Preparing Gourds for Peyote Gourd Rattles

Missouri River Brand:
Developed by Master Craftworkers

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Gourd shells have both a thin outer skin and a pithy center that should be removed in order to make them suitable for use as a gourd rattle. These instructions explain how this is accomplished.

Step 1: Scrape off the “skin” (outer husk) of a raw gourd or soak it briefly in water and then scrub off the skin.

Step 2: If the bottom of the gourd has not been cut off, do this now and remove the seeds. A coping saw with a fine blade or hacksaw works well for this.

Step 3: Prepare a 30-penny nail by flattening one end, then sharpening it and bending it at a 90 degree angle. A baby spoon with the edges filed sharp also makes a good tool for this. Another alternative is to do the initial cleaning using a small grapefruit spoon with the sides ground down to make it narrower. This way, the spoon will fit through smaller gourd necks, and the rough front edges will make a good first tool to remove the bulk of the pith when you’re first starting to clean out the gourd.

Remove as much pith as absolutely possible. Finish up with a sharpened spoon or the flattened nail to make a smooth inside surface.

Step 4: Drill the top center of the gourd with a 7/32″ (or smaller) bit. Use an awl to make an initial guide impression so that the drilled hole will be perfectly centered. It is better to make a hole a little smaller than the diameter of the stick where the top of the gourd will actually rest. The hole probably will enlarge slightly as you put it on and off the stick while checking for fit. Use a small rattail file to carefully and gradually enlarge the hole through trial and error to its finished size. Never force the gourd, as it probably will crack.

Step 5: The gourd shell may be left in its natural color or further colored and / or decorated using any of the following options:

  • Boil in Rit dye. Note: Over-cooking will cause the gourd to turn to mush.
  • Soak in pokeberry juice.
  • Use leather dye, then apply a clear leather finish solution to impart a polish.
  • Use shoe polish. When buffed, this gives a nice polished sheen.
  • Use a wood burning tool to decorate with images.

Step 6: Antiquing options for the horsehair tassels to achieve an “older” look:

  • Stain white horsehair using strong tea.
  • Use dark red or yellow horsehair for the tassel.

Step 7: The gourd can also be baked to darken the color and to give it a “brighter” sound. However, baking makes them brittle, so if you choose to do this, it must be done SLOWLY and carefully.

  • The hole must be drilled in the top of the gourd before baking.
  • Set the gourd on a grill in oven. If several are being prepared, space them so that air can move around them.
  • Raise the temperature only to a maximum of 225-250 degrees until they begin to smell like roasting peanuts.
  • Carefully monitor the gourds during heating and remove them when the desired color is achieved. Desirable colors range from light buckskin to dark brown.

Note: The darker the color, the more brittle the gourd becomes.

Gourd Rattles – Related Products

The following items are used in the above-article, or may provide added reference and helpful information.

Gourd Rattle Kit

Gourd Rattle Kit

Product No. 4808-100

$19.95

Regular -or- Deluxe with hand-rolled Buckskin Fringe

This style gourd rattle was originally used in the Gourd Dance on the Southern Plains, and is now used in the Native American Church throughout the country.

Regular Kit includes:

  • one gourd shell
  • dowel rod for handle
  • horsehair for tassel
  • thread, wooden plug
  • white buckskin to make fringe and to cover the handle
  • complete illustrated instructions which include techniques and tips for beading the handle in gourd stitch

Deluxe Kit includes:

  • Same items as above
  • white buckskin to cover the handle
  • hand-rolled buckskin for fringe
  • complete illustrated instructions which include techniques and tips for beading the handle in gourd stitch
Gourd Art Basics - Mohr

Gourd Art Basics - Mohr

Product No. 4105-090-224

$14.95

C. Angela Mohr. This do-it-yourself how-to is perfect for any beginning gourd artisan to learn the finer points of decorative or peyote gourds, fix their common flaws and put the gourds to good use. Each application is fully explained with numerous pictures describing each step. 64 pages. SC.
Aluminum Gourd Shaker

Aluminum Gourd Shaker

Product No. 5519-000-001

$3.95

The salt and pepper shakers on the market lately have been much too large for gourd rattles so we had the old type shakers made in the correct size and they are now in stock! These are just like the old ones with screw-on lids, except there are no salt and pepper holes in them. 3" tall and 2" in diameter, they are the perfect size for gourd dance rattles.

See related products below for Gourd Rattle Kit & other related supply.

Bell Gourds for Rattles

Bell Gourds for Rattles

Product No. 6050-00

(oz pkg)

$6.95

Select size desired; may combine sizes for quantity price.

Extra nice quality gourds for rattles. Available in three sizes. These have been cleaned and are selected for shape. Seasonal item, availability varies.

Order Instructions:

  • You may select assorted sizes for the quantity discount.
  • To order multiple sizes, use the "continue shopping" button to return and enter another selection..

See related products below for Gourd Rattle Kit & other related supply.

Bead Graph Paper- 12/0 Gourd (Peyote)

Bead Graph Paper- 12/0 Gourd (Peyote)

Product No. 5060-120-002

(Package 10)

$0.75

This Bead Graph Paper- 12/0 Gourd (Peyote), was developed by Crazy Crow Trading Post exclusively for planning American Indian beadwork designs. This quality bead graph paper is drawn in 12/0 scale for gourd stitch (peyote beadwork. Because it is drawn in the proportion of actual beads, it can be adjusted for use with other bead sizes and more accurately approximates the dimensions of your finished projects.

Size: 5-1/2" x 9-1/2"

Gourd Rattle Handles - 14"

Gourd Rattle Handles - 14"

Product No. 6512-002-001

$12.95

Lathe turned from select, hard maple, our sticks are ready to use for making peyote gourd rattles or gourd dance rattles using our aluminum salt shakers. Overall length is 14", with turned-down areas for beaded sections and for attaching fringe. This will save you lots of work on your next gourd rattle!

See related products below for Gourd Rattle Kit & other related supply.

2017-01-30T14:31:46+00:00