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My Experience Carving a Tardis Geek-O-Lantern

Being the geek that I am, I’ve never been completely satisfied with holiday decorations unless there’s some sort of geekery involved. This is especially the case with jack-o-lanterns. While there’s nothing wrong with more traditional jack-o-lanterns, I thoroughly enjoy, and very much prefer, making geek-o-lanterns. I am by no means a professional pumpkin carver, and my work definitely shows it, but I try to improve my skills and learn something new about pumpkin carving every year. I’d like to share with you a few of the lessons that I learned this year.

Lesson 1: Check out local mom and pop stores for pumpkins – This year, my wife and I decided that we wanted a Doctor Who themed geek-o-lantern, and decided almost instantly on the Tardis. To be honest, I really didn’t think much about the shape and size of the pumpkin we wanted. I just figured we’d pick up a sub-$4 pumpkin from Wal-Mart. Luck would have it though that we found our pumpkin in a chance encounter with a place called Murphy Orchard in Marionville, MO. Driving home from a corn maze several towns away, my wife spotted the orchard and insisted that we stop to look at pumpkins. When we first saw the pumpkin we ended up buying, we immediately knew it was the perfect choice. Given its shape and size, I’m thoroughly convinced that we would have had an almost impossible time finding a comparable pumpkin at a place like Wal-Mart. Besides, it’s always good to support local businesses.

Lesson 2: Hobby knives, drill bits, and super glue are amazing – When carving some Pac-Man geek-o-lanterns a few years ago, I discovered that wood carving tools and nails are great pumpkin carving tools . I further increased my arsenal of tools (see left) this year by adding in a hobby knife, some drill bits, and some super glue. While wood carving tools do work for some fine detailing, they’re best geared toward removing larger sections of pumpkin skin. Hobby knives, on the other hand can handle the fine detailing with ease. As for the drill bits, I think that’s pretty self explanatory; They’re great for punching holes of all sizes (though I highly recommend holding your bits with pliers to avoid tearing your fingers up).

At this point, you might ask what the heck the super glue is for. Sadly, as sometimes happens with projects likes this, I slipped at one point and took off a chunk of pumpkin skin that I hadn’t intended to remove. I was a bit distraught over it, but my brother (who happened to be over that night) suggested gluing it back on. I initially broke out laughing at his suggestion (I was imagining elmers glue) and was glad that he could at least cheer me up, but it turns out he was right. Super glue will stick to a pumpkin, and will even stick a bit better if you let the pumpkin dry for a little first.

Lesson 3: Thin your pumpkin walls from the inside for a better glow – When carving by removing layers of pumpkin (as opposed to making holes), it can get pretty frustrating when you get done and realize that the light from the inside doesn’t shine through your design very well. I’ve had this happen to me in the past, and have found that it’s always best to remedy this by thinning your pumpkin walls from the inside. It can take just a few minutes with a large spoon, rather than spending an hour trying to carve your design deeper into the outside of the pumpkin.

Lesson 4: Have fun, and don’t expect award-winning results – The fact is, pumpkins are weird. They come in a gazillion different shapes and sizes, and many designs just don’t translate well to a contoured, bumpy surface full of vertical grooves. Whenever I get into geek-o-lantern projects, I always have visions of beautiful, award-winning results. What I get is never what I would deem as award-winning, but I’ve still always found myself more than pleased with the results. If it brings some geeky koolness to your holiday, and you had a great time creating it, then it is for sure a job well done!

So what do you all think? I’d love to hear about some of your favorite carving techniques, tips, and tools (I plan on trying to carve with my Dremel next year). If you’d like to show off some of your favorite geek-o-lanterns, regardless of who carved them, we’d love for you to post them on our Facebook page!

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