Jack-o'-lanterns are fun. They look nice, they are fun to carve, and they bring family together to carve them and fight over what their lanterns should look like.
I was too lazy to get pumpkins this year so I had to improvise. Fortunately an odd fruit planted itself on our garden quite late in the season so we had a bunch of unripe kiwanos that just called for some improvisation.
Throughout this instructable I will give you a few hints on how to solve technical problems when it comes to kiwano-carving, but the main takeaway from this instructable, as with all artistic projects, should be to dare to play with the shape. Break some eggs and see what happens!
Step 1: Preparation
"When going to war, one must prepare his arsenal first." -me, at the time of writing this article
One thing I noticed when tackling kiwanos is that large and thick knives are one of the last things that could come in handy. Two Letraset knives shown in the photo above were my best friends for this job (An x-acto knife and an olfa blade could be used instead). I also needed a chunk of tin foil (more on that later) and a light source. I considered an LED but concluded that I have messed with the tradition enough and thus went with a good ol' candle (a scented one, no less - guess who failed to stock on neutral candles as well...)
Step 2: Cutting It Open
One may get away with cutting the top of a pumpkin in a straight line; one wont when dealing with kiwanos. They have a very thin and flexible (but strong) skin. A zig-zag cut was a must if I wanted the top to fit back on without constantly falling off. In case you ever molest the same fruit (vegetable?) I did, I suggest you avoid cutting through the horns as they are quite hard to cut through.
When I was done enjoying the view on red juice pouring out of the cut wounds delivered to the innocent fruit (don't ask where red comes from this 100% green fruit), I gently pried the top off. It needed a little persuasion with a knife but witnesses claim I was still gentle. A few moments later I learned that I need to watch out for those nasty spikes - my kiwanos seemed eager to retaliate for what I was doing to them.
Next I removed the seeds. I poked at the insides until I could skoop the seeds out with a spoon. You won't see a photo of this because the process was quite messy and I didn't want to test water resistance of my phone.
I left the top intact so it fit back on the base more easily.
Step 3: Design
Up until this point I was only dabbling with technical aspect of carving a kiwano. Now it was time to think of a design. I always knew that I wanted to make a mean Jack-o'-lantern to complement kiwano's spikes but I didn't know how to place the features around the horns.
I grabbed a green marker (so that it wouldn't be too noticeable) and planned out what I wanted to make.
I avoided cutting through the bumps because I gathered it would look weird. From the kiwanos I tortured before, I learned they are best left untouched or cut out entirely (eg. for eyes).
I went with three levels: uncut for body, stripped skin for eyeballs and full cut for remainder of eyes and mouth. I think my simplistic approach paid off quite nicely.
Step 4: Oxigen!
Kiwanos may have gotten all the stabbing, but it was the candles who kept getting suffocated. Three factors helped with that a lot: there was not much air inside to begin with, all the holes were above the candle and the openings were very small.
Therefore I had to add a path for airflow. I cut two holes in the back: one just above the candle's edge and one higher up. That let fresh air enter the chamber at the bottom, providing oxygen for the candle to burn, and exit through the chimney on the top.
Step 5: Tip of the Hat
Not only did the kiwanos try to suffocate the candle, they also tried to drown it. When the flame heated the "hat", it dripped juice, extinguishing the flame in mere seconds after being lit.
Here is where the tin foil came in. I lightly wrapped the top in it and pressed it against the "body". After that I tore off the excess and ended up with quite a decent looking and very compliant kiwano jack o'lantern (save for the fact that this exact one really didn't want to stand upright - but that is what you get, when you scoop it's brains out, I guess...).
Step 6: Lighting the Way for Jack, the Trickster
I could only get one semi decent photo of my kiwano, which I used for cover photo, so I hope you won't mind a group photo with a real pumpkin (I know I said I didn't have one; I received it in the evening of the cutting day) for the conclusion step.
If there is one thing I wish you took away from reading this article, it is that you shouldn't be afraid to break away from the mould, to dare to put a twist on well established forms and play with what you have. I had a bunch of unripe cucumber things that were good for nothing but being composted, but I turned them into a few hours of fun for my family and I.
If there were two things I could wish that you took away from reading this article, it is what I wrote above and that you open up your pumpkins in zig-zag. It is easier to do, harder to cut yourself and the lid fits back on better.
Would I go too far if I added another thing I wish you'd take away from reading this article? Yes? OK, I'll stop. But do cover the lid with tin foil, it reflects light better and lets your pumpkins last longer.
That's it from me. I hope you enjoyed this format of an instructable.
If you have any suggestions, comments or questions, feel free to use the comment section below.