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Thread: Making a Gourd Canteen or Water Bottle

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    Tracker Beo's Avatar
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    Default Making a Gourd Canteen or Water Bottle

    I use a gourd canteen and my son uses a gourd water bottle when out trekking, we make our own so I thought I'd share how I make them for us and friends.
    The type of gourds that were most used for lasting containers were of the type Lagenaria whose white blossoms open towards evening and grow on aggressive vines. They require a long growing season to mature and are extremely cold sensitive. They are mostly light green with sometimes some white mottling, never brightly colored. They have a woody sub-surface that can range from 1/8 to 3/4 inches in thickness. When the gourd is in the green condition it is fragile but as it cures (which can take upwards of two years) the woody sub surface matures into a very hard and durable material. It is my experience that the slowest curing process is the best, although the most messy. I have heard all types of instructions from all over the country on how to cure them fast. I have never had success in coming up with a durable container by any of these methods. The green and fully mature gourds are picked after a growing season of between 120 and 150 days. Now begins the long curing process. I will wash them down to remove any dirt that may be attached to them and then they are spread out (so they don't touch each other) on newspaper in a warm dry place like an attic, loft or in the basement near a heat source. They can be left outside if they won't freeze but I have always had problems with animals stealing them to get the seeds during the winter months and up north they are far too precious to lose any to forest critters. They should be turned often, at least once a week. During the curing process they will develop a heavy mold which is normal and this will not cause them to rot. If the gourds are to be used for something other than food or drink containers they could be wiped down every two weeks with a solution of a bit of disinfectant liquid in some warm water to retard mold growth, since the mold has a tendency to discolor the outer surfaces. THIS SHOULD NOT BE DONE FOR FOOD OR DRINKING CONTAINERS! The mold is a natural process and although it looks horrible it is very natural and harmless. I have to admit that they start looking pretty funky about three to four months into the drying /curing process but I don't believe I've ever had them smell worse than a fresh mushroom. They have very little flesh inside so they wont spoil like a pumpkin or the like. Actually, if they were on the vine a long enough time they may even feel lighter than you would think, because some of the curing had begun outside at the end of their growing season. These lighter ones will cure the fastest but sometimes their shells are too thin and will collapse. This was not due to the molding. They were destined for failure from the start: they never matured to begin with. The very heavy ones may take up to two years to dry and cure.
    When the curing process is complete you will notice that the gourd is now light in weight, the mold has dried to dust coating ( I must mention here that mold spores and dust can affect sensitive individuals so please take care) and many times the seeds will rattle inside.
    Select a cured gourd by the firmness of the shell. A good shell is at least 1/4 inch in thickness and shows no signs of collapse.
    The dried and cured gourd is soaked in water or a cloth is applied to its surface, warm water is placed over the cloth and remains that way until the dry skin can be easily scraped off with a dull knife. This may take some time. This exposes the hard wood shell. Let the gourd dry for a couple of hours after scraping. Now, depending on what type of gourd you have, you will either saw off the tip (as in a water bottle style) or drill a sizeable hole in the side (as in the case of a tobacco box style). Make the hole the size of the cork you intend to use.( I have found a 3/4 in. hole is adequate for a small bottle). This is achieved by sawing (use a fine tooth saw such as a hacksaw ) the top off about 1/2 in. down. The tobacco box can have a smaller 5/8 inch hole drilled in its side for the cork.
    There is no greater solitude than that of the Tracker in the forest, unless perhaps it's that of the wolf in the wilderness.


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    Tracker Beo's Avatar
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    Default Continuing on...

    With the hole made, you take whatever is necessary to scrape out the seeds and fluff. Spoons work well, just don't damage the opening so the cork will not make a tight seal. Next, get a few handfuls of gravel, the sharper the better ( don't use sand or very fine gravel which could stick inside). Pour them into the gourd and shake for a few minutes then pour out. This may have to be done a few times. This gets the fluff out.
    Now we are ready to make the canteen capable of holding liquid without it tasting like swamp sludge. In this procedure I use paraffin wax and a heat source. As you all should know paraffin is extremely flammable and it can be dangerous if used carelessly so I'm not responsible if you flame your gourd, kitty (which may not be a bad thing) or your humble abode in this next step.
    I use pure canning paraffin as opposed to beeswax because beeswax can make the water sort of taste well, like beeswax. Gourds I have waxed with this method have held out over the years with its original application, however the larger, more often used storage bottles I usually rewax every few years until they get too heavy from all the wax coatings.

    The initial waxing is the most important since this can never be undone or redone. So take care - be careful - take your time and you will have success. I use an electric stove and oven in this process so there is no open flame. If you choose to do this on a gas stove it could be dangerous, so please take care. Get your gourd, a coffee can and a cork that fits the gourd. Also, some towels or rags to handle the hot gourd will be necessary. I set my oven on 250-275 degrees and place the dry and cleaned gourd on the middle rack. Then I take a coffee can which is clean and bend a spout in its side to use as a pouring aid. In this can I carefully melt down two hunks or slabs of wax. When melting wax watch it carefully. Melt at low heat and just as the last solid bit disappears it is ready. If you leave wax to heat too long you may lose track of how hot it is getting and it could burst into flames. As soon at the last traces of wax just disappear in the can take it off the heat. From here on in this must be done quickly and without hesitation to achieve the initial coating in the gourd. The gourd is removed from the oven and quickly you will pour the melted wax inside it (not near a source of flame). Put the cork in the hole and start vigorously shaking it for a few minutes until the liquid wax starts to "feel different" as it starts to solidify. Then quickly take out the cork and pour the excess back into the can. Set the gourd aside to cool slowly. Don't touch until fully cool. If you did this initial step correctly all of the pores inside the gourd, including whatever fluff remained, are encapsulated in wax. You can do up to two more applications of wax but do not put the gourd back in the oven because you will undo all your hard work. Just melt the wax in the can as before and pour in the gourd, shake vigorously and pour out. Let the gourd cool thoroughly each time; otherwise, you will remove the previous wax. All you need now is a new clean cork and a method of carrying it and you have a fine water container. I never used this type of container for liquor because they may adversely affect the wax.
    See just that simple
    There is no greater solitude than that of the Tracker in the forest, unless perhaps it's that of the wolf in the wilderness.

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    Tracker Beo's Avatar
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    There is no greater solitude than that of the Tracker in the forest, unless perhaps it's that of the wolf in the wilderness.

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    Bayou Harden Cajun GVan's Avatar
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    Thanks for the info Beowulf, I think I'll give it a try just for the experience.
    [COLOR="Red"][/COLOR]Survival is the art of steeling one's desire to overcome and surpass any situation with nothing more than personal will and fortitude.

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    Protector Of The Land MedicineWolf's Avatar
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    Good stuff bro, all I can say is: You and your gourd canteens... historical trekking... now your ruining your son to that and not showing him the way we did in the rangers and LRSD and an army canteen was good enough then, makes me wonder about you bro, really does.
    Living in the Northern part of the Lewis and Clark National Forest as a Ranger with US Forestry Service... What more could a guy want

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    Tracker Beo's Avatar
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    If he can learn to do it the old fashioned way, then the rest should be easy, and if I could have carried a gourd canteen I would have... well maybe not but who cares. We like it and if'n ya don't take your goat smelling azz elsewhere park ranger boy.
    There is no greater solitude than that of the Tracker in the forest, unless perhaps it's that of the wolf in the wilderness.

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    Senior Member FVR's Avatar
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    Beo.,

    Excellant directions. I've made a few gourd canteens in my time. I did not however do the cloth trick, looks like a good idea.

    After the gourd had cooled and the cork was properly fit, I took silk thread and wrapped the gourd spout to prevent the gourd spout from splitting if you pushed the cork in too far.

    I wished I had kept a few pics, I used hemp and braided a fishnet type of carrier and connected to leather straps for carrying straps.
    Can't cheat the mountain, pilgrim.
    Mountain got it....

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    Super Moderator crashdive123's Avatar
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    Pretty cool. How many gourds do you set out to start curing? I'm thinking it would kind of....well.....suck to find out that the only one you set out to cure was too thin - at the two year point.
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    Senior Member FVR's Avatar
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    I found about 5 and stuck them downstairs for awhile. When they started to rattle and got light, I started working on them.

    They are pretty tough considering what they look like.
    Can't cheat the mountain, pilgrim.
    Mountain got it....

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    Senior Member Smok's Avatar
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    Beo ... I grow gourds here in Calif. and I have about 20 from 2007 . I was hopping to bring some to the get to gather in Sept. , but now ?? They are only a year drying but our summer temp here is over 100 and 10% humidity for 5 months I was thinking of driving as I have a car that gets over 45 miles to the gal and it would be a good way to see some of the USA that I have not seen . So I may not be able to bring a lot of the gourds but I will bring some and you can show us how to do it right
    Do it with what you got and you want need what you don't have

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    Senior Member Tony uk's Avatar
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    Thanks Beo
    A wise person does at once, what a fool does at last. Both do the same thing; only at different times.

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    Tracker Beo's Avatar
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    Crashdive, I usually set out about 5 or 6 gourds, and in the summer I place them on a solar balnket on the back deck, this usually helps the drying to go faster, if it seems lite enough you can go ahed and start. I have also made spouts out of wood and deer antler, tightly fitting and secured with sinew and beeswax. Lately i been using bees ax as the sealer and putting a little lemon juice in the wax and stiring and there is no flavor distortion.
    There is no greater solitude than that of the Tracker in the forest, unless perhaps it's that of the wolf in the wilderness.

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    Super Moderator crashdive123's Avatar
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    Good stuff. Thanx.
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    Default gourd drying / cleaning

    Hi to all
    after reading the post on gourds, I just joined in.
    This year, for the first time, I am growing gourds.
    my bottle gourds are growing fine and so faar I have
    about 8 or nine on one plant. of course , I have hand polinated all of them , successfully. My other gourd plants,
    which are NOT bottle gourds ( I do not know what they are)
    do not have any blooms, yet. I don't know , why they are behind!
    I planted all of them from the same store-bought packag of seeds. Earlier, they were very slow and I had no idea what
    to expect. Now, I keep building arbors and modifying it to accommodate the situation.

    OK!
    I have a few questions and comments:

    a member had a very good instruction for making a drinking
    jar out of gourd. He mentioned that , he would not use
    disinfectants with chemicals on his gourds. Now here is my idea;
    can you disinfect gourds with vinegar?

    For faster drying gourds, can you punch some needle
    holes , here and there, to speed up drying ?
    Another way to speed up drying (not right away, off the vine but in couple of month , to fill the gourd with silica gel
    or just plain salt , to absorb the remaining moister? I have used
    this methed in the past and have dried small ornamental
    gourds and have made salt and pepper shakers. Well, they were supposed to rot and be thrown away but I managed to dry them. But I have had no experience with bottle gourds.
    So far, I have done alot of research on the net about them
    and that is how I have managed to get close to 10 gourds
    on one plant, and still I have the whole summer ahead.

    I will check with you, hopefully, from time to time and share information. by the way, I am located in Georgi(atlanta suburb).
    Last edited by gourdon; 06-23-2008 at 01:49 AM.

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    Senior Member tacmedic's Avatar
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    gourdon, I have used distilled white vinegar in the past for killing the mould on the outside of the gourds with great success. As far as using salt or silica for absorbing the moisture, I have never tried it and am not sure if it would work or not.

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    Quote Originally Posted by tacmedic View Post
    gourdon, I have used distilled white vinegar in the past for killing the mould on the outside of the gourds with great success. As far as using salt or silica for absorbing the moisture, I have never tried it and am not sure if it would work or not.
    Hi Tacmedic

    I got the answer that I was looking for.
    vinegar is the best non-chemical disinfectant and can kill the bacteria/germs.
    I use it on my cutting board instead of soap or anything else.
    About silica gel and salt, I have experience. They both absorb the moisture. it would be better to get natural salt,
    which is better than table salt I am pretty sure about fast
    drying both salt and the silica gel. My only concern is that
    whether this will interfere with the aging and hardening
    of the gourd or not. Of course, silica gel and salt drying
    is not practical if you have whole bunch of gourds but for
    one or two should be ok if one cannot wait for a year.


    I would appreciate comments and opinions of other member. let us share our knowledge, experience and
    opinions. Growing gourd is fun and I look forward to
    do some craft work on them. that should be fun too.
    Until the next time
    gourdon

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    Super Moderator crashdive123's Avatar
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    Hey Gourdon - welcome to the forum. How about heading to the introduction section when you get a chance and share a bit about yourself. You can find it here. http://www.wilderness-survival.net/f...splay.php?f=14
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    Administrator Rick's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by gourdon
    I use it on my cutting board instead of soap or anything else.
    Gourdon, be very careful about cleaning your cutting board with only vinegar. It does not fully disinfect the board. The best solution is cleaning the board (plastic or non-word) in the dishwasher above 171 F. If you choose not to do that and want to clean with vinegar then you need to follow up with 3% hydrogen peroxide. It doesn't matter which one you use first. Using both is more effective than vinegar alone. Remember, there are some bacteria that like an acidic environment.

    The USDA says, "Cutting boards, utensils, and countertops can be sanitized by using a solution of 1 tablespoon of unscented, liquid chlorine bleach in 1 gallon of water."

    Sources:

    http://www.checnet.org/healtheHouse/...sp?Main_ID=122

    http://www.fsis.usda.gov/Fact_Sheets...fely/index.asp

  19. #19

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rick View Post
    Gourdon, be very careful about cleaning your cutting board with only vinegar. It does not fully disinfect the board. The best solution is cleaning the board (plastic or non-word) in the dishwasher above 171 F. If you choose not to do that and want to clean with vinegar then you need to follow up with 3% hydrogen peroxide. It doesn't matter which one you use first. Using both is more effective than vinegar alone. Remember, there are some bacteria that like an acidic environment.

    The USDA says, "Cutting boards, utensils, and countertops can be sanitized by using a solution of 1 tablespoon of unscented, liquid chlorine bleach in 1 gallon of water."

    Sources:

    http://www.checnet.org/healtheHouse/...sp?Main_ID=122

    http://www.fsis.usda.gov/Fact_Sheets...fely/index.asp
    Thanks for the advice, Rick.

    I must add that, I use wooden cutting bord and also must
    add that I immediately wipe clean after cutting meats and wash it with soap and water, scrubbing real good.
    Then I dry it well and soak it wit vinegar and let it sit and dry up. This way my board smells fresh and clean, naturally.

    Also, from time to time, I scrape my bord in order to get rid of the worn out layer.
    when using for non-meat choping , I just rinse it wit tap water and wipe it clean( no soap or chlorin or vinega ).
    perhaps, it would be better to use a non-wood cutting board for meat and disinect it with chlorin or put it in
    dishwasher.

    Anyway, thanks alot. Of course my point was about
    getting rid of molds off of gourds, used as a water bottle.

    This year, hopefully I will harvest some bottle gourds and
    no doubt I will use bleech solution ( 1:10). I am sure it is
    much more effective than vinegar. It doe not matter if you
    are using gourds for decorative painting, carving or burning.
    Gourdon

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    Administrator Rick's Avatar
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    If you use soap and water, you should be fine. I just saw the post on the cutting board and vinegar and a red flag went off.

    You said some of the gourds were slow growth. Does that package indicate number of days to harvest? That should give you some idea of how well they are doing.

    I always store my partially used seed packets in the refrigerator to use again next year. They stay viable for a few years by doing that. Packages that I empty, I generally write the date of planting on it and store it as well. That way I can always go back and check the info if I need to.

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