Halloween is right around the corner, and that means time to break out the sugary snacks, decorate the house in spider webs, and gouge a gourd or two. The Maniac Pumpkin Carvers, based out of New York City, have a couple of tips to ensure that your jack-o-lanterns will not only become monstrous masterpieces, but also last longer than your Halloween candy.
Picking a pumpkin- When looking for your canvas, choose a pumpkin with a symmetrical shape and even skin texture. Make sure your specimen has a good stem, for keeping the top intact will help your pumpkin continue to draw nutrients and decompose slower. (When it comes time to scoop out the innards, you’ll actually want to make the opening from the back, not the top.)
Prepping your pumpkin- Before getting ready to carve, wash your pumpkin in soap and water. Cleaning the exterior will help prevent infection once you begin to cut into the skin. Do not make the rookie mistake of scooping your pumpkin at this point! Wait until after you have created your design and carved the front of your pumpkin.
Sketching the scary- Before digging in, sketch out your design on a piece of paper. Remember that what you are drawing is a negative, and the pieces that will be cut out will eventually be the lighted, brighter parts of your image. Once ready to transfer onto your gourd, you can either freehand the design, or tape the paper to the surface of the pumpkin, and use a piercing tool to create guidelines along your pencil marks.
Piercing your pumpkin- The Maniac Carvers use a host of tools, depending on the intricacy of their design. Anything used for carving is fair game, including woodworking tools, small handsaws, X-Acto knives, and kitchen utensils. Remember that the further you carve into the outer shell, the lighter the image will eventually become. Once you begin to carve, the pumpkin begins to decay. You can delay the process somewhat by spraying a mixture of lemon juice and water onto the surface as you cut. Once finished, cut a hole in the back of the pumpkin for scooping. After hollowing out the innards, replace the door, and seal the outside of the pumpkin with either vegetable oil or Vaseline to minimize exposure to air.
Juicing your jack-0-lantern- Instead of candles, the Maniac Carvers recommend LED or CFL bulbs which run at cooler temperatures. For a flickering effect, you can purchase battery-operated candle bulbs that will not burn your pumpkin or heat transform it into an orange petri dish.
Now you are ready to place your creations on the porch, throw on a costume, and get ready to scare the snot out of the neighborhood children. Happy Halloween!