Saturday, October 8, 2011

Jack O'Lanterns Made Easy

Let's do something a little different this Halloween season with our pumpkins! Pumpkin carving can be fun, silly, creative, and imaginative for parents and the kids. But for safety reasons, let the parents do the actual carving and cutting.

First off, forget the cheaply made plastic pumpkin carving kit from the store and get some real tools. Go to your nearest hardware store and purchase a large drywall saw for big work and a small keyhole saw for finer cutting. If you have a handheld rotary tool at home, shop around and find a pumpkin carving bit to quickly remove pumpkin skin. Also, pick up a metal ice cream scoop if you don't already have one; its perfect for scooping out the pumpkin.

Find a pumpkin at a mega mart, or visit a pumpkin farm for better selections and prices. Now that you have your pumpkins and our tools, you'll probably need to wash the pumpkins. If you only have one or two, a quick scrub and rinse will do. If you have a truck load, use a pressure washer or take them to a self-service car wash to get them squeaky clean. A clean pumpkin will probably last longer, so don't skip this step. Not to mention, mom might get upset if you track in dirt and pumpkin guts into the kitchen!

Cut the pumpkin's top with the large drywall saw, keeping the blade at an angle so the top sits back on tightly. Next, use the ice cream scoop and cut into the flesh of the pumpkin to remove all the guts and seeds. Scrape all the way to the bottom and then dump it out, keeping your hands and your work area clean. Now to draw the design. There are hundreds of websites and books out there with free designs and patterns, just pick the ones you are comfortable with and don't be afraid to experiment. Draw the design with a dry erase marker, so if you mess up it can be easily erased.

Next comes the creative part. You can cut out the design for a two dimensional look, or thin the flesh, or remove the skin for a more creative three dimensional look. Experiment with different thicknesses and different light levels to produce the look you want. Add props to your jack o'lantern to make it scary or funny. Last but not least, preserve your jack o'lantern with any cleaner that contains bleach. Give it a good soak before setting it out, and spray it every day or so to preserve it even longer. Just be sure to remove the candle or LED before spraying. 

Happy Halloween, and be safe on all your projects!

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