Saturday, October 27, 2012

Pumpkin carving 107: transferring your stencil

Transferring a pumpkin stencil or pattern to the actual pumpkin is my least favourite part of the job.  If you have even a slightly detailed carve, you're sure to have a horribly cramped up hand after only a short while.

Unfortunately, it's one of the necessary evils of pumpkin carving and it must be done well if you want to be able to get a decent carve.


Here's the pattern on a typical 8.5" by 11" page - too big to even see the pumpkin, so tear off anything that isn't necessary.

Pin that bad boy on.  Interesting fact: pumpkins are round(ish), and paper is not.  Therefore, fold and pin wherever needed in order to get that stencil to lay as close as possible to the pumpkin (see the top right pin).

See the fold going from the middle up to the right?  That helps the pattern stay flat in a portion of the stencil that will be least affected by the fold.  Now, use your awl or other poker to start poking the transfer through.  Err on the side of the carved space when poking: here, you can see that my pokes are mostly in the grey area (the area that will be carved out).  This will make sure that the pieces that are going to be left are thick enough and won't get damaged during the carve.  Also, the smaller and more detailed, the shorter the distance you need between pokes.  So this little detail work here, lots of pokes, but around that top moon shape, they can be much further apart.

Once you are absolutely sure you've poked through everything (cuz there's no going back), remove the stencil.  You can see here, it's a little difficult to actually see those pokes...

So, to make the stencil show up better, cover in baby powder.  Here, you can see the distance between pokes in the more detailed areas is small which makes it easier to figure out when carving - but I saved my wrist on some of the larger cut areas, like the top right arch where there are bigger distances.
Whew.  That was the hard part.  Honestly.  And once you've got a great transfer, the rest is easy peasy... It'll all be told in the next post!


  1. Great idea about the baby powder. I've done the stencils for years and this is the first time I've seen that. I saw a new carver's kit recently with a rotary stencil punch like a dress pattern wheel.

  2. Hello there stranger,

    I love the baby powder trick. Makes it so much easier to see what you're doing :) But I stay away from those rotary punch things for doing my punching. I can't get clean holes punched with them and don't have much success in doing accurately punching with them... And still the hand cramps because the pumpkin ones are so small. Do you have better luck with them?