Monday, October 30, 2006

Carving Tips

A couple of little things to remember about carving:
  1.  Do the smallest pieces first--they're the hardest to do without the stability of the semi-intact pumpkin. If there are no real small pieces, work from the inside out. Always get the center of the face done if you're doing a portrait. I like to work either up or down completely--after I finish the center, I pick either the bottom or top half to finish before moving onto the other half.
  2. Try to cut in a way that will give you the most structure. So if you're doing a "C" shaped piece, first do the inside edge of the C, then the outside--it's more structurally sound. 
  3. For doing several delicate pieces next to each other (especially around the face), try leaving in the pieces after you've cut them. It contributes to the stability of the pumpkin while you're carving, then when you've cut all the pieces, you can pop them out all at once. 
  4. If you're doing larger pieces, especially ones that threaten to ruin the whole effect of the pumpkin if you mess them up, cut them up into smaller pieces. 
  5. Don't be afraid to take out your knife/saw and change the direction of the cut--sometimes it's easier than trying to keep going in one direction.
  6. If you have an intricate pattern, as you get towards the end the pumpkin will become less and less structurally sound and harder to cut without making a mistake. My best advice is to change knives/saws. The serated saws that they sell in the stores are great for little cuts and most of your detail work, but at those last moments when the pumpkin could easily come crashing down, I recommend switching to a non-serated knife. A paring knife is usually easiest because it's small enough to make the cuts. It leaves a clean edge and most importantly, it doesn't shake the pumpkin as much as a serated edge does.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Starting to Carve

  1. The best thing you can do in preparing to carve is to "flour" the pumpkin. After I pin the pattern and take it off, I take some flour and rub it around the pattern. The flour gets into the holes and you can see all the pin grooves you've done. 
  2. The next thing to do is (with pattern in hand) take a nail and connect the dots, forming the shapes you have to do. Push down deep enough to create as much of a groove as the original pins did. 
  3. Take some more flour and rub it into the new grooves you've made, and you now have a pattern clearly marked out on your pumpkin.

Putting the Pattern on the Pumpkin

Once you've decided which pattern you're going to use, and you've got a corresponding pumpkin, make sure that you've sized your pattern to fit your pumpkin. Sometimes you don't have much of a choice with some sites, but I usually try to make sure that the pattern generally fills up most of one side of the pumpkin.

I've tried several different methods of putting the pattern on the pumpkin, and the most effective way I've found is a good old pushpin. Pumpkin Masters puts out a tool that does several dots at once, but doesn't work with some of the more intricate patterns.

Choosing your pumpkin

Size Matters
1. So when picking any pumpkin that I do, I try to make sure that I've already decided on my pattern. That way I have an idea of the general shape of how I want the finished product to look. So, for ex. the pumpkins I chose for Jack Sparrow and Davy Jones are long and somewhat narrow. The one I chose for Yoda was short and squat, and for Darth Vader I chose a larger, more intimidating pumpkin. Granted, the shape doesn't have to fit the pattern, but it helps with the overall effect.

In general though, MAKE SURE the pumpkin is large enough to fit your pattern without too much rounding of the edges.  It can help to take an 8x11 sheet with you!