Saturday, November 3, 2012

Crazy Creative ~ Carving Pumpkins

Every year I get asked how I carve my pumpkins. They're not exceptional- I've seen some really amazing carved pumpkin sculptures. I just do run of the mill jack-o-lanterns. But I do have a few tricks, so I will share them with you. And you don't need fancy tools or an art degree.

The tools:

a pencil
a small spoon
a large spoon
a vegetable peeler
a grapefruit knife
an apple corer
a cantalope knife
a 6" paring knife
a large, sharp knife

The steps:
1. choose which side of the pumpkin will be the face. Mark it so you remember.
2. Cut the "hat". AKA cut the top off where the stem is. Make a triangular notch in the hat at the back of the pumpkin. The notch, or hole, allows for maximum oxygen so that you get a really bright pumpkin when lit. It only needs to be about an inch wide. I use the large knife for this.
3. Gut the pumpkin. Save the seeds if you want to roast them- and they keep in the fridge for a few days prior to roating, in case you don't have time while you're carving. Use the two options of spoons for this.
4. Skinny up the front wall of the pumpkin by removing as much of the interior flesh as you can. Don't go thinner than 1/2 inch, though, or your pumpkin won't withstand the carving process.
5. Draw some faces on a piece of paper and get an idea of what you want to do (or look up ideas online). The shape of the pumpkin is important. Is the face long and skinny or short and fat? Long and skinny is good for a scared face. Fat is good for a happy smile. Are there any cool features to the pumpkin- lumps and bumps? Those could add to making a nose or a pimple in your design.
6. Once you've decided on your design, draw it onto the pumpkin. Remember that when you start to carve it you might not be able to precisely follow your pencil marks, so draw lightly.
7. Carve out your design using the paring knife and the grapefruit knife. The grapefruit knife is your best bet for almost all of your carving. Only use the paring knife for tough spots.
8. Now, you need to bevel your cuts. This means carving away the interior pumpkin flesh from your cuts so that you can't see the flesh from the outside. This makes your design clean and bright when lit.
9. Add any extra facial features- the apple corer works great for pimples. The vegetable peeler can add freckles, dimples or peel off the skin to make certain areas glow more. The toothpicks can hold fragile pieces in place or hold pieces onto the pumpkin to give dimension.
10. Test your pumpkin by lighting it inside first and clean up the cuts while lit- being careful not to tip the candle over. (Lit pumpkins are a fire hazard. Please be careful.)

Here are some of my pumpkins:

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