How to Make Gourd Canteens

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Gourds make useful canteens.
Gourds make useful canteens. (Image: Photo by ScottKS1; Flickr.com)

Native Americans and early American pioneers fashioned canteens from gourds. These hollow, lightweight members of the squash family still make sturdy waterproof containers. To make your canteen, choose gourds with thick shells such as Chinese Bottle Gourds or Mexican Water Bottle Gourds. Harvest the gourd while it's still green and allow to dry in a cool, dry place until you can hear the seeds rattle when you tap it.

Things You'll Need

  • Gourd
  • Bleach
  • Cork
  • Small drill or Dremel tool
  • Sandpaper
  • Beeswax
  • String or leather thong

Clean the outside of your dried gourd with a solution of three tbsp. bleach to one quart water. Soak the gourd in this solution for 15 minutes, then scrub with a nylon pad. Let dry.

Position the cork near the top of the gourd--but not at the stem--and trace around the bottom of the cork. With the drill or Dremel tool, make small holes along the edges of the circle you traced, until you can push out a round section of gourd. Wrap the cork in a bit of sandpaper and use it to smooth the opening.

Remove all the seeds and other material from inside the gourd. Use a metal skewer or bent coat hanger to rake out this material. Make the inside of the gourd as clean as you can.

Melt the beeswax and pour it into the gourd. Swirl it around until all of the inside of the gourd is covered.

Knot one end of your string or leather thong around the narrowest part of the canteen. Fasten the other end around the stem to form a carrying loop. Fill the canteen and insert the cork.

Tips & Warnings

  • Pour 1/2 cup of gravel into the gourd and shake vigorously to help loosen the fibrous material that may remain in the dry gourd.

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