You have no idea how long I've searched trying to figure out what to actually call this thing. It's technically a monkey pod item. Monkey pod bowls and serving pieces were popular in the 1950's (the mid-century modern era).
But was it made for nuts?
Made for candy?
Made for crackers?
You got me because I don't know.
It is rotating sort of like a lazy Susan, so I assume you sat it on the coffee table and people twirled it around to get to whatever treat they wanted.
It's divided, so obviously you would put different items in each "hole".
Call it whatever you want, because as of now it's none of those things.
BTW, shortly after this photo was taken I brought this bowl into the house and put it on the kitchen table. A HUGE spider proceeded to crawl out from between the twirly base and the bowl part, jumped on the wall and ran off to who knows where.
Table Of Contents
- What Is Monkey Pod?
- Where To Find Monkey Pod Bowls And Serving Pieces
- Is It Safe To Eat From A Vintage Wooden Bowl?
- How To Care For Your Monkey Pod Pieces (Keeping Their 1950's Wooden Gloriousness As Is)
- Upcycling A Monkey Pod Serving Dish Into Holiday Decor
- Other Wooden Bowl Makeovers
- Thrift Store Decor Team Projects
✨ BTW, today is Thrift Store Decor Wednesday, so make sure your hang around to the end of the post to see the rest of the team's thrift store repurposes for the month!
What Is Monkey Pod?
Monkey pod generally refers to the mid-century modern wooden bowls, serving pieces and salad bowl sets that were so popular in the 1950's-70's.
The wood is a gorgeous dark golden brown color with lots of even darker veining and streaks throughout. The trees used to make these items are native to Central and South America.
A lot of monkey pod pieces came from Hawaii where they were sold as souvenir pieces.
Where To Find Monkey Pod Bowls And Serving Pieces
Thrift stores, estate sales and flea markets are great places to find your monkey pod pieces. I've never paid over $5 for a piece and most times they're very very inexpensive at thrift stores.
They're the kind of pieces, having been stored in the china cabinet for 50 years without use, that gets tossed in the thrift store donation pile eventually.
If all that fails, then you can find them on Ebay and Etsy quite easily. But not at the super duper inexpensive thrift store prices.
Is It Safe To Eat From A Vintage Wooden Bowl?
Well, I do not.
I will leave that entirely up to you, but with proper cleaning, they should be OK. They were normally meant to be eaten from, so there's also that!
I've just seen my mother-in-law's wooden salad bowl set up close and personal and that is not one I would trust not to have some hidden bacteria in the cracks and crevices that may have miraculously survived for decades.
So I don't eat from them, but you do you, boo!
How To Care For Your Monkey Pod Pieces (Keeping Their 1950's Wooden Gloriousness As Is)
Assuming you want to keep your bowl, serving piece or salad bowl set as God intended, Sarah at Sadie Seasongoods has a tutorial on how to clean your monkey pod pieces. I won't go into great detail here because mine is getting a little makeover.
Upcycling A Monkey Pod Serving Dish Into Holiday Decor
(This post contains some affiliate links for your convenience. You can read my full disclosure policy here.)
- Rub 'n Buff (I used the Gold Leaf color)*
- Black Matte Acrylic Paint
- Inexpensive Paint Brushes
- 4" x 6" Pillar Candle (Battery Operated is a good idea)
- Various pine cones, greenery and ornaments
*Alternatives to Rub 'n Buff would be a gold leaf kit, a paint pen or straight metallic gold paint.
Warning: Rub 'n Buff is a little smelly so I would do this step in the garage if you don't want the paint odor in your home. It's not horrible, but it's definitely not low VOC and odor-free.
Time needed: 1 hour.
Instructions For Making A Repurposed Wooden Bowl Candle Ring Centerpiece
- Clean Your Bowl
Even though my bowl appeared at first glance to be clean, I ran a damp dishcloth over the bowl. You'd be amazed at the amount of dirt that came off.
- Prepping For Gold Leaf Paint
Using black craft paint, paint the area where you will later be wanting to apply the Rub 'n Buff.
Could you just go straight to the Rub 'n Buff? Yes, you could. But I found the dark color made the Rub 'n Buff pop and the occasional spot where the black showed through gave the appearance of an authentic patina.
- Clean Up Painting Over Reach
I got a little bit messy with my dark paint, so I just took a q-tip dipped in water (and as I found out later, the edge of my sleeve) to clean up any obvious paint drips.
Allow the dark paint to dry.
- Applying Rub 'n Buff
Apply your Rub 'n Buff with a paintbrush, rag or fingertips. I found a paintbrush worked well for this project where I needed to be more precise with paint placement.
- Fill It Up
Obviously, the center hole is great for a candle. I just filled up the surrounding indented areas with faux greenery, pinecones and inexpensive Christmas ornaments.
I probably would have used fresh greenery, but it's still a little too far from Christmas and there's no way fresh greens would have lasted that long.
So I bought one large pick of greenery from Michael's and snipped it up into smaller sections with a set of heavy-duty scissors.
Other Wooden Bowl Makeovers
In the past, I have also shown how easy it is to Bleach Wooden Bowls For A Modern Farmhouse Look (one of my popular projects) and how to give a new life to an outdated, wooden salad bowl set in my Thrift Store Wooden Bowl Repurpose.
Thrift Store Decor Team Projects
Now let's go see what the other Thrift Store Decor Team members are up to today!
Vintage Wooden Bowl Christmas Candle Centerpiece House of Hawthornes
Updated Key Holder Domestically Speaking
Snow Scene Displays In Glass Containers Petticoat Junktion
Indian Corn Decorations for Thanksgiving Sadie Seasongoods
Frog Tape Wooden Mini Tree Pot Organized Clutter
DIY White Christmas Village Our Southern Home
Easy Thrift Store Tray Makeover My Repurposed Life
Fun Fall Resin Projects Shop at Blu
Carlene @ Organized Clutter
I love how this bowl turned out, Pam! I never would have thought of using it for Christmas! Pinned!
I love how you decorated the bowl!
Hi Kathy :). I am such a fan of Gail's and she did such a kind thing for me recently. So if you are a friend and admirer of her & her work, I trust her choices for people like you and the others, and everyone's creativity and easy to follow instructions. AND, I have that exact "monkey-pod" wooden tray-and a few other wooden items, when I got married in the late 1970's. I cherish them. This is a piece that would have a dip-mine would've be homemade, in the center and then anything that goes with that dip in the little compartments around it. It could be a spinach/artichoke dip, for example surrounded by creatively cut up veggies-or perchance, an onion dip surrounded by different pretzels, chips, etc. How fun that you redid it and made it a wonderful looking decorative piece-here as you showed, for Christmas. I love it! Thank you.
You're sooo sweet!
I too, love what Pam did with her monkey pod bowl. The bowl was just begging for a candle!!
Way to go Pam, I pinned your pretty Christmas bowl.
Briana from Texas
What a lovely idea! I love how it turned out!!
Very good save!!!! I am with you....I would NOT eat from it either!!! You could even change it for all the holidays. Good Job!!!!
I love how you repurposed this, super festive and cute! My grandmother had one of these, I remember her serving nuts, not sure what she put in the middle. Now I"m freaking out about my wooden salad bowl lol Maybe I'll pour some bleach in it, just kidding.
Sarah @ Sadie Seasongoods
Ohhh, I love how this turned out! Of course, I'm always partial to a touch of gold on natural wood, and you're right- the dark paint layer does give it more of a patina look! Fantastic Christmas decor!
Sue at Blu
Carlene I just love your humor! And I can always count on a vintage lesson of some sort. Thanks for the info on the monkey bowl. I've always been drawn to them because of the beauty of the wood. What a fantastic repurpose of this classic beauty!
Your idea is beautiful but just to clear things up, monkey pod bowls are incredibly easy to clean with dishsoap and water and are perfectly safe to eat out of once they are clean and dry.
I promise that no one has ever gotten sick, or died, from eating out of a clean monkey pod bowl.
Wooden serving bowls are extremely popular all over the world and I would hate to see them disappear due to misfounded fear.
Christy @ Our Southern Home
I love how this turned out. Leaving it natural with the gold highlights is spot-on perfect. I have several thrift store wooden bowls in line for makeovers. I've just been using them as is for now, but like you...I don't eat from them! Ha, ha! Great find and upcycle!
How pretty Pam! LOVE!
That's a cute idea, Pam. I have had one of those salad bowl sets with the large bowl and salad bowls for years. I used it for years and always kept it deeply oiled which prevents the yuckies. lol. I have not used it in a long time except to use the bowl for holding potpourri in the fall. It is an odd shape so doesn't look like a bowl and is perfect for that.
I hope you have a wonderful night- xo Diana
This is gorgeous, Pam! Even if you hadn't fancied it up, the decorations and candle are so festive and heartwarming. Great idea. Thanks.
I love finding monkey pod finds - I think the wood is so pretty! I love how you updated your find.