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Pumpkin time again!!

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     Well folks, it's getting to be that time of year again when the ghouls and goblins come out of hiding for that one special night! That's right, Halloween is almost here!! It's my favorite holiday, because it means that I get to display my many jack-o-lanterns!! I'd like to take a few minutes to discuss some pumpkin carving techniques that I have learned over the past few years of what i call "extreme carving".
   
First, you'll need the obvious... A pumpkin! If you really want to get in depth and involved, you might even want to buy a few pumpkins. You have two simple choices depending on how much you like Halloween. You can choose from a real pumpkin, or an artificial foam pumpkin.
    
Lets discuss the pros and cons of each shall we? Real pumpkins can be heavy, and the skin and meat can be pretty thick for carving, and depending on what kind of tools you are using, it can be quite difficult to make a really good look jack-o-lantern with a standard kitchen knife. However, you can also buy one of the cheap "amateur" carving kits that have a few different plastic tools, The carving kits are nice, but when I first started out, I found that the saw blades break VERY easily, and aren't even worth there value in scrap metal! The one positive side to having a real pumpkin is that no two are alike, and you have every option under the sun for sizes and shapes. Though I am not a big fan of carving real life pumpkins, I will say that nothing beats the smell of fresh pumpkin guts, and the thrill of getting all gooey and nasty while you create your favorite jack. IT really comes down to what you want to do... Tradition or ease.
    
Artificial pumpkins (aka "funkins") are my personal favorite. There are a few different brands on the market, most prominently being the actual name brand "Funkins". For the most part, they look very real. I have quite a few of them. Also, the Funkin brand name seems to have a bit more in the way of options. They come in a few different sizes, and colors, but they are different enough that they don't look exactly alike. By that, I mean that the Funkin brands must have a few different molds they use for manufacturing so you don't have to have the same exact  pumpkins sitting side by side every year. "What colors are available" you might ask. Well, there is the traditional orange pumpkins, but I have found green, purple, and white as well. I usually stick with orange, unless I am carving a skeleton or skull theme, in which case I use the white pumpkins, but this is all dictated by your taste and style... which is another good thing about the Funkin brand. There are other, lesser known artificial pumpkins out there as well, mainly sold at specific craft stores such as Michaels or AC Moore that are more like an economy in house brand, but they are nowhere near as realistic as the Funkin brand. I also have a few of these as well, but only because they are less expensive, and usually on sale too! Win/win situation! Now, the biggest positive remark I can make about the artificial pumpkins in general is that they are very easy, and they last for as long as you keep them, and store them safely. There are no yucky pumpkin guts to clean out, and the skin is much thinner than a real pumpkin so carving is easier as well. When I say easier, of course that means that providing you have the right tools it can be much less strenuous. The major downside to any artificial pumpkin is cost. You wanna Funkin brand? You can bank on spending about 25 or 30 dollars for a decent size. Usually, If you buy them early enough in the season, you can find them on sale at Hobby Lobby for 40% off. Again though, they last forever, so it's more like an investment, but depending on how big Halloween is in your neighborhood, it's up to you whether or not you want to sink money into it. I do about 5 or 6 jack-o-lanterns every year to add to the collection so multiply that by 25 or 30, and you can see that "extreme carving" can get pretty pricey, but I get the same joy out of kids reactions to the jacks as a lot of other people get from their reaction to a big gift at Christmas, so for me, it's an investment in joy and happiness :)
    
Now we come to the tools! Any man's (or woman's) work is only as good as their tools allow them to be in this case. Whether you like it or not, or depending on what you've heard, a rotary tool (Dremel) is going to be your best friend! They have very fast rpm's for easy cutting, and you also have many different attachments and bits that will really help you get to those intricate details! I can't attest for the ease of using a dremel on a real pumpkin because I have never tried it, but i can't imagine it would be that bad. The only hurdle I could see is the thickness of the material you are carving. Using a Dremel on an artificial pumkin is like butter! Also, the material you are cutting isn't quite as thick either. Another bonus point for funkins! Sometimes an X-acto knife can be useful in getting those "hard to reach" areas as well, or for trimming away tiny excess pieces. I should mention that if you are going to use a Dremel, you need to make sure you have different cottle key sizes to fit the different sizes of bits you will need. The smaller carving bits have a thinner shaft that will not fit in a standard Dremel tool. Remember part# 4485!! It comes with 4 different sizes of cottle keys to fit any bit. If you're carving a real pumpkin, a standard kitchen knife will work for the bigger sections, but you're limited in your ability to cut curved areas, unless you use a filet knife. I personally believe that a Dremel tool is going to be your best bet in any situation.

     Stencils! What is a jack-o-lantern without a cool design? Well, it's just a faceless pumpkin! There are TONS of stencil designs out there! My favorite place to go is zombiepumpkins.com. It is a pay site, but you have a few different options on how much you want to spend, and how much you spend dictates how much access you have to the stencil library. It's not terribly expensive considering you get access to over 100 designs. It's a very user friendly site. Easy to navigate, and they welcome you to upload pictures of your jacks to the gallery for contests. The guy who runs the site is friendly, and he answers all emails personally. Also, I have a personal library of many many stencils that I can share for free if you wanna send me a PM with your email, and tell me what kind of design you want. I think my favorite this year is my "Rob Zombies Halloween Hootenanny" stencil. I'm still carving that one out, with about 2 hours already invested in it! Otherwise, I don't think i need to tell you how to use the internet to find cools stencils, or how to draw one yourself. I only gave a few options as ideas and direction. I should mention that if you do decide to use a stencil, it's easier if you tape the design to the pumpkin, and poke tiny holes around the borderlines of the stencil design, then remove the stencil and basically play connect the dots with a sharpie or other ink pen to trace it out onto the surface of the pumpkin.

     I hope that this blog serves as an informative entry for those of you who are wanting to dive into the ghoulish world of extreme carving with me! If you have any questions, or are wanting a free stencil, just send me a PM to the ole inbox, and I promise to reply ASAP! A lot of people seem to like the Tim Burton stencils mainly pertaining to The Nightmare Before Christmas, so keep that in mind. HAPPY HAUNTING EVERYONE!!
Charlie99z28 Uploaded 10/07/2011
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