MIY Garden Charms

Miycreations Project, article and photographs
by  MaddyLane Designs

Making Gourd-geous birdhouses: This is a wonderful weekend project  to with
the kids 8 years and up with assistance, at the cottage, on vacation or summer camp!
Younger children can simply paint the gourds, while parents help with cutting the

Hands-on time: Less than 2 hours.
Total time: Add drying time for paint and varnish.
Skill: Moderate.
Cost estimate: Depends on the type and size of gourds (approximately $5 per gourd
and $5 for materials to finish the gourd, excluding cost of the tools).

Materials & tools:
•  Hard-shell dried gourd (available at country markets and farms)
•  Water
•  Sanding block or sand paper
•  Compass, or circle template
•  Pencil
•  Small hand saw or mini jigsaw
•  Drill with a small drill bit, and sanding bit
•  Acrylic paint, stain
•  A paintbrush or a lint-free cloth
•  Clear or matt Minwax Polycrylics waterbased varnish topcoat
•  Carpenter's glue (Wood glue by LePage)
•  Small branch or twig (for the perch)
•  Small eye hooks with screw ends
•  Hemp or leather rope
•  Decorative beads (optional)

(Materials for this project are available at arts, crafts and the above-mentioned stores.)

Want birds in your backyard? Then why not make them a gourd-geous birdhouse?
Working with hard-shell gourds is an ancient art that is becoming increasingly popular as
a contemporary art form. Since gourds come in many different shapes and sizes, they
can be used to make numerous decorative artifacts. Unlike the small, thin-skinned
decorative gourds, hard-shell ones - once dried - harden and last forever. This is a
perfect project to do with the kids. Half the fun is the trip to the country market to find
that perfect gourd.

Since hard-shell gourds come in many creative shapes, they make perfect birdhouses.
Gourds can be shaped, carved, cut and pyro-engraved (also known as wood-burning).
They can be finished with exterior acrylic paints, gourd dyes, gilder's paste or glazes.
Although you can purchase pre-cleaned, ready-to-use gourds, you will usually find ones
with a dark, greenish mould on them. To remove it, soak the gourd in water for 15
minutes and scrub it with a cleaner brush (a mushroom brush works well). Then wipe it
and let it dry. Once dry, lightly sand off the rough spots and wipe with a clean cloth.

Begin by cutting out the birdhouse entryway. The size of the hole depends on the type
of bird you want to attract; for smaller birds, make the holes 2.5 to 3.5 centimetres in
diameter. For larger birds, such as bluebirds and woodpeckers, the holes should be 4.5
to 5.5 centimetres in diameter. Use a compass or circle shape template to draw a hole
on the gourd. Then, with a small drill and bit, make a series of holes inside the circle
shape. Use a small hand jigsaw or craft drill with a cutting wheel to cut along the circle,
then knock out the centre part. This creates an opening for the bird to enter through.
Use a sanding bit along the opening to smooth the circle's edge. Drill a hole for a perch
2.5 centimetres below the opening. Then drill three to five drainage holes at the bottom
of the gourd. To empty the gourd of its seeds and dried stuffing, loosen it from the inside
with a hook or fork. Shake the gourd and most of the stuffing will come out.

Many types of finishes can be used to decorate your project. I simply used outdoor
acrylic craft paints. Bright colours attract birds, so I painted a modern sunflower on a
round canteen-type gourd. I also painted a long Maranka gourd in red. Then, using
black paint, I added the Asian symbols for the five nature elements: water, wood, earth,
fire and metal.

To seal the gourd, apply two to tree coats of Minwax Polycrylics waterbased varnish
topcoat, letting it dry between each coat. Glue a small stick into the hole below the
opening for the perch. Place eye hooks on the top of the gourd and attach a string or
piece of leather. Add decorative beads to the string if desired and hang it in your
favourite place in the garden. Have gourds of fun with this project.

• To ensure the gourd has dried properly, shake it to hear if the seeds rattle and make
sure it has a hard stem and dark mould on it. Why not try growing your own gourds this
summer? Visit the Canadian Gourd Society for more information on types of gourds,
seeds, tools, finishes, gourd festivals and gourd links.

•  This is a great project to do with the kids. Instead of painting the gourd, they can use
rubber stamps or markers to decorate it. You can also leave the gourd in its natural
state, but use a water sealer to protect the shell.
MIY Garden Gourd Birdhouses to make with the kids
C r e a t i o n s  & I n s p i r a t i o n s
"f o r   t h e   p u r e   j o y   o f   m a k i n g   t h i n g s"
For an uplifting
twist, tie the
ends of two
pussy willow
twigs together
with rope and
place across
the top of the

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