Cutting a coconut shell can be a dangerous operation if not performed with caution and the proper tools. The intimidation factor causes many people to avoid purchasing whole, fresh coconuts. To avoid cutting the shell, some choose to pulverize the coconut with a hammer, thwarting any efforts to collect the delicious coconut water within the shell. With the proper tools, you can cut the shell to collect coconut milk or meat or to use the shell for an art project.
No matter what you plan to do with your coconut, piercing through the shell to remove the water will save a mess when it's time to cut through the rest of the shell. Sharp tools for piercing the shell include nails, drills and scissors. You can hold a coconut steady and use a hammer and nails to create holes to drain the water. A coconut has three dark, hairless indentations at one end. These are the weakest points, and the easiest to pierce. Scissors are also effective for creating an initial puncture. You can then use the scissors to ream larger holes for water drainage. For fast and effective piercing, you can make holes using a drill.
Saws are the most effective tools for cutting coconut shells. For faster cutting, use a band saw or a power saw to quickly slice through the shell. A hand saw may take a little more time and effort, but it is just as effective. When using a hand saw, it is a good idea to use a vice to hold the coconut in place, as its round shape will cause it to roll back and forth with the sawing motion. This will also ensure that you don't cut your fingers. Using saws to cut coconut shells is not the most sanitary method. Unless you plan to buy a saw specifically for culinary purposes, you should not use the coconut meat for eating or cooking when using a saw.
Knives are the most challenging cutting tools as they are the most dangerous. However, when used with the proper safety precautions, knives can be effective cutting tools for coconut shells. You can use a cleaver or a chef's knife to split open a coconut shell. Split the shell open using the backside of a cleaver, making sure that your fingers are nowhere near the cutting area. When using a chef's knife, make sure that the knife if very sharp and thick. The shell texture will quickly cause the knife to become dull, and knives that are too thin may break. Always exercise caution when using a knife to cut a coconut shell.
Some people use coconut shells to create art, carving faces, animals or landscapes into the shell. To carve a coconut shell you can use wood carving tools, such as mallets and chisels. Carving is a slow and meticulous process. To speed things up, you can use an electric wood carving tool with interchangeable bits to get the desired effect.