With the shaving method, instead of cutting holes in the pumpkin rind,
only the tough outer skin is removed, leaving the soft flesh of the pumpkin
intact. This allows for isolated dark areas, giving me more freedom in
designing the image. Also, by scraping away areas of the pumpkin flesh
to vary its thickness, I can achieve several levels of luminosity; with
the cut-out method, only two levels (light and no light) can be achieved.
I have used the shaving method on all of the pumpkins I've carved from
1998 to the present.
Creating the image
Unlike the images I created for the cut-out pumpkins, the images I create
for shaved pumpkins often have lots of details and many shades of gray,
sometimes approaching a photorealistic look. The finished pumpkin may
not end up looking exactly like the drawing, but with the shaving method,
it's at least possible.
Transferring the image
When the drawing is finished, I turn the paper over and place it on a
light table so I can see through the paper. I use a soft pencil to trace
the image on the back of the paper. Then I tape the drawing to the pumpkin
and rub it with a burnishing tool. This transfers the pencil drawing onto
the pumpkin. Finally, I go over the transferred pencil drawing with an
First, I use an Exact-o knife to make a shallow cut around the area I'm
working on, to ensure a clean edge. Then I carefully remove the orange
skin a little at a time. I used to do this with the tip of a potato peeler
(the part you use to dig the eyes out of potatoes), which I honed to razor-sharpness
on a grinding wheel, but now I use the nice set of wood-carving tools
that my wife got me for Christmas.
After the skin is removed, I start digging into the pumpkin flesh. As
I do this, I keep a small fluorescent light burning inside the pumpkin,
so I can accurately gauge how deep I should go. The lighter I want it
to be, the deeper I dig. If I dig a deep pit with a sloping side, I can
get a nice gradation of light fading into dark. For this particular task,
you just can't beat the sharpened potato peeler. Neither my wood-carving
tools nor any other tools I've found have the rounded scoop-shaped tip
that seems perfectly suited for the job.
Finally, I use a black indelible marker to color in the parts I want to
be darkest. From blank paper to finished pumpkin, the whole process usually
takes me about 10 hours.
- You don't have to worry about the design being structurally sound.
- You can get much more detail and shading into the image.
- You don't end up with sores on your fingers.
- Lighting the pumpkin can be a problem. Candles usually aren't bright enough.
An incandescent bulb would work, but I worry about the heat drying out
the delicate pumpkin flesh. A small fluorescent light fixture seems to
be the best option.
- Photographing shaved pumpkins is very tricky. Those subtle light effects
are hard to capture on film. I still haven't gotten a handle on it.
- You need special tools, a good eye, a steady hand and a whole lot of patience.