I had this great idea of making a summer melon lantern, after some research I found that I'm not the only genius out there. This is my step by step experience with a spin on the traditional Chinese Melon Lantern.
Step 1: Supplies
1. Nice watermelon. (TIP: Try to find something that fits your design. I picked a nice round watermelon even though ones with flat sides are easier to layout a design.)
2. Marking Tool. (Tip: I used two different styles to make my lantern. First I used a stencil, with tape, and a knife. Second I used a Sharpie marker, then some alcohol, and towels for cleaning up mistakes. You could also use something to poke your design like they do for the pumpkin stencils.)
3. Art. (Tip: can free hand a drawing, or download something off the internet. Look for things that aren't copywritten of course : ) No reason to break the law or steal other peoples work that are not giving it away.)
4. Tape. (Tip: I used clear box tape)
5. Bowl. (Note: You use this for your edible parts.)
6. Knifes. (Note: I used one large slicing knife for cutting open the top, and one small ceramic paring knife for my stencil work and carving.) (Tip: Be careful if you use ceramic, it is very sharp and fragile.)
7. Card stock or business card. (Note: This is for making a protector sleeve and handle for your carving tool, if you use a knife.)
8. Rubbing Alcohol and towels. (Note: As stated above this if for free hand work, so you can clean up messes if you use a sharpie.)
9. Scoop. (Note: I found an Ice Cream Scoop worked the best for me, but you can use what you have.)
10. Light source. (Note: Different light sources create different effects. I used LED lights and a candle to try different effects. You can try more if you like.)
11. Scissors. (Note: Used for cutting out your design and tool sleeve.)
12. Large Cutting Board. (Note: Helps with the mess, or you could go outside!)
12. Some hungry people to help you eat the Watermelon! (Note: Children work well for this!)
1. Vaseline and something to apply it with. (Note: I know with pumpkins if you coat all exposed fleshy parts with Vaseline it will help to preserve the lantern, I'm not sure about watermelon. I don't see why it wouldn't work though...)
Step 2: Crafting the Tool of the Trade!
This is what I decided was the best tool for me and how I modified it to work for me. I'm sure the Chinese Artist have set tools to accomplish all the amazing carvings they do. Unfortunately I couldn't find any information on the tools, so I figured I should make something with things everyone can find around their house. If you have carving tools I'm sure they will work also!
Steps to making my carving tool.
1. Pick out a paring knife. (Note: A paring knife is the small knife you use to cut fruits. I chose a ceramic paring knife, because it is real sharp. Just be careful ceramic is very fragile and sharp. You can use any knife, just keep in mind that the smaller and sharper the better.)
2. Take a piece of card stock about the size of a business card and fold in half. (NOTE: I used an old business card)
3. Lay the ceramic knife in the middle of a side and tape it in place. (Note: all you want exposed is about a 1/4" of the blade.)
4. Fold the card stock over the blade and tape it, so the blade is sandwiched in between the card. Tape the card sides together. (Note: Don't tape the tip of the knife. The knife will stay in place because you already taped it to the card before folding.)
5. Trim off the corners of the card stock by the blade. (Note: Use the scissors to accomplish this. Doing this will keep the card stock out of the way of your blade while carving.)
6. Tape all opening of card stock, so it's kind of laminated around the knife. (Note: You will be using this tool a lot and you don't want the card getting wet and falling apart on you or getting all jammed up with shavings.)
7. Trim all excess tape. (Note: I left an 1/8" of tape all around my card stock to keep it nice and sturdy.)
8. Cover any exposed part of the blade between the card stock and the handle, but make sure no tape is covering your blade.
Step 3: Layout!
This is the time to get you artistic juices flowing. If you are artistic than you have two options, first free hand onto your lantern, second freehand on a piece of paper then follow the directions below.
Steps for stencil layout.
1. Choose your art work. (Note: You can collage multiple pieces of artwork. I personally like the small details and a lot of media just adds to the piece. Just remember the more you add the more carving you have to do. My project took me four hours to carve. Also small details can run together so pick art work that has defined negative space to carve. I wouldn't go for a bunch of lines. If you look at my choice you will see, there is black and white negative and positive space. Once you chose you art then you can choose what will be negative space and what will be positive space. As you can see in my design I have chosen to chosen to carve the black on the chickens and the white on the sun.)
2. Cut out the media. (Note: It helps to cut out all the parts of your art work, so it will fold around the lantern better. Sometime you may need to make long cuts into you art so you can control the way it lays on the lantern. If you don't make these cuts you will have less control over how the piece lays on the lantern. Like in the sun you can see I cut out the negative space that I wasn't carving so I could better control how the rays laid out. If you have any overlapping media you will want to cut that so it works also.)
3. Install the media. (Note: I used packaging tape to layout my media. Trim any overlapping art work to conform to your piece. Remember we will be cutting off the bottom to install a light source so keep that in mind. when laying out your work.)
4. Waterproof your design. (Note: Use the tape to cover all the media, try to only put one layer if you can. The more tape you add the harder it is to stencil out through multiple layers of tape. This will keep your design from turning into mush.)
5.For this part you can leave your melon whole or skip to Carving. (NOTE: I chose to keep mine whole. Seemed less messy and not as fragile.)
Step 4: Transferring Stencil and Carving
Now you have the tool and the layout done, it's time to start carving. There are a couple ways to carve your lantern. I will show you how I did it.
1. Transfer Stencil. (Note: I used my knife to transfer the parts I wanted to carve. I stabbed the point in about an 1/16" and sliced around all the shapes to be carved. You could use a pointed object like a toothpick or something similar to poke around the shapes also. I think that nice clean lines help with carving and are easier to see than a connect the dot type.) TIP: As you transfer the design you are cutting apart your stencil, so it helps to keep tape handy. As I did a section I would put tape back over it to reinforce the area completed. Just try not to overlap areas not completed, because it will make that part harder to transfer due to multiple layers of tape.)
2. Remove Stencil. (Note: Be careful! If you have small details you may lift delicate areas.)
1. Draw directly on your melon. (Note: I used a sharpie and rubbing alcohol on a paper towel to clean up mistakes. I prefer the stencil way even if you are doing freehand.)
2. Cut around the edges of your drawing to help with carving. You can try and skip this step, which is ok for some styles of carving but if you want nice clean detailed work you will need to do this. I actually used the tip of my knife to carve the outlines, but sliced in detailed areas. This worked great for me.)
1. Use the knife tool in a scratching motion. (NOTE: I used short scratches in small areas and large scratches in big areas. It helps to scratch in the direction of the outlines. I started in the middle of an area and scratched up to the outline.) (Tip: The deeper you scratch the more light comes through. I like to scratch off just the thin green layer. Then after I light it I can come back and high light some areas, by scratching them deeper. Be careful not to scratch through the melon rind.)
Step 5: Snack Time!
In this step we need to make room for the light and thin the outer walls for the light to penetrate. Also it's a good time to squeeze in a snack and make my son happy.
Preparing the cavity:
1. Take a large knife and cut the bottom of you melon off. (Note: Keep in mind you need to cut a large enough hole to scoop out the insides and install a light source. Throw the bottom away unless you want to make a funny hat.)
2. Take a Scoop and scoop all the meaty part of the melon out. Scrape only the red parts out. Don't get crazy and start scraping out the rind. (Note: This is a good time to feed you son that has been begging you for four hours to have some.)
Step 6: Come Into the Light!
You have a lot of choices for lighting. I will talk about the ones I used.
LED Lights don't require Oxygen and only put out minimal heat. So you don't need to vent this light. I really liked the LED because it brought out the natural green color in the rind. I wasn't happy with my LED flash light I used because of the hot spots. But you could work that into your design. If you had a lamp base and a LED bulb it would Probably work better. But over all I liked it a lot and you melon lantern would last longer.
Candles use fire for light and fire requires Oxygen and releases a lot of heat. So for the Oxygen you will need to cut a small hole in the top so it can breathe. If you candle keeps going out then you will need a bigger hole. I cut an hole about the size of a quarter and mine worked perfectly. Now the heat will dry out you melon rind quicker. This will probably make your melon not last as long, due to the high water content in the rind. I suggested using Vaseline to coat all exposed rind and flesh. This works well with pumpkins but I haven't tried it on the melon yet. Over all I like this set up a lot. It gives off a nice warm candle feel.
Other Lighting options:
Glowstick: Multiple color options, but not sure if this will give off enough light but if I can get my hands on one for free I will try it.
Mini Florescent. You can play with different party light colors.
Incandescent: There are all kinds of light colors with this one. Lots of heat though.
Step 7: Clean Up Crew!
Now that you have your Lantern lite up, you can see where you might want to add more accent light. To do this all you have to do is remove more rind by scraping or cutting. I use both methods to accomplish my final project.