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How I Craft Gourds

Updated on April 25, 2011

Video Spotlight

To prepare a gourd for crafting, first you will need to remove the dirt and mold growing on it. To do this, I soak the gourd in a solution of bleach and water for 15 to 30 minutes. Then I scrub it vigorously with a steel scrubber or a stiff brush until all the mold is removed and the surface is smooth and clean. It's best to use a dust mask while scrubbing, as the mold can create health problems if inhaled. Let your gourd dry and you're ready to start crafting it.

At times, the mold will have left dark stains on the gourd surface and these can be quite attractive. You may decide to use the stain pattern in your decoration.

Gourd surfaces are similar to wood and you can cut, saw, paint, sand, and decorate them the same way you might craft a wood project. Use caution with cutting them...gourd shells can be thinner than wood and easy to crack.

Some of My First Gourd Creations

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Fascinating Gourd Shapes

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This one makes me think of some fantasy sea creature.I love the curly "tail".
This one makes me think of some fantasy sea creature.
This one makes me think of some fantasy sea creature.
I love the curly "tail".
I love the curly "tail".

Video Spotlight

Painting and Decorating Gourds

After my gourd is cleaned of all mold and dried, I decide how I'll decorate it. Usually, I paint  them with acrylic paints, then just add a couple of coats of polyurethane....allowing each coat to dry thoroughly. I've also tried colored markers and wood-burning. I've seen wood-burnt gourds that are simply beautiful. Unfortunately, it seems I have no talent for the procedure. My attempts come out either too burnt or with blobs of melted wood where I only wanted a thin line. Maybe with some practice, I'll improve my wood burning techniques.

Gourds have been utilized for centuries and can be fashioned into pottery, jewelry, musical instruments, etc. The list goes on and on. I've seen lamps and purses made from gourds. And of course, there are the old standards... birdhouses. I've even been so taken with the unusual shape of some gourds that I've simply coated them with polyurethane and set them out for attractive conversation pieces.

Gourd painting differs from painting on a flat surface and to me, at least, it's a little harder, due to the curvature of the gourd. But with a little practice, you can create some beautiful and practical items.

Acrylic paints dry very quickly and if you do not like your first attempts, you can just paint over them. Or, as long as you have not applied the preserving coat of varnish or polyurethane, you can even clean the paint off and start over from scratch. I remove dried acrylic paint from my gourds the same way I clean the gourds to begin with...using a steel scrubber and a bleach water solution.



More Decorated Gourds

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Carving Gourds

When I first started decorating gourds, I cut them using a simple jig saw and drill. Later I acquired a Dremel 300 Rotary tool and these little guys are fantastic for crafting gourds! Costing in the neighborhood of $55-$60, they come with a large variety of attachments allowing you to cut, sand, drill and carve your gourds with a lot more precision. You will find hundreds of uses for a Dremel.....you can even file your dogs nails with them!   Below are photos of gourds I've carved  using a Dremel.

Gourds Carved with a Dremel

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Using a Dremel

Santa Gourds

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Christmas Gourds

Decorated gourds make wonderful Christmas ornaments and gifts. I had a lot of fun with these. These are all small ornamental gourds around 6 or 7 inches tall.  Polymer clay is used for the feet.

Gourd Gnomes and Old Men

These were inspired by the "Tree Spirit" gnomes that are all over Ebay.  I used polymer clay to mold the faces, then painted them.  I saved the tops of the larger gourds when I cut them for bowls and they came in handy for the hats on the old men. 

Gnomes and Old Men

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Birdhouse Gourds

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Cleaning the Inside of Gourds

There are times when you will need to clean the inside of the gourd.  Although I love designing the big bowls, vases and other open gourds, I'm not crazy about cleaning the inside.  The gourd will have seeds, pulp and a flaky skin.  The dust and spores released could be damaging to your health if inhaled, so it's wise to use a dust mask.

I use an old spoon to scrape the pulp out and when it's as smooth as I can possibly make it, I paint the inside of the gourd.   Then I start designing the outside.  

When making  bird houses, I leave the seeds inside for  the birds to eat.  

Gourd Bowls

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For a standing vase, I simply used the cut top and inverted it for the stand.  It's attached with a screw and nut.  I didn't paint the inside of this bowl and you can see how it looks after scraping and cleaning.
For a standing vase, I simply used the cut top and inverted it for the stand.  It's attached with a screw and nut.
For a standing vase, I simply used the cut top and inverted it for the stand. It's attached with a screw and nut.
I didn't paint the inside of this bowl and you can see how it looks after scraping and cleaning.
I didn't paint the inside of this bowl and you can see how it looks after scraping and cleaning.

Gourd Varieties We've Grown

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Dipper gourds, kettle gourds, snake gourds, basketball gourds, birdhouse gourds & more.  All before cleaning. These are small ornamental gourds with the largest measuring about 4 inches tall. This gourd vine voluntarily came up and grew on the flower stand.  You don't have to trellis train them...they'll climb whatever is near.
Dipper gourds, kettle gourds, snake gourds, basketball gourds, birdhouse gourds & more.  All before cleaning.
Dipper gourds, kettle gourds, snake gourds, basketball gourds, birdhouse gourds & more. All before cleaning.
These are small ornamental gourds with the largest measuring about 4 inches tall.
These are small ornamental gourds with the largest measuring about 4 inches tall.
This gourd vine voluntarily came up and grew on the flower stand.  You don't have to trellis train them...they'll climb whatever is near.
This gourd vine voluntarily came up and grew on the flower stand. You don't have to trellis train them...they'll climb whatever is near.

Growing and Drying Gourds for Crafting

There are many sites online where you can purchase crafting  gourds that have already been dried and cleaned.  But gourds are easy to grow and if you have some space for a garden, you may want to grow your own.  We live in North Florida and we grew most of the gourds pictured on this hub.  

We purchased seeds online and planted in early spring.  If you live further north, seeds should be planted after all danger of frost is over for  the season.  Gourd vines take up quite a bit of space and  the more space you can give them, the larger they will grow.  With the large varieties, you can expect to have one or two gourds on a female vine.  The smaller ornamental gourds can be grown on a trellis.

I've read that gourds "thrive on neglect"  so we pretty much just left them alone until the vines started to dry out and it was time to harvest.  The growing season is from 110 to 130 days for the hardshell gourds plus they need time to dry. 

Although we let some of our gourds dry right on the vine,  to prevent rot, a mature gourd can be cut a few inches up the stem and then placed in a dry spot with plenty of air circulation to finish drying.  When you can shake the gourd and hear the seeds rattle inside, it is then dry and ready to craft.  The drying process can take up to several months, but with patience and minimal care, you'll have your own gourds to craft before you know it.       

  

Comments

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    • profile image

      Dan Suttin 

      3 years ago

      Can one put polyurethane on gourds directly as they come from the market - before letting them dry out? Will that preserver the colors? Please email me at: uncledan@homespun4homeschoolers.com

      see also my page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Octa-Tetra-Muse...

    • profile image

      Jean Gottlieb 

      3 years ago

      I planted gourd seeds this spring and I was surprised to see gourds I just love bird houses, so with your posts I am able to make my own bird houses thank you for your help You do beautiful work!

    • erorantes profile image

      Ana Maria Orantes 

      4 years ago from Miami Florida

      Hello miss Isolana. I like your art work on the gourds. The pictures look fantastic. You are fabulous at drawing and coloring. You did a great hub. You remain me of the punkin drawing for holloween. It is a good time to practice the drawing and coloring for the kids . You are a genius.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 

      5 years ago from USA

      Thanks for the advice on cleaning them.

    • profile image

      Walleye 

      6 years ago

      For the question about what kind of saw to use in place of a non-powered. I had the same dilema when I first stared making gourds. I had a holloween book with patterns and the little saws that come with the book for pumpkin carving works great, it is tedious, but you can make some very close and good cuts with those cheap little saws. After halloween I go to Wal-mart and buy several of those books and saws.

    • profile image

      Tom Sevy 

      6 years ago

      I'm not ready to buy a mini-jigsaw for cutting the gourds. Is there non-powered hand saw that can be used? If so, please send me a link. Thank you

      tsevy99@gmail.com

    • VirginiaLynne profile image

      Virginia Kearney 

      7 years ago from United States

      Love to see your projects. We grow gourds too and have made birdhouses and we have wrens nesting in them now--it is a lot of fun!

    • Dolores Monet profile image

      Dolores Monet 

      9 years ago from East Coast, United States

      I've always wanted to make one of those gourd bird houses - thanks for the tips.

    • Moonmaiden profile image

      Fayme Zelena Harper 

      9 years ago from Lucerne Valley, CA

      I'm so happy to see all your great gourds.

    • profile imageAUTHOR

      lsolana 

      9 years ago

      Thanks Lyla,

      Gourds come in so many shapes and sizes and I'm fascinated with them. I'll be posting info on how we've grown and dried these gourds in the future, so be sure to check back.

    • lyla profile image

      lyla 

      9 years ago from India

      Wow!Amazing!you are so artistic!:) thanks for the clear info..I would like to try this out!I just loved the bowls and the bird houses..the santa was cute too..and yes..everything was awesome!thanks for sharing!:)

    • Christa Dovel profile image

      Christa Dovel 

      9 years ago from The Rocky Mountains, North America

      Thanks for the added information! I grew ornamental gourds last year, and they were lovely until this spring, when they went soft. I'll try varnishing them.

    • profile imageAUTHOR

      lsolana 

      9 years ago

      Thanks for the kind words. :)

      Gourds have been crafted and used for centuries as anything from bowls to instruments to jewelry. I use hardshell gourds for bowls and birdhouses. The ornamental gourds are used for smaller decorative items.

      My husband is an avid gardener and has grown most of my gourds in our back yard. However, we live in north Florida and the sandy soil tends to produce thinner shells. I've also purchased crafting gourds on eBay and local craft fairs.

      Whether or not I remove the seeds depend on the project. I remove the seeds and clean the insides if I'm making a bowl or other open item. I've heard that birds actually eat the seeds so I usually leave them in the birdhouses.

      I protect the gourds with at least two or three coats of polyurethane and kept out of the weather, they last indefinitely. If used in direct sun and rain, I've heard that Spar Varnish protects well. It's used on sail boats and weathers well. It would be wise to bring bird houses indoors during winter, clean them off and coat with more varnish, if necessary.

      Also, birdhouses need holes drilled in the bottom of the gourd for drainage.

      I'll be posting more photos and info in future blogs so be sure to check back soon.

    • Christa Dovel profile image

      Christa Dovel 

      9 years ago from The Rocky Mountains, North America

      Those are beautiful! What kind of gourds do you use, or does it matter? Do you remove the seeds? How long do your gourds last? I have never had a gourd last longer than 9 months.

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