Pumpkin Carving Tools and a Chinese Ghostbuster Pumpkin




Introduction: Pumpkin Carving Tools and a Chinese Ghostbuster Pumpkin

About: I am a British chap living in China. Watch this space for half-baked ideas and dubious innovation. Often aided and abetted by my power-tool wielding daughter.

This instructable shows how to make two versatile pumpkin carving tools from hacksaw blades and how to carve an authentic Chinese ghostbuster!

Halloween is not really a big thing here in China, but it is gaining in popularity and I managed to get this pumpkin from a farmer in a village north of Beijing.

I have carved a couple of pumpkins before, but wanted to try something more challenging with this one, so looked more closely at the tools I was going to use.

I didn't even know that pumpkin carving tools were 'a thing' before, but having looked at what was available I thought I could either approximate these or improve on them with a home-made version. I made two tools which turned out to be very useful and worth sharing, I think.

Also I wanted to carve something different. There are so many pumpkin carving resources on the web with templates and designs to download, it seemed impossible to come up with something new.

But wait... how about ZhongKui?

Who is ZhongKui? Only the biggest, baddest demon slayer of them all!

The prototypical Ghostbuster!

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Step 1: Carving Tool 1: Pulp Remover

Previously I had used whatever was at hand to carve our pumpkins at halloween but the outcomes were not always great, and the pulp extraction process was particularly messy and time consuming.

Looking to make an improvement I found a box of Japanese junior hacksaw blades I bought earlier in the year (in the wrong size). These are high speed steel: thin, very flexible, very sharp.

In order to fabricate the pulp/flesh removal tool you first need to remove the retaining pins from each end of the blade. These can be pulled out with a pair of pliers (see pics).

The blade then needs to be held in place with a curved profile.

I used a piece of bamboo board from a venetian blind. This is 50mm wide and makes a good size pumpkin scraper. To hold the hacksaw blade in place, the holes from the retaining pins can be used to hammer a couple of panel pins into the handle. The handle is then finished off with a couple of layers of tape.

This simple tool was a revelation. It really made incredibly short work of removing the pulp.

Step 2: Carving Tool 2: Keyhole Saw

This is the tool I used to carve the design.

It is simply the hacksaw blade set into a handle.

First remove the retaining pins from each end of the hacksaw blade as with previous step.

The handle is made from a bamboo chopstick cut in half and placed either side of the blade.

Ensure that the serrations are aligned to cut on the push stroke.

Wrap the chopsticks and blade sandwich first with tape to hold it all in place, then with foam tape to make a more comfortable grip and finally with electrical tape.

Originally I had thought I would just use this tool for sawing through the pumpkin flesh for the main outline. In the end, this is the only tool I used for the whole carving process. It proved to be very versatile. The picture above shows how the teeth can be used to scrape through the surface and make very fine cuts.

Step 3: Folklore and Craft Interlude

The subject of the carving part of this instructable is ZhongKui 钟馗.

Who is he?

ZhongKui is a Chinese folk hero, demon slayer and ghostbuster.

According to legend he committed suicide after taking the notorious imperial examinations. Despite achieving the top score he was humiliated by the emperor because of his looks. He was destined for Hell because of how he died, but the Hell King decided that he would be the perfect candidate for a sort of ghost policeman. His job is to punish naughty ghosts and generally keep order in the spirit world.

Who you gonna call? ZhongKui!

Above are some depictions of ZhongKui. He first appeared in Chinese mythology in the 8th Century and is usually shown as a big burly guy with a big nose, fierce eyes, giant eyebrows, massive beard etc.

It turns out that not only did ghostbusting (sort of) originate in China, but also pumpkin carving (sort of).

There is a long tradition of painting and carving gourds. The relief carvings are similar to pumpkin carving and they are sometimes also pierced to make lanterns. Some examples are shown above.

The final image is a gourd bearing a picture of our hero, ZhongKui.

Step 4: Design and Layout

Using the source material, I tried to make a hugely simplified design that still included ZhongKui's main features.

It is important to remember that it is the light part of the design that should be cut out - otherwise you will end up with a 'negative' image. The dark parts all need to remain in place. This is quite a challenge.

In order to transfer the design onto the pumpkin, the approved method is to lay the design over the top and prick little holes into the pumpkin skin. This seemed like a lot of hassle to me and I didn't have the design in the correct scale anyway. The solution I came up with was to draw the design directly onto the pumpkin using a black dry-erase (whiteboard) marker. This worked very well - it marks the pumpkin skin well and is easy to wash off at the end.

Another step I can recommend is to colour in the parts of the pumpkin that you are going to cut out. When you are cutting the parts, it is easy to get confused between the negative and positive elements and cut out the wrong part.

Step 5: Remove Top and Extract Pulp

Using the keyhole saw tool, scrape through the pumpkin skin until you can push the whole saw in.

Then cut around your design to lift off the top.

Using the pulp removal tool, scrape the the inside of the pumpkin. This was super quick using the tool I made. The whole process took less than 5 minutes compared to the frustrating half an hour I spent last year using a spoon. If you had to process a lot of pumpkins for carving I can really recommend this tool!

What to do with the pulp? Many people say that these pumpkins are not worth eating, but the guy I bought it off seemed to think it would be good to eat, so I roasted the flesh in the oven and then made pumpkin soup. It was delicious.

Step 6: Carve Away!

Following the lines drawn on the pumpkin skin, carefully carve away at the design.

The carving tool allows for quite detailed cutting as well as being able to remove a lot of material very quickly.

Although my ZhongKui is not the most elaborate design, it was a much quicker and more enjoyable process than previous years!

Pumpkin Carving Contest 2016

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Pumpkin Carving Contest 2016

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    2 Discussions


    3 years ago

    Clever use of the saw blade in your custom tools. The cheapo pumpkin saws just don't hold up... I'll be making my own like this for next year!


    Reply 3 years ago

    Thanks. I am hoping to try your 3D sculpting technique next year!