Cutting open a gourd (#5 in series)

How to cut the top off your gourd: Cutting open a gourd is quick and easy with the right tools. Fortunately, you probably have at least the basic tools needed. How you cut open your gourd depends upon what you plan to do with the finished gourd. You may want a straight cut across the top, a wavy cut opening, a fancy cut that follows that outline of your design elements, or maybe you gourd will have a lid. Some designs don’t require you to cut open your gourd. Birdhouses would not have the top cut off, but instead just a round opening on the front for the birds to pop through. If you leave your gourd intact, you will be able to hear the seeds rattle around inside when the gourd in shaken. Some designs are based on the rattling seed sounds.

Here are some of the tools used for cutting open a gourd:

Common basic tools:

  • Rubber shelf liner or other non-slip surface
  • Mask
  • Eye protection
  • Utility knife or x-acto knife
  • Small jigsaw or saber saw or hand saw
  • Masking tape

Advanced tools:

  • Power carver tool such as Dremel or ProCarver
  • Cutting burs
  • Drill with circle cutter and drill bit for birdhouses

First you will need to determine how and where to cut your gourd top. I usually wait until I have finalized my design and base the opening style on the design. If I have curvy flowers near the top, I will want to have an equally curvy opening. If I make a bowl with leaves wrapping around the rim, I will cut the opening to match the leaf shapes. Another thing I do which I don’t think is common for other gourders is that I cut the very top of the gourd off first and clean out the inside of the gourd before I make the final cuts for the opening.

cutting open a gourd
Insert the utility knife blade into the gourd to create a starting point for the saw blade

Regardless of how I will be cutting the gourd open, I mark it first either with pencil, masking tape or a wood burned line. Now, with mask and protective goggles on, set the gourd on a non-slip surface and get out the x-acto or utility knife. With the sharp cutting edge facing away from you, carefully pierce the gourd right on the line where you want the cut to be. Gently rock you knife back and forth while pushing into the gourd until you can feel that it has gone all the way through. Slowly pull it back out all the way and set it aside. Now in the same slit, insert the blade of your hand saw or power tool. Always direct the blade away from yourself and follow all safety tips that came with your tools.

I still remember the first time I cut open a gourd with a power saw. I was so nervous. But I went slow and steady and it worked perfectly. As you gain  confidence, you may be tempted to try to cut faster, but don’t do it! I have broken many blades by rushing. Let the saw guide you and take your time.

Rotate your gourd as you cut being careful to follow your guideline. If the gourd opening is going to have sharp angles, you may have to cut past the angle and then go back later from another direction to get the sharp angles cut correctly.

cutting open a gourd
After cutting off the top, you will find seeds, pulp and dried membrane inside the gourd

When you are almost all the way around the gourd, try to hold onto the piece being removed so it doesn’t snap off and create a chip or crack on the gourd. Set your saw aside and keeping your mask on, remove the top of the gourd. You will find lots of seeds, dried pulp and membrane, maybe some mold and some shiny white foam-like material. It’s a mess inside there! Do not do anything with that mess unless you have your mask on!!

You have now mastered the process of cutting open a gourd. Next up in this series, we will talk about how to clean out the inside of your gourd.

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