A little late on this post as my favorite holiday has technically come and gone. Actually, it was more like pushed out thanks to the merchants clearing their shelves of anything orange and black weeks before Halloween in order to start putting out their Christmas inventory. Quite sickening and really makes me crazy!
Yeah, like that crazy not to mention when I am crazy I get hungry and I start looking for food…
Whoa, whoa, whoa – you didn’t actually think I would eat these cute puppies did you!?! If I came anywhere close to these furballs with the fangs out Linda would drive a stake through my heart before I could say Let’s Go Brandon. Luckily there’s a way I can get the crazies under control and that’s by turning my attention to gutting this year’s pumpkin. Something about hacking away at a fake orange vegetable with a hot knife and a Dremel that soothes the soul. Figured I’d give you a quick walkthrough of the process that goes into producing my annual pumpkin.
Hit the jump to see the 2021 pumpkin carving
Before I go any further I need to make an official disclaimer. If I do not create the pattern completely from scratch, I will typically leverage an image or a composite of images I find on the net and then add, tweak, modify portions of those images before “patternizing” it. This year I wanted to do a bird theme and decided to use two images that caught my eye while pouring through thousands of images on the web. The first came from a Pinterest image on a tattoo board from Laercio Coelho (link here). I liked this owl stencil and used it as my core design. I tend to hang out at ink sites a lot.
I then wanted to add additional detail which included wings, tail and since it would be coming out of the pumpkin at the viewer, needed to incorporate legs. After a lengthy search, also on tattoo sites, I found a perfect match on Anne De Angelis’ website (link here). Although Anne’s style is different than the stencil approach of the body, it not only had the wings in the exact positions I wanted, but the feet were perfectly aligned for another element I had planned.
The copyright and use restrictions for these base images remain with the original owners. My composite image is intended for personal use only and for my personal pumpkin collection. I purposely did not provide my composite image pattern master for that reason. To create that master, I cut out the wings, legs and tail portions of Anne’s artwork and placed them on the body drawing. I then scanned in half of the image, enlarged it to the desired size and then printed it out again. To start the pattern process, I put an all white background on my secondary monitor, tape the newly printed image to it and then put a blank piece of paper over it. This allowed me to trace the outline and key interior parts. Warning, if you try that at home be very careful you do not press too hard and damage your monitor – you can accomplish the same thing by taping it to a window in the sun. Once that was done the hard part comes. You have to lay in the detail you want while keeping in mind the integrity of the pumpkin. You do have half cuts if you need it and remember that the human eye will complete missing lines for you. I focused on the feather tips in the wings and the striping in the tail. Make sure you do not create any islands that will fall through when cut and you can leave supports if you think an area will be too fragile – you will see I did that in the tail area. I am so sick of seeing fake patterns on the web that cannot be carved – they simply took an image, changed black to orange and composited it on a pumpkin background – don’t be fooled!
Once that is drawn out, I scanned it in again, hardened the lines in Photoshop, did a thorough check I didn’t have accidental islands or bad cuts and printed it out again. Next step was to cut the pattern out using an Exacto knife. This serves two purpose. One it allows easy transfer to the pumpkin and two, gives your hands muscle memory when you get to actually cutting out the pattern. My pattern is symmetrical so I only needed to create one side of the pattern. Taped it to my recently purchased foam pumpkin (60% off at Michaels by the way) and outlined the cuts using a gel ink pen. Once one half was done, simply removed the pattern, turned it over and taped it back on to get the complete pattern.
All of my carving is done with a Dremel equipped with the Craftsman 953076 1/16th inch engraving cutter bit and a wired hot knife. I work from the inside out and top to bottom when cutting out a pattern. I usually rest my hand on the pumpkin when using the hot knife and that approach keeps my hand weight on solid pumpkin. Typically the first cut is with the Dremel to open it up and get the large pieces out. I then come back with the hot knife and clean it up and get crisper edges. The process switches back and forth constantly which also allows me time to recharge the cordless Dremel over the many hours it takes to get all the cuts completed. I highly recommend not cutting the light hole in the back until last so most of the dust simply drops into the pumpkin. From time to time I would point a flashlight into the outer wings just to make sure it was coming out the way it was intended.
Once all the cuts were made and the edges properly cleaned up, cut a quarter sized hole in the lower back to insert the clipped light bulb. I generally do not like to see the actual bulb from the front so find a location that is somewhat hidden from the cuts, but still gives enough light to cover the entire pattern. Now you can shake out all the dust from the carving step. Shine your flashlight into the new hole if you want to know how it is going to look – you will also find areas you will want to refine. Caution though, you can clean and clean and clean especially with foam pumpkins. With real pumpkins you just needed to take a lighter to the cut edges and it would clear them right up – not a good idea with foam. Take a few passes and call it done as it will mostly be viewed in the dark from a distance so those little jaggies on the cuts will not be noticed (unless you take a really close up picture like this ha)
With the carving phase out of the way, I went to work on the extra feature that required a pattern with visible legs. To make it more Halloweeny (is that really a word and did I seriously just use it eeesh), thought I would add some skulls to the pumpkin. Originally I was going to carve them into the pumpkin, but that would basically ruin all the tail feathers I had spent so long designing. I had a few small skulls laying around from another prop project and thought they would work well. Linda found me some orange ribbon to use to feed through the claws and tie to the skulls, making sure they landed just below the tail.
There, much more Halloweeny! (good lord, used it twice). I will probably drill holes in the eyes of the skulls and put some LEDs in them for next year just to make them spookier (hey, now that is a much more manly word, no more Halloweeny).
I almost made the pattern big enough so the wings went entirely around the pumpkin. Eventually opted away from that due to the difficulties it created for viewing. The collection goes up on the top of our built in bookcases and dormers which do not allow visibility beyond the sides. I did like the fact it revealed more as you walked past the front.
… and the same shots with it a little darker. Note, the inner ridge of the foam pumpkin doesn’t really show through that well, it is the long exposure of the scene that causes that to be picked up.
… and then the view as you walk past.
Now that the last task of this Halloween season is complete, I can finally get some badly needed rest.
Hope you enjoyed this year’s pumpkin carving walkthrough. Happing hauntings – I’ll bite …ooops … make that see you all next year.