Sunday 31 March 2019

Gourd Water Bottles. Were They Sealed?

Water bottle gourd found at Bents Fort.

17th & 18th Century water & wine gourds.
Were they lined inside?
To date I have not been able to find any primary documentation suggesting that water bottle gourds were actually sealed inside. However, this does not mean that you can’t seal the inside if you so wish. A close friend of mine purchased a gourd water bottle from a living history trader in America, & it grew mould inside.

“Now we are ready to make the canteen capable of holding liquid without it tasting like swamp sludge. In this procedure I use paraffin wax and a heat source. As you all should know paraffin is extremely flammable and it can be dangerous if used carelessly so I'm not responsible if you flame your gourd, kitty or your humble abode in this next step.
I use pure canning paraffin as opposed to beeswax because beeswax can make the water sort of taste well, like beeswax. Gourds I have waxed with this method have held out over ten years with its original application, however the larger, more often used storage bottles I usually rewax every few years until they get too heavy from all the wax coatings.
The initial waxing is the most important since this can never be undone or redone. So take care - be careful - take your time and you will have success. I use an electric stove and oven in this process so there is no open flame. If you choose to do this on a gas stove it could be dangerous, so please take care.
Get your gourd, a coffee can and a cork that fits the gourd. Also, some towels or rags to handle the hot gourd will be necessary. I set my oven on 250-275 degrees and place the dry and cleaned gourd on the middle rack. Then I take a coffee can which is clean and bend a spout in its side to use as a pouring aid. In this can I carefully melt down two hunks or slabs of wax. When melting wax watch it carefully. Melt at low heat and just as the last solid bit disappears it is ready. If you leave wax to heat too long you may lose track of how hot it is getting and it could burst into flames. As soon at the last traces of wax just disappear in the can take it off the heat. From here on in this must be done quickly and without hesitation to achieve the initial coating in the gourd.
The gourd is removed from the oven and quickly you will pour the melted wax inside it (not near a source of flame). Put the cork in the hole and start vigorously shaking it for a few minutes until the liquid wax starts to "feel different" as it starts to solidify. Then quickly take out the cork and pour the excess back into the can. Set the gourd aside to cool slowly. Don't touch until fully cool. If you did this initial step correctly all of the pores inside the gourd, including whatever fluff remained, are encapsulated in wax. You can do up to two more applications of wax but do not put the gourd back in the oven because you will undo all your hard work. Just melt the wax in the can as before and pour in the gourd, shake vigorously and pour out. Let the gourd cool thoroughly each time; otherwise, you will remove the previous wax.
All you need now is a new clean cork and a method of carrying it and you have a fine water container. I never used this type of container for spirits because they may adversely affect the wax.
Gourds done this way should be fine holding water during events. My big supply bottle gets filled when I leave home for an event and is not emptied until I return home. The water always tastes fine. There is some maintenance however.
For storage after an event you must drain and dry (no heat) the container thoroughly. Do not put the cork back in unless it has dried for a few weeks. I leave my corks out while in storage. Store in a clean dry area. A damp gourd can form a bit of mold on its exterior while drying in storage (not detrimental). Never expose an empty or partially full container to the sun or leave in a hot tent for any length of time as the wax will melt. Keep containers full and in the shade and this will be no problem. I also have found that some hot paraffin rubbed into the exterior of the gourd during the initial waxing process protects the gourd's exterior as well. If at any time the water in the gourd starts to taste foul this would indicate that it is time to reapply a wax coating on the inside. (Follow the instructions for repeated applications of wax)”.

“Bottle Gourds – a natural alternative, one of the things we know about the Dutch that inhabited New Jersey at this time is that they were resourceful and not a wasteful lot. A Gourd Canteen would be cost effective to make though they are fragile.

This first step is to procure a dried bottle gourd. You can either grow your own from seed or look for them at the farm stand in the fall. Your gourd must then be placed in a dry location and be allowed to thoroughly dry out. Once you can hear the seeds rattle inside, clean the outside of the gourd with soap and water so the mold that is on the outside comes off. Next, you want to make sure you are outside and have some sort of breathing mask on. Drill a hole on the top of the gourd (The dried gourd particles inside are not good to breath in, thus why it’s important that this is done outside, along with wearing protection over your mouth), this whole will be used as your opening to dispense water as well. You can then put a few rocks into the gourd, shake them around and this will help to loosen any other objects inside the gourd. To water proof your canteen, some recommend a natural material, like bees wax. Working with bees wax is very hot so be careful. Melt the wax and pour it into the gourd. Shake the gourd around to have even coverage and drain the wax before it dries. Your gourd bottle is now water proof, you just need a cork for the top and you have a very authentic canteen. The fun part of Bottle Gourds is that if you break it, you can always grow more”.
Beeswax was used for sealing the inside of water vessels very early on in history.

“While it’s hard to pin specific dates when archaeologists take us this far back in history, we can say with certainty that the Ancient Georgians were using these large, beeswax coated, earthenware vessels as early as 6,000 BC”.
More gourd history & uses:

Beggar in soldiers clothing by Marquard Wocher 1760-1830.

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