Saturday, February 1, 2014

A Simple Gourd Rattle

Hold on to your pants, folks... it's a new post!
After a too-long absence from this blog I've got something new to write about.

I was browsing the PaleoPlanet forum recently when I saw a want ad from a fellow I know looking for an NAC-style gourd rattle.
Not knowing what NAC stood for or exactly what a gourd rattle looked like I turned to Google. Results: NAC stands for Native American Church and I found a bunch of pictures of gourd rattles. After contacting Kevan and letting him know that I'd like a chance at making the rattle for him I took a look through our gourd stash to see if we had the right shape. Turns out we did so I went at it with a saw, rasp, scrapers, sandpaper... all the good stuff we use to turn a gourd into something wonderful.
Gourd rattles have a handle that runs through the gourd so I took a wander through our yard to see what I could find. I came up with a cottonwood branch from the firewood pile that was perfect after some work on it.
The rattles inside the gourd comes from small pebbles collected from ant hills in the desert behind our home. It was actually a bit of a challenge finding ant hills as most of them are closed over to get away from the cold this time of year. But I did find a few and collected likely pebbles from them, leaving a bit of corn meal as a thank you to the ants for sharing their work with me.

Unfortunately, I didn't get any pictures of the rattle as I was making it but I do have some of the finished gourd rattle.

A very small crack was in the end of the cottonwood handle and I decided to turn it into an element of the overall design. I put a bit of natural pigment in some epoxy and filled the crack with it. After it was cured a bit of sanding blended the epoxy to the surface of the wood. I really like the way it turned out.

The gourd rattles are typically ornamented with bead work, pyrography, paint or stain, and horse tail hair. Kevan and I decided that he would take care of the ornamentation and I'd just do the rattle itself. I was certainly fine with that as my bead work leaves a lot to be desired.
This rattle is in the mail headed to Arizona as I write this post. I hope it gives Kevan as much joy to use it as I got making it.
After making this gourd rattle I have ideas for another one that I may put together in the near future. If I do it I'll be sure to take plenty of pictures of the whole process this time so I can post them here.
Thanks for reading!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Getting Ready With Some New Work

Fayme and I will be merchanting at a Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA) event next weekend on the 21st. While I will be concentrating on archery equipment at this Queen's Champion Archery event, there will also be room for gourds in our little booth. Consequently, I've been working on some new pieces.
While I don't have pictures of everything yet, I do have a little tease for you to see...

These gourds are designed to be table pitchers. For drinking gourds we can leave the gourd bare inside, but not everyone in our modern age likes that. To coat the inside I've used beeswax, brewer's pitch, and epoxy. In keeping with the SCA's less-than-modern theme I have chosen to use brewer's pitch in these gourds. This project is best done outside so we took a few pictures of the process.

These five gourds are finished but for the pitch.

The heat diffuser isn't needed to melt the pitch. The only reason I have it on the burner is that the can is too small to fit on the burner rack.

When the pitch is liquid it's just poured right into the gourd. The gourd is then turned so the liquid pitch coats all the inside surface. The gourd is then upended over the can so the excess pitch can run out. At this point the pitch is hotter than I want to think about. A couple spilled drops melted right through the plastic tarp on the table. If you try this, be really really careful.

The gourd is ready to use as soon as the pitch has cooled off.

(Thanks to Fayme for figuring out how to embed a video!)

I've also been working on drums and some little jewelry gourds. I'll put up some pictures as soon as they are finished and I can get pictures taken.

If you are in the area of Van Nuys, CA next Sunday, 21 February, stop by the Woodley Park archery range and say, "Hi." I'd love to meet you.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Gourd Trip... Road Trip... It's A Gourd Road Trip!

We couldn't resist it.
When Welburn Gourd Farm is trying to get rid of the last season's stock to make room for the new gourds they've grown they have a sale.
We just can't resist visiting the farm to see what we can find.
For your viewing pleasure I thought I'd document part of this trip so you can get an idea of the beautiful area the farm is in.

In order to get to the good stuff, you've got to go through the junky stuff. In southern California that means a freeway trip. After a few miles we finally get to our exit in Temecula.

The farm is about 16 miles back into the hills and the first section off the freeway is a grunt. If I had to ride this on my bicycle I'd be ruined, until I got stronger!

Here's the first of two turns. We're in a much more rural area now. The houses back here go from mini mansions to working farms, to avocado fields, and back again.
Take it easy back here. The road is narrow and can take unexpected turns. Scars on the trees show that this is not the place to let your inner Andretti show through.

This is the last turn. If you're passengers are car sick at this point this downhill/hard to starboard turn will win you no friends.

Dorothy, it's not Kansas but it looks like what we're looking for!
There's gourds in them thar fields... Ok, that's enough, I'll stop.
Welburn grows in a number of different fields in the area. There were a couple guys turning the gourds in this field so they'd dry properly.

Welburn Gourd Farm, we have arrived.
The gourds are spread out by type and size in long tables made of welded pipe and chicken wire. You grab a shopping basket and wander up and down the rows looking for the perfect gourd for your upcoming projects.
Although this area can be pretty hot in the California summer it's always cool back here under the oak trees. It would be a great place for a picnic lunch after you've finished shopping and I doubt the Welburn folks would mind, they're pretty friendly.
After you've made your gourd choices a friendly Welburn employee will come size the gourds you've chosen and then take you into the little sales building to ring up your sale. Inside the building they also have all the dyes, tools, books, and materials you could possibly want for making your gourd masterpiece. This really is a one-stop-shop for all things gourd.

Now comes the fun part: we get to make cool things out of our new gourds!

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Gourd Basics

I'm sending a couple raw gourds to a gentleman tomorrow and he's never worked on gourds before. I thought this may be a good opportunity to do a little gourd clean-along with some pictures I took a few months ago.

We buy our gourds from Welburn Gourd Farm in Temecula, CA. While it is a little bit of a drive from Anaheim, we're close enough to go to the farm so we can pick and choose exactly what we want. Saves on shipping bulky gourds, too.
While the farm has both cleaned and uncleaned gourds available, we typically save money by shopping the uncleaned gourds. They're so easy to clean that it seems silly to pay to have it done.

Here's a bottle gourd I'm going to be working on. It looks pretty ugly now, and it will look worse once I get it wet, but that will change quickly.

The easiest thing we've found to clean the gourds is an inexpensive steel scrubbing pad and plain water. How is that for a big difference?

For a simple cut to remove the top I like these coping saws. The teeth are fine enough that they don't chip the gourd. For a larger cut, say around the big end, we use mini hobby saw blades that fit in a wood handle.

Cleaning out the seeds and pith can be a challenge without some tools to get down inside the gourd. I bought some mild steel rod at the hardware store, heated it up red hot in a propane torch, and then flattened the end with a hammer to make these two tools. The ends has been sharpened with a file. Two different angles can get just about anywhere inside the gourd. You can't see it in the picture but each of these has a simple wood handle. For smaller pieces like jewelry gourds I made a miniature set of these scrapers. These tools have saved us countless hours of frustration when cleaning gourds.
Man, I've got fat fingers.

Here's the crud you're trying to remove. It's a mixture of seeds and pith and whatever else takes up the inside of a gourd.

Once the inside is all scraped out and clean a 4-in-1 rasp works well to level off the top edge and generally clean up the inside of the neck.

That's pretty much the basics: Clean the outside, clean the inside, and then decorate in whatever manner suits your fancy.


PS, Fayme just reminded me about this: some individuals can have an allergic or an allergic-like reaction to dust from the inside of the gourd when it is cut open or when cleaning it out. For safety sake, use an inexpensive dust mask so you won't have any difficulties with this. If you choose to not use a dust mask, and you start tasting the gourd in the back of your throat, stop what you are doing immediately and get a mask. Not every gourd I work on affects me in this manner, but if I taste the gourd and ignore it, I will have absolutely miserable sinuses for a few days.
Note that this is only when first opening the gourd and when cleaning out the interior. Once you get all the junk cleaned out this is no longer an issue.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


This may seem like a big post with a lot of pictures but I am moving over many of these from Greenman Archery where they were originally posted. There is also new work to put up that hasn't been seen before.
If you're interested in any of these just let me know.
Thanks for looking!

This is the biggest drum I've made to date. This drum stands approximately 17" tall x 12 1/2" wide. It's got a great booming voice and is just begging to be part of a drum circle, $150.

This drum has a spiral weave design done with pyrography and then stained with muted colors. This drum is a little quieter than the previous one but still has a good rich voice. Approximately 12" tall x 10 1/2" wide, $50.

The blue/green colors on this drum are really nice. Finished with a high gloss it almost looks like pottery. It stands about 11" tall x 10" wide, $75.

This water bottle gourd is lined with beeswax so the water tastes slightly like honey. It is not suited to hot liquids like tea or coffee. Size is about 8 1/2" tall x 5 1/2" wide, $50.

Dreamsnake is about 7" tall x 4 1/2" wide. It would make a beautiful addition to any colorful decor, or add color to a drab one! $40 SOLD

The River at the End of the World is about 2 1/2" tall x 5 1/2" wide. A somewhat whimsical piece that I rather enjoy looking at, $20.

The Pirate's Lament is about 9" tall x 6 1/4" wide, holds 1/2 gallon, and is lined with brewer's pitch to make it suitable for any liquid. The designs burned into the skin of the gourd show the flags of three famous pirates: Blackbeard, Stede Bonnet, and John Rackham. The lanyard is 7-strand French sennit layed under a 5-strand, 3-pass Turk's head, $40.
It’s a sad thing, it is.
Sad to be a pirate on the beach.
With no ship to call home, no berth of me own.
No horizon to beckon the eyes.
I sailed with the best:
Stede Bonnet, John Rackham, and the worst of all, Edward Teach, known to you as Blackbeard.
My luck ran out. When I lost a leg I took the King’s Pardon.
Better to be a crippled former pirate remembering the days that were than a one-legged corpse floating on the tide.
Now I sit in the sand and drink to stay drunk.
When I’m drunk I remember the glory. I remember the thrill of the chase, the blue sea and the blue sky.
I remember the willing wenches in the taverns of Port Royal, and the gold… I remember the gold.
When I’m sober I see only the one shoe before me in the sand.
So I sip grog from this gourd to stay on that smooth edge of drunk. The smooth edge where the one lonely shoe fades into the blue sea and the glitter of gold coins.

My Heart is Locked for You is 3 1/2" high and 5" in diameter, $50.
The heart on the lid is imitation gold leaf outlined by acrylic paint. The body of the gourd has been stained with leather dye and the whole thing has been sealed with lacquer.
The lid is fastened down by 4 brass straps. I guess you could unscrew the straps to find out what is inside the heart... but then the heart wouldn't be locked any longer.
And that's the point: My Heart is Locked for You.

Before you ask... yes, there is something inside the heart. And, no, I will not tell anyone what it is.

This canteen is pyrographed on both sides and is lined with brewer's pitch. It stands about 4 1/2" tall x 7" wide, laying down, of course. The leather band around the rim will let you use the leather thongs to fasten it to whatever shoulder strap you wish, $40.

Gourd bowls, the yellow one and the small green bowl are lined with a food safe epoxy and can have any type of food in them, wet or dry. The blue bowl has a different finish that should only be used for dry foods such as peanuts or candy. The yellow bowl is about 4" tall x 10" wide, $30. Blue bowl approx. 3" tall x 10 1/2" wide, $30. The small bowl is about 1 7/8" tall x 3 3/34" wide, $15.

She Comes To Me in the Moonlight, approximately 7" tall x 4 1/2" wide. The design shows the Goddess at the full moon position and additional moon phases around the neck of the gourd. This would be great on an altar, much better than a pewter wizard holding a clear marble... not that there is anything wrong with pewter wizards, $40.

This drum has a gold leaf band around the base that gives it just the right amount of color. Approximately 7 1/2" tall x 6" wide, this drum has a wonderful voice for being so small, $40.

Thanks for looking!
Prices do not include shipping charges, which are charged at actual cost.
If you wish to purchase a piece, have questions about any of these pieces, or wish for additional pictures, just let me know.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

New Blog!

This is a brand new blog. No posts yet but keep looking, I'll have some up soon.

Thanks for looking!