Are you tired of spending money and time carving pumpkins every year that only last a few days or so? Do you have an over-abundance of cardboard boxes lying around? Are you crafty? Then, have I got the project for you! Recycle those boxes and create your own cardboard pumpkins that you can "carve" with the same unique patterns that you use on your organic pumpkins. These pumpkins only cost a fraction of the price of traditional pumpkins, so you can afford to create an entire pumpkin patch of jack-o-lanterns. Plus, you can reuse these over and over again year after year.
Things You'll Need:
- cardboard boxes with at least one side large enough for your pumpkin
- craft paints - green, brown, orange, white (I like Apple Barrel / Plaid acrylics, you can get these from WalMart or Hobby Lobby for fifty cents to a dollar each)
- paint brush
- spray paint - primer (grey or white) and orange (optional)
- hobby (xacto) knife
- sharpie and/or pencil
Let's get to carving, shall we?
Step 1: Free Your Pumpkin From It's Cardboard Origins
Once you have figured out how large you want your pumpkin to be, find a box with one side at least as big. Amazon boxes are ideal for this project, as are those free Flat Rate Priority boxes that you can get from the Post Office. Cut the box open so that it lays flat on the table. Draw the shape of your pumpkin on the box - either freehand or find a pattern online. Don't forget to add the stem on top! Using a hobby knife, cut around the outline. I HIGHLY suggest you lay a cutting board underneath the cardboard anytime you are cutting or else you will ruin your tabletop! Also, remember to take your time and make multiple passes with the knife. Don't try to cut all the way through in one go.
Step 2: Time to Paint
To give your pumpkin it's base color, you can either paint it by hand or you can spray it. I chose to spray mine for a more durable coat. If you are going to use spray paint, mask off the stem with blue painter's tape before you begin. Spray two or three light coats of primer first to cover any writing on the box - keeping in ming that if you use white primer, the orange is going to come out brighter than if you use grey primer. Once that dries, spray three or four light coats of orange.
Of course, you can also just paint the entire thing with acrylic paint and a brush. This route may even add a little wanted texture to your pumpkin, so try it both ways! Either way, make sure everything is completely dry before continuing.
Next, you will need to paint your stem (remembering to remove the tape, of course, if you went the spray route) and a few lines around your pumpkin to give it shape and definition. I find that, while the paint is still wet, you can blend colors really easily to get the shadows and highlights looking pretty natural. If you take your time, you can make your pumpkin look totally three-dimensional.
Step 3: Making the Cut
I found that www.PumpkinLady.com has the most, and some of the best, free pumpkin patterns you can find. This is where I got the patterns I used in my creations. I'm not allowed to show the actual patterns here, so just imagine them.
Anyway, scale the pattern to fit your pumpkin and cut around the edges. Using your knife, cut any pieces that would normally be removed from the jack-o-lantern - the blue-grey shaded areas in these patterns. Now, lay that paper on top of your pumpkin and, using your sharpie, trace around the inside of the cut out areas. You will probably want to hold the pattern down by hand as you do this, because any tape might pull off the orange base paint underneath.
Now the fun part! Once again, with your xacto, CAREFULLY cut out the areas your previously traced. Start with the smallest areas first and work your way up to progressively larger areas. Always make multiple passes and keep a cutting board under your work. As you cut, the orange paint will probably chip slightly around the edges. Don't worry about that. That will be fixed in the next step.
Step 4: Adding the Finishing Touches
Once you've got your pattern cut out, go around the cut edges with some brown paint to hide any chips or raw cardboard. It's best to paint from the back of the pumpkin. This way, you run less risk of getting any paint on the face. If you do happen to get some paint on the front, the great thing about Plaid acrylic paint is that you can just wipe it right off - especially if you sprayed the orange base color. Be sure to wipe towards the opening to keep from smearing the color and making matters worse. While you are painting the inner edges, if you like, you can use a toothpick or small nail to smooth down the edges while the brown touch up paint is still wet. This will make the cuts look more finished.
Now you have a jack-o-lantern that will provide many years of joy, however....
There are a few additional enhancements you can do for an even better effect....
Step 5: Adding a Stand and Lights
For a truly epic Halloween experience, you'll want to light your new box-pumpkin creations. For this step, you will need a couple of extra things:
- 2x4 board(s)
- a C7 or C9 Christmas light string
- appropriately sized red or orange lights
- wire staples
- table saw
- router (optional)
Cut the 2x4 into lengths slightly shorter than your pumpkin. On your table saw, raise the blade to about 2-1/4" with the angle set at 10 degrees. Adjust your guide so that the blade cuts about a quarter of an inch from the left edge of the 2x4. Now cut a slot down the entire length of the board. Your pumpkin will slide down into this groove at a slight angle.
If you like, you can route the top front edge with your favorite profile bit for a more finished look. As you can see, I went with a Roman Ogee cut - my favorite, go-to edge.
Staple a socket to the top rear edge of the block in such a way that the bulb will be laying down towards the rear, away from the pumpkin. Since I had four pumpkins to display, I spaced each one with four empty sockets between each block. This is the reason you must use an C7 or C9 string instead of the smaller T1. Since C7/9 strings are wired in parallel, they will operate regardless of how many bulbs are present on a string. T1 strings are wired in parallel/series and will not work if there are any bulbs blown/missing. Besides that, the larger bulbs obviously produce more light. I'm using the larger C9 for mine.
Finally, slide your pumpkin down into the groove, install the bulb of your choosing and viola!
I plan on gluing a piece of cheap, dollar store, flexible cutting board behind each cutout to help diffuse the light.
I hope you enjoyed this project. Have a Happy Halloween!