Many years ago I stumbled upon this wonderfully shaped green ‘pumpkin’ that reminded me of a girl with a ponytail. Turns out that the green pumpkin was a gourd, incredibly difficult to carve, but completely awesome; winning the Sumter Air Force Base Pumpkin Carving Contest for 2003. I later learned that drying and harvesting gourds has been done for thousands of years as art work and to create functional tools. So come Halloween 2014: Carve a gourd; Save a Pumpkin!
1) Start by choosing a large, workable gourd that inspires you. The swan gourd pictured above is meaty, green and immature. If you plan to preserve, these will take significantly more drying time.
2) Clean off all dirt and debris with a diluted bleach solution; 1 tablespoon bleach in a large spray bottle will work fine. Not only will you clear off unwanted bacteria, but this will prevent rotting.
3) Draw out your design on the gourd. At the back of the gourd, draw a circle to be the opening. Unless you are using power tools, I recommend the design be simple, because the gourd has a very hard rind.
4) If using a knife or saw, start out by drilling a few starter holes. Use a sharp knife, saw, or exact knife to carve out your design. My preference is a rotary tool with the small saw blades attachments. Unlike the pumpkin, a gourd has a this and very tough rind.
5) Clean out the interior of your gourd with a metal spoon or scraper until smooth.
6) If preserving your gourd, place in a dry cardboard box, lid open in a saye, dry space and leave it to dry completely. This could take up to six months.
7) When your gourd is completely dry, if desired, use sand paper for smoothing. Finish off with paint or varnish.
The very cool aspect of gourd carving is that they become a work of art you can keep for many holidays to come. If my HOA will let me, I plan on planting a couple of these in my front planter next summer.
Think you will try your hand at gourd carving this year? Let us know about it in the comments below!