Tips and Frequently Asked Questions

When should I plant my seedlings outdoors?

April 15 is the date that several local growers agree on to plant your gourd seeds indoors for most of Ontario. In northern B.C. the May long weekend is when we plant out.

What can I finish the exterior of gourds with that would act as a UV protector?

Krylon Crystal Clear and Spar Varnish (both sprays) work well for UV protection.

What can I use to sand the inside of the gourd?

A great discovery that I made just recently is the gyproc sanding screen. It is used in plaster for sanding and is a screen with sand on it so that it doesn’t get clogged…the screen has spaces in it… and so is good for inside gourd cleaning. I initially sand with the screen sander (by hand). It can be purchased at any hardware store and is very cheap.

Question regarding leather dyes:

“I’ve read that a lot of people use leather dye to finish the outside of their gourds, but I’ve also read that the colour isn’t permanent. Is this true? Why use it if it is not permanent or have I misunderstood? Also what about using the shoe polish that comes in the cakes–is it a good way to seal/finish off your gourd? Thanks for any help you can give me.”

Response from the members: We’ve never used the leather dye on gourds, but have both brown and neutral cake shoe polish,and it works real well. After applying and letting it dry awhile, you can rub the gourd with a soft cloth if you want it polished. We’ve also used procion fabric dye, which is quite translucent in coloring, and then spray it with a clear spray. We use Duncan ceramic spray, sometimes high gloss, sometimes matt, and even have used porcelain. We also have used all kinds of markers and painters with good luck, except you have to watch out for the sharpies, because if you overspray they have a tendency to bleed if you’re not real careful. We’ve also used liquid floor wax, which gives them a real nice look.

We’ve used the Feibing dyes on several gourds and were dismayed when we went back to the gallery to pick them up. The burgundy dye was almost completely gone, the brown had faded to a tan and the yellow was invisible after only 2 or 3 months. The half of the gourd exposed looked like it had never been coloured, while the hidden side was much brighter. We thought it was only because the gallery owner had mistakenly placed them in a window, but our son had his in a lighted display case and it too had lost colour. I’m afraid to try any of the darker, brighter colours, although I know that many others do. We’ve done a couple with UV urethane, but it’s way too shiny. We do use coloured shoe polish and like the finish, but it needs to be reapplied to keep the luster. So far, the only thing that seems to have staying power is acrylic paint. Even the oil-based pencil crayons, when covered with varathane, peel off.

We use Fiebing’s leather dye mostly and the long term results are somewhat unpredictable. It seems that the blues fade the most. I still live in fear of irate customers coming back and banging on our door in the middle of the night, asking for their money back because their gourd lost its color. We actually print on our sales tags, “Do not place gourd in direct light, or colors may fade in time.” We finish our gourds with Minwax floor wax. Two coats usually, polished and buffed with a old floor polisher which Ed took apart. And yes, we use both the bristles and the buffer pad. It does give a pretty glossy finish which is consistent with our gourd presentation. We have also used shoe polishes – beware that some of them impart absolutely no color and some of them stain readily. We sometimes use brown to tone down a green to olive.

What can I use for sawblades for my micsrosaw…they are so expensive?

For replacement saw blades for your tiny microsaw, simply buy scroll blades for wood, and using the original blades which come with the microsaw, cut the new replacement blades to the same length. This is a much cheaper method than purchasing the micro blades.

Cutting or drilling holes on a thin gourd:

Place a layer of masking tape over the area that you are going to cut or drill. This will often lessen the chance of the gourd splitting. Especially useful when making all those Christmas Ornaments.

Cleaning/washing gourds:

I’ve found that the easiest way to clean gourds is to fill a tub with warm water, put the gourds in and cover them with a wet towel. Let them stand for about an hour and then take a scrubber too them. Works great.