There are a great many sources of gourds. For this project I used a bottel gourd, also sometimes called a snowman gourd, a Chinese bottle gourd, or other names.
I got my gourds on eBay. That way someone else has already cured them. You can grow them yourself, and cure them, which apparently can take a long time. How long? At least all winter, some are cured for a full year.
If you order on eBay like I did, there is a good chance you will get pictures of all the gourds in the lot. I got a large order, I asked several sellers if they could put together a larger order for me because they mostly sold only onsies twosies, which is probably just fine for most people.
There are several good books on gourdcraft. I used them to learn some basics and hope to go back as my skill grows.
Cleaning the gourd, exterior
You will need
a bucket or tub of clean water
a plastic scrubber (scotch brite, chore boy)
rubber gloves (if you mind the filthy water
Soak and Scrub
The gourd will float in the water. (they say this is the prime evolutionary purpose of the cured gourd, to float its seeds to new shores =)
Get it good and wet and scrub. The gourd in curing, becomes spotted with a kind of mildew. This should be scrubbed off.
The gourd looks more like this. I have to allow 20 minutes or so per gourd. Work in small areas, removing as much of the dark spots as is practical. Try to avoid sanding or abrading the surface, it is a nice hard and smooth surface if cleaned gently with the plastic scrubber.
The Next Step
Coloring the gourd red