Arizona Gourds
Updates from the desert southwest...
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You can use this Amazon search box link to find all kinds of books and other products. Amazon purchases made through the links on this website help to support this site. 
*Please visit the book page links shown at right to view collections of related  titles. Each topic includes a variety of suggested books about each subject.
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What's new on the Arizona Gourds website? 
Featured Gourd of the Month:
"Dragonfly Dreams"
This gourd was colored with wood dye, and features a dragonfly with wings made from inlaid earring components.  There is a carved area with woven filigree and inlay heishi. Small dragonflies flit across the back side of the gourd.
(For sale - contact me for info.)
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Printable PDF File
Newsletter Index - article and tip index from all the past newsletters
Newsletter Index
*Want to see my listing of top gourd books?  Here is my  "Listmania" listing on Amazon
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*NEW GROUP on Facebook - "Gourding Destash".  This is the place to sell your used gourd tools and excess supplies.  No fees to sell your surplus supplies and raw gourds.* 
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*Please consider doing some of your online  shopping through our Amazon link.  ALL Amazon purchases made through site links and the search box help support  Arizona Gourds and the American Gourd Society Artistry Award.  It costs you nothing extra!

Just type what you are looking for into the seach box below. *Can't see the search box?  Please disable your ad blocker for the Arizona Gourds domain.
**Upcoming new release from Lora Irish: Painting Gourds - Techniques and Projects for Natural, Seasonal Decor. This one is due out on October 8th, but you can order now and guarantee that the price you will pay is the lowest possible.

The Art of Woodburning is a pre release due out on July 28th.  This book is an updated edition, formerly titled Introduction to Pyrography.

Power Carving is the second compliation book from the editors of Woodcarving magazine.

Southwestern Jewelry is one from which I drew inspiration for my Native Treasures project packet.  The new copies are expensive, but the used books are reasonable for a nice coffee table style book with lots of beautiful photographs.
Arizona Gourds Newsletter Index
See all our old newlsetters with indexed articles and tips from the past 10 years!  NOTE: OLD Newsletters are going to be gradually  phased out and converted to PDF Files.
Please view soon while they are still web based!     Newsletter Index
I often get questions about shipping costs that are added to shopping cart sales.  To clarify things, I've added a new page to the website,
Shipping Policies.
I am using a no-frills shopping cart program that has limitations and little flexibility.  By not paying for expensive software, I can offer you lower prices on the website merchandise.  I'm not looking to make a profit on shipping;  if you order lightweight items you will likely get a refund or some freebies to make up for it. Please take a minute to look at the shipping policies page for clarification and explanation of how things work.  If you ever have any questions, please feel free to email me directly.  I value your business!
Welcome to the June/July issue of the Arizona Gourds newsletter! 
Photos and design copyright © 2018 by Bonnie Gibson and  may not be used without express written permission.
Featured Books:

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Class updates

August 1-5  Classes at the Texas Gourd FestivalClasses now available on the Texas Gourd Society page.

October 3 -4  Onalaska, WA Swept Ashore/Carved Textures.  Please contact Stacy Annon for information.

October 18 - 20  Page, AZ   Raven Canyon Gourd / Woven Filigree Conctact Marcia Krickhahn for information

*Interested in having me teach a workshop in your area?  Let me know if your club or state group is interested in hosting classes.  You provide the location and we'll try to make it happen! Contact me at

Enter your email address into the text box to the right, and hit the submit button to join the class updates notification list.
I am getting my newsletter out late this time because I was traveling quite a bit during the month of May and into June.  I enjoyed classes in Indiana, Idaho, and in two different California locations.  Whew!  Time for me to settle back into the heat of Arizona.  I arrived home after my June classes to 111 degrees in sunny Tucson, quite a shock to the system, but the humidity is usually very low so it isn't as bad as it sounds.  As I type this newsletter in mid June, we just got our first rain in about 4 months and the plants, wildlife, and people are all breathing a sigh of relief.

I work outdoors routinely in the summertime with no problems, because I have a nice shaded work area and a portable evaporative cooler that keeps me comfortable.  I've been busy finishing up some projects that were started as class demos, because it drives me crazy to have unfinished work sitting on my desk.  However, I'm looking forward to some down time and a chance to start something new and different 

Thank you!  Your purchases made from Arizona Gourds and from our Amazon links enable us to keep these free newsletters and the Gourd Art Enthusiasts site available.  We sincerely appreciate your business.
Feature:  Product Review - Ram Micromotor Carvers

I have been researching different micromotors in a quest to find some that offer more power and features at the most reasonable pricing.  Micromotors in general have higher speed but less torque (power) than Dremel type rotary tools, but they offer several other advantages that are hard to beat, especially in comfort of use and faster bur changes.  After speaking with the Ram Products staff, the 3 carvers below are the ones that they offer which they felt were the best for gourd carvers when considering both power and price.  All of these come with a 1/8" collet so they will accept most of the burs that gourd carvers commonly use.  All 3 units come with a one year warranty on the control box and a 6 month warranty on the handpiece.

I invited Phyllis Sickles (a good friend, and a master gourd carver) to test these three units below. Currently, both Phyllis and I both use a Micropro by Mastercarver, and I have used a couple of different Foredom micromotors as well.  We worked the Ram carvers hard, using some of the largest burs in our bur boxes to see how they would perform.

Tip of the Month:  Micromotor Use and Care

The new "Native Treasures" and "Carving Burs Selection & Uses" Project Packets are now available on the Project Packets page.

Since I reviewed some micromotor tools in this issue, I thought it might be a good time to address some common issues I see in classes, and offer some tips that might be helpful.  It doesn't matter what brand you have, this information applies to micromotors in general.

Always check your handpiece periodically to make sure that both the plastic nose cone and the plastic piece at the cord end are secure. Vibration and handling make these work their way loose. They don't have to be super tight, but they need to be hand tightened routinely so that the tool can't fly apart in a bunch of pieces while you are carving.  Also, if the plastic nose cone is loose, you may have difficulty getting the collet to oepn far enough to accept the burs.

When not using the handpiece, always keep either a bur or the small metal rod that came with it locked into the tool.  This protects the collet and keeps dust out of the inner workings. Never close the collet unless there is a bur inserted.

Run the tool at the optimal speed.  Many people run the tool at lower than optimal speed, which puts strain on the motor.  It's actually much easier to carve when the tool is running faster.  Check the ratings of the burs you are using and run the tool up to the max level that is suggested for the bur.  If your bur is constantly lugging down (slowing) you may be running the tool too slow.

NEVER change the direction of the Micromotor while it is in operation. ALWAYS wait until it has come to a full stop. 

Always wear dust protection when using a micromotor. The tool produces very fine dust that you don't want to inhale!

Thee two YouTube videos below are presented by Foredom. Micromotor handpieces are very similar, so these instructional videos will apply to most brands and handpieces. These show how to replace motor brushes and how to change the collet (you'd only have to do that if yours was damaged.)
Readers Mailbag:
Hi Bonnie,  I really enjoyed the Indiana retreat, I found the spiral carving to be a bit more challenging than I imagined,  maybe  because I'm a lefty. Will definitely try another spiral carving soon!  Alice Pawlowski
"Gourds with Southwestern Motifs" - Revised Edition with added Filigree Carving chapter and updated Gallery.
The book has changed a bit - including a new lower cover price!  Also, it now has an added "Filigree Carving" chapter, and an updated gallery section with newer work.  (The original edition received nothing but 5 star reviews on Amazon.)  Gourds with Southwestern Motifs on
New on the Earrings and More page: Magnesite Turquoise Stone Fans, and intricately inlaid feather earrings.  These make great dragonfly wings - see the photo at the top of the page for an example.
NOTE:  I will not be shipping from July 6-15th in order to enjoy some family time.  Orders placed during these dates will be shipped in the order they were received as quickly as possible starting on July 16th.  Thank you for your patience during this time.  I will also be traveling to the Texas Gourd festival and will be unable to ship from July 30 - Aug 7.
The iCube carver is a budget minded option and the lowest priced microcarver that includes a digital display. The control case has 7 slots for bur storage, and comes with an optional handpiece holster as well as a tabletop handpiece stand.  The front of the control box has a motor power switch,  forward/reverse and hand/foot switches and a variable speed control knob.  The speed is shown on the led digital display. On the back, there is a main on/off switch as well as a switch that allows the tool to operate at either 110 or 230v currents. An optional foot pedal (not included) may be used if desired.

The 45,000 rpm handpiece has a quick release twist ring for easy bur changes. The handpiece has improved dust seal protection and heavy duty front bearings.  It has  a slim design for improved grip, and a soft, coiled handpiece cord.  A 3/32" collet adapter is included. 

Comments: We found that while this carver had a sufficient amount of power, it  overloaded quicker than the other 2 models we tested when pressing hard with large or heavy burs.  (Overloading sets off a beeping noise and turns the unit off momentarily to protect the tool.)  Of course, our testing was heavier and harder than the normal person would carve.  For routine carving, the tool operated fine and ran very quietly.  The main on/off switch is on the back of the box, but in normal operation you would use the motor button on the front and/or the rotary dial to turn it on and to the desired speed.  The digital display is a nice feature , but it is the low price that will be most appealing to those on a tight budget. 
Class Travels
In May and June I traveled to Indiana, Idaho, and two different locations in California.  Gourders are the same everywhere!  We all come into this hobby with the same love of creating and the same desire to improve our skills and take our work to new heights.  Taking a class gives people a chance to interact and learn from each other, and not just from the teacher. In fact, the teacher should always learn from the student as well.  It is an opportunity to try new tools without having to purchase them, to get information that isn't on any youtube video or book, to experience the joys and heartbreaks that come as a project is completed with great results - or a gourd is dropped and damaged.  It's growth.  I am so thankful to have the chance to work so many wonderful people through the years. I love seeing the joy when someone discovers that they can use a dremel tool for the first time without help or fear. I love how people share and care for each other in a class setting.  I thank all of you for the time and fun you have shared with me and I look forward to working with many more before my teaching days are over.  I'm already looking forward to classes in August in Texas and classes coming up this fall!
New bur boxes on the Rotary Tool Accessories page.  These bur boxes have a high density foam insert that hold up to 231 burs in an upright postion so the you can easily identify and select the bur you want.  The burs won't fall out when you carry the box by the integrated handle!

ICube by Ram - manufacturer's suggested retail price is $180.
The Mystisa is a portable carver that is amazingly powerful.  This carver is designed for portability and versatility, and it makes it possible to carve for hours even when power is not available!  The small control box (approx 1.5" x 2.5" x 5") contains a Li-Ion rechargeable battery, and will run 5 to 7 hours or more on a single charge. It takes about 2-3 hours to recharge, but  the tool can also run on AC power if needed.  The universal charger operates on 110 or 230v.

The carver operates in either forward or reverse direction with the flick of a switch.  The tool has a variable speed control, or can be set to run at full speed at all times if desired.   The kit also includes a 3 3/2" collet adapter, a leather pouch with clip and elastic strap, a tabletop handpiece holder, and a nylon carrying case.

The  Mystisa handpiece has a speed range of 3,000 - 30,000 RPM, a high torque motor and a quick release twist ring for easy bur changes. The handpiece has a sealed precision motor to eliminate dust and has an extended nose tip for safety and comfort.  The handpiece is smaller than most, and has a lightweight aluminum motor case and a slim, streamlined design for improved grip.  The handpiece cord is straight and flexible (not a coiled cord). Even though this tool runs at a slightly slower RPM, it has a surprising amount of power, equalling that of most desktop carvers.  It runs quiet and vibration free.

Comments:   I have used a Foredom portable but this one has far more power/torque, costs less and comes with accessories that cost extra from Foredom! 
I was very impressed; I found that this portable equalled the power of the Micro-pro desktop carver I use daily.  Even with hard use and large headed burs, this tool did not overload easily, and it ran very quiet and without vibration.  The handpiece is sleek and high quality and runs super smooth.  It is a bit smaller than most handpieces, but I suspect many will like it because it IS smaller. This unit is great if you have a need for portability.  I am likely use one when I am teaching classes and need to move around from person to person.  The only drawbacks are the price - it costs more than many desktop models, and the fact that it needs to be charged periodically.  Also, like any other lithium tool, the battery will need to be replaced at some future point depending on how much it is used and for how many years you own it. 
Mystisa by Ram - manufacturer's suggested retail price is $345.
The BP50 carver is professional level carver with a 50,000 rpm brushless motor that has 3-4 times the power and torque of conventional brush type units.  The control box has a state of the art microprocessor chip for programming of speed control, overload and safety.  It includes a memory feature that remembers the last user setting before the main power was turned off. The controller also has automatic detection of heat, using thermal sensors to shut down the unit if necessary to prevent damage.  The display window will flash an alert; the unit will stop and then resume normal operation after cooling.

A switch allows the tool to operate in forward or reverse, and the kit includes an optional use variable speed foot pedal. Unlike some foot pedals, this is not just an on/off switch.  The speed varies with the pressure you apply to the pedal.  A rotary dial operates the variable speed when in the "hand" mode, and the dial can be set to limit the speed allowed by the foot pedal if desired. The control box has a LED digital speed display. 
The BP50 Slim handpiece  is a high quality brushless motor.   Brushless motors require less maintenance and are more efficient in operation.  In a tool with a brushless motor, the motor adjusts according to the task. The more resistance the handpiece senses, the more power it draws, and conversely a lack of resistance lessens the pull.   (To read more about the difference between brush and brushless motors, you can visit: )   The BP50 handpiece has a quick release twist ring for easy bur changes. It also has improved dust seal protection to eliminate dust and heavy duty front bearings, and a slim design for improved grip.  It has a soft and flexible coiled handpiece cord, and is very quiet in operation.  The kit also includes a 3/32" collet adapter, handpiece maintenance tools, and a desktop handpiece stand.

Comments: This tool had more power and torque than any micromotor I have used.  There are some micromotors from other manufacturers that might rival this unit, but those are in a much higher price range than this one.  Phyllis and I were both impressed; this tool did not lug down or overload unless we actually abused the tool with a lot of heavy pressure. The tool is a workhorse and at the same time runs quietly and with little vibration.  The handpiece runs at 50,000 rpm, which is way more speed that gourd carvers will ever need. Many burs are not even rated to operate at such high speeds, so you'll want to watch the digital display - this tool runs so quiet you will not even realize that you have the speed up too high!   The higher speeds are excellent, however, when carving eggshells or using small dental burs.  The  tool is higher priced than some, but I actually felt it was worth the difference in this case. 

Disclaimer:  I purchased these tools outright for the purpose of this review, and I received no compensation or incentives from Ram Products in exchange.   However, I will offer these tools in addition to the Micro-pro by Mastercarver on the Micromotor page. Please visit that page for additional information on micromotors.  To order one of these carvers, contact me at
BP50 by Ram - manufacturer's suggested retail price is $395.
Readers Mailbag:
Right:  Ruth Schumacher sent me  photos of her buffalo carving in progess. The gourd looks terrific but she was struggling with whether she should paint it or leave it natural.

Left:  Lisa Bauermeister finished her class project and did a beautiful job!

Below Right:  Ginger Larkin did a lovely job finishing her Native Treasures project.
The Indiana Gang
Went for a ride in Idaho
Class pieces by Brenda Curwick
Class pieces by Elaine Linton
Class piece by Christina Chriva
Morning view in Temecula
New! Red Stone/Silver concho   These are in stock, and ready to ship!  The new designs shown below should be here in July.  On the Metals page.

JUNE SPECIAL: Order $10 or more of conchos during June, and get a free bag of 100 small studs! (while supplies last).

These 1" conchos and 9mm fancy studs are coming soon!