Finishes/Sealers for use on Gourd Projects

The E-mailbox at the AGS website gets lots of questions! In one week recently we got four questions about products to use as finishes/sealers on gourd projects. The e-mails mentioned variations on the problems below, and then asked what other crafters/artists use on gourds. (If you would like to add your comments, please e-mail.)
 
>I have been painting [birdhouses] with acrylic paints and then sealing with several coats of sealer.  After one winter out they are fading and the poly is peeling.

>I have been sealing my gourd art with Laqueur and am finding that after a  few months, the finish begins to lift off.

Our readers answer:
 

  • For painting gourds for exterior use, I suggest a high gloss oil based paint. -- Linda L.

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  • I live in a valley in rural Pennsylvania and I don't recommend leaving gourds outside during the months where freezing is possible.  My bird houses and feeders are painted with acrylics and coated with 3 coats of  Delta Ceramcoat Gloss Exterior/Interior varnish.  It is about 0.88 for a 2oz bottle and I get it in Walmart.  The first coat soaks in, but the next two coats go on easily and the luster is wonderful!  It makes the colors of the paints and the gourd markings just pop out.  I only hang gourd houses or feeders where there is good air circulation and where they won't be constantly bumped and scratched by branches.  This prevents the sealer from being scratched or chipped and water cannot get in to cause problems. I have had no problem with peeling, rot, mold, or fading of colors and my gourds were out from April through September this year.  I too give buyers a paper with "how to care for the gourd instructions" and I haven't had any problems yet.  Hope this helps people.  Cathy from Pennsylvania

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  • I live in oregon where it rains all winter and I use minwax indoor/outdoor helman par urethane clear gloss and it coates great. it protects from sunlight rain/moisture and temperature change that gourd is protected like fort knoxx. It needs to be because I use acrylic paint on my birdhouse gourds. I also drill holes in the bottom of my gourds so if any moisture does get in it will drain out the bottom. Hope that helps. monica

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  • If your birdhouse is going to be used outdoors, try using Spar Varnish on them instead of a water-based sealer. The Spar Varnish is meant for outdoor use and is pretty tough. If you are in a location with severe winters, though, it is a good idea to take the birdhouse down and rehang it in the spring. Hope this helps. I live in the mountains of North Carolina. I have left some birdhouses out all year -- and they stand up fine. -- Claire in NC

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  • I have had the same problems with birdhouses --- I now no longer paint my birdhouses at all or if I do, I warn the purchaser that they probably will not stay pristine if used outside in this climate---I now burn designs and seal with either mineral oil or wax (Johnson's Paste Wax usually, sometimes shoe polish wax).  Both must be renewed in the spring---but obviously they do not peel off. -- Gail in IL

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  • Gail, I do the same thing. Woodburn then two coats of paste wax, I put a handout in each explaining how to care for it, re waxing after a rain etc., I couldn't find anything that would stand up, the painted ones were a mess after one season. -- Rhoda, Northeastern BC

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  • I found a sealer to use on outdoor gourds, it is made by Minwax and it is called "Outdoor Clear Shield".  It says it has "advanced ultraviolet absorber"  I don't know about how that works but I have tested a piece of burned gourd, half with and half with out. It has been outside for about 6 months now and the coated part is holding up very well, the uncoated portion has faded substantially.  -- Jenn in PA

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  • I too had problems with the regular poly peeling. It didn't matter what was under it. from the bare gourd to acrylic paint. It peeled all over. I now use a Water based Spar finish on my outdoor gourds. (SeaFin AquaSpar)  It was kinda hard to find and is expensive, but it works wonderfully! I haven't had a single problem with it and we have weeks of rain then HOT weather to contend with. Like now, it was in the 90's for a week then overnight it dropped down to being in the 60's. It is holding up great so far. I also take my outdoor gourds in for the winter and advise others to do the same. So I'm not sure how it would hold up under Winter outdoor conditions. One more note. I was told repeatedly that any of the "oil" (or whatever) based spars will yellow. The waterbased ones won't. --TC in Oregon

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  • Jo Sonja's Polyurethane varnish is a heavy duty varnish with great durability.  It has a urethane resin that gives strong resilience for protecting your projects.  It works great gourd art. Unlike other brands you only need 2 coats on most projects, dries clear, will not crack or turn yellow. Best stored and used between 65-80 degrees.  Water based and non-toxic, contains low VOC's.  Can be used with a sponge, brush or spray gun.  I recommend dabbing it on with a foam wedge.  Clean up with soap and water
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