Friday, October 24, 2014

Pumpkin Carving 101

Cats are always boss. 
Halloween is almost here and pumpkins are on sale, making it the perfect time to post a pumpkin carving tutorial.

Here's what you will need:

Spike and my first pumpkin. 
A pumpkin (duh) big enough for your design.  Some folks carve craft pumpkins so they can use them year after year, but I like a real pumpkin. The size is up to you, I went with ones large enough for a design the size of a sheet of paper.

Pumpkin carving tools available at most stores. 
Tools. You can either get a packaged set of carving tools, which work just fine. No judgey pants here if that is the way you want to go. I find it useful for the little saw inside to cut the top off, but that was about it. Much easier than a butcher knife. 
Cheap wood carving tools from Michael's craft store. 
This is the first year I sprung for wood carving tools. It was a 4 buck investment that was well worth it.  Much better than the exacto knife I used in previous years. And, so much less dangerous. 

You will also need a trash can handy to empty out the pumpkin guts, a covering for your work surface (I used a trash bag), a ball point pen, something pointy (push pin, skewer, etc), a metal spoon and your design. 

Brian Hoyer and Cleveland (Photo: ESPN Magazine Instagram)
After you pick out your pumpkins, you need to decide on your design. This year, I made a Cleveland Browns pumpkin, a Cleveland Indians pumpkin, a Cleveland Cavaliers pumpkin, and my alma maters - Iowa State University and University of Akron pumpkins. 

A quick Google search will get you almost any design you want for your pumpkin.  You can also do an image search for black and white logos or pictures to use. 

You can use photoshop and take the color out of your photograph or just use one of the many free online tools. I found a site that turned photos into black and white stencils. 

Now, for the gross part. 

Cut the top of your pumpkin and scrape the guts out. If you are snazzy in the kitchen, cook the pumpkin seeds for a tasty family treat. I'm not so snazzy, so I tossed mine in the trash.

Now,  time for a pumpkin ale. 

Spike with my Brian Hoyer picture and tools. 
Once you have your design, pin it to your pumpkin (it's ok, the pumpkin doesn't mind), and use your sharp tool to poke through the paper leaving a outline of dots on your pumpkin. This is time consuming, but very important. It allows you to carve just about any design you want!

Connect those dots with your ball point pen, shading in areas to be cut out. Using your woodworking tools, start carving away at your shaded areas. If you are carving a face, it may look weird. Don't worry. 

Carved Brian Hoyer Cleveland Browns pumpkin. 
Some folks carve all the way through the pumpkin. I don't because I don't want the icky guts to show through and I'm afraid I will cut something I don't want to and then I will be in the creek of poo with no paddle. 

You will want to carve pretty deep, scraping and shaping your design. If something goes wrong, turn it around. You have another side. Don't stress. It is just a pumpkin. 

My finished Brian Hoyer, Quarterback pumpkin.
This was the finished product. I'm pretty pleased with it. I lit the inside of the pumpkin with flash lights because it was all I had in the house at the time. 

Fear the Roo University of Akron pumpkin. Stencil from the University. 
Here is an example of a stencil provided by the University of Akron. I colored it in with a ball point pen because it can get confusing what you do and do not want to cut. Especially, after a pumpkin ale. 

Finished Fear the Roo pumpkin. So scary. 
I love how this one came out, you can see it from the street! Go Zips!

The start of Jason Kipnis. 
My pumpkin work area can get a little messy. I can't emphasize enough how important it is to put a trash bag down on your table. I recommend keeping your design near, after you have punched through it. Sometimes, the pointy thing doesn't go all the way through the pumpkin and you need to double check which dots connect. 

Finished Cleveland Indians Jason Kipnis pumpkin.
Jason Kipnis turned out pretty awesome as a pumpkin. 

The return of a LeBron James pumpkin.
The example of my LeBron James pumpkin shows that you can change the design up to meet your skills. I wanted to use the instagram picture that LeBron posted to announce his return to Cleveland. The name on his jersey just wasn't coming out for me, so I didn't carve it and left it plain. It is the name on the front, not the back that matters. 

Don't fret if you can't get something exact. It is a pumpkin. It is all cool. Have fun with it. 

Finished Lebron James Cleveland Cavaliers pumpkin. 
Ok, you have your carved masterpiece and now what?

If you live near squirrels, I assure you, those little jerks will try to eat your pumpkin. If you leave your pumpkin to nature, it will turn pretty gross in a week or so. There is all sorts of advice out there on how to keep your pumpkin fresh for a few weeks after you carve it. 

Pumpkin savior, Clorox clean up with bleach.
The best thing I have tried is Clorox Clean-Up with bleach. I sprayed the insides and all over the outside of each pumpkin with this stuff. It keeps away the squirrels and it keeps the pumpkins relatively fresh. 

If you don't want to use bleach, I recommend hot sauce. It won't keep your pumpkin fresh, but I promise, the squirrels will want nothing to do with it!

Good luck on your carving and share in the comments your work!

I can't forget Cy. Go Cyclones!

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