Introduction: Apple Gourd Head

I started working on a new apple gourd and thought I'd take my time on this one to document progress and steps. I did also find a couple of lines I forgot to draw in and burn, but I can do that later. Here goes.

Step 1: Getting the Picture on the Gourd

1. To start with, find an apple gourd. These are easily identified as they are in the shape of an apple - just big apples. I have bought most of mine at the NC Gourd Society Fall Festival which is held every September at the NC Fair Grounds in Raleigh. I have also grown some of these in the past. As gourds go, they're fairly easy to grow and usually have a nice hard shell and thick stems. You can order them from Welburn Gourd Farm in California and almost any other gourd farm online.
2. Okay, you now have your gourd, right? Time to clean it. You'll need either a large enough bucket to comfortably dunk it into very warm, soapy water or a sink. I prefer a sink since I like to rinse as I go. I like to use aluminum scouring pads to scrub my gourds, especially if they're very dirty or have surface blemishes. Some people swear by copper scouring pads, some by plastic. I never had much luck with any kind of plastic cleaning device, but you'll have to experiment on your own to decide what works best for you.
3. Your gourd is now clean and shiny and dry. But wait, you've noticed some holes you couldn't see under all that dirt. They're probably bug bites that your gourd suffered while minding its own business out in the field. There are little green beetles that look like Martian ladybugs that love a gourd feast. They're probably your culprits, but it's too late now. You can fix this, however. You can use wood putty to fill in the holes; don't use too much, or you'll spend extra time sanding it off. It takes a couple of hours for this to dry, but a small fine sanding pad will remove the excess and leave your gourd's surface smooth.
4. Okay, okay, I know you're chomping at the gourd, I mean bit (that's the bug's job which they did nicely), to get started. Let's start crafting! You probably have your design ready to copy onto the gourd. Use a pencil to draw the design onto the gourd. I like the Ticonderoga brand since it has excellent erasers in case I change my mind while sketching. Draw your entire design onto the gourd, then when you're satisfied, go over it darker with your pencil. You want to be able to see it well when you start to burn it.

Step 2: Burning the Gourd

5. No, we're not going to set the gourd on fire. It's called pyrography - drawing or writing with a wood burning implement to permanently mark designs. You can buy cheaper styles at craft stores, but if you really want to get into doing a lot of gourds, invest in a more professional style. I use the Gourd Unit Nibsburner, which is a good wood burner, but not one of the more expensive units. It heats up to several hundred degrees in just seven seconds and cools off just as quickly, making it easy to pause every now and then to sharpen the blade. For this gourd I used a HD SF1 tip for the face and a HD #5 for the leaves. After I finished burning the entire gourd, I sanded it again to smooth out the surface. Burning leaves a rough edge to the burned areas.

The cord that connects the tips to the unit is long and I usually wrap it once around the arm I use to burn with. It keeps the excess out of the way and helps with controlling the tips. The following picture reminded me of a couple of extra tips. Use a filter mask when you burn. The wood burners create smoke which is hazardous to your breathing. Also, I find when wood burning or painting, my pinky finger is a great tool to use to steady my hand (and it's always available). Be careful where you do this. Sparks can drop off of your gourd. Make sure you don't burn where this would be a bad thing. I had several drop onto my jeans and had to brush them off immediately. Nothing burned, but it pays to pay attention.

Step 3: Inking the Gourd

6. Now for the really fun part, adding color. For this gourd, I used Gourd master ink dyes from Welburn Gourd Farm. I used micro brushes to apply color to small areas and the ink stamping pads, which are about an inch in diameter, for larger areas. Colors used were Cherry Red for apple color; Barn Red and Brown for lips; Green, Olive Green , Pine Needle Green, Mango and Cherry Red for leaves; Brown and Dark Brown for caterpillar eyebrows.

These ink dyes are great for gourds; they allow the underlying gourd surface to show through very subtly, but are really rich in color and blend well. If you catch a mistake right away, you can use baby wipes to wipe off unwanted color. A bit of paper towel blends the colors nicely. These inks don't show overlap the way leather dyes do.
I use an old gourd piece for a sampler for the ink dyes. I labeled each color that I stamped onto the gourd so I can use it as a reference. It really comes in handy.
I allowed the gourd to dry, then dabbed it with Gourd Master Varnish. I allowed individual coats to dry in between. I probably did about three coats. I'm including a few extra pictures which show close-ups of the leaves and face. Enjoy. Please e-mail me with any questions. Happy Crafting!