So! You want to kick your pumpkin carving game up a notch and try your hand at one of those fancy complex patterns? Good for you! It's easy! But that's beyond the goal of this Instructable. One thing that you will absolutely need, however, is some precision pumpkin carving saws.
Fortunately, there's no need to go out and buy one of those kitschy pumpkin carving kits - you can make your own saws that perform better and cost less money!
Step 1: Tools and Materials
All the materials you need to make the saws can be bought at your local hardware store, though you may have everything you need in your workshop already:
3/8" - 7/16" wood dowel (I used poplar because it's inexpensive, but it really doesn't matter)
5" scroll saw blades, 15-20 tpi (teeth per inch), pinned or unpinned ends
JB Weld or some other high-strength epoxy
spray paint (optional)
For the jigs, you'll need some scrap pieces of 2x4 and some wood screws.
The required tools are also pretty basic:
A wood saw (I used a scroll saw)
A drill press (preferred, though you could do it with a hand held drill)
Step 2: Cut the Handles
Well, it doesn't much easier than this. Cut as many pieces as you like from the wood dowel, to the desired length. I made my handles 1.75" long.
Step 3: Make a Jig for Drilling the Handles
Not many steps in this Instructable require much precision, but it is important that the hole for the blade is properly aligned with the handle. For that reason, a jig is very helpful for this step.
The jig is simple enough; a hole drilled in a stack of scrap 2x4 pieces. I stacked a short piece on top of a longer one, and fastened them together with screws. Then, I drilled a 1/2" hole in the center using a drill press. The diameter of the hole should be only slightly larger than the diameter of the handles you're using. The depth of the hole should be about 1/4"-1/2" shallower than the length of the handle (in my case, 1.5" deep)
If you are making a lot of saws, you may also want to make a drying rack. It's just another 2x4 with a bunch of holes in it.
Step 4: Drill the Holes for the Blades
For the hole drilled in the handle, select a bit that is equal or slightly larger than the width of the end of the saw blade. The blades I'm using required a 1/8" bit.
Clamp your jig to the drill press table, so that the hole is exactly centered below the drill bit. Set the depth stop so that the drilled hole is equal to the length of the end of the saw blade (about 1/2").
Now, drill some holes! You may have to hold the handle with your fingers so that it doesn't rotate inside the jig.
Step 5: Cut the Blades
One 5" scroll saw blade is long enough to make two pumpkin saw blades. Using side cutters, cut the scroll saw blade exactly in half. If you like, you can also finish the end of the blade by cutting off the corner at a 45 degree angle. This will make it easier to push the end of the blade into the pumpkin.
Step 6: Glue the Blades Into the Handles
Start by mixing up some epoxy. I chose JB Weld for this job, since it bonds anything to everything. More importantly, it won't deform when subjected to pressure like other glues do.
Now, just dip the end of the saw blade into the epoxy, and shove it into the hole in the handle. If the glue you're using is more runny, then glob a little into the hole and push in the blade. You may need to use a pair of pliers to grip the blade if the fit is tight.
Once the blade is inserted all the way into the hole, adjust it to make sure it's parallel with the handle. Then set it in the jig to dry. If you notice the epoxy is sinking into the hole and leaving a crater, glob in a bit more.
Step 7: Paint the Handles
This step isn't absolutely necessary, but it helps protect the wood. Pumpkins are pretty wet, and you will want to clean your saws after you're done using them. A layer of paint will prevent the wood from absorbing too much moisture.
I used a coat of Krylon spray paint to paint my handles, but anything water-resistant will do. You could even dip the handles in PlastiDip if you like.
Once the saws are painted, they're ready to use!
Step 8: Variations and Tips
You can make a stronger pumpkin carving saw by using a jigsaw blade instead of a scroll saw blade. Instead of drilling a hole for the blade, cut a slit the same thickness as the blade. Then, just glue it in place. This saw is great for quickly cutting the top off the pumpkin, or even cutting off the stem!
Feed the blade of the saw into the pumpkin by holding it close to the tip and pushing it through the skin of the pumpkin.
When using the saw make short, fast strokes. It will cut faster and the pumpkin won't move as much (this is important when cutting intricate parts of the pattern).
For simple parts of the pattern, you may apply more pressure in the direction of travel for faster cuts. For intricate parts of the pattern, use a very light touch and fast strokes.
Cut 90 degree angles by maintaining rapid strokes while rotating the blade. Once the new direction is established, continue cutting as usual.
Finish each cut by reducing the angle of the blade so that when the saw blade is fully inserted, the tip of the blade is further forward than where it enters the handle.
Step 9: Samples!
Here are some patterns I carved using home made saws, and patterns from Zombie Pumpkins. Zombie Pumpkins is, without a doubt, the absolute best place to get pumpkin patterns. Go there. It's awesome.