The process of getting a gourd from the vine to be ready to create a piece of art is pretty lengthy and might be a bit messy.
Before the first frost, gourds are cut from the vine. Each gourd at this point is about 90% water, all of which must evaporate. A typical gourd might weigh between 5 and 10 pounds. Some people put their “water logged” gourds in a barn or shed or garage to dry out. I’ve found that just leaving them outside in the elements seems to work the best and it certainly keeps any unwanted moldy smells out there also. The drying process takes between 8 and 12 months to finalize. During this time the gourd goes from a tan or green “watermelon like look” to a moldy, scaly looking mess! Many a gourd has been thrown away at this stage by beginning gourders, thinking it is spoiled. Well, it is just going through the normal drying process. All that waters has come out through the outside skin and is now evaporated.
The mold though messy and sometimes stinky, has created beautiful marbleizing on the outside shell. To get to that marbleizing you gotta scrape, scratch, sand, wash all that mold and skin off, plus use a lot of elbow grease! Your gourd is now ready to work like you would work any piece of wood. You can sand, drill, saw, wood burn, stain, paint or decorate your gourd anyway you want. It now weighs about ½ pound, deceivingly light! You can either leave the seeds inside the gourd or you can saw into it and take out the seeds and all the dried up innards. Some people will then scrape and sand the inside of the gourd to a smooth finish.
(A word of advice, if you cut into the gourd and this horrific smell is emitted, throws the gourd away as quickly as possible! You’ll never get that smell out nor be able to seal it in. And, you might be sleeping in the doghouse that night!!!!)