While creating the “Sound Effects — By Photics” collection, I researched Hollywood style audio techniques. Quite often, I would see references to coconut halves. Even from just watching old Bugs Bunny cartoons, I knew that a coconut could be an excellent way to mimic the sound of a horse galloping. I attempted to recreate such an effect, but I was unsuccessful. It’s a lot harder than it looks. I was especially astounded by the sheer difficulty of splitting a coconut in half.
For almost my entire life, I’ve lived in New York City. Coconuts are not really that popular here. I don’t have memories of running down to the corner deli for eggs, juice, bagels and coconuts. In actuality, I have a profound hatred of coconuts. Yes, I’m looking at you Almond Joy and Mounds. That’s why this project was interesting to me. I had seen coconuts in movies and on TV, but I never actually tried to open one myself. It was quite the challenge.
First, I had to acquire a coconut. A trip to a local supermarket would remedy this problem. In a quiet part of the produce section, I spotted actual coconuts. I didn’t know which one to pick. Little did I know that I was getting a fairly stale coconut. With a fresh coconut, there’s supposed to be coconut milk inside. My first coconut was dry — inside and out. I didn’t know to check for sloshing sounds. By shaking the coconut I could listen for the movement of the liquid. For this project, I didn’t need a bunch of coconut milk. I only needed to split the shell in two. I grabbed my tools and I got to work.
Visions of Castaway popped into my head. I remember Tom Hanks portraying a struggle on a deserted island. I figured that it would be easy to split a coconut, especially with my modern tools. He didn’t have a rather large stainless steel knife. After a few minutes of sawing and hacking at my coconut, I realized that I would need stronger tools. The shell was tough… really tough.
Just backing up a minute, there’s a precaution to take. If you’re deciding to try this at home, you might want to remember about the coconut milk. If you’re just deciding to smash the coconut in two, draining the milk first is a good idea.
At first, I hammered a nail into the weak point of the coconut shell. If you’re in a rush, you could try a corkscrew. Just twist the metal into the coconut like a bottle of wine, and pull out a hole like removing a cork. That should create a hole for the coconut milk to pour out. I tried removing the milk from two separate coconuts. I expected a big gush of liquid to rush out. I was ready with a glass, prepared to catch the coconut milk. Once again, reality didn’t match my expectations.
On the second coconut, a regular hammer wasn’t strong enough. I had to use a sledge hammer. It’s not easy to get a straight split if smashing is the method. I was remembering the tool rental section at the Home Depot. If an Angle Grinder could cut through steel, would it also cut through coconut? I didn’t try. I was able to get a fairly decent split by smashing the coconut.