Frequently Asked Questions
I'm forever being asked questions.
Oh, I'm not complaining, because questions demonstrate interest and, to be honest, this is a somewhat obscure form of art, so any interest is good interest. Here are some of the most common questions I am asked.
1. How long does it take you to carve one?
This is probably the most common question I'm asked. To be fair, it's a good question. The kind of work I do is complex and intricate and, yes, it takes a while to do.
An exact answer is difficult to pin down because it varies depending upon the pattern being carved. A simple cut through pattern usually takes in the neighbourhood of an hour if it is reasonably detailed. Some take more and some take less.
A complex pattern typically runs between 4 and 24 hours, although I would say that the average is around 8 hours for a typical face. I have done some detailed works of art that required days of time (at 4-8 hours a day) and for which the work progressed very slowly.
Your time on these may vary. I have a lot of experience with carving and so I am likely faster than the majority of people. So if I say that something will take an hour, you may take longer. If you are just starting, please take your time and enjoy it.
BTW, if the carving is in a real pumpkin, you can add an hour for the prep work on the pumpkin.
2. What do you use to carve them?
This is an interesting question. The standard tool for carving is a kitchen knife. Most carving kits typically come with a tool for transferring patterns by poking and a saw for cutting and these are usually designed to be safe for children. These kits generally come with ready to carve patterns and some with scoops for cleaning out your pumpkin. I even saw a commercial kit that included a potato peeler.
There are specialty tools available. You can get electrical tools that will clean out your pumpkin faster or a saw with a reciprocating blade that can cut faster. You can also remove the blade from the saw and cut by hand for greater accuracy.
But the question is, what do I use. I started with commercial kits. As I moved into artificial pumpkins, I found that a safety saw no longer worked so well, so I began using craft blades, the sharper the better. These are NOT safe for children, so PLEASE be careful. Also, I have a collection of wood carving tools from which I favour a bevel edged tool for peeling and scraping my pumpkins and this works for both real and artificial gourds. My kit also includes a pointed tool for poking holes and scraping very fine lines, push pins for transferring patterns by poking holes, a hot wire knife for holes and fine carving in delicate situations in artificial pumpkins and a pumpkin saw specifically designed for artificial pumpkins (although it works on the real ones too). Note that this last tool is the only tool in my kit actually intended for use in pumpkin carving.
3. How do you carve complex patterns?
This is a long and difficult question to answer. Typically I will respond by saying that it requires buckets of patience and that seems to satisfy most people. The question is partly answered in the previous two questions by noting the required duration and the tools involved. You may want more information, in which case, feel free to read through all the things I've written in Pumpkin Carving 101 focusing on the Complex Patterns article.
4. Are these real? or Why don't you carve real pumpkins?
I like to carve artificial pumpkins. They keep longer, provide for a longer carving season and are less messy (although not without mess). However I do still like to carve real pumpkins at Halloween. In fact I've been trying to grow my own for years.
To illustrate my reasons for using artificial pumpkins, I like to tell a little story. Way back in 2008, I took on to carve a certain cowardly Great Dane and his mystery-solving friends. It was a fantastic pattern and I began it the day before Halloween. In fact I was up most of the night carving it. It wasn't done by morning. I'm way faster now, but then...not so much. I took my daughter to school, came home and took a nap, then tried to finish it before the trick or treaters arrived. I didn't succeed. There were a lot of little details at the bottom of the pattern I didn't complete. You see, vegetable matter rots. In fact, the more detailed your carving is, the faster it will rot. So when you start a pattern like this, it's not always a good idea to put it aside and pick it up later. Plus it's addictive. Shhh!
My darling wife said to me, "You know they have artificial pumpkins?" Of course, she now regrets saying this...
5. Have you ever carved anything other than pumpkins?
Yes. I've carved two watermelons. Before I started up with the artificial pumpkins, I wanted to carve something after Halloween...like November 1st. Pumpkins are suddenly scarce, so I bought a watermelon. They actually work quite well. So well I did it again later in the month.
I've always meant to carve a turnip. Before pumpkins, the tradition was to carve a face into a turnip and put a candle in it. I went so far as to buy a turnip one year, but the time to do the carving never presented itself.
I've also been asked if I have ever carved wood. The answer is again no. It would be an interesting transposition of my skills and a much less seasonal art form, however I do love the notion of art created by the interplay of light and darkness. Also people's expectations of pumpkin carving are sooooooo low that most are startled to see what is really possible.
6. Do you have a pattern for X?
I have created a lot of patterns, but the list is not exhaustive. The inspiration for the patterns I've created comes from my own life. Things or people I love. The end of this list is not in sight, but when it is, I can start branching out into things other people like.
If you can't wait, please go to my contact page and suggest it. If I agree it is that absolutely MUST see the light of pumpkins, and I'm not violating copyright restrictions to do it, then, when I get the chance, I'll create it. You can also commission me to create something for you. Friend, loved one, pet or business logo are all possibilities.