Saturday, June 15, 2013

Making Maracas out of Gourds

My recent shekere post reminded me that I have also made MARACAS from gourds. So I'm posting a couple of pictures and basic instructions.
  Materials List
  Dried/cured gourd(s)
  Small saw
  Contact cement
  Leather or cloth/ribbon strips 
         (to support & camouflage handle joint)
  Dowel - (for a handle, the diameter of the inside of gourd's neck)
       (A dowel isn't needed for bottle-neck gourds. Just saw off an end
          and then glue it back after cleaning and filling.)           
  Beads, rice or lentils (optional, as you can use the dried seeds)

I bought six gourds at my local pumpkin patch a couple of years ago and let them dry out for about eight months. Four of them dried nicely enough that I could use them. (A couple rotted because I left them in a box. Lesson learned!) 

Note: Let gourds fully ripen before picking. Ensure they have good air circulation so they won't rot, and leave them alone through the winter. Better yet, leave gourds on the vine to dry. (That's how it's been done for centuries.) I've tried drying gourds the fast way, cutting a hole near the stem, and most of them shriveled. When done the old-fashioned way, gourds don't just dry, they cure. (Don't want to wait till next year? You can also purchase cured gourds online.)
Once these gourds were ready (when they felt light and the seeds rattled around inside), I sawed the stems off at the very tip, cleaned out the stringy fibers, and saved some seeds for refilling.
I bought a dowel that was as close as possible to the inside diameter of the gourds' necks (1 1/4" in this case), and cut two 5" lengths for handles. I wood-burned a little design around the ends of the handles just for fun. (When using small bottle-neck gourds, you don't need handles; you can just glue the ends back on after cleaning and filling.)  
I partially filled a couple of gourds with their own seeds, and I used some small beads in the others. (Note: I suggest filling the gourd not more than 1/4 so the seeds/beads can move freely and strike the inner walls of the instrument with  energy.) 

Then I applied contact cement generously around the inside of the gourd necks as well as around the top end of the handles. I inserted the handles 1 1/2 to 2" into the gourds, being careful to keep the filling away from the glue till it dried.

(Note: One of the necks was a bit a loose, so I rolled some paper and glue
around the handle tip to make it a bit thicker and create a tight contact.)  
To finish these off, I cut and tied some leather strips around the joint of the handle and gourd, which both supports and camouflages the seam. (Ribbon or fabric works well too.)
These are sturdy little instruments, and they sound GREAT!

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