Tips and tricks
Through the years I’ve been gourding, I’ve learned some great things that make it easier or more fun. I want to share some of those ideas here.
Handling and cleaning gourds
THE most important thing to remember is to work safely. That means using protective gear when necessary. Gourds have a mold on the outside and fibers inside that are harmful when breathed. The mold can be removed from the outside using a copper scrubby and warm water with a little bleach added. Rinse well and dry outside. Wipe down periodically if you see more mold appearing as the gourd dries.
Cutting gourds open and cleaning the inside
Gourds can be cut open with a variety of tools, knives and saws. By far the easiest I’ve found is a mini jig saw. ALWAYS wear a respirator when cutting or sanding a gourd. If you can taste the bitterness of the gourd when you’re working on it, that stuff is getting into your lungs and can cause serious respiratory problems.
The easiest way I’ve found to clean the inside of the gourd is to soak it for a few hours in warm water. The insides just scrape out easily with a spoon or scraping tool. There are various tools available to clean the gourds dry, including hand scrapers, wire brushes or plastic whips that insert into a drill, sanding blocks and all grits of sandpaper. I’ve found that a bit of belt sandpaper rolled into a tube is very effective for smoothing the edges of a bowl. Riffler files and small hobby files are also great for getting into tight or odd-shaped holes.
While I have used my mini jig saw to cut out some pretty delicate designs on here’s a tip that I learned when I needed to cut around very small deer antlers and was afraid of cutting it off the piece. I woodburned around it! I set my burner up to about medium and used a sharp skew to cut
away the gourd around the antlers. One word of caution, however: have a damp cloth handy in case of little sparks which might ignite the gourd. I had much more control with the burner than I did with the saw and the end result was just what I wanted. This worked well because I had painted the inside of the gourd black to begin with, so the burned edges only enhanced the cutout deer.
Easy Cleaning Tool
Buy the length of large copper tubing you need, hammer one end flat (you can also put a little curve in the flat part), and voila! A great scraper for snake gourds, etc. You could also add a piece of hose over the other end for a comfortable handle.
1. To keep your gourd from sliding all over the place while you’re working on it – use a waffle pattern shelf liner under it.
2. To make it easier to drill holes, first start the hole with an awl. The drill bit won’t skitter away on the gourd.
3. Depends pads are wonderful to put under gourds when you are dying or doing other messy projects. They soak up spills, don’t allow them to go through to the surface you are using, help steady the gourd, and when you’re done, you can just toss them. Good for beading projects, too. The beads won’t roll off easily.
4. When coiling around the top of a gourd, work on the back side of the gourd – the one away from you. Then you’re pulling your binder toward you to tighten, and aren’t so likely to split the gourd doing it.
5. If you’re using a picture to woodburn from, hold it up close with the hand holding the gourd, and in the direction you are burning, to make it easier to follow the design or fur/feather lines.
6. When laying in a line of beads on a gourd, just string them, glue them in, THEN remove the string or just cut it off at the end.
7. PC Petrifier is a great substance for strengthing the gourd on the inside. Use several layers – let dry completely between. Don’t get it on the outside of the gourd.
8. Dollar Stores are a great place to get cheap brushes. Use these for applying messy substances.
9. Glue sheets of sandpaper back to back and cut into easily manageable pieces.
10. For weighting a gourd, use Pour Stone. Hold the gourd in the position you want it to stay – pour in the Pour Stone, and prop in that position until set. You can also glue metal washers or nuts into the gourd. Or use sand and cover with a layer of resin or wax to seal it.
Epoxys and Resins
If you are making a didgeridoo or anything that needs an epoxy coating inside, DRAIN it completely before you lay it on its side. (This from experience – sigh). You can always go in and re-coat it to make it thicker. And don’t mix more than you will need right away. I wasted about a pint of the stuff because I mixed too much.