By Dorothy LaVonne Mitchell (LaVonne) on July 13, 2012

In previous articles we covered other methods of decorating our dried gourds. This time we will cover wood burning on our gourds and use dyes, paints or stains to accentuate our pattern. This method can bring a new kind of beauty to our gourds.


Hundreds of years ago pyrography as we know it was vastly different from the simple art form that it is now. The basic method was to get a metal poker and nestle it into the hot coals of a roaring fire. The poker would heat up to a glowing red. When the correct temperature had been reached the artist would then take the poker carefully out of the fire and apply it to the timber of their choice. (

In the 1800’s it became very popular on furniture.

Time marched on and today our method is much easier.

Now there are very easy to use electric tools that quickly heat to specific temperatures for different types of timbers and effects. There are wires that are particularly good for conducting heat and so are very conducive to this kind of work. Pyrography is an incredibly valuable art form because of its attractive finished product. The artist is able to decorate specific timber items with simple, easy to execute designs and yet the end product is very professional.

     Today, amongst gourd artists, pyrography has become the in “thing”. Today pyrographers normally use professional pyrographic pens that heat up and cool down rapidly and have a temperature control for better control of the burn itself enhancing the ability to create smoother shading. The $10 and $20 wood burning pens you might find at Wal-Mart are not good for wood burning gourds because they get way too hot for gourd work.

     Perhaps a couple reasons why Gourds have become such a great medium for pyrography are because of its consistency and its lower burn temperature. When a pyrographer burns on wood you have to deal with the difference between the grains of the wood. Some parts of the grain can burn rapidly while between those parts of the grain it burns slowly, thus leaving a dotted looking line when trying to burn across the grains. Gourd Pyrography does not encounter this problem since gourds have no grain to them, or if they do, the entire surface of the gourd is the same layer of grain, therefore wood burning gourds is a much easier art form to learn because of the consistency of the burn. (

There are three safety precautions I would make sure you practice:

First, when you work with pyrography on any medium one should use safety measures, after all pyrography means “fire drawing”. The tips, even low temp ones can cause serious damage to flesh.

Second, the most important things to remember is that you must burn only on raw, untreated & unfinished surfaces. That means no stains, dyes, paints, treated paper (most are), inks, etc. If it's man made, don't burn on it! If it's treated, don't burn through it! Remember these important things and you will be burning safely.

Third, be sure to wear a mask and perhaps use an air purifier when burning on gourds; if you are going to use any color on your gourd do it AFTER you do all of the wood burning. It is not safe to burn over paints, stains, dyes or varnish (any kind of finish for that matter). Paints and finishes have chemicals in them and burning over them can cause health problems. So do all your burning first and then you can color to your heart’s content. (

There are many artists who have penned a book on the subject of pyrography on gourds with patterns. One place to look in on I would recommend the following:  

     1. The Art & Craft of Pyrography: Drawing with Fire on Leather, Gourds, Cloth, Paper, and Wood by Lora S. Irish

     2. Pyrography Workbook: A Complete Guide to the Art of Woodburning by Sue Walters

     3. Woodburning with Style: Pyrography Lessons and Projects with a Modern Flair by Simon Easton

     4. "Gourd Pyrography" by Jim Widess

        Finally, a wood burning book devoted to gourd pyrography. Clear,  step-by-step photographs detail how three gourd artists achieve their exquisite work in five unique projects using the Hot Tool, the Razertip Pyrographic System and Leisure Time's Detail Master.

Besides books and magazines on gourd pyrography there is a DVD - Woodburning on Gourds, with Carrie Dearing and it is available through Welburn Gourd Farm in California. The cost is reasonable at $24.95, although right now it is on sale for $14.95; a $10 dollar savings. (

Now let us begin examining this new method and how it is done.

Be sure that your gourd is without paint, stain, dye or any protective spray. Sanding the shell before you begin is an important step in gourd pyrography. Choose your pattern, design that you want to try for your first gourd. Remember, keep it simple. Once you have decided on the pattern go to your gourd stash and pick the gourd that has the right curves for the design.

Gourd pyrography projects can be hung from a ceiling, or decorate a desk or entertainment center.  Hallowed, these shells can make fragile vases or containers.  Some of these projects are even turned into beautiful bird houses.

It is suggested to etch the design into the skin before you start - many of the same tools found in Leather Craft Kits can be used here as well.  This gives the burner lines to follow, and mistakes in the gourd pyrography are less noticeable.  Remember to practice with the tools beforehand, as different tips and different heats will produce different thicknesses and styles of lines. 

Pyrography paper is ideal for transferring your pattern to your gourd.  Pyrography Paper™, developed and introduced for the gourd world but is ideal for wood and leather as well. This is sold in packets of 50 sheets. Completely safe to burn through, PyroPaper™ saves time and makes it easy to transfer detail patterns accurately.

No special equipment required, you simply trace, draw, or print a design on it, cut out the tracing, tape it to your project & burn right though it! You can use a photo copier, laser or inkjet printer to print out an exact duplicate of any image.

What makes PyroPaper special is that it will not smolder, burn outwards, or melt unlike other papers...there are no toxic chemicals. When you're done burning through the design, just lift it off from your project piece and your design is finished.

What could be easier!?

How to Burn Gourds

By A.N. Pike, eHow Contributor


A.  Things you will need:

         Dried gourd

         Paper towels


        Masking tape

        Woodburning instrument

B.  Instructions

1. Clean off the outside of your gourd. Dampen a paper towel and wipe down the gourd. Dry the gourd with a clean, dry cloth. This takes off any dust or dirt attached to the outer surface.

2. Set up shop in a well-ventilated area, such as outdoors or a well-ventilated garage. Gourds emit a strong odor and dust particles as they're burned. Working in a well-ventilated area prevents unwanted inhalation of dust and odor.

3. Place your gourd on a clean, flat surface. Look at the shape of the gourd and come up with a design or picture that fits well with the shape. Draw or print out your design or picture.

4. Cut a piece of graphite paper and tape it to the gourd. The graphite side of the paper faces down; the clean side of the paper faces up. Tape your design or picture on top of the graphite paper. Trace over the sketch or design with a pencil. Press the pencil gently yet firmly as you trace. Remove the graphite paper from the gourd.

5. Set up your woodburning tools. The type of tool you use depends on your experience. Turn on your wood burner per the instructions that came with your instrument.

6. Burn the design onto the gourd. Start at the left of your design and work your way over to the right. Complete an entire line in the design or sketch before starting another part. Burn the outline of the design first and add fine details after.

Tips & Warnings

Practice your techniques on a piece of scrap wood or practice gourd. The only way to learn shading and burning techniques is through practice.

Instead of tracing your design onto the gourd, trace it onto masking tape. Place the masking tape on the gourd and burn through it as you craft your gourd. Remove any tape remnants after you complete your design.

As your technique gets better, invest in a more expensive woodburning instrument. Certain types of instruments come with heat adjustments, which give you more shading and drawing options.

Always turn off your woodburning instrument after use.

Never leave your woodburning instrument unattended.

Never use rotted gourds.

I hope I have made you curious and wanting to try this wonderful method of gourd decorating. If you have questions I shall endeavor to answer them for you.

In our next Article we will address Gourd Carving, another great method of decorating our gourds.

Until then

Happy Gourding

Related articles:
decorating, gourds, pyrography, woodburning

About Dorothy LaVonne Mitchell
Single Senior Citizen, engaged in crafts. I like painting gourds, rocks and sewing various craft items: animals, dolls, quilts, and I like doing floral arrangements and mini-gardens.

« More articles

Comments and discussion:
Subject Thread Starter Last Reply Replies
Great instructions! taters55 Aug 10, 2012 8:52 AM 4

All About Gourds

If you have never been "into" gourds here is the place to learn how to grow, harvest, clean, and decorate this wonderful and interesting vegetable of the Squash family. Just come on in and visit with us and share knowledge!!

» Home
» Forums
» Articles
» Database

Cubit owner: LaVonne

Admin team:

» Contact the admins