October 30, 2007 in Home

Carving a Halloween niche

By The Spokesman-Review
The Spokesman-Review photo

Curtis Wilkes starts his pumpkin by cutting a hole in the top and removing the seeds and pulp.
(Full-size photo)

Carve like a pro

Here are some tips from Pumpkin Masters, a company that sells pumpkin-carving tools and kits:

Draw a lid on the top of the pumpkin. Be sure to include a “tooth” at the back so you can put it back on.

Cut along the lines, angling the knife blade toward the pumpkin’s center to create a ledge.

Clean out seeds and strings and scrape away pulp until pumpkin is about 1-inch thick.

Attach a pattern to the pumpkin, with tape, glue or tacks, taking care so it fits smoothly.

Poke holes with a nail or pumpkin tool all along the lines of the pattern.

Remove pattern.

Use a small pumpkin saw or knife to cut through the design, sawing at a 90-degree angle to the pumpkin. Use gentle pressure; the saws are delicate.


Want to create out-of-the-ordinary pumpkins to decorate your home this fall? Here are some resources:

Pumpkin Masters, pumpkinmasters.com, has tips on pumpkin selection, carving and patterns

Pumpkin Wizard, carvingpumpkins.com, has hundreds of free patterns

Zombie Pumpkins, zombiepumpkins.com, has tips, patterns, galleries and message boards.

Also check out area craft stores, such as Michaels and Jo-Ann Fabrics and Crafts, for carving tools, patterns and ideas.

Curtis Wilkes has been carving pumpkins since he was a kid.

Sure, so have lots of people.

But this 31-year-old stay-at-home dad from Spokane takes his pumpkin carving seriously, spending several hours at a stretch on some of his intricate creations.

“When I was a kid, it was just kind of an artistic expression kind of a deal,” Wilkes says. “And then it just kind of grew from there. I’m not that great of an artist, but I can duplicate. I can duplicate images well.”

Most everybody has carved a smiling face or a scary scowl into a pumpkin. No pattern needed.

But what Wilkes and a growing group of serious pumpkin carvers do takes that idea to the next level.

Most rely on patterns – some of which are quite complex – which are affixed to the pumpkin. The carver then pokes holes all around the pattern, removes the paper and uses a small saw to cut through the holes, connecting the dots.

“My word of advice would be to start with patterns that are a bit simpler,” Wilkes says. “Some of the patterns, they look amazing, but you don’t realize it’ll take two to three hours, and a lot of people get overwhelmed.”

Wilkes, for example, gets his inspiration from comic book characters. He’s a big fan of the ghoulish Insane Clown Posse comics and often carves those images into pumpkins.

He also likes the Zombie Pumpkins Web site, where he shares ideas on the message boards with other carvers.

Even though his designs are complex, Wilkes relies on simple carving tools available most everywhere this time of year. Once he’s done with the carving using the pumpkin tools, he cleans up the cuts with an X-Acto knife.

This year, Wilkes has expanded his carving to foam pumpkins, available at craft stores.

Search online or go to a craft store and you’ll find no shortage of carving ideas and equipment. Cut out random geometric shapes for a stained-glass effect. Carve a moonlit scene, complete with a black cat and twinkling stars. Create words to spell a message.

“Just take your time,” Wilkes says. “Especially if you’re using those saws you get in the stores. They bend very easily … they will snap very easily.”

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