I discovered the art of gourd crafting when I was 10 years old and was captivated by how many wonderfully creative things I could make out of gourds.

As I continued to work with gourds I learned another fascinating thing about them. I am able to use pretty much any artistic technique on them from painting, to carving, to wood burning (often called pyroengraving), to beading, to weaving, and so on. I like to refer to gourds as nature’s pottery with endless possibilities!

In this step-by-step project I’ll show you how to make a working gourd clock with a realistic woodburned leaf design.

After collecting various leaves from outside I drew a picture with them. You can make your own leaf picture this way or use the one I made.

Be sure to watch my gourd crafting videos to complete the first couple of steps of this project. I show you how to clean a dried gourd both outside and inside.

Project Steps

After your gourd is clean (and dry from the soaking) you can begin to construct the clock. The first thing you need to do is cut the gourd open.

I chose to use the bottom of my gourd for this clock. You may choose the top or bottom; all depends on which end is flatter. (Or in my case, which end has more character. I liked how it curved out from the blossom end.)

Place the gourd on a table, with the bottom (or top) facing down. Using a ruler, measure up three inches from the table. Holding a pencil firmly at 3 inches and holding the gourd firmly to the table, slowly turn the gourd, letting the pencil mark the gourd as you turn.

Take a utility knife and make a cut into the gourd along the line. Using a keyhole saw or a jigsaw, insert into cut and cut gourd in half.

After you have cut the gourd in half, you will find a mess of seeds and dried membrane inside. You have to get rid of this by scraping it out with a melon baller or leather scraper or other tool. (Make sure you use a good dust mask and goggles when doing this!)

See how to clean the interior of a gourd on my YouTube channel: http://youtu.be/pT33hwNSf3g

After you have cleaned it out fairly well, smooth the inside with rough sandpaper and while you’re at it, smooth the cut edges of the gourd, too.

It is almost time to woodburn, but first, you need to transfer the leaf pattern to the gourd. Rub chalk over the backside of the pattern, turn it over, and place the chalk side down on the gourd.

How do you know if you have it centered? Use a pencil and poke a hole through the middle of your pattern and stand the pencil in the middle of your gourd. This will help you to center your pattern.

Holding the pattern in place, tape the pattern to the gourd with scotch tape. (It helped for me to cut out the middle of my pattern when attaching it to the gourd, but you may not have to if your gourd is flatter than mine.)

Using a blunt pencil or stylus, trace firmly over the pattern.

After you have finished tracing the pattern, carefully remove it and then trace over the chalk with a pencil. This will help you see your pattern better.

Using your wood burner and a flat tip or knife tip, woodburn the outline of the leaves and numbers.

Using a round tip, darken the inside of the numbers.

Using the same rounded tip, shade the leaves with tiny, close dots by doing a gentle pouncing motion.

Wood burning Tips: 1.) Do not use your wood burner near anything flammable such as paper, fixatives, etc. It gets hot so be careful! 2.) Wear goggles to help combat the smoke. 3.) Place the wood burner on a fireproof surface such as a tile. I use an old microwave tray.

4.) Let the wood burner heat up for five minutes or longer before you use it. 5.) When changing a tip while the wood burner is hot, use a pair of flat nosed pliers. 6.) Do not tighten the tip really hard when the wood burner is hot; this may ruin your wood burner.

7.) Make sure you keep your wood burning tip clean to ensure you get an even heat transfer. You will have to wipe the tip clean very often while wood burning. You can wipe it with sandpaper or on the edge of a can (or in my case, on the edge of my microwave tray).

8.) Do not press hard on your surface; this will ruin your wood burner and/or your gourd! Instead, make a darker line by moving slowly over the gourd.

9.) Details, such as shading, do not have to be a solid gradient of color. Rather, think of detailing as different shapes and lines. For this project, I chose tiny, close dots to shade the leaves. Practice, test out each tip and see what it does.

This is a very important step (and one I sometimes forget to do)! After you have finished wood burning, erase all the chalk and pencil lines with a large eraser. It should be clean as in the photo. What I find to help in the cleaning process is a little bit of rubbing alcohol.

Using a paper towel, rub in a bit of brown shoe polish where there are no leaves. This little touch will make the leaves stand out better.

Use a cotton swab to rub in the shoe polish in the hard to reach areas.

After you have let the shoe polish dry for several days seal your gourd with a sealer or varnish. Acrylic matte sealer or polyurethane will do. You can spray it on or use a brush. Make sure to spray or brush on at least two coats. Do not spray one heavy coat or it will not dry properly!

Drill a hole through the middle of your gourd and insert the shaft of your clock movement. Place the washer and nut on and hand-tighten. Attach the clock hands according to the instructions that came with the clock movement.

I left my gourd clock without a hanger, but you can easily attach a string to your clock by drilling two holes at the top and stringing some hemp or wire through.


I selected "moderate difficulty" only for those of you who are not familiar with a woodburner. Otherwise, this is a great project for beginner gourd crafters.