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Expert Halloween Pumpkin Carving Tips No Mold Maniac Pumpkin Carvers

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Learn how to make your carved pumpkin really last-up to two weeks-with rare expert Halloween carving tips that keep mold at bay. Maniac Pumpkin Carvers, experts who carve for the likes of Yankee Stadium, pump out 300 new pumpkins per year in New York--these guys are still pumpin' away.

"Maniac Pumpkin Carvers" Marc Evan and Chris Soria carve some of New York City's craziest jack-o'-lanterns. The carving duo are Parsons School of Design grads--starting carving as a way to pay for school less than a decade ago.

The maniac carvers had been working in bars and restaurants, and began carving pumpkins for the bars each year--until other bars and restaurants began asking for their pumpkin artwork. Retail stores wanted them for window displays, while the gourds were popular with businesses desiring their corporate logos in the newly-carved format.

The pair's been doing Halloween carvings for 15 years, now half of their lives. The pumpkin carvers get their good from Whole Foods and support local farmers--the pair says Whole Foods delivers--or that they literally walk out of the stores with carts and carts of pumpkins, where they say "people just stare at us".

The pair carved 50 World Series pumpkins in two days, for Yankee Stadium skyboxes last Halloween. Depending upon design complexity, the pumpkin artists charge between $130 to $200 for a finished product. Order 10 or 20 pumpkins, and the experts offer a discount

A single pumpkin requires between three and five hours for carving, depending on how intricate the designs. Maniac Pumpkin Carvers says detailed lettering or logos, like the World Series logo, can top four hours for creation.

Maniac Pumpkin Carvers busts out customer designs within 24 hours of pickup or delivery to ensure optimal time for enjoyment of the carvings. The carvers say they "pull a lot of all-nighters" as Halloween approaches--creating more than 300 pumpkins per year. Inspiration: Halloween horror movie marathons and large doses of coffee.

Maniac Carvers work out of a studio in Bushwick, New York--but the company says it has hopes for popup shops in Manhattan and Williamsburg. Forbidden Planet, located at 840 Broadway, at 13th Street, New York, provides a window display for the carving company--also taking and processing orders. Orders can also be placed via the Maniac Pumpkin Carvers website at

Carved pumpkins can last up to two week at the most optimal, but pumpkin carvings can last as short as a few days depending on factors including cleanliness before carving, humidity of environment or climate, and illumination methods including heat.

First stop, before you carve--a squeaky clean pumpkin. "We give each pumpkin a little wash to rinse off any dirt, which can lead to it breaking down faster."

Use a slightly damp paper towel to thoroughly remove dirt and grime from the surface of the pumpkin. Don't saturate your pumpkin, or use water too close to carving time--the pumpkin needs time to thoroughly dry. Do make sure grooves are also cleaned well of any dirt buildup. The less dirt, to avoid transfer to a blade or cutting utensil, which can cause possible bacteria contamination of the cut pumpkin flesh, the better.

A quick and light exterior pumpkin surface cleaning keeps the mold at bay, reducing chances of dirt contaminating the flesh or growing bacteria. Just as important is a well-cleaned interior and pumpkin gutting. A properly-cleaned pumpkin can increase life, making your pumpkin last much longer. After cutting the lid, first remove the gooey insides and seeds. The important part comes in thorough cleaning, gently scraping the walls of any excess, making the interior pumpkin walls as smooth as possible--using either a pumpkin scraping tool (commonly found at any drug store) or a large spoon with short handle. Remove all scrapings thoroughly. The inside of your pumpkin should have no "hanging" parts or pieces and should feel smooth to the touch.

For the design layout, Manic Pumpkin Carvers says: "Then we use a light brown or red marker, and we sketch out the design onto the pumpkin. Because of the texture of the pumpkin, you can wipe the marker right off [the pumpkin] when you're done, like a dry-erase board." Forget coloring with the lines: Maniac pumpkin carvers simply carve over the drawn lines.

Red or brown marker colors blend with the natural pumpkin coloring, making lines less visible and easy to remove than colors like green or blue.

The experts say: "If you're not comfortable drawing freehand [on your pumpkin], you can also lay a pattern, like from a pumpkin-carving kit, on top of the pumpkin, and trace through the pattern with a thumbtack.

Pumpkin carvers can also quickly outline the pattern alternatively in non-permanent markers, like those used for dry-erase boards. Avoid permanent markers like Sharpies. Simply carve over the marker lines--but if you've got any marker left over, after your pumpkin is carved, simply take a very slightly damp paper towel and swipe lightly, to remove those surface lines--avoiding touching any of the cut, fleshy pumpkin parts.

When carving a Halloween pumpkin, always use a sharp, clean blade or utensil. Too much pressure, from a dull blade, can force additional pumpkin fluids to the surface and cause quicker decomposition over time. The fewer the cuts, and the cleaner and sharper the cuts, the longer your pumpkin will naturally last.

Expert pumpkin carvers often use tools including power electric Dremel kits and woodworking tools for carving. For sharp detail, X-Acto sells kits and invdividual handles and woodworking blades that work "magic" on the softer pumpkin flesh.

For those whom reside in humid, or moist or foggy areas like by the beach, moisture can be your enemy--bring your pumpkin indoors during nighttime hours in seaside or rainy areas.

While experts argue over "tricks" of the past to preserve pumpkins, including methods of bath dips and cooler or refrigerator storage, Maniac Pumpkin Carvers say their trick to preserve cut pumpkins and give the gourds an extended life isn't just a clean surface--but to give the finished carving a quick spraydown with lemon juice cut with water. To make your cut and carved pumpkins last longer, the Maniac pumpkin experts say that--similarly to a cut apple that begins to brown after cutting, cut pumpkins hold a similarity: the pumpkin carving artists use a protective spray coat of lemon juice--cut with water--to extend longevity of the carved gourds.

Products like "Pumpkin Fresh", a pre-mixed spray which can be special-ordered, promises longer-lasting pumpkins but is far more expensive than lemon juice.

It's important to cut a small hole in the top, back of or your pumpkin--it doesn't need to be large, and shouldn't detract from your pumpkin's design, but will act as a vital chimney. This is vital if you plan to use candles to light your pumpkin, instead of battery-operated lighting units which do not create a high heat source. The "chimney" will allow heat and smoke to escape. No chimney causes the interior of your pumpkin to begin to "bake" slowly over time, causing heat which will then cause mold growth. Avoid moldy pumpkins by using candles contained in glass versus tealights encased in metal. The metal containers will heat and begin to burn or bake the interior base of the pumpkin, whereas glass containers keep the wax higher without creating the same heat levels in contact with the pumpkin flesh.

Instead of lighting your pumpkin with candles, which can reduce life of your pumpkin--it may be beautifully lit, but won't last quite as long--follow Martha Stewart's favorite method: Stewart wraps a strand of small, white Christmas lights around a glass jar, which may then be simply inserted into the pumpkin and plugged into the wall. The small holiday lights illuminate the pumpkin without causing the same degree of heat issues or danger issues as candle use.


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