I know, I know, you saw that headline and thought, “What? There’s fake pumpkin carving?”.
Well, no, it’s just I do VERY basic pumpkin carving. Triangle eyes, triangle nose, jagged mouth, often with only four or five teeth (two on top, two or three on the bottom). I have no real skill with it. And while I have enjoyed doing them with Jacob for the last 9 years (he wasn’t that into the first couple, I admit), they often look like this:
Nothing to write home about, but we have enjoyed doing them together. The first one above was fun as Jacob did all the design on paper and I tried to do it on the pumpkin.
Our normal process is pretty straightforward. I cut the opening for the lid using a huge honking knife. Jacob and Andrea scoop it out. Jacob or I do a design on paper and then draw it on the pumpkin. And then, using one of our really sharp chopping knives, I cut out the pattern. Laboriously.
I’ve seen lots of little ads for “pumpkin carving tools”, and they often look like cheap plastic kits at Shoppers Drug Mart or Walmart. They even come with plastic scoops. The knives are small with plastic handles, and it looks like they are not even remotely strong enough to go through the pumpkin.
But this year, I decided to give our pumpkin carving a boost. One of the little kits was $10, and came with 2 scoops (both had somewhat serrated edges to help scoop the soft insides) and about 4 little knives (a couple like awls, and two of varying sizes with little sawtooth blades on them). The kits also come with stencils. To be honest, I wasn’t expecting much. Mostly I just figured I’d try the tools, decide if I liked the design, and then maybe consider getting real ones off Amazon for future years.
Well, blow me down and call me dusty. The cheap little things worked like a CHARM. I was totally shocked. Even, or especially, with the stencils.
I thought the description of the stencil process was kind of weird. There were ten stencil patterns, and they are printed on somewhat thin paper. You wet them under the tap, and then “stick” them to the pumpkin. After they are on the pumpkin, you add a layer of plastic wrap over it basically to hold the stencil in place and give it some rigidity as you carve out the dark areas. As you go, the paper is wet, so a saw blade going back and forth through it would tend to catch and tear the paper — the plastic wrap lets it keep its form.
We had two pumpkins this year, and even that was an innovation. Normally we go over to one of the local vegetable fields and pick out 2 or so from the pile. Prices range from as low as $5 to as high as $20. I just assumed that was normal. Until I was at Farmboy in October and realized that they had really good size ones, which would go at the “local” stand for $20, ready for sale for $4.99. And they’re sourced in Ontario still, so we’re not too far off the local support window. But I digress.
This is from this year’s production line:
Jacob was able to do some of the carving although it was still a bit hard on his hand pushing through the pumpkin for long. But using the cheap little “saw blades” of the tools edges, rather than a sharp kitchen knife, was a way bigger difference than I expected. After you get all the black areas “cut out”, you then remove the plastic wrap and the little bits of paper that are left, and clean up the design a bit. I was way beyond impressed with how easy it was, how well the cheap little tools worked, and the quality of the outcome. I used to think there was some sort of pumpkin carving gene out there that I just didn’t have. But apparently if you have no carving ability, you can hack the process. 🙂
When I put this on my 50by50 list as a possibility, I honestly expected to dump it later as unattained. Instead, I’m more than happy with the outcome. I might still buy some slightly stronger carving tools, but now that I see the approach, I’m willing to carve a whole village of pumpkins!