Introduction: Carving Jack-O-Lanterns From Scrap Wood

About: I am an artist in many forms. I dabble in woodwork, blacksmithing, fabrications, and a variety of finish techniques, full time from my two workshops. I believe in quality of life over quantity of money, and en…

For my second Maker in Residence project, I wanted something fun to do with my kids. These can be made with wood scraps from other projects, and finished with what you have on hand. The only thing that I bought for this project were the saw-tooth hangers for the back of the Jack-O-Lanterns. (Only because I was too lazy to make them). Lets get to work!

Step 1: Choose Your Material and Mark Out Your Pattern

I looked in the corners of the shop, and found these two cutoffs. One was 10" square, and 2" thick rough cut blue pine. The other board was 12"x20" and 3/4 thick poplar that had been planed down. The kids and I drew our patterns on the boards and they were good enough to pose for me!

Step 2: Cut Out Your Pattern

Next we headed to the scroll saw. This was before I received my Dremel Moto-Saw, so we used my standard scroll saw instead. I have been scroll sawing with my daughter for 8 or 9 months now, so she is pretty good at it. I was a little worried about my seven year old son, but he did great! As a matter of fact all he wants to do now is cut things out, and he is really good at it!

It is pretty simple to follow the line with the blade, you could use a band saw or a jig saw, or even a coping saw to do this part. Don't worry about the tools you don't have (YET), but figure out how to do projects with what you do have!

Step 3: Add a Cleat, and Start Carving

Now that we have the wood cut to shape, we need to hold it steady to work on it. I cut some scrap 1" material into 4" strips, pre drilled two hole in each one, and fastened it to the back side of each of the projects. Now we could clamp our work in a vice and have both hands to control our tools. We started carving by breaking down the edges of our projects with the Dremel Multi Max oscillating tool with a narrow wood cutting blade in it. The easiest way to do this is to hold the blade at an angle to the sharp edge and cut strips off, different angles remove different amounts of material. When we had sculpted the edges, We turned the Multi-Max until the blade was on its edge and carved in the eyes, noses and mouths, this is an easy way to rough cut the Jack-O-Lanterns features. When the rough carving was done, we turned to our Dremel 7700 with a conical cutting bit to clean out the edges and add details. As with all tools, make sure to brace yourself when using a rotary tool, so you have more control over the bit.

Step 4: Sanding!!!

Ok, no one likes to sand, but it makes a huge difference in the finished product. We mounted a sanding pad on the Multi-Max and started with sixty grit, working our way through 220. I like sanding with this tool because I can get it into tight spots, and adjust the power level. You could use a random orbital sander, palm sander...what ever you have that will get the job done, including files and hand sanding will work.

Step 5: Finish Work

This is always the fun part! You can use whatever you have around the house for this, like spray paint, finger paint, food coloring etc...

That said, we chose to use Fiber reactive dye, because I had some already made up from the last time we tie-dyed shirts. (Maybe a future instructable?) We brushed the orange dye on the Jack-O-Lanterns, cleaned our brushes, and used green dye for the stems. This is when one maker deviated from the course, while Tennessee and I used a sharpie to add details to our carvings, Jay was busy gluing scraps of wood into bottle caps, which he then glued to his pumpkin for eyes! When we were happy with our creations, I took them outside and sprayed them with Helmsmans wood sealer. I was tired after all of this fun in the shop, so instead of making brackets, I bought them. You can too, at most hardware stores!

Step 6: Step Back, and Admire!

Here is our finished projects. Mom hung them up proudly! Everyone agrees that Jay's Jack-O-Lantern is the coolest, though Tenn's is pretty darn cute as well! Now take your kids out to the shop and build something!

Step 7:

Halloween Decor Contest 2015

Participated in the
Halloween Decor Contest 2015