A Carving Story

For years I have been a fan of Rob Cockerham. He is a creative genius that I met through working on the Internet. When I started this site, I asked for his help. Rob put together this page as well as some other cool stuff. If you have any work for a creative genius you should contact him at www.cockeyed.com.

First Step:
Extreme Jack-O-lantern design requires an inspired concept, and a well-thought out design.

I prefer to model pumpkin designs using the latest 3D software (while I'm at work). However, it doesn't require $3,500 worth of software to prepare an acceptable guide to pumpkin success.
Second Step
The easiest way to prepare a design is with a simple sketch on paper. I prefer Mars All-Purpose Translucent Vellum or 9 x 12 Mediumweight Sulfite Drawing Paper, but the back of a To-Go menu from a Chinese Restaurant will also work.

This is the flowing blood design, which has a ghoulish pumpkin face with blood flowing down the front.

I planned to have five spouts along the top for the blood to emerge from, so that the blood would flow down all over instead of just one stream down the center. According to the plan, the blood would collect on a plate below the pumpkin, to be pumped back up to the top.
Third Step
The first order of business was to buy the perfect pumpkin. First I checked eBay.

That didn't work out so well, the pumpkin I was sent was odd shaped, and green. I didn't like it so I went to the local roadside vegetable stand.

Curse You E-Bay ID: PumpkinKing2134!!! I want my $3.50 returned. If you don't send it, I will leave you a neutral feedback.
Fourth Step
Once I had a suitable pumpkin, I sketched a face and positioned it onto the pumpkin with tape.

It is easier to just draw on the pumpkin, but if you don't get it exactly right the first time, you are going to end up with a bunch of ugly black marks all over your finished pumpkin.

This is fine if your design is "passed out drunk at a frat party, got written on with a Sharpie", but otherwise your pumpkin will appear very amateurish.

The best way to attach the paper face is with official Extreme Pumpkin pumpkin adhesive tape, which doesn't exist, but will next year when I invent it.
Fifth Step
To transfer the design to the pumpkin, poke a series of holes along the design with a nail or pen.

We tried to automate this process with an air nailer. We should probably just tell you it didn't work out.
Sixth Step
The next step is to cut and remove the pumpkin's top, eyes, nose and mouth.

A hand-held electric jig saw is the perfect tool for this job. This incredible tool is designed to cut intricate designs in wood, so it slices through pumpkin flesh with ease.

With this saw, it takes about the same amount of time to cut the pattern as it takes to draw the pattern.

An electric jigsaw may seem more dangerous than a little serrated knife, but it has been my experience that the real danger lies in struggling with a tool, rather than from the speed of a tool.

Of course, you can cut your thumb off if you aren't careful.

Remember to always wear safety goggles, not the kind they sell at the Halloween store.
Other Techniques
A jigsaw is perfect for most designs, but keep your toolbox open for other cutting challenges.
Scoop The Goop
Once the face was cut out, I scraped the interior of the pumpkin, removing the seeds and stringy guts. I used an ice-cream scoop.
Snack Time
Some people bake the pumpkin seeds to create a delicious holiday snack, but I find a microwave oven works just fine.
Pump Technology
I needed a tiny pump for the blood-flowing action, so I tore apart my enchanting Zen garden peace fountain and extracted this 7 Watt pump.

Beckett produces these tiny, variable-speed pumps, and they sell for about $20 at large hardware stores.

I attached a two-foot tube.
Installing The Blood Pump
I cut a small hole in the bottom of the pumpkin, so the pump could sit in a half-inch pool of blood. I also cut a little channel to hide the power cord.
The Blood Tube
The blood tube, which I dubbed the "Aorta" runs up the center of the pumpkin. I attached it to the top with a U-shaped piece of wire.
The Blood Reservoir
I set the newly-equipped pumpkin into a frying pan, and added enough water to submerge the intake of the pump. The water moved up the tube and spilled onto the face beautifully.

With the water flowing well, I decided to forgo drilling more holes in the forehead.
Creating Blood
The price for human blood was prohibitively expensive ($500 per unit) so I looked for other options.

Party supply stores sell one ounce tubes of fake blood for $2, but I needed a couple of quarts. Rather than buying their entire stock and leaving every kid who wanted to be dracula this year heartbroken, I decided to try unsweetened Kool-Aid.

The only cherry Kool-Aid available was this wacky color-changing variety, so I used black cherry and tropical punch.

I used five envelopes, and the water turned a deep, deep red.
Flowing Blood
The blood wasn't thick. I didn't want to clog the pump, but it looked great!

The fruity smell was incredible.

The red food coloring began to dye the inside of the pumpkin dark red, and after an hour, it looked like open-heart surgery. The red eyes looked just like Sissy Spacek crying away.
The Final Carrie Pumpkin
A candle and plastic tiara completed the pumpkin.

The candle stayed lit for two hours, but eventually a random jet of water extinguished it. A flashlight might work more reliably.

Finally, a warning: No matter how extreme you want your pumpkin to be, do not try replacing the blood-water with gasoline.