Today I want to touch on the subject of health and safety when working with gourds. It is a subject that has been brought up quite frequently lately on the Club Gourd email discussion list that I am a member of.
Gourd crafting is great fun and can become addictive but if you are not careful about how you handle them, they can cause some serious health problems.
If you already have allergy problems you can be very sensitive to the mold that is formed on the gourds as they dry. Never dry your gourds or store dry but moldy gourds in the house. That mold will increase your allergy problems or cause you to become allergic to mold.
I know of someone who has allergies and broke out in a rash all along her hands and arms from cleaning the gourds. Be sure and wear long rubber gloves when cleaning.
You may have read or saw on TV how to sand the outside skin of the gourd off. This should never be done because of the dust it causes. Instead, soak the gourd to loosen the skin and remove with a copper scrubber.
Dust can cause severe lung problems over time if you are not careful, so try and do as much work on a gourd as you can without causing lots of dustL.
Keep down the dust when cleaning out an opened gourd by removing all the loose interior and then wetting the inside first and then scraping it out. You can go over the inside with a copper scrubber also.
If you want the interior sanded very smooth use the sandpaper especially made for wet sanding.
When doing projects with your gourds that cause dust or fumes, be sure and use a respirator that will filter out the dust. This also goes for other woodworking projects. The fine particles you cannot easily see are the ones that will be drifting upwards and find their way into your lungs.
Make sure you get a respirator that will fit your face and one suggestion made was to get one that is washable. The little cheap paper masks just do not work well enough.