a big chef's knife meant I could simply pry big chunks of the meat loose from the (dry, clean) inside of the shell!

After that, it took just a few minutes to pop out all the pieces. Most of them came out with a thin, tough, dark layer on the outside, which I trimmed off with the chef's knife. I got about a cup and a half of raw coconut meat from the first one, and will do the second one soon.

They're in the freezer now Just Because. In a couple of days I will drill a hole in each half and run a piece of paracord between them for each carrying when we go on the Scout hike in a few weeks.

Lessons learned:
  • The coping saw was a great tool to leave smooth edges for use as a "trotting horse SFX" device. (Evidence on Twitter for my followers, yo.) I had to remove one rough edge, but otherwise they're ready to go already.
  • The coconut water, as it comes out of the shell, tastes salty and brackish; cutting it 1:3 with fresh water made it....less salty. Not sure what Gwynneth is so excited about here. Most of it went down the drain: yech.
  • Raw coconut meat has a milder flavor than dried, packaged stuff -- but the kitchen smells divine. Going to need to find a recipe for this stuff...maybe steep cream with it and make ice cream?
  • The mature coconut has gross hairy bark stuff that flakes off all over, so I'm going to need to take these outside tomorrow and whack them on the sidewalk until a lot of it blows away.
  • They make a wonderful horse sound. There are people who bring their dogs up Mt. Monadnock, but we can't wait to freak them out at the thought that a horse is coming up the trail behind them!

posted by wenestvedt at 7:20 PM on April 3, 2018 [6 favorites]

awesome! since you have the flesh in chunks, you can just blend it with water and strain it out to get coconut cream. (and do curry dishes). Or grate it and have it with vanilla ice-cream and tinned pineapples.
posted by cendawanita at 8:50 PM on April 3, 2018 [1 favorite]

I will tell you how my neighbor's father (a physics professor) opened a coconut. It's incredibly easy and takes all of a couple minutes.
You will need: a saw-like knife (or knife-like saw) and concrete/stone/brick steps, a bowl if you care about the milk.
With the knife-saw, score deeply around the coconut.
Put the bowl under the step you're going to use.
Whack the scored line on the edge of the step with the score line oriented parallel to the steps.
The coconut will come apart and the milk will go into the bowl.

It takes longer to get the meat out of the coconut and while the edges may not be perfect, it will work just fine as a prop.
posted by plinth at 8:27 AM on April 4, 2018

For the record, coconut water comes from young green coconuts, and it is delicious (as is the tender flesh you can scoop out almost like jello afterwards). The liquid in the brown coconuts can be pretty gross, as you learned.
posted by Ragini at 12:31 AM on April 10, 2018 [2 favorites]

Ragini: The liquid in the brown coconuts can be pretty gross, as you learned.

Pfffft, now you tell me?!

(My son is still grousing about drinking the stuff, which I consider a marvelous prank.)
posted by wenestvedt at 7:11 PM on May 8, 2018

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