Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Pumpkin carving 108: carving technique

Sorry for the delay, I was down in Key West trying to make it home and had a little trouble and delay due to Sandy.  Back to regularly scheduled programming!

Now that I've done a good transfer of this stencil, I need to start carving!

With my trusty saw, a carve following the following principles:

  • I never use a driving force across the face of the pumpkin.  Only ever up and down perpendicular to the pumpkin flesh.  If you try to drive the saw forward, a couple things happen: you will wreck your blade pretty quickly (the blade will break off the handle) and you will inadvertently cut through something you were not intending to cut through.  This is probably the most important thing I can tell you, so to put it in another way: only ever use force up and down into the pumpkin, never pushing the blade across the face of it.
  • I start with the most delicate pieces.  The surrounding flesh will hold everything together that way.
  • Then, when all remaining pieces are equal, I start at the top left and make my way down to the bottom right.  (My sister, who is left handed, would start at the top left and make her way down to the bottom right.)  You do this to keep everything that you've carved in sight and also to prevent you from inadvertently putting your wrist down on the pumpkin face where you've carved and damaging anything.
  • The biggest pieces should usually be taken out last.  While that pumpkin flesh is in place, it helps to support the smaller areas you're taking out - if you take it out first, you're sort of undermining the integrity of those smaller areas when you carve them.
  • For the best lighting of the pumpkin, it is important to undercut the image.  This got me into serious trouble when I carved my first signature stamp...  Basically, you need to carve out as much as the pumpkin flesh as possible from under the pumpkin skin around the actual hole you're making in the pumpkin.  That way, more light can actually get through the pumpkin.  Otherwise you're making a tunnel for which the light cannot escape.
So the candle is inside the pumpkin - more light can escape when you make the hole/window as big as possible to let light out.

Anyways, here's what it looked light with my thanksgiving pumpkin:

Started at the top left because there was nothing too intricate here that would need me to start in the middle.

That large piece at the top right is the last thing I took out - that way, that flesh helps hold the rest still while carving. But have a look at the edge at the top left: see all that yellow flesh? That's because this cut wasn't undercut properly.  You should see very little yellow if you've undercut everything well - see for example the pumpkin in the centre/left of the image where you can see little to no yellow, which means lots of light gets through.

How to get good at this? Practice.  Practice, practice, practice.  Lots of pumpkins. Sam would be proud.

And that's it, you're done!  Well, just a couple last things to do... My favourite thing to do to pumpkins is in the next post :)

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