How to Make a Gourd Jack-o-Lantern

Halloween Gourd Craft Project – Making a Gourd Jack o’Lantern

Below, you will find instructions on how to design and make a jack-o-lantern from a hard shell gourd. Gourds make a better jack o’lantern because they can last forever. You may choose to use a pattern or draw freehand directly onto the gourd.

text saying "craft materials for gourd jack-o-lantern"
dried kettle gourd with tools

You will need:

    • a clean dried gourd
    • orange and black leather dye
    • light cord and bulb
    • drill, jigsaw, exacto knife
    • 1″ hole saw
    • 5/16″ or 1/4″ drill bit
    • pencil, and pattern (optional)
    • heavy metal spoon
  • Shellac, Varnish or Polyurethane Sealer

If you already have the tools, the craft items needed to make the gourd jack-o-lantern can be purchased here for about $20.00, depending on the size of the dried gourd you choose. This demonstration is shown using a Birdhouse Gourd (also called Martin or Kettle), however other gourds such as bushel or apple also work well.

Draw and Cut

Select your clean dried gourd. Using a pencil, draw your design onto the gourd. If you want a very detailed design, free jack-o-lantern patterns can be found and printed here. Start by cutting the lid (hat) off so you can clean out the gourd. Use an exacto knife to start a slot that your jigsaw blade will fit through. That way you won’t see a hole from a drill bit when you’re finished. Insert the jigsaw blade through the slot, and cut by following the lines you drew onto the gourd.

woman crafting a kettle gourd cutting a gourd jack-o'-lantern

Clean the Inside

person cleaning the inside of a gourd

Remove the lid and clean out the gourd with the heavy metal spoon. Try to remove all the pith and seeds. It helps to make some cross cuts into the pith with a knife.
Continue cutting out your design with the jigsaw. Drill some holes in the eyes, nose and mouth so you can insert the jig saw blade.


drilling a dried kettle gourd

Use a 1″ hole saw to drill the hole for the light. Select a spot under the lid in the back, about 2″ from the bottom of the body, for your hole. You can use a 1″ drilling tool (spade bit) although the hole saw makes a much cleaner hole.

crafting a gourd jack-o'-lantern

Once you’ve finished with all the cuts, it’s time to wipe off the gourd with a damp cloth and start dying. An applicator comes with the 4 oz. bottles of leather dye, however, it’s easier with a lambswool swatch. Use the black leather dye for the hat and orange for the body. The body may take two coats. A 4 oz. bottle of leather dye will do up to 20 jack-o-lanterns. Let the dye dry for a couple hours. Then wipe with a cloth.

gourd jack-o'-lantern

Spray the whole gourd with a sealer to protect it from the elements and make it last for many years. I like to use Bullseye Shellac because it sprays on nicely, gives the jack-o-lantern a healthy shine, and it’s less expensive than some of the other sealers. Spray polyurethanes also work well if you already have them on hand.

finished gourd jack-o'-lantern

Once the sealer is dry, (about 1 hour for the shellac), insert the light cord by pushing it through the 1″ hole until the metal prongs grab the gourd firmly. Screw in the light bulb, plug it in, and admire your gourd jack-o-lantern.

We do not recommend using candles in your gourd jack o’lantern because they will burn if left unattended.