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Extreme Pumpkin Carving

By Vic Hood and Jack A. Williams

Reviewed by Mike Bloomquist


What's this!? Another book on carving veggies? Remember a few years back when there was that book about carving sweet potatoes. You know, the one with the title that pokes fun at persons of the Northern persuasion? That was my first reaction to this new offering by Fox/Chapel Publishing, but you know what? It just doesn't matter, and, if you stay with me for a few paragraphs, I'll tell you why.

OK, so pumpkins are not sweet potatoes and when they are in season and it's close to Halloween their status is considerably higher than your average vegetable. My daughter Melissa, the one who carves wood, is absolutely nuts about carving Halloween pumpkins, so this book was added to my "must buy" list immediately. No, I hadn't even seen the inside, but check out the authors - Vic Hood and Jack Williams. This is the same pair that brought us Carving Found Wood. In fact, gambling on the book, sight unseen, is safer than betting the Vikings won't win the Superbowl. Hey, I'm a big fan of Minnesota - I can say that. I'm also a fan of the Buffalo Bills, so you can probably see a sad trend. Anyway, back to the book review and topics of woodcarving.

Here is a quick run down of the sections with highlights, and then we'll give you some observations.

Part One
About the Authors

Introduction & Getting Started

Part Two
Step-by Step

Step-by Step

Part Three
Extreme Pumpkin Patterns

First off, it's a really, really nice feature that the first step-by-step project used knives only, start to finish. Then, after the first section is completed, the second step-by-step project pulls out the complete woodcarving arsenal. Well, except for the Foredom tool, the Arbortech, and the chainsaw (Mental Project Note: Caricature of "extreme veggie carving" a chainsaw artist and a giant zucchini).

I like the tip on spraying polyacrylic on the cut areas to preserve it. It means Melissa will be after me to start carving pumpkins with her a week before Halloween. Oh, swell! The pattern section has a great variety, and each has a full-page pattern right next to a full-page color shot of the finished face. Wait a minute! I'll be darned, I just saw a chip carved pumpkin face.

Finally, there's Jack William's photography, which we covered well in my last review. In fact, you should buy the book just for the picture on the back where Vick Hood has this little girl watching him with awe as he carves a pumpkin face. Jack, please tell me you took that picture.

Now for the bad news - at least in the opinion of this dweller from northern reaches of New York State. The book needs a section on how to display these beauties, especially lighting. They are fine inside at parties, and outside during the daylight hours, but Halloween is a lot about things after dark. A couple of lawn lights placed low and in front, shielded from the viewer, would give them that great Bela Lagosi, lit-from-below look like the cover shot and the picture on page 29. Also, in the book they push the fact you don't need the pumpkins hollowed out as a real advantage, and I agree. However, a couple of those patterns where Vic drilled the eyes and open the mouth into the hollow of the pumpkin might look great lit from within. Another item, and this is a nit-pick. Step 11, on page 9, and step 12, on page 10, are the same photograph. Is there a prize for finding that? What? A kick in the butt next time I'm in Tennessee? I probably deserve several. And my last gripe, the picture of the little girl needs to be much larger and closer to the front of the book.

OK, I did say above that it just doesn't matter that this is veggie carving. Here is why. Carving faces in pumpkins would be a good, fast, and inexpensive way to practice carving the same thing in driftwood, cottonwood bark, or a nice piece of butternut. Any one of the patterns/projects would apply nicely to other mediums without modification. Just realize that it will require several smaller cuts with a bit more horsepower to accomplish most of the single cuts made in pumpkin flesh. Overall, Vic Hood and Jack Williams have a well done book here that I would recommend buying, especially if you are an avid pumpkin carver who wants to take their addiction to the next level or you just want to carve something that's not wood for a change.

Now this part hurts me, but I'm only going to give this book a rating of three thumbs up out of five. There are two main reasons. It's still not about carving wood and it's just not the "5" that Carving Found Wood is.

(Editor's Note: If this ezine was called Veggiecarver Online Magazine, the book might earn as much as 4 thumbs up.) (Mikes Note: I agree)

Mike Bloomquist is a carver and carving teacher, and a frequent contributor to WOM.

You may visit Mike's web site, Wooden Dreams Woodcarving HERE or email him at m.bloomquistATverizonDOTnet.