Tutorial on the useable gourd finishes by Catherine Devine

Information from a workshop that Catherine attended, which was given by Lynne Slack at the Indiana Gourd Show

Mark and cut a bowl shape from your cleaned gourd, making it as shallow or as deep as you want. You can cut the gourd using any tool you prefer, exacto knife, small exacto saws, dremel or mini- jigsaw, making the edges straight or scalloped, according to your needs.

Remove the seeds and pith with a scraper, either flint, sharpened spoons or purchased cleaning tools, always moving from the centre out, to avoid scarring the remaining pith. When you’ve removed all the soft pith, sand several times starting with course grade (60-80) and finish with fine grit (180-220) again, moving from the inside to the outside. Use the sanding burr tip on the dremel tool to smooth the bump in the centre, to as low as it will go. Be sure to check the depth of the centre from the outside, so as not to make it too thin in the centre.

Sand the cut edge and then soak the bowl in warm, soapy water. Sand and soak a few more times to remove any soft pith, and the bitter taste. A brew of sage tea can be used to do this as well.

If you wish to decorate by wood-burning, inside or out, do it before the last sanding and finish, as burning raises the grain.

Natural Finish

Your bowl is ready to use as-is with no sealer, but all cut edges must be sealed by burning. After use for soups, stews, beans etc (avoid boiling hot liquids), rinse well, let dry, and if necessary give a light sanding.

Oil Finish

If you want to use a salad bowl finish, then both inside and out must be treated the same. Re-apply several times, to deepen the coating and maintain the waterproofing.


Ask for latex varathane for baby furniture, to ensure it is non-toxic.

After sanding, coat the interior with a harder gloss finish, at least 3 times, lightly sanding between coats. Seal the exterior as well, with either gloss or satin finish.


Use a 2-part epoxy called Enviro-tex from ACE hardware. It requires an alcohol solvent for cleaning up. Seal the exterior and edges with epoxy or varathane.

Spoons and Ladles

If you wish to make ladles or spoons, use the tops of bottle gourds. Ladles are cut using the stem end as the scoop and the handle runs down the side of the gourd top. Spoons are cut from the top bulge, the handle being the indentation and the flare from the bottom bulge. You can get several spoons out of one top. These utensils are stubby and bent, but sit well inside the bowls. Sand and seal the same as the bowl. Decorate with wood-burning, for natural or oil finish. Painting can be used under varathane or epoxy, but must cure at least a week before sealing.