The goal of this ible is to show you how to carve pumpkins like a pro, even if you aren't very artistically inclined.
Step 1: Material
To do this, you will need a few tools.
- An X-acto knife (preferably a #1 thin blade for details)
- A paring knife (for medium size chunks)
- A steak knife or very small saw (for large chunks)
- A printer if you can't draw, or a sharpie if you are good a free-hand designs
- A staple gun (if you are printing). Thumbtacks or an office stapler will also work, but not as well.
- A drill and a 1/16th bit
- I highly recommend using an electric screw driver with a quick release bit, they are powerful enough to handle a job like this, and the extra weight of a regular drill will really make the job harder.
- I say 1/16th because it is generally the best trade off of being big enough to make useful punctures, but small enough to do most detail in simple designs. If you get a set, by all means swap bits according to the details or coarseness of your design.
Step 2: Pick a Design
If you can make your own design, go for it! It's important to make sure that you always have your solid parts connected to the rest of the pumpkin. However, if you are not comfortable with your design skills, the internet is your friend.
If you google pumpkin stencil + whatever theme you want, google image will give you a bunch of results; follow what works best for you. In this case, I am using a simple storm trooper design I got from google since this is young son's first complex carving project. However, since we are doing it half size on a pie pumpkin, it will make the cutting quite a bit harder because the lines will be finer and the detail smaller.
Print two copies of your design, as the first one will get destroyed by the transfer process, but you will want to keep the second one for reference when cleaning up the details.
I will also be doing the easy darth vader alongside, because I couldn't resist (Video in the intro step).
Step 3: Prep Your Pumpkin
Nothing new here, cut off an angled hat and empty out the guts.
Step 4: Affix the Design
Staple the design wherever works for you. You will need to make some folds, try to make it scrunch in spots where it doesn't really affect the shapes you are going to cut.
Also make sure you staple between areas where you will be cutting, as the paper will get weaker as it gets wet and thin.
Step 5: Punch the Design
Use the drill to punch the design. Make the holes on the INSIDE of the lines (where the hole will be), especially for small details.
The closer you make your holes, the easier this will be later, the nicer your curves will be, and also the less likely you are to accidentally go off path when cutting later. If you have ever tried to use a flat knife into a pumpkin, you know that knives stick because of the pressure and the seal created by the moisture in the pumpkin flesh. These holes are going to make it easier to cut. The more holes, the easier. That being said, for long straight lines, that serrated knife is still going to be your best friend!
Step 6: Cut It Out!
Use those knives to cut the full spaces between the holes you drilled out earlier. As you cut, you can push the chunks right in, but sometimes it is worth keeping the pieces in for support if you will be doing a lot of fine details. It will prevent accidentally breaking off pieces to some extent.
Now I said you might want an X-acto knife, but you may notice that it's not long enough to actually cut through the entire thickness of the pumpkin. The utility knife is going to be for very fine details; finishing off corners, cleaning spaces. In those instances, everything is peachy. However, there are times when you will want to poke all the way through with the utility knife, and in those cases, scooping out flesh from the back will be necessary. That extra copy you had printed earlier will now come in handy. The paper is all mangled, pumpkin flesh is covering up all the small details.... at some point you will need to take off that paper and finish the rest of the cuts using your fresh guide on the side to make sure you follow the right shapes.
Step 7: Clean the Cuts
You need to make sure that the shapes are larger on the inside of the pumpkin than on the outside. If the cut-outs taper inwards, light won't shine through. As you can see in the picture above, one eye has a wide opening, whereas the other one shuts inwards.
Step 8: Enjoy!
You will notice that there are 2 storm troopers, the nicer one is my 7 year old's second attempt.