September 21, 2021

How to Carve Gourds with a Dremel

This post will give you a detailed guide on How to Carve Gourds with a Dremel. Put on protective clothing, and use a sturdy workstation when you carve a gourd with a Dremel. Clean the gourd, mark where you want to cut, and you are good to go. Choose a  gourd that lasts long, and use the correct access and attachments for precise cuts. 

Get the right gourd for you

Gourd color

Check the gourd from the outside and test it. It should be light green. If it is yellow or white, do not buy it as it will not be well cooked. Check if the skin of the gourd is smooth or not. Never buy a stained gourd since it comes out bitter from the inside. No cut should be in the gourd.

Gourd texture

Texture and weight also matter.  Avoid buying too big or small gourds. Do not look at the weight of the gourd. Avoid a heavy gourd since the seeds may be ripe from the inside. Lightly press the gourd to see if it is soft from anywhere. 

The soft gourd can get spoiled and rotten from the inside. Sometimes, a clean and good-looking gourd from above comes out bad from inside. Some gourds are also brown and contain thick seeds. 

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Setting up your workstation

When preparing your carving project, you do not intend to work on a messy space. Even if it is outdoor, you still want to make your wood project visible and precise. Line your work surface by choosing a sturdy table or plain ground. 

Choose a flat surface that you do not need to use later on. Use paper, newsprint, or any flat bag. Cut one side of the bag and the base so that you have a big rectangle surface. Lay the plastics on the table, and you can start your project. 

Tools you need to carve a gourd

Sanding drums 

Attach a sanding drum on a Dremel for sanding and carving bevels. That makes it a 2-in-1 tool, and it works better with a rotary tool with speed variance settings. Set the rotary tool’s speed at medium when using the sanding drum so that you do not make serious mistakes. As you get used to the carving tool, you increase speed slowly. 

Buffing/polishing bits 

Buffing bits are attached to a rotary tool to polish surfaces. They are popular in making bits and wheels but also work on gourds, and it depends on the project you are working on.

Pro Tip: You may also be interested in the How to Mortise a door Hinge with a Dremel.

Carbide bits 

Carbide bits come in multiple sizes as a 2-in-1 tool for etching and carving, and it works better with a variable speed rotary tool. Wire wheels remove dust from items, and it works better when at high speed. 

A sharpening wheel sharpens items and works better on high speed as well when sharpening a wheel. The carbide-metal cutting wheel requires medium speed and uses cutting oil on the surface of the metal to reduce heat. 

Benefits of using a Dremel

  • Cuts various material
  • It easily maneuvers in tight spaces
  • High speed
  • Good ventilation 
  • Adjustable speed
  • Good quality
  • Multiple attachments
  • It allows you to go against the grain
  • Multi-purpose
  • Better results 
  • It is faster
  • Gives professional presentation 
  • Numerous attachment variations
  • Powerful 
  • Convenient
  • Great cooling system 
  • Compatible with a dust extraction system
  • Quick accessory change
  • Control and precision

Types of gourds

Ornamental gourds

Ornamental gourds are colorful and make beautiful decorations. They are soft-shelled gourds that look like squash. The shape is unusual, as well as the texture, and that makes them unique. They are smooth, plain, patterned, and striped and come in multiple shapes and colors. The gourd shapes include apple, pear, egg, and orange. 

Bottle gourds 

Bottle gourds are also known as hardshell gourds. They work as drinking vessels. These are also Lagenaria siceraria, and they have varieties such as speckled Swan gourds and bottle gourds. They last long and have been around for over five thousand years. They work as containers and utensils. Immature gourds make birdhouses, storage vessels, and ornaments as well.

Snake gourds

A snake gourd belongs to the pumpkin family. Its seeds are similar to watermelon, and it is long and wriggly. Hence it is called a snake gourd. It works better when young and tender, and when mature, it becomes tough. It opens up at night, and it is white and comes with a strong scent. The flowers are moth-pollinated. 

Sponge Gourds

It works better when left to mature and dry. Remove the outer shell, and the scratchy inner fiber makes a great scrubby. You may grow yours as well, and it is easy to maintain. 

Directions for carving

Steps

  1. Start by cleaning your gourd and gather your accessories. These include a sanding drum and high-speed steel burs. 
  2. Cut the top off and outline by drawing lines to be carved. The sanding drum has coarse and fine bands. The high-speed steel burs have an inverted cone shape that you use to carve and lower areas. The ball shape-size depends on the diameter of the gourd. 
  3. Do not forget to take the mini circular saw shape for cutting lines. Structured tooth carbide burs cut fast and smooth. 
  4. Make sure you find a safe and easy way to hold the Dremel tool. Prop gourd firmly in your lap and hold your thumb and knuckle of the index finger against the gourd to sturdy your hand. Make sure you have a tight grip on the rotary tool using your palm and fingers. 
  5. Rotate the gourd away from the cut. Keep your hand and thumb sturdy as you hold the gourd firmly. Never keep your hand close to your chest. 
  6. Get ready for cutting. Use the small saw-shaped bur to cut all lines. The saw is easy to control and cuts easier. Use an inverted cone shape for the lowering area. 
  7. Follow the line marked on the gourd as you cut. The cuts are easy, and the same technique works when cutting a groove. 
  8. Use the saw-shaped bur first before the ball bur. It makes the cut smooth since there is a guideline for you to follow. Look for a test gourd to use before you make permanent marks on the gourd. 
  9. Smooth the groove using a curved round riffle file. A round needle file works as a substitute as well as a rolled tube of sandpaper. To inlay a cabochon, trace the stone shape where you want to set it. Use a ball bur to remove the interior. 
  10. Sometimes you have to fill the area with wood putty to fill gaps and seat the stone evenly lower rather than a lightning bolt-shaped area. Use a drum sander to help smooth and get rid of the center area. 
  11. Choose a stain or paint for your gourd. Finish with a sealer or finish before you glue in stones. Use high-quality super glue to fill in the gaps. 
  12. Run a small bead of glue into the groove. The beads have to fit snug against each other when you press them in. You are allowed to leave them on the string on a wire. Slide them off the wire as you apply the glue. 
  13. As you finish off the gourd, it has to match the colors of the design. The center section comes with a natural finish, and the rest is painted. Use a belt sander to flatten the bottom and allow the gourd to sit nicely. 
David D. Hughes
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