Friday, October 19, 2012

Lil' Pumpkins

J here with a few small projects using those mini pumpkins you can find at grocery stores this time of year. With inspiration courtesy of and we built some variants on their tealight candle pumpkins and Drac-o-Lanterns.

You'll need:
-Mini pumpkins
-A sharp knife, X-Acto #11, or pumpkin saw
-For Drac-o-Lanterns: Fake vampire teeth, map pins, white pony beads
-For Tealight Pumpkin: Tealight (we used the battery version), OPTIONAL: Toilet paper tube, tape

Using your plastic teeth as a guide, mark how wide a mouth you will need on your mini pumpkin. Cut out a mouth-shaped hole in the pumpkin's "face", lower on the pumpkin. I went with a slight "smile" on the corners, but your mileage may vary. Wedge (sorry, "test-fit") the teeth into the mouth and see what else needs to go and get all Mad Dentist on your little guy or gal or thing until you like the fit of the teeth. (Martha suggests using a template for this part, but where's the fun in that?)

Once your choppers are installed, you'll need peepers. Colored map pins or sewing pins work wonders, but may not be enough on their own. Consider leaving the pins extended by a quarter inch and hanging pony beads on there for a more googly eye. Personally, I can't look at that little guy's face and not crack right up. He's just so excited! I went red with white, but black and yellow would be spooky, and black and white is just fine.

From experimenting with other pin colors, I had extra pins on hand that Cat wanted to put in his mouth (dumb Cat) and so I used them as little 1950's TV legs to prop his face up a little. That's up to you. Here he is again:

Tealight Pumpkin
You may recall the Tealight Glamourshot as our initial image here on With Our Powers Combined. If so, good for you. If not, we'll get to it.

The original article calls for a 1-1/4" spade bit drilled down to the depth of a tealight candle into the top of a pumpkin. Naturally, you would want to check your spade bit against your candle base and make sure that makes sense, but let's assume that went alright. To make sure it does, here's a helpful trick from HardwareLand (it doesn't look like much, but the rides are great and the drinks are cheap): Make a depth gauge by "flagging" your drill bit at the depth you want with tape. It would look like this:

You can "flag" drill bits of almost any shape to help keep your hand drill projects to drill press-like concistency: simply drill down until the flag sweeps away the sawdust (or pumpkin shavings, in this case) and you have a fixed depth. Repeat as needed. Tear off the flag when you are done and nothing has been affected. They do make adjustable drill bit collets that attach with an allen wrench, but those are expensive, easily lost, and don't come in spade bit sizes last I checked. But tape? Tape you have.

All that having been said, I didn't use that. Because A and I bought LED tealights, the bases were 1.5" (which in spade bits I do not have and would fear if I did). So I held it in place and pricked points around the edge with my trusty X-Acto #11 (Pointy blade). I use those for cutting, craping, cleaning fine grooves, as a tiny screwdriver, for minor surgery, you name it. Once I had the holes around the edge of the candle, I cut from point to point with my knife and cut deeper and deeper on subsequent passes. Multiple passes are easier to control and keep the blade from wandering or cutting too far past where you want.

Once I had cut through, I had to get it out but had snapped off the stem to hold my tealight in place. So I grabbed a corkscrew, threaded it into the plug and pulled it out. Hey presto, tiny pumpkin cup. (I removed the seeds, but that's hardly necessary.) If the walls of your mini pumpkin refuse to cooperate and you don't get into the hollow, you'll have a task ahead of you to bottom out that hole and chisel away until you have an appropriate recess.

In test fitting the candle, it fell all the way in. Drats! But shrinkage would have allowed it to fall in anyway, so a solution had to be found. I milled out a 1" block on my metalworking lathe from pure aluminum and-- Wait, no, crazy talk. I used a toilet paper tube. Cut it open lengthwise, cut strips of the height you need, curl them up and tape them to the proper diameter to fit under your candle like so:

Added benefit here over the custom aluminum blank is you can reach inside the tube and still reach the little switch underneath. If all went well, you should have a candle assembly and a small seeded pumpkin ready to go. If you have the option, they do sell orange LED tealights this time of year which are a better match with your mini pumpkins, but hey, use what you've got. Put in your tealight and set the mood for a spooky party or harvest-themed romantic dinners.

A quick and easy way to light a small area, or a bunch of them to lead the way to your door, getting bigger and bigger until you get to your jack o'lanterns. Or alternate lots of small ones with a few big ones for a Pac-Man corn maze. you get the idea. But if you have more suggestions, comment below and let us know how you used your mini pumpkin projects!

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