Introduction: Pumpkin Surgery
Third Prize in the
DIY Halloween Contest
In this instructable, you will learn several common and less common procedures in cucurbita surgery. These include:
-construction and use of an artificial brain
And now that Halloween is over, I have added a postmortem examination. Read it before attempting to duplicate any of the procedures outlines here.
Step 1: Setting Up Practice
You'll need different materials and tools for different processes:
For the lobotomy you'll need a knife and a spoon.
For the plastic surgery you'll need a sharpie and a knife.
For the artificial brain you'll need a large LED, a CR3202 battery, wires, a reed switch (optional), and a soldering iron.
For the cryogenic preservation, you'll need steel wire, pliers, a pumpkin-sized vessel (mine was a water pitcher), a roll of pennies, a large pot to boil water, water to boil in a large pot, and something to boil a large pot of water with.
And of course you'll need a patient. Select a pumpkin that will be easy to work with; I have one of those small round ones, but if you're feeling adventurous, you may learn on a larger pumpkin.
Step 2: The Lobotomy
Around Halloween, the lobotomy is one of the most popular procedures. Begin by taking an appropriate knife (not longer than the pumpkin, sharp, etc.) and stabbing the pumpkin repeatedly in a ring around the stem. Try to line up the angles so that the cuts all connect, and make your ring a little lopsided so you'll be able to replace the stem without confusion.
After the stem is removed, you'll need to scrape the brains out of your pumpkin with a spoon. Set them aside, because there are complicated rules for disposing of delicious things.
Step 3: Disposing of Brains
Brains are in fact, quite delicious. There are probably any number of ways to dispose of them, but I recommend rinsing them in cold water and toasting them with salt.
Step 4: Plastic Surgery
Most pumpkins do not have very expressive faces, so plastic surgery can really bring out their features. First, outline the changes to be made with a sharpie or similar tool. I chose a nice and simple ("classic") face for my pumpkin, and it came out quite satisfactory.
Then trace the sharpie lines with a knife and remove the extra material. You may find it helps to work in layers and not cut all the way through, and to start with a slightly smaller hole than planned and then widen it. Cleanup is easier if the carving is done on newspaper.
Step 5: Construction of an Artificial Brain
Great advances in technology have allowed us to build an artificial pumpkin brain. Because the natural pumpkin brain is so simple (most pumpkins don't even have one), an artificial pumpkin brain can be constructed safely in a home workshop.
My pumpkin's brain is a simple circuit consisting of a blue LED, a CR3202 battery, and a reed switch. You may prefer to leave out the reed switch, but it eases the cryogenic preservation process we will practice later. You may find it helps to diffuse your LED.
Step 6: Installation of an Artificial Brain
Position the brain inside the pumpkin with the LED facing the face. If you have a reed switch, run the wires out next to the stem, on the side facing away from the face.
If necessary, turn it on to test the fit.
Doesn't he look brighter already?
Step 7: Cryogenic Preservation
But wait, how can you ensure that your handiwork, and your patient, will survive until the big night? By freezing them solid in a block of ice!
First, we prepare some cryogenic fluid by boiling a big pot of water. Boiled water freezes clearer than unboiled water, and you get to call it "cryogenic fluid" when you're done. Pour maybe an inch of cryogenic fluid into your pumpkin-sized freezer-safe container, and freeze it.
While we wait for bottom to freeze, we will prepare the pumpkin for its preservation. Because pumpkins float, cover the bottom of your pumpkin with most of or all of a roll of pennies. Be careful that you don't disrupt the artificial brain if you opted to use a switch in yours.
Next, make a small collection of perhaps a half-dozen cucurbita staples. These are short pieces of wire or perhaps paperclip, formed into an angular "U" shape with pliers. Use them to secure the stem to the main pumpkin so that it does not float, to fix the artificial brain in place, and to rein in any stray wires. It will probably be necessary to use pliers to insert them in the pumpkin as well.
When the cryogenic fluid in your pumpkin-sized container is frozen, place the pumpkin in it away from the sides and pour in enough cryogenic fluid to submerge it. Even lukewarm cryogenic fluid will begin to melt the already frozen layer, so be sure freeze the container quickly.
Step 8: Notes
Things I wish I had known before I did this project, but now know anyway:
-While it may seem like a good idea to use a battery holder when making your artificial brain, expanding ice will break the contacts with the battery. Solder directly to the battery instead.
-Water boils much faster if you cover it, but cools more slowly. But if you remove the cover to cool it, it evaporates rapidly.
-Water cooling from boiling in a large pot will take a long time to cool, but water cooling from boiling in many small metal pots will probably take less time.
-Placing the pumpkin in cryogenic fluid will result in many small and a few large bubbles coming out of it. This may or may not be responsible for the cloudier water at the top, but pouring the fluid in around the pumpkin will hopefully give better results.
As a consequence of my inexperience, the cryogenic preservation rendered the artificial brain inoperative. Whether or not I repair mine, I hope you will learn from my mistakes.
Step 9: Thawing and Postmortem Examination
Now that Halloween is over, I thought it best to thaw the pumpkin and see what went wrong.
First of all, Cryogenic preservation created a set of interesting fissures in the subject. I expect this was because the ice found it easier to tear apart the pumpkin than the pitcher it was in.
As expected, freezing took a toll on the artificial brain. The battery clip was a major part of the problem, but not because expanding ice separated the contacts as I had supposed, but mostly due to corrosion. Again, I would solder directly to the battery if i had a second chance to do this, and I would reinforce the connections with epoxy or hot glue (suggested by JakeTobak).
The other problem with the artificial brain was that the reed switch shattered. I was afraid of this, but willing to try. There is a possibility that it remained functional while frozen, however I would not lose another switch to test this theory. Unless you can protect the reed switch in the freezing process, I would suggest using an old fashioned switch set apart from the ice, perhaps mounted on the ice afterward with a little work.
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