Pumpkin Carving – Carving & Lighting Tips & Tricks

Pumpkin Carving - Carving and Lighting Tips and Tricks | Life With Lorelai

Create and Illuminate!

Here are some Carving &Lighting Tips & Tricks for your pumpkin that will take your design to another level. Differing depths give your carving light and shadows, and can create something almost life like when illuminated.

The unlit carving doesn’t always portray the greatness of the design. Take a look at this example…

We can learn a lot by comparing these two images. Notice the multiple levels in this carving. We have areas that are completely cut out, areas that are barely scraped (such as Brunhilda’s hood on the right side of the picture), and other areas with differing depths. These depths give your carving intricate detail and help create your design and bring it to life. Look at the warts and creases, the jutting chin, crooked nose, lips, and piercing eyes.

Would you have imagined that the illuminated carving would look like this just by seeing the unlit carving?

Let’s look at a few other examples.

You can see the flames on the side of the FrankenRod are carved deeper into the flesh of the pumpkin, which will make them lighter when the carving is lit. Take a look at the details of the engine, the three carburetors on top have deep holes in them, but are not completely cut out. The cut out area of the headlight gives the illusion of the light really being lit.

Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde is a good example of how you can texturize your carving with varying depths. In this case the depths created a skyline as well as Dr. Jeckyll’s face.

The Frightful Carriage Ride is an example of a carving created more by cut out than by sculpting. When you carve out lots of areas, be sure to leave the pieces in place until the end. Granted, some may fall out on there own, but don’t pull them out, they will help keep your design in tact while you work. In this design, there was so much delicate cut out work that I did not fully cut all of the pieces so they would help hold the pumpkin together while I worked in other areas. The large pieces were taken out in smaller chunks to preserve the design.

Carving and Sculpting Tips & Tricks:

  1. Use a bowl for stabilization and easy turning of the pumpkin. Resting the pumpkin in a bowl allows you to maneuver the pumpkin so you can better see the design, get a better angle for carving, and be able to position you hand in an area that is not delicately cut. The bowl also provides you both hands for carving. That way you can stick your hand inside the pumpkin to gently hold intricate areas while sculpting or carving.
  2. Place a towel under your bowl to keep it from sliding so easily.
  3. Start in the center of design and work your way out.
  4. Do the most detailed areas first.
  5. Don’t necessarily cut out an entire area that is cut through. If it is highly detailed, leave parts uncut so that it will be stronger for the remainder of the work.
  6. If an area will be very small or “weaker” when cut-out, do any shading or sculpting work before you cut it.
  7. Leave large pieces in place after cutting to help with stability.
  8. Drill Bits – you can use these by hand to make perfect circles. They also work well for starting cuts in tiny areas.
  9. Pumpkin Saws – Larger saws are for longer straighter cuts. As the design gets smaller or curvier, use the smaller saws.
  10. Wood working tools, Linoleum tools, and exact-o knives work well. Gouge tools – V-shape, U-shape, Round, Flat.
  11. Differing depths of sculpting will give light and shade to your carving.
  12. Taking a break in your carving? Place a damp paper towel over the carved area. If you will be away from your carving for more than 1-hour, place pumpkin in a plastic bag and refrigerate. (When you return to carving, pat dry the pumpkin with a dry paper towel. Be careful not to smudge your pattern.)

Lighting Tips & Tricks:

There are three types of lighting for your carved pumpkin–battery operated, electric, and candle.

Battery Operated: In my experience, these work best if you can stack them so the light gets up behind your carving. The lights are not very bright, so they do not illuminate your design that well.

Candle: If you are using a candle, you need to light the candle and let it burn for a minute, then blow it out. Turn the pumpkin over and see where the smoke hit the inside of the pumpkin. You will need to create a chimney there. You can do this by using a larger sized drill bit to create a hole. Candles do not provide the best light for your design.

Electric: This is by far my favorite way of illuminating a carved pumpkin masterpiece! I found these electric lights at Joanne’s. They are made with a spring stand so they can stretch or bend to the perfect position for your carving. My spring stand lights  have replaceable night light bulbs (7-watt). They provide marvelous light for my designs.

Another way to use electric lights is to wrap a strand of  “Christmas” lights around a mason jar.

With electric lights, you also have the option to use colored light bulbs for a spookier ambiance.

NOTE: Having the hole in the bottom of the pumpkin keeps you from having the cord flopping out over the top of your pumpkin.

So there you have it, Carving & Lighting Tips & Tricks for your pumpkin!

Do you have any carving tips & tricks?

How do you like to illuminate your jack-o-lantern?

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