Tiny gourd bowl – woodburned with geometric serpent design

This serpent design is my most recent woodburning project. I did a quick study of anasazi pot designs which gave me enough knowledge to come up with a pattern of my own.



My first task was to make sure the edge of the bowl would be level. I didn’t want to have the opening on a slant.

To start I used a fret saw to remove the top off the gourd, but leaving some extra. This might seem obvious, but gourds are not perfectly round. Until the top was gone I wasn’t sure how the bowl would sit. My objective was to make the edge of the pot level with the surface it was sitting on. I did this by resting a pencil on a stack of post-it notes to the height that I wanted the edge of the bowl to be. Then, I slid the supported pencil over to the gourd (careful not to move the gourd) and made a mark, I did this a number of times around the perimeter of the gourd until I had enough marks to indicate where the level edge would be. I connected those marks into a solid line around the gourd. I hope this makes sense. There is probably an easier way to do it, but this worked for me.

Once I knew where the edge of the bowl would be, I used a box cutter to carefully trim close to the line. Then I inverted the bowl on a sheet of sandpaper on the counter top. Carefully I sanded the opening so the entire edge was flat on the counter top.

For the design I used the pencil trick again, with smaller stacks of post-its, to draw very neat lines around the gourd. I would hold the pencil in place at a particular height and turn the gourd on the counter to draw the line. The serpent design I free handed, thought I used some of the horizontal lines to guide me.

With the design penciled on, I started with shader. The majority of the dark areas are done with the shader. Occasionally I used a small ball-point tip to tighten up and edge or to reach an area that was too narrow for the shader. Once the basic design was done I used a narrow rounded tip to put in the hatching patterns.

To blacken the inside I used a candle. Again, there is a probably a better way to do it. I was concerned about burning through because the gourd wall was so thin.

To complete it, I used a wax finish that is designed for wooden bowls. I’m sure there is beeswax in it, but I’m not sure what else.

Overall I like how it turned out. It’s tiny and completely impractical, which is probably part of why I like it.