Step 3: Clean & Carve!

Remove the pumpkin's entrails; save the seeds if you're hungry.

Note: Keep your pumpkin intact until you're ready to carve it, to minimize future festering. Keep body parts in your refrigerator until your whole skeleton is complete (Surreal moments occur when you open the fridge for a midnight snack and find yourself face to face with a human skull).

Tools: No rules here. I use a paring knife for everything. I do have a great scooper (a pointed shovel with serrated edges and a lovely orange handle: see photo) that speeds up the evisceration, but apart from that, it's all about the knife.

I'm afraid that you're kind of on your own for this step: when it comes to achieving the actual shapes; you've got to just go for it. But here are a few tips:

The pumpkin is strongest at it's outer surface, i.e. the orange part. As you carve, you're removing that part, exposing the creepy, yellowish bonelike surface. Keep in mind that the farther "in" you go, the softer the material becomes. On the photo of the moldy skull, I left a bit of orange here and there, but on the full skeleton, you should whittle it all away.

UPDATE: Ignore that last sentence about "whittling it all away." For the 2007 model, I left WAY more orange, with the following results:
1. Lower stress: big strength increase resulted in more cooperative bones that were less likely to break during the engineering phase (step 4).
2. More pumpkinicity: it was easier to tell that this was made from pumpkins; folks "got the joke" from passing vehicles, not just up close during trick-or-treating.

Another UPDATE:Check it out: Pumpkin Skull Instructable

Be sure to do the skull first, because as soon as it's done, your creation has personality.

This is essentially a relief sculpture, and you're obviously limited by the thickness of the pumpkin. Keep as much intact as possible, for instance, you may not need to carve out actual gaps between every rib; you need them to touch to maintain their structure. So do only one or two gaps, in strategic places (like between the top two and bottom two ribs).

Hands and feet can exploit the natural curve of the gourd. Do a lot of "cobblestone-looking" bones there (see photos), with "tendons" running over them leading to the fingers. Ew, gross.

The long bones in the arms & legs need as much of the strength of the skin as they can get, so don't get too thin or carve too deeply there, or you'll end up with large, useless noodles of pumpkin. A tall, "arm-and-leg-bone" pumpkin often has a very thick skin (sometimes requiring the use of power tools. See Tom Nardone's Extremepumpkins.com for poetic pontification pertaining to pumpkins and power tools!).

Shoot for nice, rounded surfaces. The "point" that shows up between two "whittle" marks can be smoothed perfectly with the blunt edge of a knife or the back of your fingernail, but that tends to bruise your pumpkin and shorten the shelf-life.

Depending on what your plans are for "step 4," you may need to keep an eye on the future and adjust your work for engineering's sake. For instance, the heavy torso piece might be resting a lot of it's weight against the base of the spine, so you might want to leave more material on that section of the spine than you would like to. And the top of the head looks better when it's nice and rounded off, but because you're using a pear-shaped pumpkin, you might be stuck with a flattened head; if you round it too much, you get really thin walls that won't hold up the weight of the skull. And, of course, if your skeleton will be laying down or doing something else less demanding than playing guitar, you may not have to worry at all about structural adjustments like these.
Woah this is incredible! Thank you for such a thorough instructable.
This would be great to place right outside our front door. Our next door neighbor already thinks my cat is evil! LOL
That's cool!
does it rot? <br>
Why, of course!
i mean leomon juice! <br>
did you know u can put in a bath filled with lemon and it wont rot ! <br>
how do you make them stand up????
You're really good at that, to say the least.<br />
huh is that second picture made with pumpkin too? really cool stuff!&nbsp;<br />
lol, i have so many great ideas now that you've shown how to do this! :D
It's very cool but why waste so many pumpkins like that..
Waste is relative: the best Pumpkins to use for this are bumpy and weird, and are therefore more likely to be left in the field by the majority of the pumpkin-hunters out there who are seeking perfection. Either way, I compost when the skeleton starts to get gross, so they'll either compost in my yard or at the pumpkin patch...
Hi folks!<br/><br/>This year it's Gourdzilla: <a rel="nofollow" href="http://www.instructables.com/id/Attack_of_Gourdzilla_Dino_Pumpkin/">http://www.instructables.com/id/Attack_of_Gourdzilla_Dino_Pumpkin/</a><br/><br/>Mike<br/>
wow u have a lot of skill
That is so AMAZING!!!
This is a thing of beauty. I'm dumbstruck with awe... sigh :)
aah! this is frackin awesome
Incredible! Please, can somebody make sure that the Hallowe'en rules allow this to be netered??
*oh* Right.<br/>
There's no function to edit your own posts...
this is by far, absolutely the coolest instructable i've seen on this entire website yet...that is so cool i def. want to try that sometime halloween or not, maybe not pumpkins will be on sale? :D you rock man
Hello folks! Thanks for all of your comments! This just in: I updated a few items in this instructable, providing additional tips I learned from 2007's skeleton, notably (as germinated by "Gentle Sherpa" suggestion, thanks!) the benefits of leaving more skin... Anybody have pix of their skeletal pumpkin creations? Let's see 'em!
Wow!Real pumpkin sculputor1Thumbs up!
awesome!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Looks so cool!
This is REALLY cool, I will definately do this- if we get any pumpkins this year, I think most of them rotted away during the summer floods and there are only a few normally.
He has such personality - this is so awesome! This is such a big project and its really so original and great. :)
dude all i can say is this is bad@$$ l<sub>l(&gt; _ &lt;)l</sub>l nice work<br/>
you have skill
Wow, thanks for all the kind words, folks!
I'm not certain whether this would work or not. I wonder if you could cut a hole in the pumpkin and fill it with water and black food coloring to "dye" it black from the inside out. Ideally, the inside would become black and shade to white toward the orange skin. You would have to do this prior to carving and may need to keep it filled for some time to give it the desired effect.
Yep, that's the idea. Not sure how well the pumpkin would take the dye, but it might be worth the experiment. I do big scary jack-o-lanterns that would probably benefit from deeper shadows...
That truly does look wonderful, you have a real talent for the pumpkin arts! I wonder though, is there a way to retain the pumpkin skin on any part of this, without it looking odd? As detail, or shading, perhaps?
Sure, particularly if you can select a weird enough shaped pumpkin in the first place, that doesn't require too much re-shaping before it becomes... <em>bony</em>. That way you can leave the outer skin. <br/>As for looking odd... it could be done in a truly gruesome manner: leaving big chunks of orange might look like decaying flesh... bwaaaaahahahahahahaaaa........ <br/>Or some orange might be nice to say more loudly &quot;this was a pumpkin&quot; (most folks can't tell from a distance).<br/>Detail would work, but probably not shading; the &quot;dark&quot; spots are on the outer surfaces, not the inner, where a real shadow would fall. I wonder if there is some way to dye from the inside? Then you'd be able to reveal a darker area when you dig deeper, which would yield more dramatic relief effects...<br/>
This is brilliant!
damn, thats crazy, but I wouldn't have the patience or pumpkin skills to do so.
Absolutely Outstanding! How Creative! I am definately doing this for Halloween. Thanks for the inspiration!
Wow, it's amazing
Creativity for the win. Very cool.
thats awsome
Wow, that's fantastic!

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