Any time you are working with tools, chemicals or moldy gourds, safety is paramount. Along with the mold on the outside of the gourd, there is also mold and dried pulp on the inside. Stirring up this mold or dust from the pulp inside the gourd can be toxic and irritating to your eyes, nose, mouth, lungs and entire respiratory tract. If inhaled, it can cause anything from a sore throat to serious lung infections that can last weeks. Here are a few things to seriously consider before starting work on your gourds:
Always wear a dust mask or respirator when cleaning, carving, burning, cutting, sanding and anything else that stirs up mold and dust. Preventing inhalation of airborne particulate matter is the highest priority with gourds.
There are many types of masks available on the market. Simple dust and particle masks are available at hardware and hobby stores. You can readily find cheap ones at discount stores, but trust me, you don’t want those. They are worthless and do little to protect your lungs. You may want to invest in a respirator or a mask with an exhalation valve. The exhalation valve is great to prevent your goggles or glasses from fogging up. Respirators are sold at hobby and hardware stores. Try on a variety to see which fits your face and is most comfortable. Make sure you purchase extra filters also and change them regularly.
When working on gourds, not only are you exposed to the mold and dust, but you may also be using chemicals, glue, sealers, paints and other products. Even the fumes from wood burning can be irritating. Get in the habit of wearing you mask at all times. This will protect your nose, mouth and lungs. If you are very sensitive to dust or will be working in a confined area, you will need to invest in a respirator and filtration system. Your lungs are too important to take a chance on.
Most people are sensitive to the dust found inside and the mold on the outside of gourds. Make sure you have adequate ventilation. Work outside when cleaning and cutting and using your tools. If it is raining, work in the garage or shed, but always have a fan going or the door open. If it is snowing, just take the day off and enjoy the beauty of the snow. I do not recommend working inside if you are doing anything that creates dust or fumes. Do not bring moldy gourds into your home. The mold spores may spread through your house.
Always wear eye protection when using tools, carving, sanding, cutting or cleaning gourds. Glasses or goggles will help protect your eyes from dust, mold and flying splinters or burs that may break.
Remember to protect your ears too. Wear earplugs or earmuffs when using power tools or doing anything else noisy that could affect you hearing in the long run. I was always taking my husband’s industrial type earmuffs so he finally bought me my own pair. It is so much more pleasant to work when you cant hear your excessively loud power tools.
If your hands or skin are sensitive to dust, wear a pair of gloves and long sleeve shirt and apron when working on gourds. Gloves are a good idea also when painting, dyeing, polishing, varnishing or anything else that may leave your hands sticky and/or looking like a bad accident.
Hair and clothes
As a gourd newbie, you may not even think of this, but make sure you don’t have loose clothes or hair when working on your gourds. Your tools can and will slip and can get caught in your clothing or hair. That is bad for both your tools and yourself. I’ve make this mistake myself. Trust me, your hair needs to be tied back and your clothes snug.
What safety tips do you have? Share with us.