Selecting Gourds
The process of selecting the right gourd for your project may seem daunting, given the
fact there are so many different varieties, shapes and sizes to choose from.
think about your intended use of the gourd. If you have a specific project in mind, size
and shape may be your first criteria. If the object needs to sit upright, whenever
possible, select a gourd with a flat bottom. If your gourd is to hang select a variety that
has a neck that will allow you to easily insert your hanger. If you plan to carve or
woodburn the gourd, try to find one with a smooth, unblemished surface. Whatever
your intended purpose for the gourd there are certain things that you should be aware
of when making your selection:

Most naturally dried gourds have a moldy outer skin which can be easily removed prior
to crafting. Underneath the skin is a smooth shell. Most gourds have some degree of
mottling on their shells which may or may not be desirable to you. Prior to cleaning the
skin off, its almost impossible to tell exactly what the shell will look like. Many gourd
vendors sell cleaned gourds, so if you are looking for something specific, its best to
purchase a cleaned gourd.  

If the gourd is to serve a functional purpose, or to be cut, wood burnt or carved, it
should have a fairly thick, dense shell. Different varieties of gourds have different
various shell thicknesses and densities and both can vary with individual gourds of the
same variety. When selecting a gourd for shell thickness and density, some things to
consider are: the weight of the gourd compared to other gourds of similar size and
variety; if the shell is visible, color can be an indication; darker, butterscotch colored
gourds tend to be thicker than light colored ones; but most importantly is the feel of the
gourd. It should not give when squeezed with firm pressure from your fingers. Thick
shelled gourds feel and sound different from thin shelled ones.
Avoid any gourd that
has a papery feel or sound when handled
. Anytime you visit a gourd vendor,
handle a number of gourds. Prior to crafting your gourd, take a moment to feel it and
then compare what you felt with what you see when you cut it open. You'll soon develop
a feel for accurately predicting shell thickness and density. If you plan to craft the gourd
whole, such as painting, these two things are less of a concern, but  
you still want to
avoid very thin gourds.

Additionally, when choosing a gourd you want to make sure it is completely cured. If
the gourd is not completely cured and dry when crafted, the residual moisture may
affect any finish you apply, or the gourd may even rot. The seed do not have to rattle in
a dry gourd, but the seed mass should be loose in the interior of the gourd. Often,
seed masses stick to the sides of the gourd during the drying process and can be
loosened with a couple of sharp raps of the gourd against your palm. If the seed mass
fails to loosen, the gourd may not be completely dry.
Selecting Gourds
Uncleaned gourd with
moldy outside surface
Cleaned gourd with nice
smooth surface, ready to
be crafted.
Pieces of gourds showing
different thicknesses. Use
thinner gourds for painting,
staining and dying. Use
thicker gourds for carving,
burning, and inlays.