November Feature: Part Two - Waterproofing Gourds for Floral Vases
Karey Karam of Tucson, Arizona is an avid floral arranger, creating contemporary Japanese "Ikebana" arrangements in her own hand crafted gourd vases. This month, Karey shares her second method for waterproofing gourds. (Look for Part Two and a second method next month.)
Note: See last month's newsletter for complete instructions on the general preparation of gourds before waterproofing.
Part Two: Beeswax (not paraffin) Method: Read all instructions before starting!
Potential hazards: burning your skin, spilling the wax on unintended surfaces, general flammability of wax. (But, it smells good!)
1. Set up your work area. Several layers of newspaper placed over a large cardboard box lid with a rim will do well as your portable work area. Have several paper towels separated and handy. A disposable paintbrush will help to move the wax to the topmost edge of your gourd without risking a devastating spill, and to waterproof the exterior if that is your plan.
2. Preheat your conventional type oven to 180 degrees, moving shelves to accommodate the size of your gourd. Don't put it in there just yet.
3. Melt the wax. Use more than you think will be absorbed. (I used about 1 cup of wax to waterproof a gourd with a 3-quart capacity, and it was just right. I treated the exterior as well. You want to have leftovers or the wax will cool too much before it can absorb into the warm gourd wall.) For ease, time, and flammability issues, I use the microwave oven and a wax-dedicated ceramic or Pyrex container placed on two paper towels to catch any drips. I heat in several time increments of 1-2 minutes, checking the progress each time until the wax is completely melted. Don't overdo it! Leave it in the microwave.
4. Place your dry gourd in the warm conventional oven and set your timer for 5-6 minutes only, unless your gourd is especially thick-walled, which will require slightly more time to heat through. Don't lose track of the time or it may crack!
5. Give the wax one more blast in the microwave, for about 45 seconds, meanwhile, with oven mitts on, remove the gourd from the conventional oven and place it upright on your work area.
6. Keeping those mitts on, immediately get the melted wax and pour it all inside the gourd directly, being careful not to splash. The wax container will be hot! Set it aside on a few of those paper towels. Oh so carefully, tip and rotat the gourd to distribute wax no higher than halfway up the interior of the gourd. Take off your mitts when you can, to manage with better dexterity. Carefully manipulate the gourd, tipping it so the melted wax comes as close to the top as you dare, all the way around. Use that disposable paintbrush or sponge on a stick to bring it all the way up to the rim.
7. Once coverage has been reached, place the wax container safely back onto your work area. Pour the excess wax out of the gourd and into the wax container for next time, being careful not to dribble it on the exterior of the gourd, unless....
8. If your plan is to waterproof with wax inside and out (good plan), now is the time to do that. Using your paintbrush and the melted wax, paint the exterior of the gourd. (You’ll soon see why painting wax on the interior just wouldn’t have worked. The wax cools and becomes thicker very quickly on the brush, and it needs to be hot and melted to fully bind with the gourd walls and floor, thus, the “dump-all-at-once” method.)
9. Using your paintbrush, go over and smooth the cooling wax as best you can, inside and out, removing obvious excess.
10. If waterproofing interior and exterior, invert the gourd and set it out in the sun on your portable work station of newspapers and rimmed box top to catch the excess wax. Using paper towels, wipe off the exterior of the gourd as the hot sunlight remelts it. It will appear shiny. (Don't use newspapers to wipe off the wax as the ink may stain your gourd. ) This next part can save you work later: Remove as much excess wax as you can from the exterior. Wipe it as clean as you can. In lieu of hot sunlight, I’m sure the conventional oven would do the job at 180 degrees, but I haven‘t tried it myself. Just be sure to use precautions to catch spills and drips.
11. If you have treated only the interior, set your gourd upright in the sunlight or oven. You can either let the excess wax pool and subsequently cool in the bottom for extra weight/stability, or, use your paintbrush to mop it up and even it out as it remelts.
12. After everything cools, buff the exterior if it has been waterproofed. If you wiped it really clean earlier, this will be easy. If not, it’s a sticky mess! You will have to scrape it with a credit card, or melt with a heat gun, being ever so careful not to heat all the way through and disturb your nice interior coverage. Finish the rim, and it’s all set to use as a vase!