How to choose and carve mini Jack-O-Lantern gourds, and a few tricks on how not to cut yourself while doing it.
Step 1: Choose a Gourd
The first step is pretty obvious; you need to choose a gourd. For this step it is up to you discretion but you will want to choose a gourd that is not too small or too flat. If it is too small you probably won't be able to fit the spoon in to gut the gourd. If it is too flat you wont have enough room to work with inside, and it will look odd.
Step 2: Gut the Gourd
This step is a lot like carving a pumpkin. For this step first cut a circle with a key for easy placement later (see picture). Next you need to cut out the top, this will require a steak knife to cut it completely out. As you cut it be sure you cut on an angle, so the lid won't fall through when put back on. To help yourself cut through the dense gourd try putting your thumb behind the knife so the knife acts as a lever. This allows you to slowly and safely work your way around the top, without a chance of the knife slipping.
Next you need to take a small spoon, or whatever you may have, and scrape out the insides. One trick to make the carving easy later is to thin the wall of the gourd where you will be carving.
Step 3: Find an Image to Carve
To find an image that will work you will need to either scale an existing image down or draw your own. To scale down an image first scan it into your computer. Once it is scanned in you can directly scale it, or trace it using a program like AutoCAD then scale it, this will preserve its quality. Once you have a size you like you need to print it out.
Once printed roughly cut it out and make some cuts between the various parts to be cut so it can form to the gourd. Next tape it to the gourd where you will be cutting.
Step 4: Cut the Image
Once the image is firmly taped in place start poking holes along the lines of the image using a hobby knife or pin. When the image is fully poked (it will get wet and tear slightly) remove the picture and keep it for a reference when you cut it later.
Now the image is fully poked you need to start cutting out the parts. try to cut the pieces of the image from the centre first so you don't need to push on the weakened gourd later. If your design has teeth like mine you should initially cut right by them and then go back later and do the fine cutting. If you are having trouble getting a piece out, try cutting it into smaller pieces so you can narrow down where it still needs to be cut.
As you cut is use the same trick as the top, so you don't cut yourself, and go slowly.
Step 5: Light the Mini Jack-O-Lantern
There are two options to light the gourd. The first option is to cut a hole in the top of your large Jack-O-Lantern and in the bottom of the gourd. The second option is to cut a hole in the bottom of the gourd and put in a tea light. Either way you need to cut a hole in the bottom of the gourd. To do this first cut a small hole in the bottom of the gourd the same way you cut the top, just without the key.
While doing this you will need to grip the gourd so be careful not the break the face of the gourd. Once the bottom is cut, you can expand it to the size you need. If you are going to put a tea light in it you should be aware you need to cut air vents in the bottom and top of the back and that the gourd will shrivel very quickly with the heat.
Once you have it lit now all there is to do is sit back and revel in the glory of your mini Jack-O-Lantern.